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COVID-19 and the Future of Banking

COVID-19 and the Future of Banking

By: Ryan Morris, First State Bank CEO

There's no doubt that COVID-19 will have an enduring impact on the future of banking. When the pandemic hit, banks had to rapidly adapt to a change in consumer needs. Not only was the population faced with strict limits on human contact, but people were also losing their jobs and struggling with debt, needing more help from the banks than ever. Change was happening – and it was happening fast.

The most immediate change was the shift to mobile. Remote access was not just a convenient feature, but a necessity. Because banking is an old industry with strict regulation, many institutions did not offer a full suite of mobile or remote access products. Forced to modernize, many had to catch up and adapt to what a lot of others had already done. 

And while banks were shifting to strict remote access, consumer and business needs increased. Consumers were scrambling to pay bills and pay off credit cards with the government direct-to-taxpayer payments, and businesses desperately needed help accessing the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. In fact, Conference of State Bank Supervisors reported that the PPP allocated 4,885,338 forgivable loans worth more than $521 billion. Community banks made 28% of the loans, or $148 billion.

Small businesses, especially, needed loans to provide paychecks for their employees during this time. According to SBA, 82% of small business payroll in Texas was covered by these loans. And because customers weren’t getting the support they needed from the larger institutions, they turned to community banks that still had real people on the other end of the phone. Customers needed human interaction during this time – the complexities of the PPP application process couldn’t be solved by a machine or a prompted voice response system for many small businesses. This resulted in community banks playing a crucial role in helping customers during the pandemic.

So, the big question is: What does the future of banking look like?

While it’s not likely that we will see a true return to how banks conducted business before COVID-19, I do see some essentials making a comeback when the smoke clears. People still need personal contact and relationships – especially at their banks. If you’ve ever called a customer service number and struggled to find a real person to speak with, you understand how crucial human connection really is. And while mobile will continue to dominate, I foresee technology changing to still accommodate the need for face-to-face interaction. Moving into this year, we will likely see technology change to unite modernization and personal interaction.

Take ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines), for example. Many banks have recently added this convenient feature to their locations. While these ITMs are available 24/7, allowing users to self-service any transaction, there is still an option to video chat with a real teller during banking hours. ITMs actually allow customers to speak with their specific bankers safely even during a pandemic – so banks are able to keep up these personal connections in a more convenient and safe way. 

So, while it feels like modern technology is completely taking over, human connection can never really go away. As we continue into 2021, my advice to banks out there is to always put the customer experience first. You can use technology to your advantage while still building a virtual face-to-face relationship. This shift is a great opportunity for the industry to deepen relationships and increase efficiency at the same time. 

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