"I'm a big believer in purpose driven organizations who are really clear on what it is they're doing for the good of society and using that purpose to align organizations and inspire organizations to be doing more than just driving net income and earnings per share." - Rilla Delorier

In a recent Banking on Digital Growth Podcast, Rilla Delorier, an independent board director for Nymbus, joined James Robert Lay to discuss how financial organizations can provide help and hope to customers and communities during turbulent times.

The top 3 insights from this article:

  • How to foster a purpose-driven workforce
  • The balance between the digital and human touch
  • Harnessing AI and data for enhanced value

The Heart of Growth: Seizing Opportunities in Challenging Times

Financial institutions are on the brink of a transformative era where the blend of human touch and technological advancements play a critical role in offering customers an enhanced banking experience. As James Robert and Rilla discuss, it's crucial to understand and adapt to these evolving needs.

At the Heart of Growth lies the potential for financial brands to pave the way forward, particularly in times of uncertainty. Such turbulent times, while challenging, also bring with them a wealth of opportunities. The aim should be to provide more than just traditional banking services; it's about giving hope, aid, and illuminating the path forward for account holders.

Rilla's insights bring forth an interesting perspective. While financial modeling and interest rates are pivotal for banking operations, the real essence lies in empathizing with the customer. The intricate balance sheets and financial metrics, while indispensable, shouldn't overshadow the human aspect. Institutions that prioritize their customers' needs and customize offerings to suit these requirements will likely thrive.

Innovative Solutions for Unique Customer Needs

The examples provided by Rilla, from creating a digital tithing system for churches to a Native American bank investing in purposeful community projects, exemplify innovation at its best.

By recognizing and addressing specific unmet needs, banks and credit unions can not only strengthen their relationships with existing customers but also attract new ones, all while making a positive impact.

James Robert's conversation about community financial brands brings up a significant point: while the world is rapidly digitizing, there's still a segment that prefers the traditional touch.

Instead of pushing such customers towards digital channels, the goal should be to understand their apprehensions and create solutions that cater to their comfort levels.

As suggested, leveraging AI and automation can be an excellent way to provide these customers with the services they seek without incurring high operational costs. It's about maintaining that personal touch while harnessing the power of technology.

Balancing AI and Human Interaction in Customer Service

In today's fast-paced digital world, the debate around balancing artificial intelligence and human interaction in customer service has taken center stage. There are both opportunities and challenges faced by businesses in integrating AI while preserving the essential human touch.

Many organizations face the conundrum of how to incorporate technology without compromising the unique human experience customers crave.

Rilla's experience from her tenure managing a call center is telling. Even as digital adoption rose, many customers simultaneously checked their apps and called customer service for confirmation. This dual-checking stemmed from mistrust – they were unsure whether the information on their apps was current and accurate.

This insight highlighted the pressing need for clarity and transparency in digital interfaces, which are often plagued by ambiguous codes and unclear transaction details.

As Rilla rightly points out, the harmony between human and digital realms lies in using technology and data to optimize customer support. AI and machine learning can enhance the service provided by customer representatives by offering fast, relevant, and personalized information.

Furthermore, the transition from traditional brick-and-mortar branches to digital platforms presents a golden opportunity.

Financial brands can leverage data about their customers to offer real-time, personalized solutions that align with the customers' best interests.

For instance, real-time offers that pop up during a customer's digital experience can be more targeted and beneficial for the customer rather than generic sales pitches.

The potential is vast, from offering insights to business owners about cash flow management, inventory management, or payroll management, to embedding financial services in practice management software tailored for various professions.

The Power & Potential of AI in Fintech

James Robert's emphasis on the growth potential of AI in the fintech sector is timely. His book, "Banking on Digital Growth," underlines this very idea – that digital channels are not just service conduits, but also avenues for growth.

However, the adoption of AI in the finance industry faces resistance, reminiscent of the skepticism the internet faced in its nascent stages in the 1990s. James Robert's comparison of Chat GPT to calculators in past decades is apt. Just as calculators were once seen as tools that reduced human cognitive efforts, AI now faces similar skepticism. But as he argues, if AI tools can enhance efficiency and accuracy, what's wrong in leveraging them

Navigating the Tides of Change

As technological advancements continue to evolve at an ever-increasing pace, the traditional mindset of banking leaders often finds itself being challenged. Schopenhauer's philosophy aptly reminds us that embracing the "new" is often a three-step process of ridicule, opposition, and acceptance.

Addressing the resistance to change, Rilla emphasizes that real-time exposure and experience with technologies like ChatGPT can play pivotal roles in shifting perceptions. When used effectively, tools like these can not only simplify but also enhance our daily tasks, as showcased by her personal experience in vacation planning.

But beyond simplification, the banking landscape is seeing profound changes. New players, primarily digital or neo banks, are emerging as strong competitors, largely due to their customer-centric approaches.

Drawing from her insights, Rilla highlighted the difference in approach. While traditional banks view communities geographically, digital banks focus on niches, addressing specific needs. This laser-focused strategy has enabled them to make deeper connections with their customer segments. However, she also pointed out the challenges these digital banks face in retaining customer engagement over the long term.

A Crisis of Trust and The Path Forward

With the evolution of banking also comes a diminishing trust. The digital age, while providing convenience, has simultaneously raised concerns about financial safety and ethical practices.

Rilla suggests a path forward - "Acting in the best interest of our customers." By being proactive, transparent, and leveraging data effectively, banks can rebuild the eroded trust. The industry can also benefit from a collaborative approach, where the emphasis is on shared growth and mutual benefits rather than competition.

Reflecting on the future, Rilla is optimistic about the possibilities. Industry consolidation, decreasing technology costs, and collaboration among banks promise to reshape the future of banking. With modern providers facilitating easier digital transitions and banks collaborating for mutual benefits, the horizon looks promising.

The essence of collaboration, where shared growth surpasses competitive strategies, stands out as the beacon for future growth.

Take Action Today:

  • Foster a purpose-driven approach. Initiate a comprehensive review of current bank projects and programs. Identify areas where the organization can provide tangible value to the community and its customers, beyond traditional banking. Pilot projects that align with this renewed purpose.
  • Balance digital with human touch. Develop a hybrid model of service that leverages AI for efficiency but still has human interaction points for trust-building. This could involve chatbots that can seamlessly transition to a human representative when needed or clearer digital interfaces that customers can trust.
  • Harness AI for personalized customer experience.  Invest in AI and machine learning technologies. Work with fintech startups or in-house teams to integrate AI-driven tools that can analyze customer data in real-time and offer personalized recommendations or solutions. Ensure that the application of AI aligns with ethical standards and promotes transparency to rebuild trust with customers.

In the end, as the financial industry continues to undergo its digital transformation, the emphasis remains on reconnecting with the core principles of growth. As leaders like Rilla Delorier and James Robert Lay suggest, the path forward lies in embracing change, prioritizing customer needs, and fostering collaboration.

For more about financial transformation, reach out to James Robert Lay at the Digital Growth Institute.