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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

The Consumer Banking Journey is All About Experience

By W.B. King

Understanding the scope of digital banking is a difficult undertaking that often requires looking outside the credit union industry. To this end, Finopotamus recently attended a MoneyLive North America webinar, “The Future of CX In Banking: Towards End-To-End Digital Experiences,” which featured three bank executives.

Top row, left to right: Lindley Gooden and Harman Johal. Bottom row, left to right: Christian Ruppe and Pat Saad.

Moderator, and cheerleader-in-chief at the London-based Greenscreen, Lindley Gooden said more than ever before, especially post-pandemic, financial institutions need to provide customers with convenience and speed across multiple channels within their digital ecosystem. It’s not enough to digitize a few areas of the customer journey, he said, “It’s an end-to-end digital overhaul.”

Gooden kicked off the discussion by asking: What do customers expect from their bank and how are banks responding?

“Customers today expect a seamless customer journey across the bank’s website and online portals. These expectations have come up as customers are accustomed to the service standard set by other internet companies,” said Harman Johal, senior vice president and market leader (Texas and Illinois) private wealth management at U.S. Bancorp.

The Minneapolis,-based bank has 3,106 branches and 4,842 automated teller machines, primarily in the Western and Midwestern United States.

“Customers expect the same degree of consistency, convenience personalization from their financial services institutions and the new disrupted reality is that people need banking but not necessarily traditional banks,” he said.

“These dynamics have forced traditional banks to reevaluate how they engage with their customers,” said Johal, who added that no longer can banks merely meet the needs of customers; rather, they must anticipate needs.

Balancing ‘Feel’ and Technology

Representing the Fitzgerald, Ga.-based Colony Bankcorp, Inc., Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Christian Ruppe took a different approach to Gooden’s question, noting that many of the bank’s customers are located in rural areas and tend to be older.

As is the case with many community financial institutions, he explained that there is often “push back” on adopting certain tech advancements, as there is generally more of a focus on investing in the bank’s footprint and team.

“A lot of the older customers prefer to come into the branch — it’s a part of their weekly errands,” he said. “However, we found they will use [tech] when it’s there, especially when they get to the point where they are not able to come into a branch — whether it is due to COVID or some things are changing in their lives.”

Noting that the bank can’t only focus on the noted demographics, Ruppe said the bank looks to invest in technologies that allow all customers to “get in front of a banker and get their needs met whenever that’s needed.”

The challenge, he noted, is adopting new technologies without losing the “community bank feel.” This is a common issue for many community banks, he noted, adding that he is thankful that many vendors are “working hard” to bridge this gap.

Last Best Experience

Explaining that there are so many extremes of the customer experience, Gooden asked Fifth Third Bank’s Senior Vice President and Head of Consumer Digital Pat Saad how the bank addresses this moving target.

“A consumer isn’t necessarily measuring you against the best experience they just had at another financial institution,” he said. “They are measuring you against the experience they just had at Starbucks or whatever they are doing in their daily life.”

The Cincinnati-based banks operate 1,100 branches in 11 states: Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Customers expect secure and easy banking options, what Saad referred to as “table stakes.” The trick, he said, is digging deep into digital banking offerings that focus on the finer details that differentiate one bank from another. To this end, he said Fifth Third Bank just rolled out “dark mode” in its mobile app, which was based on market research he studied that found upwards of 60% of mobile phone users like this option.

“We are getting great unsolicited feedback since we introduced that capability through different channels,” he noted.

A smaller institution with 27 locations operating in Central and South Georgia, Ruppe said that since Colony Bankcorp does not have developers in-house, it instead must rely on outside vendors when considering adopting new tech. He used adding a dark mode feature to its existing mobile app as a hypothetical example.

“The challenge is that we see an obvious opportunity and we decide that’s what we want, we can’t just go a do it. We have to go to our vendor and ask them,” he noted. “So the challenge is getting our backend in place where we can make moves and be decisive about some of these things and have the right vendors, so that if we do see an opportunity we are able to act on it.”


In the view of U.S. Bank’s Johal, financial institutions should look to brands like Apple and Amazon that pair exceptional products with a celebrated user experience. The goal is to ensure that the customer is the focus of each banking experience, especially for those customers who have numerous accounts at the same institution — each division should offer the same experience. This approach requires continuously soliciting employee and customer feedback.

What’s critical to a successful platform, he added, is having “the ability to scale the customer experience program across different lines of business.” Also important, he said is that the employee experience translates into the customer experience. Employees who are digitally active, engaged and savvy pass on their passion to customers, he noted.

“A lot of companies should start thinking about including programs to evaluate how connected employees are to core values and delivering on the customer experience,” he said.

While Ruppe said Colony Bank is “early on its innovation journey,” co-creation with customers is part of its digital banking strategy. This undertaking includes testing solutions internally before rolling out to customers.

“We have had multiple projects that we have worked on where an employee had a painful experience and they had a solution and we worked with them to fix it,” he said. “We are listening to and hearing from customers — we are working on the infrastructure so we can move on those things quicker.”


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