The cost of regulatory compliance, declining product prices, and technological threats from new entrants all narrow the path to future profits. Even if the yield curve improves, these threats will force community banks to search harder to improve earnings. It can’t be done on the fly; only strategic thinking and careful planning in the context of your market and the opportunities available will be successful. Would you coach a Super Bowl team without a playbook? Probably not.Regulatory compliance isn’t the enemy. It puts stress on your community bank’s costs and distracts you from the everyday requirements of servicing customers, but there is also a positive. There have only been a couple of new bank charters issued in the past five years and most of your competitors are closing branches in response to their own cost profiles. Your challenge is to find simple solutions to manage growing complexity within compliance – that’s job one in strategic thinking!
Big banks in your market aren’t the threat you think. They may reduce some product pricing because they have economies of scale, but that’s their only advantage. Customer experience is a challenge for large banks. They spend millions trying to respond to customer needs, but once there’s a problem, it’s off to call center voice response hell. Community banks own excellent customer experience – the question is, who will pay for it? That’s job two in strategic thinking.
Financial Technology’s biggest threat to the community bank can be summarized by one word: mobile. As the president of Citicorp’s FinTech subsidiary told me, it’s not about a menu of technology areas that need innovation – it’s about mobile and mobile only. If the big banks can’t do it fast enough, they’ll simply purchase the companies they need. However, as we learned way back in the 1980s, it’s high tech/high touch. That’s why Apple has been so successful with their stores, Apple Care and Genius Bars. Big banks aren’t good at leading the customer to new technological solutions and teaching them how to use them. For example, smartphones aren’t primarily used for calling; that’s actually number six. Texting, photos, emailing and web browsing are all ahead of talking. How many older adults have a smart phone to text grandchildren and get their picture? Count me as one. How does the community bank teach its customers to use the financial technology that can make a difference in their life? That’s job three in strategic thinking.
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