Customers Turn to FIs That Deliver Hybrid Financial Wellness Solutions

NCR - Digital-First Banking Tracker - May 2022 - Discover how consumers are looking to blend digital and in-person FI services to manage their financial wellness

The pandemic’s surge in online and mobile banking has subtly ebbed back toward a more hybrid approach that offers customers both digital convenience and face-to-face counsel. In the latest “Digital-First Banking Tracker,” Valley Bank’s Stuart Cook explains how offering customers these hybrid experiences helps to forge stronger long-term relationships.

NCR - Digital-First Banking Tracker - May 2022 - Discover how consumers are looking to blend digital and in-person FI services to manage their financial wellness

A flurry of research has laid bare the new reality for financial institutions (FIs) that their customers will not hesitate to switch to a competitor that can provide faster and more flexible, secure and frictionless digital payment tools and cheaper transaction and maintenance fees. A surprisingly sizeable number of customers, however, are more than willing to leave the door open to seek in-branch, in-person, customized advice and counsel for their more complex transactions — especially younger customers just embarking on their financial journey.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Stuart Cook, chief product officer of Valley Bank, offered an inside look at how the pandemic-driven acceleration of online and mobile banking has subtly ebbed in favor of a hybrid of digital and face-to-face interaction, placing customers on a path to financial wellness and security.

“It forces us to think about what that new, right mix is,” said Cook. “Younger customers are mobile-first and want to use those channels first and foremost. But when you talk about people’s financial journeys — particularly in more complex transactions such as buying a house or planning for retirement or having children — that’s where we’re seeing just how much people value human interaction, and our customers are returning to physical branches to get it.”

Getting ‘Phygital’

This deceleration from the digitally-driven landscape that dominated pandemic banking to one that now favors a blend of physical and digital offerings — a shift to the “phygital” — is being driven by younger customers. Customers over the age of 35 are more likely to exclusively use digital banking tools than their millennial and Generation Z counterparts.

Cook credits younger customers’ desire for an FI that can deliver a mix of digital tools for transactional ease and speed with one-on-one, personalized advice to the simple fact that this group is just beginning their financial wellness journey and requires more human guidance.

“The fact that our customers know they can walk into a branch and talk to a financial advisor who can physically sit down with them and navigate them through the end-to-end transactional process about a complex process like buying a home — which involves mortgages and property taxes and securing a home loan — is a big part of why they choose to bank with us,” Cook said.

Creating The Hybrid Sauce

For Cook, setting up customers for success means offering a combination of “must-have” digital payment technologies to deliver transactional speed and convenience and the across-the-desk, tailored advice customers want, allowing the FI to become the financial wellness partner customers need.

“We’re always pushing to drive innovation into platforms like mobile and online to become more data-driven to track our customers across various digital touchpoints and make sure we drive efficiencies to better facilitate transactions so we can be much more relational with them,” Cook said. “As a result, our product-development processes are now very different than the way traditional banks used to be.”

The FIs that will not only survive but thrive are those that can forge long-term bonds with their customers by offering cutting-edge mobile and online digital payment technologies while integrating the human touch as part of a holistic, customer-focused experience.

“We don’t get excited about asking, ‘How can we digitize the whole customer relationship?’” Cood said. “It’s about knowing your customers and building trust and giving them the right advice to help them realize their ambitions. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and other digital tools are important, but at the end of the day, it’s all about fostering a relationship that gets you closer to the customer and building an engine that is more responsive to not only their current needs but their unmet needs as well. That’s what we’re all about: relationships.”