Q&A: Insights from the Digital Front-lines

Illustrations by Randall Nelson
Illustrations by Randall Nelson

Electronic banking is continually evolving. So how should community banks prepare for the digital banking road ahead?

Independent Banker asked three bright, thoughtful and experienced young community bankers working every day on the digital frontlines:

Allen Halas, of PyraMax Bank in Greenfield, Wis.
Jessica Dziob, of Torrington Savings Bank in Torrington, Conn.
Mike Storiale, of Guilford Savings Bank in Guilford, Conn.

IB: What advice do you have for community banks considering whether to start a digital banking department?

Halas: I would say to research first, then act on it. Going digital will be very beneficial. Adapting early is also going to have some tremendous value in the long run.

Dziob: Even if a financial institution is unable to devote an entire department to digital banking, it should incorporate a few key components into existing positions. Strategically thinking, technology is only going to increase in the future. By starting a digital banking department or at least by having a position already established, adopting future technologies will be an easier transition.

“We feel technology should complement human interaction, not replace it.”
—Mike Storiale, Guilford Savings Bank

Storiale: Create a culture that is a safe space for innovation. Many of your best ideas will come from people outside of your team in areas such as operations, retail and lending. If you’re not approachable, you’ll miss out on great opportunities to improve your user experience. Make sure all ideas are celebrated—even the ones that are off the wall. If you have the work throughout the process, you may end up with a solid foundation for something great.

IB: How should community banks prepare themselves for digital banking today and tomorrow?

Halas: I think that looking at trends, especially e-commerce trends outside of banking is a great start as everything evolves.

Storiale: Whether you have a dedicated team or not, create a digital forecast that outlines where you think your market will go over the next five years. Your demographic may use technology differently than your peers because of factors like age, income and location, among others. Write all your ideas down, even the ones you don’t know how to solve or that vendors aren’t offering.
That type of thinking will help you stay on track and spot the right partnerships as you move forward.

“I want our customers to feel that the online channel is their branch.”
—Jessica Dziob, Torrington Savings Bank

Dziob: The market trend is showing more customers are using electronic and digital channels to communicate and transact with their financial institutions. It’s important to have the staff to support those customers. New technologies are continually becoming available, and this trend is only going to increase. Assessing your financial institution’s current needs, and addressing them on a smaller scale, won’t have such a shock to the culture of your bank later.

IB: How will digital banking affect relationship community banking?

Dziob: In the future, I see digital banking shaping community banks in a way that we will be able to truly compete with some of the larger, national banks. A trend that we see is Millennials graduating and moving out of town. With the newer technologies available like apps and mobile deposit, customers are able to take their community bank with them. It allows community banks to stay with our customers and to deepen our relationships. As new technologies are adopted, I feel this trend will continue well into the future.

Halas: Everything is definitely shifting toward digital and mobile-first, but I think that because you’re dealing with a person’s income, it won’t replace some of the human-to-human interaction.

“I think there will be whole departments for social media at some point.”
—Allen Halas, PyraMax Bank

Storiale: Digital banking will continue to give us the opportunity to have deeper, more meaningful relationships with our customers. Instead of having a transactional branch experience, we can transition to a high-touch service environment in our offices.

As we move forward, your bank won’t just help you achieve your financial goals; we will become a trusted resource for different types of life events, leveraging what we know about your actions to help you make better decisions. The more you interact with your bank, the more we’ll be able to create a unique experience for you.