Banking on an Uncertain Future - BAI 2011

President Clinton’s keynote speech at BAI this week reminded that this is an exciting time to be living thanks to advances in technology, but the world remains unstable. Uncertainty seemed to be in the minds of many delegates to the BAI conference this year as the banking industry struggles to recover from the shock waves of the financial crisis, and the mortgage mess that the President reminded us we must fix quickly to avoid a lengthy recovery.

But most of the uncertainty at BAI stems from the impact of technology.

With uncertainty come questions and this year more delegates to the conference. The industry is anxious for answers.

At the heart of the many questions is the prospect of cultural change; the feeling that the industry has reached an inflection point and things will never be the same again. New skills, new technology and new practices will be needed. But what will the impact be? Will technology replace people or empower them? What will the branch of the future look like? Can we safeguard our data in the cloud?

One question in particular seems to summarize many others – How can banks maintain strong relationships with customers who are primarily interacting with it through technology?

The banking industry isn’t alone in dealing with this.

Another President, President Obama, is already using social networking to build his campaign for the next election. While the President may face many challenges, his online presence is growing.

This very week, Wal-Mart announced their answer to this question – a partnership with Facebook offering specific Facebook pages for its 3,500 locations. Wal-Mart is using social networking to get closer to its customers attracting local communities to the pages of individual stores making Wal-Mart more relevant at a local level.

One bank that has taken a similar approach is Missouri based Mobank. Mobank serves an eclectic customer base of visionaries and artists. Though they have only three branches, they’re located in areas where people are invested in the community. They’re not using social media to “sell” anything, but instead as a way to build upon their community-minded philosophy. Hip, young and cool, the bank parlays that image on a Facebook Page that acts as an online neighborhood for their customers to interact with each other and the bank – much like their branches.

At BAI we will continue to explore the implications of technology on the industry, but one thing is clear. Banking may never be the same again, but that could be a very good thing for the industry.