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Essential resources for banking executivesEnter ‘Banking Reinvented’

Engagement Banking: orchestrating the customer experience

The banking industry has long been restricted by both legacy systems and outdated approaches

by Vincent Bezemer

Woman looking at smartphone walking

It’s one thing to interact with your customers and members, but it’s another to engage them. Understanding the difference is key as we enter the era of engagement banking.

The banking industry has long been restricted by both legacy systems and outdated approaches. These strategies no longer match the evolving needs of today’s customers and members, and while institutions are coming to recognize this, their attempts to address it haven’t always been effective. In a siloed fashion, many rely on their technology departments to simply make changes to legacy systems in order to respond to market changes. But it’s too little and much too late.

Instead, banks and credit unions must think holistically, taking ownership of the full customer or member journey from beginning to end that is at the core of engagement banking. To respond to changing consumer needs – and to delight those consumers, not just serve them – institutions must be agile and focus on optimizing experiences across all channels. By only making piece-by-piece, isolated updates to existing technology, institutions are neglecting to emphasize the potential for digital sales and self-service. There’s an entire world of digital optimization and end-to-end automation they’re missing out on.

But this doesn’t have to be done alone. Financial institutions don’t need to become a technology company in order to achieve engagement banking. And nor should they. They should focus on their core competency – providing a fundamental service to communities and the economy. But having a partner that accelerates the shift to engagement banking and manages change across the entire digital journey enables financial institutions to focus on providing a high-quality service to customers and members. All that’s required is a willingness to learn, collaborate and grow. Receptiveness to change is the only way traditional institutions are going to remain relevant to their customers and members over the long-term.

And the potential rewards are endless – by embracing change, financial institutions can break free from siloed technology architecture and bring engagement to the forefront of their operations. They can create a leaner and more flexible, digitally focused financial institution with a lower cost-efficiency ratio and higher profitability.

Let’s take a look at insights from six industry executive leaders who have taken control of their technology and orchestrated the engagement of their own customers and members:

Bremer Bank

Bremer Bank has made a conscious commitment to sharpening its focus on its key customer segments and partnered with Backbase to bridge the gap between traditional bank-centric processes and customer-centric digital experiences. Bremer Bank has been measuring its success and found that digital transactions have steadily increased. Last quarter almost one-third of all transactions were digital.

“Bremer is designing all of its digital assets around the customer, Customers are at the center of decision-making, and how we can determine where we can add value.” “Customer centricity with intuitive digital experiences and human relationship at a time of need, will be the winning combination going forward.” – Dan Flanigan, Chief Strategy Officer

Royal Credit Union

Royal Credit Union calculates every digital innovation based on members’ unique needs to ensure that digital not only provides a great member experience but that the credit union gains cost savings and operational efficiencies as well. It has implemented robotic process automation (RPA) in its lending processes to increase productivity and speed for loan decisions, while also minimizing errors.

“As a member-owned credit union, we are always looking for digital tools to enhance our members’ experience yet not launch new technology just for the sake of technology. We use business intelligence and data analytics to learn about member behavior and predict the future solutions they need.” – Brandon Riechers, President & CEO

Vantage Bank

Family-owned Vantage Bank underwent a complete overhaul of its technology, with customers and members at the heart of its strategy.

While many begin their digital transformation journeys with an attractive front-end, Vantage Bank focused on the middle office, enabling a new, digital layer to its data-sharing capabilities. The resulting efficiency gains have been remarkable. The bank can now complete a commercial loan in only 14 days, and onboarding treasury management clients, which used to involve a 72-step process, now only takes two hours.

“Concentrating on the middle office gets teams to understand shared perspectives and improves our ability to work with fintechs, plug them into our middle layer, share data with a common backbone, and become really agile as we tie in channel services.” – Jeff Sinnott, President & CEO

F&M Bank

F&M Bank believes that branches aren’t dead, but understands that digital is a necessity in order to compete on customer experience. F&M Bank sees partners as a key component of achieving their vision of one-touch banking, but is also focused on onboarding Gen Z and Millennial talent with fresh ideas to help attract this client base.

“In the next two years we will make dramatic changes in our digital delivery. But we also recognize that we need the right people to support our digital efforts. This isn’t Field of Dreams— if we build it, they will come. We need to combine digital with relationship banking to grow our bank.” – Sammy Stuard, CEO


Despite seeing the importance of physical branches, WSECU has made it clear that digital transformation is the credit union’s top priority. To implement its digital and mobile banking solution, WSECU created an internal team of developers and transformed the way in which the credit union has historically approached project management.

“Digital isn’t something you do and then walk away; you need to constantly iterate and enhance your offerings to stay relevant to your members. We are digital-first but we want to offer hybrid options – including branches – for our members who want to talk to someone for advice or have more complex transactions.” – Gary Swindler, CEO

MSU Federal Credit Union

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MSUFCU quickly launched a video solution so customers and members could stay connected and feel the ‘human touch’ from a distance. Agile methodology is what fuels the credit union’s digital transformation – ensuring the big-picture approach always stays top of mind.

“The human race is designed to interact with each other. Our goal is to provide as much information as we can digitally to our members but deliver face-to-face when members want it. Member behavior is changing due to our overall social, financial, and health environments—and those environments will impact who people choose to do business with and how they interact.” – April M. Clobes, President & CEO

Overall, engaging customers and members should sit at the heart of all digital transformation strategies. A simple interaction is not enough; it is vital to establish an underlying connection across every interaction. Financial institutions must look to continuously improve each aspect of their digital journey, ensuring the overall customer and member experience is as frictionless as possible.