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3 bankers share insights on banking hot topics

Oct 1, 2021

When it comes to banking, there's no shortage of hot topics and pressing issues. In order to provide insight into these issues, the Bank Customer Experience Summit, held in Chicago from Sept. 13 to 15 had a panel of three bankers to share their opinions. Will Hernandez, BackBay Communications, Michelle Shelton, Great Lakes Credit Union, Richard Finn, Discover, Gayle Ekstrom, Republic Bank of Chicago Oct. 1, 2021 When it comes to banking, there's no shortage of hot topics and pressing issues. In order to provide insight into these issues, the Bank Customer Experience Summit , held in Chicago from Sept. 13 to 15 had a panel of three bankers to share their opinions. Will Hernandez, media strategist at BackBay Communications moderated the panel with Gayle Ekstrom, SVP, business analysis and innovation at Republic Bank of Chicago, Rich Finn, VP of deposit operations at Discover and Michelle Shelton, chief experience officer at Great Lakes Credit Union. Biggest issue When Hernandez asked what the most pressing issue facing financial institutions today, Finn and Shelton both pointed out the change of pace spurred on by the pandemic. "The pandemic made that so much faster than we ever believed. For our organization, it pushed us to do what we had been talking about for along time," Shelton said. "Mobile, digital first had been on plan and now we had no choice." Finn said that although Discover is a digital bank with no branches, the pandemic sped up trends for them, such as trying to ditch legacy systems. When it came to why it took the pandemic to make this change, Ekstrom said that many banks simply don't have the personnel to handle these changes beforehand. Ekstrom also said that the biggest issue she has seen in financial industries is consolidation, especially for smaller players. Many of these smaller banks have trouble keeping up with all the changes or having access to partnerships. "Not everyone can partner with someone. If you don't have special interest, I'd be worried right now as a smaller bank," Ekstrom said. AI When it comes to AI and chatbots, the panelists had a variety of perspectives. Finn said that for his company, the primary goal with AI is to help customers perform tasks easier, such as a chatbot. However, he also said there is a issue of false positives and missteps when it comes to AI. Shelton said that she doesn't think that machine learning is quite there yet as a service, especially for smaller banks, but there is real opportunity for bots. "Price points have come down, so smaller institutions can take advantage of bots and you don't need to manage or train the bots," Shelton said. She also emphasized that banks do need to give customers a personal outlet so they don't get caught in a loop with a bot that isn't answering the question properly for the customer. Build or partner Hernandez also addressed how banks are making the decision whether to build their own technology solutions or to partner with fintechs. Ekstrom said it depends on whether you have the skills to build the solution and how much control you will have over a partner's solution. Finn pointed out it also depends on how much flexibility you have over a particular solution. "How much flexibility can you get a from a buy solution? We find ourselves caught in the middle of these things. How do you find the partners that have the flexibility to grow?" Finn said. "With the right partners, you can be faster." Shelton emphasized that as a bank, "you can't do it all," and at times you have to partner to find that technical expertise, which may not be readily available. Remote work During the panel, many of the attendees asked questions about remote work and why it is taking smaller banks so long to embrace this paradigm. Shelton said her credit union is attempting to change this culture of not hiring remotely, but it is a challenge. "We have to get less reluctant on hiring remote. We are changing the culture, but an organization can't change culture remotely," Shelton said. Ekstrom pointed out that her bank has hired out of state, although not as much for core banking. At the same time, the pandemic helped people realized that banks, "can work remotely." Shelton said for some roles, such as technical expertise, she might not need those workers all the time, so it might be more beneficial to pay for experts from a company so they can work for a short amount of time remotely for the bank. A key element in this discussion is to keep bank's personal element in mind, Shelton said. Banks need to focus on ensuring they help people first and foremost, not just focus on growing profits. When it comes to all of these topics, Shelton said the most important element was to drive financial education for customers. "Help people know there are solutions to the problems they face financially," Shelton said.

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