NEFMA Inspires Again!

By Jeff Baker, posted on October 31, 2019

Jeff Baker chairs Future Branches

Surviving in today’s competitive financial services world means effectively engaging your customer and, as was evident at the recent New England Financial Marketing Association (NEFMA) Annual Conference, banks and credit unions continue to look for better ways to do just that. The energy and enthusiasm of the attendees at this year’s conference was contagious and I can’t wait to get to work!

This year’s conference topics included the continuing trend of creating conversation and buzz on social media, (where one of the biggest challenges seems to be finding the right platforms to reach your target audience – your mom might be on Facebook but the younger generations are not!), and the future of app-based transactions, among others.

Of course, nearest and dearest to my heart were the discussions around customer engagement in the physical environment. Nowhere is it more important to engage your customer than in the branch and it was exciting to see that bank and credit union marketers are starting to see how digital and the branch network must be integrated. I recently read a fascinating report by Deloitte, which noted that “the rapid pace of digital change is adding to a buildup of … unintended consequence, which we call experience debt.” The report goes on to say that this experience debt can be paid down by elevating the human experience. Exactly!

We at Image 4 embody this concept in every project we embark on, whether in financial services or other industries. While verbal AI banking capabilities, like Bank of America’s Erica, are becoming standard in many large banks, we can’t lose sight of the value of personal, face-to-face engagement. Our team understands that in a digital-focused world, people yearn for human connection. For financial services, this means redesigning the branch experience to be consultative, helpful, problem-solving, and aspiration-fulfilling. As one bank executive put it: “Consumers want and need more than a digital-only experience from their banks. They need help navigating those moments when life and money meet.” Engaging customers across that life/money continuum allows banks to enrich the overall relationship with their customers—potentially gaining access to additional revenue along the way—and there’s no better place to do that than in the branch.

The upcoming Future Branches Conference in Austin (where Image 4 will be sponsoring, exhibiting, and speaking) is shaping up to dive deeper into these and related topics. For example, is your personnel trained to cultivate relationships with the people who come into your bank on a consistent basis? I will be hosting a panel on the importance of staff training and staff selection for this new mission.

My keynote will elaborate on the integration of all these user experience items into the new branch model that is smaller, less expensive to build and staff, and functions much more effectively than existing designs.

I look forward to further discussions because as always, It’s About the Experience®!