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The new wave: how bank relationship managers embrace technology to build trust

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Banks have been built on trust for more than six centuries. Bank relationship managers, a specialized type of banker, are vital in maintaining lasting relationships between their respective institutions and their consumers. As frontline officers, they are responsible for growing the business volume by selling various lending and funding products. Traditional approaches in trust-building put too much value in physical interaction above everything else—with modern technology only acting as an aid in supporting the exchange in order to be perceived as more genuine. This obsession with “I only trust what I can see with my own eyes” on both parties is not unfounded as bankers are handling very valuable assets.

Digitalization has presented a new challenge for banks as it changed how customers interact. Digitally savvy millennials for example are expecting seamless omni-channel interactions with instantaneous service delivery akin to the ones offered by tech giants like Google or Netflix. Media consumption has also shifted to social media dominating the landscape. Even information gathering has also changed, with Gen-Z preferring to learn by their own rather than under the company’s sales personnel. These changes were further normalized with the pandemic in the 2020s, which discouraged physical interactions.

Read more: This is how Norway is inspiring trust in government

Recent developments have prompted banks to invest in more robust information technology (IT) architecture, which has led to the high demand for top tech talent. Smaller banks adopted partial digitalization through mobile banking applications, while larger banks created entirely new digital banks as subsidiaries. The allure of scalability, efficiency, and centralized operation is also driven by profit as digital banks do not need to operate multiple physical branches, which means they can employ fewer frontline staff, including bank relationship managers. As traditional banks plan to close more branches in 2024, there is a need for their relationship managers to leverage technology in building trust and loyalty with their consumers.

Building trust through technology

To create genuine interactions with customers, relationship managers must shift their role from sales and marketing, to a more consultative-driven approach as the former has been taken over by digital media. Bank relationship managers must focus their effort in helping customers make the right decision amidst the abundance of available information. This role is beneficial across multiple generations as it helps the older generation navigate the digital ecosystem and helps younger customers take their first step in their financial journey. These interactions may also be implemented in social media by offering helpful banking guidance without pushing products.

Synergizing customer-facing and technology talents is also crucial in bridging the gap between customer needs and their digital banking solutions. Relationship managers in digital banks must be able to leverage the data offered by various digital platforms. By triangulating information acquired in the field and available from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, relationship managers are able to identify the most effective interaction channels. Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as # Customer engagement and % Customer satisfaction must be considered another piece of the puzzle in decision-making. This triangulation of data will also enable personalized interactions through digital platforms to generate closeness and trust with customers. In addition, this digital record would also facilitate seamless transitions from one relationship manager to the next.

Bank relationship managers must also take a proactive role in improving their bank’s various digital platforms as these are essentially their organization’s extension in the digital landscape. They should move forward with the development of technology and work in a more  horizontal and inter-functional structure. Their consultative role will be involved in introducing the human aspect of mobile applications and digital marketing to tech developers. Thus, modern relationship managers must also understand the digital design of the ecosystem. While this does not mean that banks should hire tech talents as relationship managers anytime soon, the talent they acquire should at least have a strong ownership towards digital applications so that they can help guide their consumers in navigating this new technology.

Read more: Millennials and Banks: Surmounting the digital divide

Conclusion

Digitalization has been both a blessing and a challenge for traditional banks. On one hand, it has allowed them to revolutionize their offerings to a wider range of consumers through mobile banking services and digital marketing campaigns. On the other hand, it has also forced them to adapt their approach in relationship-building. While these changes may put traditional banks into obsolescence, it has also created a new opportunity for them to synergize with the new digital ecosystem.

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