Regardless of size, community banks share one goal: to provide customers with consistent, enjoyable and exemplary service regardless of which branch they visit. Yet this proposition remains challenging if not impossible: that is, if the bank lacks operational cohesion. Management must make a concerted effort via specially designed initiatives to keep everyone on the same page in terms of training, procedures and policies.
Too often, the systems in place create unnecessary work duplication and a waste of resources. There’s simply too much to manage and not enough resources to manage it. But what if banks had a way to do everything simply?
Old systems, same problems
Too many banks rely on shared networks and disparate systems across entire branch networks—and often without administrative controls or permissions. Subsequently, employees can freely edit, update, delete or “save over” critical documents. Then there is the case of Darcy Ray, CFO for Nebraska-based Equitable Bank, who says, “The best thing has been that, regardless of how long an employee has worked here, finding specific product information, policies and procedures is easy. That frees everyone up to focus on serving customers and performing in ways that benefit our organization, rather than wasting time hunting down information.”
It pays to have everything hosted on an intranet in an easy-to-find location. Conversely, if branches have different and outdated training procedures, product information or marketing collateral, how can leadership execute business strategies that take lots of time to develop? This assumes management and the board of directors are on the same page—which isn’t always the case. Organization is more important at the leadership level, since that’s where employees look for direction. If there’s confusion at the top, it will permeate the entire bank.
Besides fostering better communication, centralized information optimizes the resourcefulness of teams and ensures the wise use of everyone’s time. It’s amazing that many banks still use physical board packets; 20 years ago this would’ve been fine. But with tablet technology, there’s no reason directors must sift through hundreds and hundreds of papers during board meetings. This wastes operational funds and time, since a bank will print and compile tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of documents for its board packets throughout a year. Yet extremely busy board members may not have time to spare for face-to-face meetings. Using tablets also allows people to attend remotely from anywhere.
The gestation of integration
It’s no small task to implement these systems and bankers want solutions that fit their business. Ray goes on to say:
“Think of how many mobile and core banking vendors say, ‘We’re dedicated to serving financial institutions.’ Operational and back-office technologies should be no different because financial institutions have unique sets of challenges in every department. And that’s something else other bankers should keep in mind when they evaluate a system that will be used across the organization: Get buy-in from all departments.”
Communication systems must support everyone equally, from tellers to the IT staff. Intranets and board portals address different needs and bankers should agree on them. Without cohesiveness on the front end, it’s impossible to respond efficiently and effectively. In her experience, Ray says that “getting every employee on the same page and working together towards a common goal is easier said than done,” but that approaching it strategically makes the roll out and implementation so much easier.
This of course depends on the bank’s respective system and whether it depends on multiple providers. Similarly, the roll out of the board portal typically goes smoothly if it happens in phases and across specific committees. Essentially, this allows everyone to get comfortable with the system and its functions; in most cases, these initiatives focus less on training and more on establishing familiarity.
Say hi to employee buy-in
What good is a communication tool if employees don’t use it? Encouraging (and achieving) active participation is the only way to reap the benefits of intranets and board portals. Different banks have different approaches, but blogs and articles of interest represent two common ways to get employees to interact with the system. “Branches have a lot of fun creating pages for their locations and posting articles for the teams to read,” says Ray. “Similarly, the search functionality is great because you can search for specific documents and within specific documents, so you don’t need to know the exact name of a form or policy. You can just use keywords. It’s very intuitive and probably the single-coolest feature that everyone raves about.”
Seeing the benefits first hand will help employees embrace intranet functionalities. What’s more, ticketing systems become much, much more effective. Gone is the concern or fear that something will fall through the cracks. With a simplified information source at their fingertips, employees have a much easier time—leading to higher customer satisfaction because staff can respond to inquiries in a timely manner without accidentally misplacing them. At the board level, portals allow multiple members to upload documents simultaneously, rather than pages being sent to an individual who then must compile and upload them.
The pathway to portal success
Some employees resist change more than others. As a leader in your bank, make it clear that intranets and portals exist to enhance communications and information access. It’s also crucial to understand your bank’s specific needs; do you want to serve more customers and spend less time chasing documents? Do you want to save resources and improve leadership connectivity? It’s also important to know what you need as you partner with providers. Together, you can make 2018 the year you do more with less—or if you prefer, do less (wheel spinning) with more strategic savvy.
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Mark Anderson is CEO of Johnson City, Tenn.-based Banc Intranets, a leading provider of secure, web-based intranets and directors’ portals for financial institutions that centralize employee onboarding and training.