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Key Takeaways from this Year's Raddon Conference

December 12, 2019
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At the end of this year’s Raddon Conference, I had the unenviable task of synthesizing into a single digestible package all that we presented and shared over the three days. The following is my attempt to summarize this amazing event.

At the cusp of a new decade, unforeseen challenges await us on the other side. Therefore, predicting the future can be a fool’s errand. In the 1981 movie Blade Runner, 2019 was expected to be a dystopian nightmare with androids on killing sprees. That prediction turned out to be false, luckily. However, we now live a different dystopia in which one in five Americans suffers from anxiety or depression and in which half of Americans would struggle to pay a $1,000 emergency bill.

Although predicting the future is impossible, preparing for it is not. This year’s conference was all about preparing for the 2020s.

The environment today is not conducive to resting on laurels; the long but weak economic expansion may end sooner rather than later. Customers, members and competitors are pressuring financial institutions to be more mobile centric and data driven. In the current disrupted marketplace, payment channels are targeted by retailers and tech companies. More than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. The number of cyberattacks and data breaches is at record levels and still rising. And through all that, the financial industry is shaken by constant changes in the deposit-gathering and lending landscape.

One path forward for banks and credit unions is to focus on building the right infrastructure for the 2020s. After peaking in 2009, the number of financial institution branches has declined 9 percent over the past decade, and yet, branches remain essential to gathering deposits and managing relationships. The keys to success in branching appear to be maintaining a brand and experience that are consistent with those on mobile devices, ensuring simple yet thorough processes that, again, are consistent with those on mobile and most important, having the right staff, properly trained and engaged.

Building the optimal infrastructure means hiring the right people above all, and that might be the greatest challenge facing the industry. Millennial managers are the least engaged demographic at banks and credit unions, according to the Raddon Viewpoint Employee Survey program. Overall, more than half of all employees have experienced burnout, accompanied by detachment, inefficiency, anxiety and diminished productivity.

Once institutions manage their infrastructure, they must ensure that they are meeting the needs of their market. Consumers are in a precarious position now. For example, Baby Boomers have saved, on average, only 46 percent of the funds they think they need for retirement. At the other end of the spectrum, Gen Z consumers already have expectations of mobile delivery that community financial institutions may struggle to meet.

Ultimately, those challenges require a focus on optimizing the banking product and experience. On the deposit side of the house, optimization means building a sustainable deposit strategy that examines opportunity both in the existing base and from new customers, balances acquisition and retention, and measures its effectiveness. On the lending side, it means being innovative and making borrowing on demand, mobile centric and perpetual so that borrowers have the money they need when they need it. In all cases, product design should focus on five key capabilities of the new product features; they must be able to:

  • Drive usage
  • Bring new relationships
  • Attract new balances
  • Retain existing accounts and balances
  • Drive profitability

Optimizing experience means using all the data collected on customers to improve their online and offline experiences, including conducting transactions, asking service questions and opening new accounts. Eighty percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. Using data appropriately to personalize the customer experience can yield strong dividends. Still, even more important are the people. Disengaged employees eliminate any goodwill created from personalized experiences and attractive products, whereas engaged employees create a virtual cycle of repurchase and referral.

In summary, in the 2020s, six key focus areas await:

  • Keep employees engaged: They define your brand
  • Make mobile matter: Everything needs to be fast, simple and intuitive
  • Use your data: Personalization will build relationships
  • Be flexible: Demographic and technological change will move fast
  • Innovate: Use continuous feedback to improve and find the right partners to develop new processes
  • Communicate: Continually communicate with employees, customers and members, and the market

Prepare for the next decade with 2020 vision. Happy holidays!