By Michael L. Stevens, GSBC President

This is the third in a series of articles from GSBC’s Peer Group Projects. The projects are the work of our first-year class from July 2021. This article was compiled from the work of two groups which looked at the future of community banking post-pandemic.

The premise of this work is to identify ways to capitalize on the changes and unanticipated gains made during the pandemic. Banks rapidly deployed new technology solutions and gained customers, largely due to the Payroll Protection Program created by the Federal government to support small businesses. Banks also created new work arrangements for employees to keep them and their customers safe. We had to know there was no turning back!

Here is one excellent example: Community banks quickly adopted e-signatures. What had taken hours of discussion with management and boards was now adopted overnight. There’s nothing like a crisis to move past “analysis paralysis.” The groups emphasize the need for banks to adapt and change quickly in the future. One group stated that a decisive mindset is critical. Technology investments need to be strategic and not viewed as just another expense.

As the students evaluate the future, they do so from a place of strengthening the relationship business model of traditional community banks. Technology should be used to enhance the conversations with customers. A bank president recently told me that the more automation to be applied to the basic questions, the more conversations his staff can have with customers about opportunities.

Here are a few fun and not unrealistic ideas from the groups:

  1. Introduce biometric authentication capabilities, providing a defense against fraud.

  2. Update call center technology and integrate with CRM, core and data warehouse.

  3. Consider automation and conversational artificial intelligence to allocate staff resources more productively.

  4. Redefine the branch by focusing on the customer experience. Find ways to create a personal and more intimate experience. Consider partnerships with coffee shops, delis or even an Amazon pick-up/return service. Unlike unnamed chain stores, the community banker would have a natural bias to engage with the customer!

Just imagine this additional idea: A customer steps out the front door to load cash into a drone to be whisked off. I cannot imagine my 85-year-old father standing on his front lawn watching his cash fly away, but I can certainly see any one of his three grandchildren welcoming that drone fly-by!

Our students believe the relationship business model is alive and well for community banks. People like the human element, especially during a crisis. Technology solutions can meet customer expectations while bringing new opportunities for more opportunities and closer relationships.

In less than a month, we will welcome 500 community bankers and regulators to campus. This will kick off 17 new peer group projects from first-year students and 176 strategic projects from our second-year students. These projects provide insights, solve problems and demonstrate thought leadership. We can’t wait to get started!


Peer Group Acknowledgments

Group 13:  Robert Burke, BankWest, South Dakota; Nick Lane, Cornerstone Advisors, Arizona; Gabe Magnuson, The Bank of Missouri; James McGrath, Bank of Colorado; Sarah Morse, FHLBank Topeka; Bryan Reeves, City Bank Texas; Brad Woodard, Iowa Savings Bank.

Group 19:  Josh Gehlen, Minnesota Lakes Bank; Laura Lyman, Alpine Bank, Colorado; Alex Nichols, Bank of Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Jacob Parsons, Nebraska State Bank and Trust Company; Jackie Sorlie, Bank of Bridger, Montana; Robert Wood, FDIC.