That’s probably not a question that’s even been asked before, but in the era of mobile technologies, where instant decisions can implemented by swiping right or left, it probably has some validity. Specifically, as some have been lamenting recently, the emergence of easy-to-use tools have taken their toll on old-time bonds that once existed between customer and teller. Personal finance long had a personal connection, and in the digital age that’s just gone. Sure, the easy access to every kind of data and capability with a click or two perfectly encapsulates the priorities of modern life, but we could argue that this disappearing act contributes to the loss of brand loyalty now causing our industry so much distress.
That said, does the glut of online and mobile banking tools have to come at the cost of human connections? Can the two co-exist? In fact can’t one enhance the other?
Earlier this year, Toronto-based Tangerine Bank became one of the first financial services institutions to offer encrypted chat sessions through its mobile app and online banking site. In a sense, it’s an extension of the ban’s forays into online and mobile channels (Tangerine was named American Banker’s ‘Mobile Banker of the Year’ back in 2013). But it is also a serious attempt to forge closer relationships with existing and new customers.
The obvious thought here is that this is a gift to a previous generation that prefers broader communication than clicks and swipes. That might well be one element of the equation, but here’s an alternative take.
Around this time last year, consulting giant Accenture put out a comprehensive report titled “Banking Shaped by the Customer” that built on a survey of more than 4,000 retail bank customers in North America. Naturally, the study analyzed preferences of the coming generation of millennials, and here was one dramatic finding: Nearly half of all respondents, 48%, want their banks to offer video chat. Only 30% of those over 55 had the same preference.
Yes, indeed: Those kids who seem glued to social channels and texting want to see and talk to the teller.
To be clear, Tangerine’s Secure Chat is still about typed conversations, but it does go much further than other services, including its own previous offering, which enabled only general conversations. The new service goes deep into confidential banking matters, including mortgages and other complex transactions. Secure Chat uses Genesys technology and operates on a customized platform developed in collaboration with IBM.
Of course, other institutions are moving ahead with their own advances in these areas. For example, across the pond, Lloyds Bank and Halifax just announced that mortgage advice is now available via video chat from PCs and tablets. The service was tested throughout last year, and was successful by every measure: The company says that a third of all appointments that would have otherwise been conducted over the phone took place face-to-face.
Closer to home, Wells Fargo is being closely watched for its pending launch of a video chat service set to debut this summer. In a sense it’s much like Skype, enabling face-to-face dialogue regarding lines of credit and other services. But there’s an interesting twist: Customers can choose the banker they want to talk to. Sure, those choices might be impulsive and cater entirely to personal preferences and even prejudices, but isn’t that how personal bonds are formed?
That brings us back in a way to the dating analogy. In banking, dating and every other activity, technology isn’t an end in itself—the whole point is to enable human actions, choices and priorities. Convenience is definitely one of those, but only one. Personal connections are vital, and everything from mobile GUIs to artificial intelligence should serve that purpose. If video banking helps meet that goal, then let’s hope it takes hold in our industry, and soon.