Adapt, Innovate, Thrive. Embracing Change in the Financial Services Industry
Director of Member Relations
Georgia's Own Credit Union
The pandemic has brought a point of inflection for most of financial services institutions as they have adapted to the new normal by enabling uninterrupted operations, ensuring seamless customer and employee experience, and staying competitive.
Watch this panel discussion from our virtual event, NewgenConnect 2021, where we interacted, brainstormed, and engaged with industry leaders, analysts, and our customers to learn how technology has helped enterprises in quickly adapting to the changing business needs and preparing for the future.
- The role that technology has played in helping organizations shift from a high-touch to a trust-based world during the pandemic
- Top trends in the financial services industry that will shape the digital transformation journey of banks and credit unions
- Key benefits our customers have witnessed by leveraging Newgen’s technologies
Ashish Deshmukh: Hi. Good morning, good evening, good afternoon, everyone. We have a lot of good things to be covered in today’s session. Welcome, everyone. We also would like to welcome people from around 60 countries who would be logging into this session to hear out from you all industry leaders.
With that said, let me just quickly welcome our distinguished panelists on this fireside chat session. Let me just quickly go ahead and do a quick introduction, and then I would like everyone to speak about themselves. My name is Ashish Deshmukh and I head the financial services for Newgen. With me on this panel discussion today is a distinguished team of industrial leaders, my friends and people from whom I’ve learned over the last few years, especially on the digital transformation. So quickly to go… People on this call. We’ve got Susan Ralston on this call. Susan, would you like to introduce yourself?
Susan Ralston: Yes. Hello, everyone. My name is Susan Ralston, and I’m the Chief Operating Officer for Old Point National Bank. Old Point National Bank is a 97 year old bank. We’re about $1.3 billion, and we’re located along the coastal region of Virginia. I personally live in Virginia Beach. I’ve been with the bank a few years, but I’ve been with banking for 35 years.
Ashish Deshmukh: That’s good. Thank you so much, Susan. Coming to Stephanie. Stephanie, would you like to introduce yourself?
Stephanie Davis: Hi, I’m Stephanie Davis, Director of Member Relations at Georgia Zone Credit Union, based in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re a $2+ billion credit union. I’ve been in the credit union industry for over 30 years, working at Georgia Zone for 10 years.
Ashish Deshmukh: Thanks, Stephanie. Joli, would you like to go next?
Joli Hensley: Absolutely. I’m Joli Hensley, and I manage our digital channel deliveries here at Advia Credit Union. We’re located in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois, and operate about 29 branches and just under $2 billion in assets. Personally, I am a boy mom to three wonderful boys who love the outdoors here in Michigan, and getting into all sorts of fun and sports and anything that helps drive that athleticism and competition.
Ashish Deshmukh: Fantastic. I think with today’s discussion, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. We are going to talk about the last 12 months, because I think it’s a point of inflection for most of the financial services institutions as we have seen the world change, not only for their customers, but themselves, their employees, and their partners. The intent of today’s session, as you would see from our Connect 2021, it’s all about transforming experiences. When we talk about experiences, it can be in various shapes, sizes, shades, and colors.
One of the things which really attracted me was that there’s a very famous rule of what they call 21/90 rule, which is reflective of making significant and eventually permanent lifestyle changes. Based upon the research, it says that it takes 21 days to establish or make a habit, and it takes 90 days to stamp it as a permanent lifestyle change. We all have seen this 21/90 rule in the last 12 to 15 months of pandemic. For the customers, for the employees, for the partners, it just took 21 days to get that habit of digital experiences and what they were experiencing in their personal lives to make it a habit. I think we are well over that 90 days in terms of making a permanent change in how banking, financial services itself, trade union world, everything is going to change in terms of the new experiences, and rendering those experiences in terms of transformation kind of a thing. With that said in setting the context, I think three words that would describe the way the world is changing is in terms of disruption, distraction, and digital.
With that said, I think what we can do is that we’ll quickly move to a couple of tracks that we had outlined for today’s fireside chat sessions. One of the first tracks, and I’d like to leave it open to the floor in terms of helping us understand, when this pandemic started, I think we were in March, and we all were traveling all over the world, and especially meeting our customers in terms of understanding how things are. I think one thing that really drove this complete transformation was in terms of leadership and teamwork. You all have been leaders in your own organizations, in your community.
One of the famous things, whenever I think about leadership… I am a movie buff, so whenever it comes down to leadership, what reminds me is about Apollo 13 and the communication that happened through the command center and the spaceship between Gene Kranz and Jim Lovell. Failure is not an option was a big thing that has driven my insights into the industry. But I would just like to leave it open to you all. How did leadership and teamwork take a center stage in your organization during the pandemic? And any specific lessons, stories that you would like to share? Susan, would you like to go first?
Susan Ralston: Sure. Definitely during the pandemic, leadership was very important. As a leadership coach, one of the things I’ve learned is trying to keep a positive attitude. That was part of the success of really saying, we’re going to get through this together. But what we saw was whenever we see a sense of purpose and vision, it drives people. I think during the pandemic, there was definitely as a community bank, we saw an opportunity to help our small business customers with PPP loans, for example. So during that time, we were very nimble. It was surprisingly nimble. We also saw where people were very dedicated because they wanted to help those small business customers. They really saw where they could truly make a difference during the pandemic. So the lesson I learned from that is really, again, always creating a compelling vision. Letting your employees and your customers know what we’re here for, and together, we can get through it. That was our motto through the whole thing. Together, we can get through it by taking care of each other.
Ashish Deshmukh: Which is certainly a segue way into a great thing, because I think your members were new to that ecosystem. Your customers were thinking about how things are going to pan out. It was really a high touch ecosystem. But just taking on that particular point further, Stephanie, anything that you would like to add from a leadership standpoint? What made the entire difference for you to sail through?
Stephanie Davis: I would say the participation that we had from everyone within the organization, and the subject matter experts that we brought together when we were looking at issues that we need to solve, and how we could quickly adapt things and promote things out to assist our members. It was amazing to see our teams come together and really help each other and really think outside of the box to offer different solutions. Everyone had a voice at the table. That was very important. Everybody listened to everybody’s voice at the table. What made sense? What can we do? What can we work? How can we make it work quickly and get things implemented? It was really everyone joining in together. Our members responded very well to that as well. They knew we were dealing with the pandemic, and it was just like, let’s put it out there, let’s see what works, and let’s just keep it moving for our members.
Ashish Deshmukh: You bring out a very important point over there, which is more about collaboration and an empathy between the leadership teams and the people who are at the forefront managing those customers. That’s an interesting thought. Joli, anything from your end, how leadership really made a difference?
Joli Hensley: I think Susan and Stephanie nailed it on the head. It really takes the ability to be adaptable, have that collaboration, and be able to execute with a sense of urgency. So whether we are working with our branch network really to understand the friction points and what really needs to be shifted to a self serve option, right? What those friction points there to be able to help members continue to be able to do the things that they need to do? As well as our marketing team to be able to communicate out to members how to make these things work. So yes, absolutely. Being adaptable during this, having great communication, and really just being able to put that sense of urgency behind it as well.
Ashish Deshmukh: Which brings us to a very interesting thought. Because if you combine all these thoughts together, one of the things that I was reading on a Fortune article, a very interesting one, listens for the financial services industry from the cosmetic industry, which was a very interesting thought. They have something called a shadow board, a new concept which is coming up. Prada and couple of other cosmetic companies came up with that thought, wherein they created shadow boards of the top management, the leadership team, with the unrepresented, not recognized members of the organization from the grounds up. This also includes the interns. They picked up initiatives and created the shadow boards, and created that organizational mix with leadership directly responsible for those initiatives. But people who have been picked up as shadow boards from the grounds up, and the responsibility and empowerment given to them.
So certainly, you brought up that point around collaboration, about empathy, and about leadership from the front. Really, it made a huge difference. And what other example than PPP? Because I think it was an opportunity for the financial institutions to dive into the digital world and creating a digital wonderland for their customers. So that’s really interesting.
With that said, I guess we can jump to our second track, which, again, is a very important thing. This is all based upon our survey of working with more than 400 financial institutions. Going back to them and throughout this process of the last 15 months, we have experienced everyone going through a big journey in itself. To some of them, when we talk about it, they say that it’s a point of inflection for them. Maybe those things which existed at that point of time may not be there going forward, but it’s all good lessons learned for the future.
One of the next tracks that we wanted to talk about was adaptability and change. Joli, you spoke about adaptability to an extent. I have experienced that personally in terms of working with Advia Credit Union, how quickly you became a nimble organization in terms of fast changes. I guess one of the things that, again, comes to my mind in terms of adaptability and change is examples from Alice in Wonderland. When Alice is running and she’s not leaving the trees behind, and she asked the Red Queen, “Why am I not leaving the trees behind?” The queen says, “In this country, if you have to leave the trees behind, you have to run twice as the speed in your own country.” So I think in this pandemic, we all realized how that speed mattered, how that agility mattered in terms of making yourself quite accommodating to your customers, to your branches, to your employees. But Joli, we can quickly start with you in terms of, how did this whole thing from a high touch to a trust based ecosystem work for you?
Joli Hensley: I think it’s important to note, while the pandemic happened, this has always been important, right? I think so many financial institutions got caught on their heels because they weren’t keeping up with the technology that has been available for years. We’ve seen big partners such as Amazon, and we have a lot of opportunities where our members and customers are interacting with this type of technology. I think making sure that no matter what happens, you are staying abreast of the things that are out there for digital transformation, and not waiting for something like the pandemic to strike before you take action. So for Advia, we’re in a really great position to be able to service members, and then be able to take on even more to accelerate that through the pandemic.
As far as consumers, going from shifting. As you mentioned earlier, it does take a little bit of a change for certain segments. Other segments, they’re all digital all the time anyways. We’ve seen the members that we’ve shifted to depositing checks via their mobile device, they’re not coming back to the branch to make those transactions. They’ve been able to develop habits, and those are good habits. Those are time saving habits for them that allows them to take the time that they would normally take to travel into the branch, and be able to repurpose that for something a little bit more meaningful in their lives. So it’s been super positive for the members of Advia and the Advia staff.
Ashish Deshmukh: It links us back to the 21/90 rule and how things will be kind of a permanent change. Stephanie, would you like to go next on the adaptability and change?
Stephanie Davis: Sure. I would just follow in saying absolutely, everything that Joli shared. I think it really showed us, too. We had a strategic roadmap with a digital vision, and it really showed us how much quicker we need to move forward with that vision that we have for our members. We are taking that into account and shifting things a lot, moving a little bit more rapidly than we were in the past. We might have taken something that was going to be a three year roadmap and reduced that down to a year. And members are used to dealing digitally now. They really want a one-stop shop when it comes to their financial needs, and that’s a goal that we’re looking towards.
Ashish Deshmukh: Sure. That’s really important because these things happen over a period of time. But I guess digital transformation, what happened during the pandemic, and it was always there. I’ve known your organizations for quite some time now. Digital was always the core thing. But then again, it accelerated the pace of digital. And as they say now, every organization, every financial institution is a FinTech organization. Susan, would you like to go next? Because especially in your context, I’ve seen that you have worked through different ranks and as a chief operating officer, so you foresee the things both from a holistic standpoint, but also at the micro level operational standpoint.
Susan Ralston: During the pandemic, I think leadership definitely was a big role, because we decided to get into the PPP lending on a Friday. Ashish, I think you and I met on a Saturday, and we on Sunday, Easter Sunday, did a launch of our PPP portal and had it stood up in 84 hours. If you would’ve told me six months before that, that we had the ability to do that, I would’ve said you were a liar. But we were able to pull together. It was really a miracle. And again, I go back to the previous question, but it was this ability to create a compelling vision. There was a need in our community, a need by the people in our community, and the technology helped us get it.
But what was interesting, some of the transformation of this was really, our people still got involved with the technology, helping those small microbusinesses that still needed a hand held and a question. So we put teams together very quickly to kind of create a triage, if you will, of the process. Did it get stuck here? Can we reach out and help them? As I look back on the pandemic, I’ll never forget April of 2020, and the fact we stood up an entire platform in 84 hours. That will be one of my things in my career I’ll never forget.
Ashish Deshmukh: Maybe one day, we can write a book on that.
Susan Ralston: Yeah.
Ashish Deshmukh: I think which is very interesting, because one of the things that I have learned during the last couple of months is that this entire paradigm about digital, it became from a nicety to a necessity kind of a thing. Where people used to think that, okay, you know what? Digital used to be a part of one of the initiatives and everybody used to think about it. Do we need a chief digital officer for that and all. What I’ve noted recently is that every person in the organization which is a touchpoint to the customer is a chief digital officer, because everybody is rendering that experience.
One of the great points that also was brought up by one of our customers in recent conversations with the leadership team, they said that people used to talk about customer experience. We are going away from customer experience to business experience, because customer experience is only about rendering an experience in a particular area, or a touchpoint or a branch maybe. But we want to render an experience at all the touchpoints that our customers, our members have with our financial institutions, and also to our employees.
Which actually leads to our segue way to the next section, which is more about learning from the past. This one, I really love because Lion King is my all time favorite movie. The way they had actually presented it was very nice that yes, the past can hurt. We all have gone through difficult times in the last couple of months. But then again, if you have to see it, you can either run from it or learn from it. I think anything that you can bring out in terms of differentiation, in terms of what has been the learning. Say if you have to go back in time, in January of 2020, and if you have to think about it, what do you think would’ve been some things that you would like to do beforehand in preparation of things, how they happen? Or in terms of any top trends that you think within your institutions, how it is going to change? Anybody. Susan, you want to go first? Stephanie, anybody.
Susan Ralston: Sure. I’ll go first. One of the things I would do if I could rewind was to have a gym available immediately so I don’t gain weight while I was sitting around in the pandemic, but that’s a personal thing. But whenever I look at the business, some of the things that we could have done differently was been more prepared, I think, for remote workers. We had a certain segment of our workers that were ready to go and work remotely, say 20%. Now we’re at 80%. As hurricanes are barreling up the coast, we’re actually really rethinking, do we really have weather related downtime? Or how does that look going forward?
So what we’re doing, Ashish, is really the digital. The digital is really becoming the focus of the bank, and not the branch network as it was in the past. And like you said, bringing the technology to the customer where the customer is. So we’re really studying that now and mapping that out, what that experience is going to look like.
But at the same time, I wouldn’t be a COO if I didn’t tell you, I also worry about security and fraud. Fraud has also been up across banking about 300%, and definitely the same at Old Point. We’ve had some shifty, shaky activity that we’ve really had to up our monitoring and consider other softwares that will help us keep the crooks out of the bank. So while we’ve been welcoming and trying to help small businesses, we’ve also had a couple of incidents that have made us really refine, if you will, our information security protocol. Looking back, we wish we’d had that in place, but live, learn, like the Lion King says. We’ll be definitely fortifying our perimeter as we go along, for sure.
Ashish Deshmukh: Stephanie, you want to go next?
Stephanie Davis: Sure. I would definitely say moving more workforce into the remote workforce. I think we moved pretty minimally at getting that done, but there was a little bit of hurdle there getting laptops deployed to everyone when you couldn’t go to the office. So I think being more prepared. I think we are prepared now, because the majority of us are able to work remotely unless you’re in a branch network. And really looking more at the digital options that we could provide for our members. For example, members needed to make an appointment to get into a safe deposit box. Our branches were closed, but we still had to give them access to get into those safe deposit boxes. So now we’re shifting at online appointments for our members. We worked very minimally to do what we needed to do in the meantime, but very important to keep our eyes on what really is happening in technology, and making sure we are staying at the forefront of what’s going on.
Ashish Deshmukh: Sure. No, that makes sense. It really required at that point of time to… Because see, none of them were tested models for the financial institutions. Nobody assumed in March of last year, beginning of March, that things will be going this direction. My salute to all the banking leaders and financial services leaders, the way they managed it. They helped not only their employees, because that was the first line of connect with the customers, but also this entire ecosystem of your customers, your members, employees, partners, and how things actually shaped up.
Joli, I’ve noticed that in last 15 months of interactions with you all, you went through a very dynamic process of getting your online account opening, live, running, and making your customers completely onboarded onto that. How has that shifted the world for you all?
Joli Hensley: That has been a huge shift in our business that we do here at Advia. You’ve taken me back to 2019, and we’re performing the RFP to be able to have a more robust account opening solution. I think that a lot of that applies today. I feel like if they have something out there, that’s enough. But taking over 10 minutes to open a basic consumer account is not a good experience, right? For people to join your organization and realizing that that’s not on par. What I would’ve done is maybe accelerated that just a little bit. But being able to work with Newgen through 2020, be able to get a more robust account opening solution, not only for the online presence, but also for our in branch presence.
And now allowing businesses to open accounts online and youth to open accounts online, things that we didn’t have before, was a huge transformation for us and continues to be. So even though our branches are open, our online account opening for both the retail and the business side has absolutely skyrocketed, and we don’t see that stopping. People are in tune to be able to do things digitally, and what that’s helping us do is go beyond our 29 branch footprint, right? It’s going to allow us to be able to reach out further outside of that, and really be able to properly onboard new members across the entire Lower Peninsula of Michigan and in some other areas. So for us, it’s opened up a huge opportunity, and will allow us to continue.
Things that we’re still working on that’s just going to strengthen that, of course, is the onboarding, right? The digital onboarding. And making sure that those members that we’re bringing on digitally, that we can follow up with and fully onboard.
Ashish Deshmukh: Sure, sure. Thanks for that. Because, I guess, the key themes out here were certainly very interesting ones, because whenever we have to look at it in hindsight, we always think about the things that we could do. But I think the way the thoughts have been ignited in terms of the last few months is here to stay in terms of quick transformation. And transformation is not only in terms of technology. It also led to the transformation in terms of our people management, in terms of our organizational processes, and then certainly technology to enable those directions.
Quickly getting into the last track for the day. So in terms of partnerships, because I do remember, Susan especially, when we were discussing through the PPP and then going down to the online account opening and other areas, I saw that momentum in terms of… Or the vision, I would say, in terms of how things are going to pan and how digital is going to be the center point of every single thing that the bank does, which is a great vision to have. I do remember those examples of, if vaccine was brought up to the market in less than nine months, why does digital transformation take so many years? Which was a nice parallel, right? But in terms of your take on partnerships and the way forward, what do you think is the next wave of growth for financial institutions through technology partnerships? Anything that you would like to talk about from your experiences with Newgen?
Susan Ralston: I wrote down a few thoughts here because I thought about, why did we go with Newgen and what is important to our bank as we move forward? One of the things we look for are value added best practices. That’s what you guys were willing to share, which is as you’ve installed all these online account opening, for example, platforms, as we come along, what have you learned from the other banks and credit unions that we could learn from you guys as we install this product? That has been coming to light as we’re in the midst of our installation now. So that’s very important to me, and it’s very important to our team, because we don’t have that view, only our experience of where we’ve come from. We’re not out there at Stephanie and Joli’s credit unions to see where might be a great idea that we could implement, but you can bring it to us.
The other thing I wrote down was really, I like the overseas team that you have. There was many times during PPP where the SBA, as you know, would hit us with a Friday night change. The fact that you guys… I was thinking of this the other day. Back to when I was a child, it was a small world after all, but it is a small world after all. The fact of having that team that was able to work in the off hours from what our customers were looking for was perfect. Because many things were fixed in the wee hours of US time, and then when we were up and running, things were ready to go.
I guess to me, again, it’s the knowledge that you guys bring to the table, and also the flexibility and the timeliness. A lot of the bigger vendors are really not listening to the community banks and just take their sweet old time, and that is not acceptable. We are looking for partners that are very nimble, that can meet our deadlines and timelines with reasonable expectations, and put forth the resources that they need on their side, and also help us understand what we need on our side to make it work. So Newgen’s been a great partner for us, which is why we did the PPP and now the online account opening. We wish all our vendors could study what you guys do.
Ashish Deshmukh: Thanks for those words. Stephanie, would you like to go next? I have learned, Stephanie, from you for the last three, four years. The points that Susan was talking about, about the best practices, a lot of those really came from our experiences with you. So we thank all our customers in terms of helping us learn as an organization and keeping those knowledge flowing in. But Stephanie, anything that you would like to add?
Stephanie Davis: I think the biggest key here, Ashish, is you are our partner. You’re not truly a vendor to us, it’s a partnership. That’s very important to an organization, knowing that you can rely on someone as your partner. It’s not just an 8:00 to 5:00 job. We can reach out after hours if we need things addressed, as Susan spoke to.
Another really great benefit that I thought with Newgen was that really, we did something that was not out of the box. You presented us with a platform and we said, “Hey, we think we’d like to enhance it by integrating X, Y, and Z.” And who knew X, Y, and Z was going to be 11 different vendors within that integration to really bring our vision to life for the credit union? Amazing. The team was amazing to work with.
Another benefit that I thought was that we were really dealing with the developers directly, so it wasn’t like I had to talk to somebody and then they had to talk to somebody and then get back to us. It wasn’t a third party conversation. We were dealing directly with your implementers and developers at the time, working through any issues that we had, and really enhancing the process as we went along. To go from 15 minutes to open an account down to five minutes, and that’s funding and presenting an account number. Our vision really came to life using you all as a partnership. I could talk on and on about that.
Ashish Deshmukh: Thanks for that. Sure. Joli, anything from your side?
Joli Hensley: Absolutely. I know Susan touched on it just a little bit, but when I think about Newgen, I think of a partner who truly listens to the business need. So not presenting us technology for technology’s sake, but how are we leveraging this technology to solve problems for our organization? I think Newgen has been an absolutely wonderful partner for that. Really understanding and diving in and understanding what it is we’re trying to achieve, and then helping us to do that with the least amount of friction as possible, whether that friction is member facing on the front end or for internal processes in the back end.
What I also love is the ability to be nimble and work with a variety of partners like Stephanie. When we launched our account origination, we had a ton of vendors to be able to integrate with, and some new ones as well. What I loved about it is even some of the partners, it was the first time Newgen had integrated with, and it was seamless. It worked really well. I like that Newgen continues to develop relationships with some of these FinTech partners that are out there, and be able to bring that easy technology to us as a suggestion, to be able to continually enhance the process.
Because I think that’s the important thing, is you’re not just an account origination system, you’re not just a lending system. You are a technology partner. I think the important thing about being a technology partner is that ongoing education back of what else you can do. Because it’s never just you launch a system and it’s good. You have to continually enhance it because technology and expectations continue to evolve. I think that so far with our partnership with Newgen, you have absolutely delivered on that. We actually look forward, right? You don’t always look forward to working with more vendors, more partners. But we can say that we truly look forward, as an extension of Advia, working with Newgen to see how we can continue to find efficiencies and deliver on the expectation of our members.
Ashish Deshmukh: Right. Thanks for that. See, one thing that we always strive for is to help our customers differentiate themselves in front of their members, their customers, and avoid them into a sea of sameness. I like that term because I guess it was one of those big Forbes that coined that term of sea of sameness, especially in digital transformation. Because it’s all about moving away from digitization to really digital experiences, which is going to make the difference and differentiate you in the marketplace, both from a competitive standpoint as well as from an experience standpoint.
With that, we just dive into the fun part of this fireside chat session, and that is about rapid fire word association. I just want you to speak whatever comes to your mind first. Anyone can go for it, so please. Customers.
Stephanie Davis: Community. The reason we’re here.
Ashish Deshmukh: Employees.
Susan Ralston: Collaboration.
Stephanie Davis: Couldn’t do it without them.
Ashish Deshmukh: You want to go again, Stephanie?
Stephanie Davis: Couldn’t do it without them.
Ashish Deshmukh: Partnerships.
Joli Hensley: Vital.
Ashish Deshmukh: Holidays.
Susan Ralston: Beach.
Stephanie Davis: Relaxing.
Ashish Deshmukh: Absolutely. We all are looking forward to that in terms of… Because it’s also, one of the things that the pandemic has also taught us a lot is in terms of work life balance, and also in terms of making sure that this is not only for us, but for our employees, for our partners. You all have been such great customers for us, because see, the most important thing is that when our employees think themselves as an extended part of the customers that they represent, and they carry that pride with them. That’s an unbelievable way to partner with organizations you all and continuing that journey with you.
But thanks, everyone. This was really, really a great session. I’m sure I noted down a couple of points from this. I’m sure your names would be published in terms of our customers reaching out to you directly, learning from you. Because at the end of the day, it’s the same peer community. We learn from each other, we grow together, and we thrive and succeed together. So it’s all that building up of ecosystem between our customers, our partners and prospective partners, and even people from the community who want to learn from your own experiences. But thanks, everyone, for joining this session. Really appreciate it, and have a wonderful day.
Joli Hensley: Thanks so much.
Susan Ralston: Thank you.
Stephanie Davis: Bye.