A Catalyst Known as COVID, Part I

What banking can learn from the changes emanating from the world of work in our new normal

There has been a great deal of discussion around how the COVID-19 pandemic represents a modern-era “once-in-a-lifetime” event – a challenge to our everyday lives, the scope of which we’re only coming to terms with eight months into the global pandemic. Some of these changes are an immediate response to a pressing issue – like how to get customers the goods and services they need. Yet others are more systemic and enduring – like remote working and the technologies that facilitate it.

When viewed through the long lens of history, we can recognize that a global event like COVID does represent an opportunity to do things differently, but which ones will fade and which will persist? And how do these broader changes affect what consumers and employees expect from banking?

Work and Workplace

Beginning in late February, people headed home in droves to begin what we all expected to be a temporary and finite work arrangement. While telecommuting had been taking place with workers for decades, most work happened in an office. But overnight, the pandemic turned most employees into remote workers, whether they wanted to be or not, compelling people to juggle the demands of work and home as never before. Whether employees return to a workplace post-pandemic largely depends on just how long the public health danger presses on and what appetite companies and their employees have for returning to an in-office environment.

Source: PwC US Remote Work Survey, June 25, 2020

Do the benefits of working from home outweigh the downside(s)? As social animals, humans are hard-wired to thrive on interaction and the intangible benefits of being face-to-face are real. On the other hand, studies show that remote workers are actually more productive. Only time will tell if we’ll witness a widespread exodus from home once we get the all-clear, or if people really are more productive and happy Zooming in their sweatpants. What we do know, however, is that some elements of our lives will be forever altered after the pandemic wanes and these longer-term impacts extend far beyond the workplace. Here’s what we can learn from the current work environment, along with banking’s current and future-facing response:

Remote technology – Never has the need for foolproof, non-glitchy teleconferencing been so important. From television appearances to job interviews, having a seamless experience is critical, but the software must also be easy-to-use since everyone – from digital natives to older generations – must be able to equally access it. Yet on the 50th anniversary of the first teleconference, not that much has changed in teleconferencing technology, and there’s a real need to adapt and improve.

  • Banking Response: Remote technology is being implemented for consumers via ITM deployment. Banks are also augmenting drive-ups with both people and processes while in-branch services are used less for now. But as the pandemic wears on, banking needs continually assess how to embrace remote technology in customer interactions, via live video chat and other virtual – but human-centered  – platforms.

Better Internet Experiences – More than ever, there’s a need for speed and internet providers are racing to keep up with high-bandwidth demand as parents and kids compete with each other and bump up against usage limits and older technology in their homes. Technology is expected – demanded – as table stakes today, as consumers integrate it into their lives in numerous ways.

  • Banking Response: Banks saw an immediate uptick in mobile app usage and online banking as the pandemic began. While some of these converts to mobile banking will stay, more than half of consumers still aren’t all-in on digital and plan to return to the branch. The data says that consumers of all generations have shifted their behaviors short-term, but haven’t quite become all-digital converts. Banks must continue to provide tailored channel options for consumers – from experiences that extend all the way from the brand to the branch.  

Collaboration Tools – Working with others during the pandemic (and beyond) requires much more than a Zoom account. Companies and workers need to collaborate in real-time just like they do in the office and they need formal and informal channels to do it.  As employees increasingly work from home, they not only interact remotely with each other but also with the customer. Yet the platforms that are being co-opted for these engagements were often made for an entirely different purpose and time.

  • Banking Response: These tools extend beyond the workplace. People are looking for meaningful ways to engage in a socially distant and safe way, and that includes with banking. Finding ways to enhance chat with customers from a technology perspective is one part of the equation. But the power of this technology is in its ability for creating connections. Banking can take a cue from the workplace and find ways to extend their focus on relationship banking leveraging collaboration as a core competency, whether it’s through technology or more traditional means.

Company Culture – In the early days of work-from-home, Zoom happy hour invites filled our inboxes and it was fun to participate. Now with enduring pandemic fatigue, companies are finding out just how challenging it is to build a culture without face-to-face interaction. Encouraging human interactions, from high to low tech, represents the core of most brands. Further, understanding how to foster company culture from leadership down is mission-critical.

  • Banking Response: Keeping culture strong while most interactions remain remote is every organization’s new charge. Finding everyday ways to reaffirm a brand’s culture starts with employees and extends out to customers. Even as branches are operating differently today, culture is there to present a warm welcome. Focusing on the core of what your brand represents will help ensure every financial brand is ready for what comes next, no matter what that may mean.  

Stay tuned to Believe in Banking as it tracks the big trends – like COVID as a catalyst – that are impacting the world outside the financial industry and are informing the banking experience. To begin developing experience-based strategies for customers and members in the face of COVID, contact Adrenaline’s experts at covidready@adrenalineagency.com or (678) 412-6903. For more information on bank branch reopening in the post-COVID landscape, download the Roadmap to Reopening . If you need support for staffing, see the Frontline Staff Engagement Training series.Believe in Banking Logo