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Which Technology Should Your Bank Prioritize in 2021?

Driven by innovation and the acceleration of digital banking trends due to COVID-19, many institutions have pivoted toward digital transformation. As they pursue this transformation—and prioritize seamless experiences for customers—which technologies are bankers planning to invest in this year?

To find out, CSI conducted a survey of 272 bankers from across the country and uncovered their top strategies for 2021. Unsurprisingly, when asked about the popularity of digital channels in the coming year, 75% of bankers told us they believe digital channel usage will continue to increase even after the COVID-19 virus stabilizes.

When asked which technologies they planned to prioritize in 2021, nearly 60% of bankers identified digital account opening as their top focus this year. Mobile banking apps were a close second, with 45% of bankers planning to prioritize this technology. Indeed, these two features are integral to a successful digital transformation as banks develop a customer-centric strategy for seamless digital experiences.

Optimizing Digital Account Opening

Many banks have long recognized the need for digital account opening, but before the pandemic, the tool wasn’t viewed so much as a top priority but rather a convenience primarily targeted toward a digitally savvy demographic. However, when in-person contact was severely restricted due to the pandemic, a vast majority of consumers turned to their computers and mobile devices to execute business. And as banks pivoted toward new measures to conduct business with their customers, digital account opening quickly became must-have technology.

Now, both banks and customers have become more inclined to use digital channels for the convenience and safety they provide, realizing they can conduct much of their business online with ease.

As consumers continue relying on online or mobile banking, institutions must prioritize the optimization of digital account opening for new and existing customers. For many consumers, opening an online account is their first interaction with an institution—and the experience must be seamless.

According to a recent Aite report, 73% of senior millennials and 60% of Gen Xers who started an online account application did not complete it, running into questions that required a branch visit or phone call. This presents an opportunity for banks to lower abandonment rates and reduce friction in onboarding by providing consumers with online support to facilitate an expedient process with their account opening solution.

One strategy for banks to consider as they optimize the account opening process is embedding chat tools into the digital banking experience. With the ability to balance speed and personalization for customers, chat tools empower banks to efficiently assist multiple customers with quick responses on a variety of platforms. Chat can also be used to guide prospective customers through account opening.

And the digital onboarding journey is broader than simply applying for and funding an account through a mobile app, beginning with the prospect’s initial interest and new account research. The journey continues until that customer has funded an account and enrolled in value-added services, such as direct deposit or bill pay.

Further, optimizing digital account opening is not just a point-in-time exercise—it requires constant monitoring to identify improvements to the customer experience. Utilizing business intelligence tools like customer journey maps allows banks to visualize each interaction between the institution and customer, gaining valuable insight to enhance customer experience and streamline processes.

Enhancing Your Mobile Banking App

Mobile banking provides convenient access to financial accounts, allowing customers to stay connected to their bank anytime, anywhere. Though online and mobile banking use has grown over the past few years, the pandemic sent adoption rates skyrocketing as consumers and businesses that were previously hesitant to rely on digital channels began experiencing the convenience and speed they afford.

According to a survey of U.S. bank customers, 46% of consumers increased their digital usage in the pandemic. Mobile and digital-first consumers are on the rise and expected to continue increasing, especially as digital payments gain popularity.

Even before 2020, most of Gen Z and millennials did not distinguish between digital banking and traditional banking—it is all just banking to these consumers. The same is now quickly becoming true for older generations as well. To attract and retain these customers, banks must effectively meet their servicing and consultative needs with their digital banking platform.

And to enhance the digital banking experience, banks must gain a better understanding of digital channels—including mobile banking apps—and how customers want to use them. For institutions looking to prioritize investment in a mobile banking app, it is critical to remember that, though important, an app is not the singular component of a true digital banking strategy.

A holistic strategy goes beyond the necessary technology and requires rethinking all internal processes to ensure they fully support a digital environment, with the customer perspective at the focal point. Additionally, a digital banking strategy should include a plan to transition from solely self-service to feature more offerings with a personalized consultative layer, such as savings or investments.

As your bank creates its strategy to strengthen its digital presence and maintain a competitive edge, consider that some customers are still relatively new to digital channels, so creating user-friendly processes for those late adopters is important.

Moving Forward with Your Bank’s Digital Transformation

In today’s rapidly changing world, banks must work to continuously improve digital offerings. When prioritizing technologies this year, bankers must remember that a successful digital transformation requires more than simply investing in technology—it requires a frictionless, personalized and secure experience for customers.

For more insight on the top trends and strategies bankers believe will drive the industry forward in 2021, download the full 2021 Banking Priorities Executive Report.

              Laura Ryan
          Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller is a senior product manager, digital banking at CSI.

Laura Ryan is a product manager for CSI’s Enterprise Banking Group. 

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