It's a New Ballgame in Banking

By Jim Lee, SVP, Knowledge Management Director, Fulton Financial Corporation

Jim Lee, SVP, Knowledge Management Director, Fulton Financial Corporation

Certainly everyone has heard the notion that every industry, every product, every service is experiencing an accelerating rate of change and challenges these days that hasn’t been seen before within their domains. While that statement has actually been true for quite some time, today examples like cars being purchased over the internet instead of through dealers, replacement parts for a variety of products being produced by people with 3-D printers instead of buying the manufacturer’s items, and ride-share services in lieu of taxis are just a few of the ways in which consumers can now access their needs in even more innovative ways than ever before. Banks are no less immune to the march of innovation either, in spite of lasting images of fortress-like buildings ornamented with massive columns astride their entrances and equally massive vault doors inside implying financial security and safety.

However, bitcoins, fintechs, and even the ubiquitous pay-by-phone and mobile apps represent a brave new world when it comes to banking when considered against the “traditional” way that banks have operated for longer than anyone can remember. So what is a bank to do to remain relevant today? One way is simply to be a financial advisor and peacefully co-exist with technology by letting technology do all the heavy lifting of executing routine transactions. In other words, banks would do well to let the expertise and knowledge resident in its workforce come to the forefront in service to their customers.

To ensure a consistent, high quality customer experience however, this means that not only will a bank’s electronic presence need to be seamless and engaging, its people must also be able to provide an equally compelling experience whether in-person or electronically augmented. That’s the value proposition of knowledge management in banking: to provide excellent service whether the employee is an experienced member, or the newest employee hired. In this case, people and technology must work together in order to succeed.

In the knowledge management world there’s a well-known axiom that, “If you build it they won’t necessarily come,” a twist on a reference to a movie where a man’s dream to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield is used to encourage the ghosts of some baseball greats to emerge from their graves to come play on it. While that did work in the movie, sharing knowledge and expertise within organizations is much more than just building the infrastructure; hence the admonishment that just having IT enablement won’t automatically result in expertise sharing and reuse. Effective change management, training and education, and continuous communication of the expected behaviors are critical to the achievement of the goal of consistent, high quality service by everyone for everyone. Also, while the previously noted requirements are important, the most critical need is the appropriate rewards and recognition that answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”

So in the world of banking, where a front line employee may see dozens of customers a day, and certainly hundreds a month, when multiplied by the potentially hundreds of colleagues, the opportunities to provide consistent, high quality service can certainly be aided by good supporting technology and techniques. Capturing what any one person knows and sharing it for the benefit of their colleagues and the resultant back-and-forth idea sharing that will definitely occur only increases the quality of the “best practices” that will be used by everyone on the staff. Assuming that the technology is in place, a technique that can take advantage of both the electronic enablement as well as the need for achievement and acknowledgement is gamification.

Gamification mechanics rely on human nature: the need to belong, and the need for acknowledgement. So what does this mean in the real world of banking? It could mean that an experienced agent can be recognized via an electronic company-wide leaderboard for providing excellent solutions and ideas to colleagues within discussion and support forums. In some organizations, badges for levels of contributions or even humorous but non-work related titles may be offered, such as being a “knowledge maven.” In turn, less experienced customer service personnel can learn from colleagues that they may never even meet in person, but who through their contributions and recognition become experts emerging from the crowd.

Given the myriad of policies and procedures that every banking professional must apply in every transaction, not to mention the regulatory and record-keeping requirements, learning from colleagues “at the teachable moment” supplemented by gamification is not a benefit, but rather an essential expertise sharing technique that leading knowledge management programs using it become a self-sustaining way to marry the strength of electronic enablement with the social aspects of expertise sharing. Although it is clear that the future of banking will include more electronic means (like RPA, AI, bots), any reports of the death of human interaction in banking is as they say premature.

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