4 questions to ask for bank-fintech partnership success

As consumers continue demanding better digital experiences, banks and credit unions should be focused on greater virtual access and convenience.

Traditional bank leaders know that fintechs are quickly encroaching on target audiences and customers. They also know any chance of keeping up with digital competitors will depend on making fast and substantial progress toward digital transformation. Consumer demands for easy, accessible and convenient digital services will only increase.

While some fintechs certainly represent a threat for incumbent banks today, fintechs will also be part of the solution for getting and staying ahead. Many fintechs exist to help banks succeed in an evolving landscape. For bank leaders looking to get their institution to the next phase of digital transformation, building more valuable bank-fintech partnerships should be a priority.

Incumbent banks must find productive ways to collaborate with fintechs in partnerships to drive excellent digital customer experiences in financial services. The first step is looking inward to develop a clear understanding of your goals and provide the infrastructure fintechs will need to bring value.

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Whether you’re in a less-than-ideal fintech partnership now or you’re looking for the next step toward a digital future, start with these questions to set your institution up for bank-fintech partnership success:

Do you have a capable liaison? Designate a digital transformation leader within your organization. This person should be an executive leader with excellent communication skills, a solid understanding of the organizations’ needs and goals, a forward-thinking approach and a passion for transformation.

This leader will serve as a co-development resource as your organization establishes its relationships with fintech partners. They should relay information about the bank’s expectations, requirements and goals to fintechs and learn the overall functionality of solutions to share in training with internal personnel.

What are you trying to fix? To effectively communicate your needs, your transformation leader will need a clear vision of each of the organization’s goals for fintech collaboration. One fintech won’t be able to achieve all your transformation goals, so consider multiple partnerships aimed at solving specific problems.

Review your current state and identify any obstacles in the way of creating better digital customer experiences before choosing partners. From there, seek vendors specifically designed to fill your gaps. As you evaluate your options, be transparent about your needs. Without a clear goals, fintech partners won’t be able to deliver clear results.

Will the solution increase value for customers? In a study examining how the pandemic altered banking consumer behavior, Accenture researchers suggest that nearly half of the banking public would stay loyal to a brand that offers a stellar customer experience. Considering that a 2019 FIS report found more than a third of consumers want to replace plastic banking cards with digital apps, an attractive banking experience is a digital one.

While you can count on customer expectations for convenient digital services to stay, the specifics of their needs will change over time. Improving digital experiences in financial services should never be a stagnant goal. Monitor how customers react to your digital solutions and share the data with your fintech partners. From there, refine the customer experience together to improve engagement, increase loyalty and drive growth.

Are your employees on board? For any fintech partnership to succeed, a bank will need its employees on board, especially those in customer-facing roles. These employees will be the ones educating customers about new tools and sharing the value of digital experience-enabling investments, so they need to believe in the power of digital transformation.

But be wary that new technology might set off alarm bells throughout your organization as many workers regard digitization as a death knell for job security. Combat such misconceptions from the beginning of the planning process by educating employees on how digital solutions will help create better customer experiences. Collaborate with fintech partners to develop workshops that clearly demonstrate how technology will support, not eliminate, jobs.

The future of financial services is digital. As consumers continue demanding better digital experiences, can your organization meet them with virtual access and convenience to leave a lasting impression? Bank-fintech partnerships based on clarity, transparency and value can help ensure the answer is always yes.

Doug Wilber is CEO of Denim Social.