When I left the banking industry 6 years ago to join Plansmith, one of my toughest adjustments was working with clients and prospects remotely. Thanks to technology, I can meet with a bank in Maine in the morning and another in Washington that afternoon. Conference lines and GoToMeeting webinars allow for more, faster, and better methods of doing business… or do they?
When I worked in commercial banking I met with clients, went to lunch, and toured their facilities. I saw the pictures on their desks, and items that they hung on their office walls. All of those things told a story about who these people really are.
Last week, I attended the Independent Community Bankers Association annual conference – ICBA Live 2019. In the years I’ve attended this conference, I never gave much attention to why they called the event “Live.” Obviously, it was live. It wasn’t a recording. It wasn’t rerun. It was a live conference attended by banking professionals from across the country.
As I was working Plansmith’s trade show booth, a number of things happened. First, a banker from California came by the booth and called me by name. I didn’t recognize his face, but when I looked down at his name badge, I realized we worked together for over a year, prior to the bank buying Plansmith’s software last fall. Next, a banker from Wisconsin stopped by – the same bank that bought our software last month – followed by a bank from West Virginia that purchased our software two years ago. Similar situations played out later in the conference, but they all had one thing in common. Each of those Plansmith clients said, “it’s so nice to finally place a face with a name,” and the feeling was mutual.
Ironically, day two of the conference featured Sophia, a humanoid celebrity of sorts, whose Artificial Intelligence was created by David Hanson of Hanson Robotics. Sophia was designed to project the best of human nature with an emphasis on creativity and empathy. Based on the weird and somewhat uncomfortable looks of bankers in attendance, it was clear that there is still a desire, if not a need, for “live” interaction between people.
Yes, technology has its advantages. It allows many companies to go from “local” to “national” with the push of a few buttons, Plansmith included. But, at the end of the day, building relationships still comes down to personal interaction – and that’s best when it’s done in person, face-to-face… Live.