Report: Community banks should intertwine personal, digital services

Community banks should intertwine their in-person and digital offerings and address weaknesses in today’s channel-centric digital approach, according to a recent Cornerstone Advisors report. The survey evaluated customer behavior, attitudes and preferences regarding digital and human interaction related to overall banking relationships and interactions. 

“There’s a low probability that the advice provided by account managers is in line with the advice received through the mobile apps. Banks can only resolve this discrepancy and dilemma by breaking down the channel silos and integrating the human plus digital financial health and performance experience,” the report stated. 

Three in 10 customers reported interacting with their primary checking or spending account more because of the pandemic, according to the report, while 18 percent interacted less frequently. Most who reported interacting less frequently said that came through reducing branch visits. Consumers who rated their digital interactions poorly said the process had taken too long, the result of subpar process design and too many handoffs. Approximately half of millennials and Gen Zers considered the ability to schedule branch appointments through their mobile banking app to be “critical or important.” Also, approximately 60 percent of Gen Zers and nearly two-thirds of millennials said it is “critical or important” to tap to contact customer support directly from a mobile banking app. 

“Having a human account manager doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on digital,” Cornerstone Advisors stated. “Banks need to ensure consistency between the advice provided by account managers and by mobile apps, as a significant percentage of Gen Zers and millennials receive guidance from both sources.” 

Other key report findings included:

  • Applicants sought human interaction during account openings, but often only when they could not find online answers. According to Cornerstone, 37 percent of respondents thought human interaction would be faster and easier. A nearly identical percentage said they had tried getting the information online but couldn’t find the answer, and nearly one-quarter tried to get the information online but found that their banks did not have the necessary support to do so.  
  • Younger customers still value account managers: Nearly one-third of all consumers had an account manager at their primary financial institution, according to the report, including one-third of Gen Zers and 43 percent of millennials. The most popular topic of discussion between account managers and their consumers was how well the customer’s financial life was going: If a bank eliminated account manager support, 42 percent of consumers between the ages of 21 and 55 reportedly said they go to another bank. 

The survey included 3,105 U.S. consumers, and is intended to represent the overall U.S. population in terms of gender, age and race.