Jim Marous (00:11):
Hello and welcome to Banking Transformed, the top podcast in retail banking. I'm your host, Jim Marous, owner and CEO of the Digital Bank Report, and co-publisher of the Financial Brand.
Jim Marous (00:22):
When we talk about digital customer experiences, we're talking about a whole dynamic of things such as empathy, simplicity, experience and seamless integration of channels.
Jim Marous (00:36):
Now more than ever, consumers are expecting more from their financial institution when it comes to a better customer experience. They're expecting you to look out for them in a way like never has been done before.
Jim Marous (00:51):
To achieve the highest level of customer experience, organization of all sizes, they have to find partners that can help them achieve their goals without deep engagement or involvement, but with a high level of trust.
Jim Marous (01:05):
We are fortunate to have Courtney Rowan, Vice President of Digital Experience from Citadel Credit Union out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with us today.
Jim Marous (01:13):
She's going to discuss her journey pre-COVID, through today, on how Citadel has built exceptional customer experiences for all of their members.
Jim Marous (01:24):
So Courtney, before we start, let's start a little bit around your introduction of yourself, as well as about Citadel Credit Union.
Courtney Rowan (01:32):
Sure, sure. Thanks for having me on. This is great opportunity. So, I'm the VP for our Digital Experience group here at Citadel. Citadel's a credit union that is about 30 miles outside of Philly. Go birds. 5 billion in assets.
Courtney Rowan (01:47):
Generally, we serve the South Eastern Pennsylvania, greater Philly area, 240,000 members. Do a ton of philanthropic access, lot with CHOP. So, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Just recognized as Forbes 2022 best in state credit unions for the third year. So, we're recognized certainly locally. And we're in the top 100 credit unions in the country.
Jim Marous (02:15):
Yeah, I'm going to get to that because I did read about some of your accolades. It's pretty cool.
Jim Marous (02:19):
So, you have a long history. You have over two decades of experience in Citadel, but over the last four years you've been in charge of digital experiences. You came in at an interesting time to say the least, with the pandemic and everything. But from your perspective, how has the importance of and delivery of enhanced experiences to your members changed over the last three to four years?
Courtney Rowan (02:46):
Yeah. Boy, that's a loaded question. Well, I think to say that COVID evolved it is probably an understatement. Across the industry, we were always focused on "digital transformation," but that catapulted it.
Courtney Rowan (03:05):
So, we knew that we had to turn more fast into these digital services. We were already starting down past to introduce lots of stuff like online appointments, scheduling and video banking. But boy, did COVID set that need. We had to close our offices as many folks did for a while.
Courtney Rowan (03:23):
And so, we knew we had to keep serving our members. We were essential, which was great, but how do you do that in the landscape that has completely changed almost overnight.
Courtney Rowan (03:33):
So, it forced us to rethink our model. And we remained successful. We had growth, which I think is a standout considering with the situation and everything that was going on. So, it really just pivoted everything we were thinking about and those behaviors continued.
Courtney Rowan (03:51):
So, once the folks that probably weren't as digitally savvy used those services, Remote Deposit Capture, it was there, but everyone's continued using it because they realized, “Oh wow, this is kind of really easy.” So, it actually continued to change the business and drove our thought process on how we were going to get to folks. And that remains today.
Jim Marous (04:16):
So, let's take a more recent view of it, because it's one thing to respond to an emergency, which COVID was, and certainly it was with regard to how we deliver product services, the basics of banking to our members.
Courtney Rowan (04:33):
Jim Marous (04:33):
But after COVID settled down, after we hit the basics, what is it within your organization that propelled you to continue to do better in that area? Because really, it’s one thing to respond to an immediate need and do it because bankers do that for their living. But what kept the momentum or what has kept the momentum going?
Courtney Rowan (04:54):
Yeah. It's a great question. So, it is really a desire to focus on a digital first strategy. There's obviously efficiencies to gain from doing that on the business side, but it was delivering the desired member experience.
Courtney Rowan (05:10):
We're in competition, whether we like it or not, with Amazon, with the social media platforms, they're still leading in experience. So, regardless of what you do, if someone comes to your site or your digital banking platform and you're not delivering that in the same way that they're used to, you're not going to succeed.
Courtney Rowan (05:32):
So, there was already recognition there that we had to stay the course. And like I said, that just propelled us to get there faster. But those elements of MX or UX, they're driving everything that we're doing today.
Courtney Rowan (05:46):
Obviously, we want growth and acquisition, but we need those pieces in place to make that successful.
Jim Marous (05:52):
So, it's interesting because you're a legacy organization, you have a board and an executive committee that looks very typical of the stable financial institution.
Jim Marous (06:03):
That stability and even the fact that you continue to grow during COVID-
Courtney Rowan (06:08):
Jim Marous (06:09):
Can make it so that you can get a little comfortable. You don't have to do those extra things such as you mentioned: improving the digital experiences, putting more money into data analytics to make things right.
Courtney Rowan (06:22):
Jim Marous (06:22):
What is it about your organization that says we're not going to rest on our laurels?
Courtney Rowan (06:27):
Yeah, that's a great question. We recognize the challenge and we want to stand out. I think the key thing there, Jim, especially as a credit union, generally as an industry, we're probably looked at as not as savvy. We don't offer the same products, but we do.
Courtney Rowan (06:48):
And we wanted to make sure that members knew (and anybody, prospects), that we were in the same service space. Banking's a commodity, but we need to stand out. And so, the way to do that is to deliver it with digital first in mind, to meet their needs and find them where they are and know that we can service them on however they want, open accounts, et cetera.
Courtney Rowan (07:12):
Our CEO is very driven in we need to stand out, but we also need to be there to serve the community. We're a community bank at the end of the day. We're a credit union. So, how do we do that in a way that sustains everybody around us? Because we're holding them up as much as they're holding us up.
Courtney Rowan (07:30):
And then that rolled into things like small business banking which we rolled out last year, because again, that's a cornerstone in the community and how credit unions survive candidly. But we can't rest on our laurels. We couldn't do it the way we always have done.
Jim Marous (07:49):
It's interesting you mentioned your leadership and it's something that we keep on coming back to with everyone in my podcasts when I'm interviewing people that are with successful banks, credit unions, fintech firms, suppliers, is that it really gets down to leadership.
Jim Marous (08:03):
And leadership, it can be a group of people that say, "Man, we're doing well. We're going to take it easy." Or they can go where the risk is, which is hard to assume when things are going well.
Jim Marous (08:16):
You mentioned it and you referenced it and I said I'd get back to it, but in 2021, you were named the best in state credit union, by Forbes Magazine. That's pretty lofty stuff. And it really looks great on the resume when you'd been at the job, as far as Digital Experience for two years at that time, and now you have another couple years beyond you.
Jim Marous (08:38):
And from what I understand, the credit unions were scored, were based on customer recommendations, satisfaction, the trust, the brand services, the digital services, financial advice.
Jim Marous (08:50):
Of all those things that went into the equation, from your perspective, what was the most important item that you think, you know what, that set us apart from the rest?
Courtney Rowan (09:04):
That's a large question. I think that being able … so, the year is important. Because it was 2021 and it was after all the craziness that happened. We made extra efforts to meet the needs of the folks around us during that time.
Courtney Rowan (09:22):
And we did it, I think primarily, and to your point, it was leadership down driven. We did it primarily through new digital tools and things that we were able to get to quickly.
Courtney Rowan (09:33):
So, there's agility. That ability to be agile and make those changes internally, to streamline the process is really on the backend to push outward.
Courtney Rowan (09:45):
We also, I think this was a huge item that led into that when we talked about, we have a huge customer base or member base that is auto loans. And we knew that this was going to be an issue. People just stopped working; they couldn't work. And so, okay, how were we going to do that?
Courtney Rowan (10:05):
We made an effort to automatically advance some due dates for folks, not penalize them, keep them afloat. So again, it's that community service that we did through customer service. And we allowed them to also get to us very easily in our digital channels.
Courtney Rowan (10:22):
So, you didn't have to worry about, I got to stop in and deal with this because you couldn't. You could literally go on your device, your mobile device and video us and talk to someone. You could schedule an appointment to get to somebody very quickly or you could go right into your online banking and make a request.
Courtney Rowan (10:39):
In tandem with some of the automated things we did, that was just the right thing to do at the time. And I think all of that went into the satisfaction scores and all of that.
Courtney Rowan (10:49):
And because we were able to maintain the business end, our rates didn't fly up. We didn't have a bunch of fees going out. So, we're able to maintain all of the positive side of the business that got returned to the members, which at the end of the day, that's what a credit union is doing. So, I think it was amalgamation of all of that coming together.
Jim Marous (11:08):
Well, it's interesting because I'm listening to the way you're saying things, and it sounds like when COVID hit, you were caught a little bit in a mode where you had to play catch up, but very quickly.
Jim Marous (11:19):
It sounds like you're now … you never feel like you're caught up, but you're in a position of strength now. But still keeping that momentum going. I keep on talking about momentum.
Jim Marous (11:31):
But when you're talking about the whole issue of catching up, deploying, video conferencing, all these things, a lot of organizations did not do that when COVID hit.
Courtney Rowan (11:41):
Jim Marous (11:42):
Because you didn't have to, but it sounds like it really set momentum in place that has really carried you well beyond COVID.
Jim Marous (11:52):
But now we have another crisis. We have the economic crisis and we aren't sure where that's going to head. We know that it's, if nothing else, unknown. How has improving digital experience been prioritized now that COVID's passed? And we have the positions in some organizations saying, "Geez, how can we scale back?"
Courtney Rowan (12:13):
Yeah. It has been hugely prioritized, here at Citadel, we are crafting really what we're calling our digital first strategy.
Courtney Rowan (12:24):
Now, digital first doesn't mean digital only. It is just a way to humanize through technology all of these things that consumers need and want in the financial space. So, that translates to things like bringing AI on. How is AI going to help us meet that, whether it's through chatbots or automated lending. Like, what does that look like in our space?
Courtney Rowan (12:51):
I think it also has propelled us to think about partners versus a vendor. So, as a credit union, we're very partner heavy, but who are the partners that are going to be scalable? Move us through this and keep us on the up and up.
Courtney Rowan (13:06):
So, to your point, we don't want to play catch up anymore. We don't want to be bleeding edge, but we certainly want to be able to compete. And these digital tools are not going away. If anything, they're getting more competitive. The FinTechs are popping up. Things that keep me up at night, buy now, pay later. Like how do we even get into that space as a credit union?
Courtney Rowan (13:26):
So, it's all these things that I think are again, leadership driven. What are we focused on? Acquisition, onboarding technology, personalization. You mentioned data. Cookieless future, we have to be prepared for that. Chrome's saying goodbye, what next year? 2024.
Courtney Rowan (13:46):
So, what are we going to do for first party data? Because we have to be able to talk to you, Jim, not you look alike, Jim, in order to be successful there.
Courtney Rowan (13:54):
So, all of those technologies coming together and is it a CRM, a CDP? Like all of those are propelling our thought process and our strategies.
Jim Marous (14:04):
You talked about acquisition. We've done research at the Digital Bank Report that continues to show that roughly 60% of people that want to open an account digitally abandon the process, which means of those people that want to do business with you — oh, and by the way, we all put great websites and are a hit good and Google search results, all that. And then we kind of fall on our face.
Jim Marous (14:29):
We talk about the 15-minute opening experience, that is not digital.
Courtney Rowan (14:34):
Jim Marous (14:34):
You can possibly do it on a phone. That doesn't mean you want to do it on a phone. I don't watch videos for 15 minutes on a phone, even while I'm walking the dog.
Jim Marous (14:43):
So, how has the prioritization of a digital account opening experience played a role at Citadel Credit Union? And where are you today and where do you want to be a year from now in that process?
Courtney Rowan (14:56):
Yeah, that is an excellent question. So, we had digital account opening to your point, prior to all of this happening. We were in the throes of redeveloping our digital account opening process with a company called Terafina in the middle of COVID. Like, we shut down, boom, done.
Courtney Rowan (15:15):
They were the first project we reenacted, to your point, we knew we had to get this out there. But the wins that we had immediately, so you mentioned a 15-minute conversion process. Ours was 26 minutes prior to, that is painful.
Courtney Rowan (15:35):
This new software took us down to three minutes. So, that alone, we would've been like, "Okay, cool. Done. We won." Like just alone getting folks through a funnel in three minutes after having 26 was huge. But it introduced all this new technology.
Courtney Rowan (15:52):
So, another friction point I'll say for credit unions is that secret handshake. So, who can join eligibility, the mystery around that, I think especially for prospects when they do want to get onboarded well and join, we leverage the technology through that platform to say, look, if they're giving me an address that's their work or home and it meets our criteria, don't even ask them about eligibility.
Courtney Rowan (16:19):
99% of the folks that are going to come through are going to qualify. So, why even ask the question? If there's a fallout point, we'll deal with that. But for the most part, you're dealing with, most folks are going to come right in.
Courtney Rowan (16:29):
So, we were able to do that. We introduced ... you mentioned mobile, and I think this was huge, just having the driver's license update and the OCR functionality to streamline that again, contributed to the smaller conversion time.
Courtney Rowan (16:44):
And then we partnered with Alloy through them as well. So, the KYC factors that came into play and the ease of getting through that, just made it so much easier. And the numbers showed in our results.
Jim Marous (16:58):
And your Deposit Capture, all these things we had to do in person that we no longer could do. But we can't make it just the analog process done on digital. It doesn't answer that.
Courtney Rowan (17:12):
No. Our initial funding grew 395% within eight months of launching that. So, all these positive stats, we were like, "Okay, we got it. We figured it out.”
Jim Marous (17:23):
So, if I wanted to open an account at Citadel right now, how long would it take me?
Courtney Rowan (17:28):
Three or four minutes, tops.
Jim Marous (17:29):
Courtney Rowan (17:31):
If you had everything in front of you, you have your license or whatever.
Jim Marous (17:35):
Courtney Rowan (17:36):
But we're telling you that ahead of time, like you said the website saying like, "Hey, you've got to have all your stuff." There is no reason you couldn't get through that funnel A to Z in three to four minutes.
Jim Marous (17:44):
That's interesting because I still cringe at the whole driver's license just because there's other ways to do that digitally, but those are stages. They don't come right off the bat.
Jim Marous (17:54):
And what we're seeing in a lot of organizations is what the solution provider brings to you and says they can do; we get in their way so often as financial institutions. How did you — because you obviously had to own this process, how did you own it in a way that your organization just didn't say you can change anything you want, but just not that which was what related to them.
Courtney Rowan (18:23):
How did you work through that to make it so you could get your product management group, your delivery group, your security group, your fraud group, your compliance group, all working towards the same mission, and maybe even get them in the mindset that we aren't really there yet?
Courtney Rowan (18:41):
Yeah. So, all those people and all those players, it sounds like you've done this before, there was a lot to bring together at a table. So, a couple things. One, we blocked off a full week of meetings every day and brought those players in at specific times and hit every single aspect, very succinctly. We sat down, we banged all that out.
Courtney Rowan (19:06):
But I go back to the comment I made earlier around partners and not vendors. We chose a partner that was bringing knowledge to us and best in class practices to us. So, that gave us the ability to leverage that with the internal groups and say, "Look, there's a reason that this is working for other clients and we need to take advantage of it. "
Courtney Rowan (19:28):
So, I think, it's no surprise, risk is always one of the toughest. You mentioned driver's license. Yes. We're not resting on our laurels. What can we do better there? But at the time, you can imagine 26 minutes to get through an app, we were probably asking for everything, including blood type, so-
Jim Marous (19:45):
Courtney Rowan (19:46):
What are we getting rid of? What do we really need and what is using to just get them in? Just get them onboarded and into the account and then we can start cross-selling and talk to them about other stuff to help them build their relationship with us.
Courtney Rowan (20:00):
So, it was a lot of those conversations, and I go back to one, there was leadership saying, “We're doing this.” And so, cool, that gives us leverage to make that statement. And then it was having the right partner to say, “This is what works. This is why and we're going to recommend this for you.”
Jim Marous (20:18):
It's easy. Leadership is so key, but also having a person that's going to own the process, obviously you.
Courtney Rowan (20:26):
Jim Marous (20:27):
Who's going to be not subtle in their demands for what's needed, but at the same time building trust. We're getting to see more and more in our podcast where we're realizing that the trust between leadership and what I'll call mid-level leadership, the trust among leaders within an organization, the trust of employees to the leadership and the trust between the partners and the organization. Those things are all important because if anybody doubts, if anybody thinks their job is at risk, if we do it the new way, it all falls apart.
Courtney Rowan (21:01):
Courtney Rowan (21:02):
Now, I'm already getting the impression just by talking with you just for a little while, you'll blow through any wall to get done what needs to be done. And that's a big credit to you. But it's also big credit to your organization for allowing you that leverage to play that role.
Jim Marous (21:17):
Because we talk about the fact that things that organizations do that is wrong. One of them is basically letting anybody have their own way about how things are going to be added in. Because banking's not a place that narrows things down. We continue to expand things, no matter what we do.
Jim Marous (21:32):
The other thing is, we're all fearful of our own jobs, but we put it in different contexts, "We've never done that. We can't do that. Just that and the other thing's going to go wrong." The reality is you got to build that trust and congratulations to Citadel and yourself because that is a difficult process.
Jim Marous (21:48):
But what's nice is that takeoff, that runway to take off from where you're going and to go beyond that sets the tone. Because I would imagine this whole digital account opening process happened with a lot of people still working remotely.
Courtney Rowan (22:05):
Jim Marous (22:06):
We talk about … we get everybody in the room together is a facetious thought now. Because it's, we get people on their screens together, which is different. It's harder.
Courtney Rowan (22:15):
It is. To your point, I think being allowed to be that agent of change. And then because the strategy was set at the leadership level, I think there was buy-in across the org and there still is today that we need to do this to be successful. That allows room for compromise and innovation.
Courtney Rowan (22:34):
Okay, we've always done it this way. Okay, but do we have to, and what are those puts and takes to say, “Well, how do we one, make it better, easier? And what are we comfortable with? What are we okay with getting rid of or changing to make it meet the needs without giving up too much if it's a requirement?”
Courtney Rowan (22:53):
So, is a lot of art to compromise back and forth and understanding the why behind the asks and being able to say, well, we have data to back up this process or change.
Courtney Rowan (23:06):
But yes, the element of trust is huge to say, alright, you've done other things before that were successful or we've seen great results from prior implementations that we've done for whatever it might be. And then saying, “Okay, we're going to follow you.” And that's not just me, that's all the leadership here, but certainly part of it.
Jim Marous (23:25):
Well, it's interesting too because none of us sitting there with a lack of things to do. I've been fortunate and I've met with over 200 financial institution executives one-on-one in discussions. And one question I always ask is, “What's your biggest challenge today?” And they all invariably say it's getting what's needs to be done today, done.
Jim Marous (23:47):
And so, we're not looking for new initiatives. So, when you put a new initiative on for the customer experience, it's added work.
Jim Marous (23:54):
But if you pick a good partner that will run down the field on your behalf and you can trust them to go down without you having to block the whole way or worst case, fall in front of them and create a barrier.
Courtney Rowan (24:07):
Jim Marous (24:07):
You've done well. And that's not — it's much easier said than done. I'm lucky that I get to interview so many exceptional people on the podcast, but it's not always real world where a lot of organizations go, “Oh, this doesn't sound anything like my institution.”
Jim Marous (24:22):
What's interesting too, we've talked about it on different communications and interviews I've done, that to make a good top of glass experience, a good mobile experience overall, takes really hard work behind or below the glass. In other words, your back-office operations, your processes, your automation.
Jim Marous (24:43):
What have you done at Citadel to change the back office, to drive a better front office experience?
Courtney Rowan (24:52):
Yeah. So, to me that is so big, and I think people don't understand the importance of … they hear digital, they're always thinking front-end. And it's like, if you don't look at your back-end processes and understand where those gaps are, that pushes out to the front, good or bad.
Courtney Rowan (25:13):
So, for us, we really did look at, it's all about automation, honestly. What were we doing? We had what we called faux automation going on. And I'm probably not alone in this, in institutions where to the front-end, to you as a user, it looks really slick, but once it gets into our system, maybe there was 20 hands on that one thing. So-
Jim Marous (25:38):
You don't want to know how it's made.
Courtney Rowan (25:39):
Yeah, exactly. And nobody wants to know and God bless them. Of course. But once you figure out, why are we doing it this way? And what are those puts and takes?
Courtney Rowan (25:49):
So, a couple of things I'm thinking about is one, all the automation that we just talked about for online account opening. So, we were moving files back and forth. Why are we doing that? There's a system that can move these things back and forth and capture and like nobody's hands need to be in that part.
Courtney Rowan (26:09):
And even things like automating, pre-approving things when you're coming through that new account process. So, we're going to look at the information that we get from a file. Hey, does this look good against this matrix? That matrix says yes. Good, push out an approval and move on.
Courtney Rowan (26:26):
Trying to reduce that manual intervention, submitting balance transfers. Okay well, before you had to submit a form and that went through, but now it's like, okay, that goes through and gets automatically pushed out.
Courtney Rowan (26:40):
So, these back-end things freeze up folks’ employees to stop doing those processes and let them focus on things that are really going to make an impact. Stop pushing paper around, let's get into where the change really happens.
Courtney Rowan (26:53):
And by the way, it also produces a great member experience on the front-end. So, it's back to front, truly.
Jim Marous (27:01):
So, as you're tested every day to say, how do I make an experience better? How to make experiences better? How do I fix this little component that can really drive a big wedge in a really complicated involved process that's outdated?
Jim Marous (27:17):
How do you sell that internally? But more importantly, what challenges do you have in trying to implement brand new ideas that may be a provider such Terafina provides, but it's not all you say, just because it makes sense, it gets bought. How do you do it? And then what challenge do you have along the was, usually?
Courtney Rowan (27:39):
Yeah. So, as-
Jim Marous (27:40):
Without naming names.
Courtney Rowan (27:41):
Yeah, no. I think proving value is always going to be first. So, because you and I can sit here and say “It's experiential, cool, it's going to look great. People are going to use it. But what does that mean for me as a business?” There still has to be that aspect, only because now I have to assign resources to do whatever that is, which is taking away from maybe another thing that we think is important.
Courtney Rowan (28:08):
So, it's proving the value that could be from an ROI study to say, "Look, we've got data to back up that this works."
Courtney Rowan (28:14):
It could be a lifetime value. Like this is going to drive a lot of loyalty and relationship. And so, you have to look at that more maybe longer term, and understand what those returns are going to be.
Courtney Rowan (28:27):
And I think also letting it breathe a little and let people ask the questions. Because what you don't want to do is barrel it so much that people feel overwhelmed, but really let them understand the why and then come back and let them pick at it a little bit. And then you get a chance to really show the value within those conversations.
Courtney Rowan (28:51):
So again, it's the art of compromise and brutal prioritization. What does this mean against everything else we're trying to get done?
Jim Marous (29:02):
Yeah. And it's interesting because sometimes it's below the surface what's bothering people. You think it's X but I've seen many times that that why, the thing that really is underlying it is that, am I going to be replaced by what you're developing?
Courtney Rowan (29:19):
Jim Marous (29:20):
And we've had a great conversation with a couple organizations that you realize, that as long as they can build trust again, in that we are going to give you the opportunity to be part of our digital future. You may not decide to do that, but we're not going to replace your job in the traditional sense where there won't be one there for you.
Jim Marous (29:40):
We still need people, we still need people, especially who have legacy at Citadel to work with us. However, your job may not look the exact same as it did before.
Jim Marous (29:53):
With regard to that, how do you see the importance of the human in the digital experience?
Courtney Rowan (30:03):
So, going back to that digital first is not digital only. So, there is always a concern exactly what you stated, is this replacing me? Well no, it's opening up opportunities for you to, one, you might do your job differently or more efficiently, which means you can learn more and grow.
Courtney Rowan (30:25):
And then what does that mean as a career path? And also, what does that mean for Citadel in terms of developing new opportunities across the board for staff, et cetera.
Courtney Rowan (30:37):
I think that taking that look at it and also, you have to try and be proactive and understand what those concerns are. And really, I always think about Simon Sinek. He looks at what's the infinite game? Like you can look at results tomorrow and every day you're going to be like this up and down, and you're going to be happy and sad and happy and sad, but look at the long-term outcome of what this is going to give us.
Courtney Rowan (31:04):
And then you as an individual, you can contribute in so many different ways. And I think people, they get very comfortable on where they're at. And also, digital savviness. If someone isn't in that head space all the time, what can we do as an organization to provide that and build that, I'm going back to trust.
Courtney Rowan (31:23):
Now I'm building trust with you as an employee to say, "Look, I'm here to support you, if you don't feel comfortable like you know this space, or there's something you want to learn,” like being there to teach it.
Courtney Rowan (31:32):
Because we did a lot to measure digital savviness, if you will, digital and intelligent quotient. And then say, "Alright, here's our gaps. How can we let folks understand how this impacts them? And the success of the org, which in turn is them as well."
Courtney Rowan (31:50):
So, you have to champion it and really be open to that feedback and then understand how you can facilitate it back to them, to just get to a better space.
Jim Marous (32:01):
So, it's interesting, a lot of financial institutions are challenged by the fact that they have core providers that through their own dynamics and acquisitions they've done, basically will tell their financial institutions, we can do anything that these partners, these independent third-party partners can do at Terafina and such, and that we can do this as well.
Jim Marous (32:25):
When you're looking at enhancing customer experiences digitally, how do you weigh the benefits of what a core provider provides as part of their solution versus the technology and capabilities of third-party, such as Terafina, with regard to moving the organization forward? What are the balancing acts that you have to perform on any of those decisions?
Courtney Rowan (32:49):
Yeah. That's a huge one, in-house versus out-house. Like, are we going to do this or are we going to try and outsource it? For us, I think it's often come down to expertise. So, you have a core provider as a great example. A lot of core providers do lots of stuff, but what they really do well is core banking. You might also offer an online banking platform, but that's not your core business.
Courtney Rowan (33:13):
So, how are you going to be able to provide the same amount of attention and development and innovation in that space when you're really trying to focus on being a core provider? So, I think that's part of it.
Courtney Rowan (33:26):
And so, that conversation goes into, well, who is the expertise in that? And so, do they work with the core provider? To me, that goes on to this whole concept of open banking, let experts be experts.
Courtney Rowan (33:41):
But how do we get them to work together, so that we have those synergies, so that when I come to so-and-so, Terafina and say, "Hey, I want to do this online account opening product with you, this is our core provider. Can you make that work? How easy do you make that on both ends?"
Courtney Rowan (33:58):
And, "Hey, core provider are you going to open up your world to us, so we can make this a symbiotic relationship? Because it has to be.”
Courtney Rowan (34:05):
So, that is always a challenge. But to me it comes down to, again, expertise. You do what you really do, what you're really good at.
Jim Marous (34:15):
What we find too, when we're balancing the core provider versus a specialty company is speed and scale.
Courtney Rowan (34:23):
Jim Marous (34:24):
We no longer have the luxury of being able to knock on doors for a year to get something implemented that could possibly, if I give the partner complete control over it, to implement in three months.
Courtney Rowan (34:37):
Jim Marous (34:38):
You're not benefiting from the fact that you have on your annual plan, you're going to do X, Y, or Z when that's an annual assumption as opposed to, "Oh, by the way, that's March, that's June, that's September."
Jim Marous (34:51):
So, with that in mind, as you look — I'm going to do one more question on the consumer side then we're going to shift a little bit. But on the consumer side, if you looked at 2023, what's your top one or two objectives from a standpoint of customer experience in the digital world?
Courtney Rowan (35:09):
Yeah, so one thing that we are looking at heavily and are in the midst of doing is our digital banking platform. So, to the question of innovation and being in the space, yes wow, it is a massive project.
Courtney Rowan (35:25):
But again, we knew it was time and we wanted to understand, scalability is huge. So, we are evolving so fast in the digital banking, the fintech environment. If we don't have the right partner in that space to support us, we're constantly going to be playing catch up. And that is not an okay stance for us to be at.
Courtney Rowan (35:49):
We want to be ahead of the game and in competition with every big bank scalable process and product that's out there. And so, we decided to make that leap. So, that's huge.
Courtney Rowan (36:00):
And then also, AI is coming into our world. We have live chat, but really folding into the chatbot world because one, it’s machine learning. It's going to help us get smarter. We're going to learn from it, as well as it's going to help propel that service experience and the member experience.
Courtney Rowan (36:19):
In addition to, there's a cost savings. There's call deflection. There's digital engagement there that's going to help us win. I think B of A just put out their virtual assistant, it grew like 67% last year. That's insane.
Jim Marous (36:35):
And that's not their first year.
Courtney Rowan (36:37):
Jim Marous (36:38):
It's one of those things … yes. My digital assistant at — well, the Erica is expanded, but the numbers are astounding.
Courtney Rowan (36:46):
Jim Marous (36:47):
And as you look back, as a financial services executive, you look back and go, man, we all were going, yeah whatever. But now they have seven years or six years of experience under their belt of things they had done wrong.
Jim Marous (37:00):
So, they're now able to move forward with a lot more confidence as to what it can be. And with more and more customers on board that already are buying into totally digital experiences, it's insane.
Courtney Rowan (37:13):
Jim Marous (37:15):
So, I'm going to do a little shift here.
Courtney Rowan (37:17):
Jim Marous (37:17):
So, can you talk to us a little bit about what you've done in the small business world? I think you launched something last August, if I'm not mistaken. And how are the small business digital experiences different than what you're trying to achieve on the consumer side?
Courtney Rowan (37:32):
Yeah, so you see me holding my face, it was quite a challenge. We were in the business lending space, but we knew we had to pivot and create the digital deposit experience as well. And really be able to open up that side.
Courtney Rowan (37:48):
And so, it was the balance of, okay, let's stand this up, but also how do we meet those needs digitally? So, the first thing is, of course the digital online banking platform itself. What services do we offer? What's going to make us stand out?
Courtney Rowan (38:03):
Things like wires, we didn't even offer them the consumer landscape. And it was like, we can't even launch business without that. Like, that is a no-brainer. ACH origination, like you just can't function without that.
Courtney Rowan (38:16):
So, it was a lot of learning on my end because I was a consumer cow from the last 23 years. So, that was a whole new experience.
Courtney Rowan (38:25):
But really taking that and understanding how that whole concept applies to a whole different user set. So, what does the small business users want? What do they absolutely need to function? How are they going to manage even users under their authorized users and who they want?
Courtney Rowan (38:43):
They want their tax guy to have access to online banking. We have to enable that for them. They've got accountants cash management services, all these things.
Courtney Rowan (38:52):
So again, I go back to, we built a lot in-house. We had a great core provider that said, "Oh, we can help you with this." But then when it came to those auxiliary services who were best in class, who also offered a great digital experience, so that the small business owners could self-serve a lot because again, we don't want to get in their way, but we want to make sure that we're also there to support them and make sure that they have the services they need.
Courtney Rowan (39:16):
And then, even on the website, we had to rebuild our whole front page, if you will, brand new navigation, introduce the business banking section. How are we going to generate lead? Because there's also the business development side of that.
Courtney Rowan (39:30):
So, it was lead gen and then using things like, we call it a helper tool, but essentially, we're going to guide you through that process. What type of business do you have? What's your revenue size?
Courtney Rowan (39:42):
Well, based on that, you might need to talk to someone or hey, you can do this yourself through a digital account opening process.
Courtney Rowan (39:48):
So, it allowed us to be really innovative and do things that we kind of wanted to do in the consumer space that we now had this opportunity to do in small business. Because it lent itself to it and then it just made sense from a UX perspective.
Courtney Rowan (40:04):
So, all of those things coming together, it was probably 8 to 10 months of work, but we had wild success and we're still growing on that. So, all in all it was a challenge, but it was a good one.
Jim Marous (40:17):
How do you measure the success there? What kind of results can you share?
Courtney Rowan (40:21):
Yeah. So, our lead generations on the website are up a lot. I would say, I think we've gotten a few hundred successful leads in a very short period of time. So, that was good.
Courtney Rowan (40:37):
We also, our business online banking platform was adopted immediately. We were able to convert — we had folks that were doing business with us, but they were in a consumer product. So, moving them over was really slick. And so, it was no interruption to them. So, that was big. And so, our engagement there has been really great.
Courtney Rowan (40:57):
And also, social media, so this is something that I was not expecting, but the LinkedIn aspect of the small business has been huge to propel. And again, I'm not a small business traditionally, so for me it was all learning.
Courtney Rowan (41:13):
But I think like just last week we booked a surgical center and at like 2.6 million mortgage, off a LinkedIn conversation. So, these things are happening in the digital space almost organically, but they were crafted by how we thought about and strategized how to put them out, if that makes sense.
Jim Marous (41:32):
It's amazing. So, I look back and just look in the very narrow frame of the last couple years, the expectation of information transfer. You mentioned a whole lot in that small business thing. You mentioned wires, you mentioned deposits, you mentioned acquisition, you mentioned social media, digital marketing, you know, all these things all have to talk to each other.
Jim Marous (41:55):
I am a small business. I get frustrated by wires. You brought up wires, it's like thing up my neck going, eh, goes nuts. Because my bank, when they get a wire, tell me I got a wire for this much. They don't tell me any detail. I can't get the detail till the next day.
Jim Marous (42:12):
There's no reason in my mind to think that that could happen. But for me, I'm in a subscription business. So, if you paid for a subscription at the Digital Bank Report, I get a wire transfer notification, I got a deposit.
Jim Marous (42:25):
It doesn't tell me from who. And you may have wanted that report today, and I won't give it to you tomorrow, because I don't know if it's really you, it could be anybody. That's a flaw.
Courtney Rowan (42:35):
Jim Marous (42:35):
In addition, I talk about my business bank knowing everything about my deposits, but nothing about my business. Every day, all my deposits from subscriptions come in by PayPal. All my disbursements to my team go out on PayPal.
Courtney Rowan (42:54):
Jim Marous (42:54):
The bank should be able to put these things together and say, "Oh my gosh, I want to build something that's going to replicate what PayPal gives him because they're getting all the data."
Jim Marous (43:03):
PayPal offers me a pre-approved bridge loans, while my bank can't because they don't know enough about my business and the inflows and outflows.
Jim Marous (43:11):
And then on top of that, you're talking about social media. What do we do with those social media leads once we get them? How do we build those into relationships? How do we take those and onboard them?
Jim Marous (43:21):
It's crazy when you think about to build the experience you mentioned, you mentioned this point at the very beginning of our discussion, it's all about data and analytics at the end of the day.
Courtney Rowan (43:33):
Jim Marous (43:33):
And it's about the ability to believe that your partners can use your data and in whatever crazy format it could be in, to make better experiences.
Jim Marous (43:43):
This is where the partnership becomes so important because if we're just using garbage in, garbage out, we're not in a good situation.
Jim Marous (43:50):
The good news is all these tremendous solution, third-party solution providers know how to take data that may not look perfect and make it perfect for their solution. And for a while, I'm good with that. I can live with that.
Jim Marous (44:07):
What's interesting also is looking at small business, we're hearing more and more from credit unions about the importance of small business. How do you rank the importance of small business relationships in your overall business model?
Courtney Rowan (44:21):
Yeah. So, it is hugely important. Not only is it something that the community's been asking for, for years, like I said, we were in the lending space, but really expanding that they wanted to bank with us.
And so, step one was, okay, no brainer. We have a built-in membership base that already has a desire. But the biggest thing is, it's the unique opportunity that credit unions have with small business. And that's the community aspect.
Courtney Rowan (44:48):
The symbiotic relationship between supporting small businesses and how those small businesses in turn support the community, they hire from within. There's economic impact because of that. And at the base, that's a credit union's core value.
Courtney Rowan (45:05):
And so, there's this relationship of like, we need to support these folks because they are supporting everyone around us in creating all of that positive influence. And that's something I don't think the bigger FIs can say.
Courtney Rowan (45:20):
The same cannot be said for them because it is a different relationship with them where it's ... yes, of course, it's numbers driven for us, we want to be successful, but the community impact that we have and the parallels to what credit unions are about and how that influences and helps small businesses are hand in hand. And so, that sets us up, I think, uniquely in that space.
Jim Marous (45:45):
So finally, Courtney, as you look to what you've accomplished and what you have on your mission list of things you want to accomplish, what recommendations do you give banks and credit unions of all sizes as they try to double down under digital banking experiences?
Courtney Rowan (46:04):
Yeah. Two things come to mind. One is data. We've talked about it a bunch today. You have to organize your data. And I would say at this point in time, start thinking about that cookieless future and what first-party data means to you.
Courtney Rowan (46:22):
Because in order to get into the advertising space, you just talked about all those pieces, coming together from all of those sources, if you don't have something that can make sense of that and help you and help the member and the small business, you're going fail. We absolutely have to have that in scale and space.
Courtney Rowan (46:42):
I talked about partners, not vendors. I know as a credit union, believe me, we live it even though we're a great size one, you still have to have that and scalability. So, pick someone who's going to be your partner and not just somebody that's going to stand up.
Courtney Rowan (46:56):
And then I really believe in the acquisition onboarding technology. You can have a great process to bring someone in. You can have a great DAO partner, but what are you doing with them when they get in? How are you continuing that onboarding relationship? How are you personalizing that experience?
Courtney Rowan (47:14):
So, you see where the data still plays hand in hand in there. It's a backbone to creating strong relationships. Once they're in, you got to curate them. And it's not about just cross sells. Yes, that will come with, but you got to deliver a great experience to make them want to buy your stuff, at the end of the day.
Courtney Rowan (47:31):
So, you have to be able to deliver it in a way that makes them want to engage with you. Banking is not fun. It's not sexy. I don't think anyone would say that, but you can make it that way. You can introduce gamification, all this stuff and move them through the process. So, I think those elements are really important today if you ask me in what to focus on.
Jim Marous (47:53):
Well, it's interesting because as I talked to credit union executives, I come from way back in banking time and the foundation upon credit unions and community banks is always putting the customer first. Not that the big banks didn't, but they couldn't do it as well.
Jim Marous (48:10):
Well, now we've lost a lot of this branch trafficking. We've lost a lot of the ways to actually reach out and touch somebody physically and even dynamically in a way that we have conversations.
Courtney Rowan (48:21):
Jim Marous (48:21):
The beauty is, the digital data and analytic capabilities today can actually go beyond what we're able to do when we didn't have those tools. It's only a matter of implementing them.
Jim Marous (48:35):
And what's also exciting is the ability to do so has become less costly, less difficult to do if you open your eyes to what's available in the marketplace.
Jim Marous (48:44):
Third-party providers today can make an institution of your size or even smaller outperform a big organization that goes through just all kinds of layers in order to get anything implemented.
Jim Marous (48:57):
As we do research, we're finding that the very strongest of those in digital transformation, customer experiences, innovation are the smallest and the largest.
Jim Marous (49:07):
The other ones are somewhat encumbered by legacy leadership that gets stuck in their own way. And not that they don't have the right mission, but I'm impressed by the fact that Citadel has done so much. They did, it appears, a whole lot of catching up during COVID, but never stopped running down the field, which that's hard to keep that momentum going.
Jim Marous (49:30):
But I have to admit, I’ve now met you as digitally as we always do, but I wouldn't get in your way. What's nice is you do with a kind hand and with empathy, it's not just a big fist going through it.
Jim Marous (49:44):
I think you've also found a way to work around your organization to say, how do I get the right team together, so that somebody doesn't want to be left behind? That's kind of cool.
Jim Marous (49:53):
I'll give a lot of credit to you because it's not easy to implement all these changes. It's not easy to keep the momentum going when there's so many things fighting against it, including the allocation of your own time and as you said, and it's something that we really emphasize so much, you need to build partnerships with organizations you trust.
Jim Marous (50:12):
You can't play the whole game yourself. It's too big. You can't do it all yourself. And if you find the right partners, you're going to do well. Courtney, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Courtney Rowan (50:24):
Thank you, Jim. It's been a great conversation. I've been reading your reports for years, so this was really an honor to come on, so-
Jim Marous (50:31):
Courtney Rowan (50:32):
Jim Marous (50:34):
Thanks for listening to Banking Transformed, rated as a top five banking podcast and the winner three international awards for podcast excellence. We appreciate the support we have received to make this endeavor a success.
Jim Marous (50:46):
If you enjoy what we're doing, please be sure to take some time to give some love in the form of a review.
Jim Marous (50:52):
Finally, be sure to catch my recent articles on the Financial Brand and the research we're doing for the Digital Bank Report.
Jim Marous (50:59):
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to our senior producer, Leah Haslage, audio engineer, Sean Rule-Hoffman and video producer Will Pritts.
Jim Marous (51:09):
I'm your host, Jim Marous. Remember, building a great customer experience takes a number of factors including data, analytics, an empathetic mindset and a great third-party provider that can give you the support you need and the experiences that you deserve.