Trust vs. Time: How Banking Deepens Connections in the COVID-Era

Large financial institutions have banked on their ability to deliver time-saving convenience to consumers, but it’s trust that matters more to consumers now

In our last feature on building trust in the banking industry, we addressed how living out brand values in an empathy-led way is key to meeting this moment – for customers, community, and staff, alike. With serving in the DNA of community financial institutions, it’s no surprise that they have been able to truly deliver for their customers right now.

In fact, a recent report on PPP lending found that U.S. states with the highest community banks per capita made three times as many PPP loans versus those with the fewest.  Further, although community banks under $5 billion in assets make up less than 13% of the total market, they disproportionally made 40% of the total PPP loans, compared to the top four banks own 41% market share and only made 16% of those loans.

For decades, smaller banks have been in pitched competition with big banks, seemingly outgunned by digital tools and mammoth tech budgets that they couldn’t match. But what we’re finding out during our new COVID-reality is that time-saving isn’t the primary concern now.

Gina Bleedorn, Adrenaline’s Chief Experience Officers, says, “Time has just evaporated. When you don’t really know what day of the week it is anymore, does saving a few minutes really matter?” What previously seemed inevitable – that big banks would continue their scale domination – doesn’t seem as much like a forgone conclusion now.

Personal Attention Equals Trust

What we’re hearing from financial industry leaders is that connection and access matter more than ever. As big banks’ digital channels have failed to meet mass demand, it’s personalized service that has given community banks and credit unions a competitive edge.

Sean Keathley, Adrenaline’s President and CEO, describes how community institutions are stepping up.  “With customer support lines jammed and hours-long waits for big banks to respond on chat and days or even weeks on email, I talk with community bank and credit union leaders and their staff members are calling customers one-by-one. It’s a striking difference. That kind of attention can’t be matched by big banks. It makes you trust your bank more when they show they care enough about you to call.”

Right now and as everyone moves into the post-COVID future, the desire for advice and community support will stay with us. Because personal finance is personal, people have always wanted to know that their money is protected and they have someone who can give them sound fiscal guidance.

Those needs are more pressing than ever as people are understandably anxious about the impact of COVID on all areas of their life, especially their finances. Sean says, “Having a human you trust to provide you with a sense of stability, security and safety is huge. It’s an advantage that community banks should understand and use.”

Reopening with Trust

As banks move to the “reopen” phase of COVID, safety and security is job #1. Gina says, “The foundation of your reopening strategy is to build trust. Period.” In the branch environment that means institutions need to help people feel safe as they navigate how to interact, transact, and consult with a new set of rules and changes to their environments.

To be sure, some of that safety relies on equipment and communications, but more importantly, it’s your people that create trust. Gina says, “The importance of staff training post-COVID cannot be overstated. It’s about building staff confidence so they can operate safely and reassure customers, getting to what really matters—providing sound financial guidance.”

During this challenge to our everyday lives, being human is what people value most. Shared humanity is the glue that’s keeping people emotionally connected together even as they’re physically apart. Yes, everyone is having to learn new ways to keep physical engagement alive – handshakes and hugs become virtual high-fives and waves and talking through a mask with compassion as if it isn’t there. These new behaviors may feel alien to us right now, but having a foundation of trust makes these new barriers between people fall away as they’re empowered through empathy.

In an upcoming feature for Believe in Banking, we will talk about community banking’s principal advantage in building trust in this COVID-moment – its people – and how leveraging their influence through staff training should be a central focus of any reopening strategy. For more information on bank branch reopening in the post-COVID landscape, download our Roadmap to Reopening. If you are a financial institution needing advice and expertise now, contact Adrenaline’s financial services experts at  or call (678) 412-6903.