How to find the right tech partner for innovation 

Three ways for banks to identify collaborative companies that can help them attract and engage customers.

Most banks outsource key banking operations to technology companies to reduce costs, mitigate risk or access specialized skill sets not staffed in-house. But recent and rapid changes in consumer behavior and expectations are creating incentives for financial institutions to turn to technology companies for a much bigger ask: the latest and greatest in banking innovation, quickly deployed and effortlessly maintained by an outside party.

Financial marketers and leaders of financial institutions sometimes have negative experiences with tech companies. You’ve probably received promises that failed to materialize in differentiation or measurable business and process improvements. Yet, you may not have much of a choice—it’s not until after onboarding is complete that you really see how a company works with its customers.

But all is not lost. Despite an accelerated pace of change and fierce retail banking competition, there are ways to identify the “right” tech partners—the companies that will fulfill their promises when it comes to helping you attract and engage borrowers and depositors.

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Here are three things to consider when evaluating potential partners.

The company’s commitment to innovating with you

To determine whether a potential partner is dedicated to continual innovation, take a look at the company’s website. What does the mission statement say? How does the organization describe its services? Look for providers that include innovation as a part of their ongoing mission—not those that merely say their company “provides an essential service.”

Next, ask for real-life examples of customer relationships whose stated goal is innovation. Find out if the company has laid the groundwork necessary to respond nimbly to shifting customer pain points, market needs or tech-enabled use cases that are focused on growth.

A bank that wants to cross-sell to its retail mortgage division’s customers, for instance, will need a technology partner that offers pre-made integrations that queue customers onto their appropriate journeys and delivers a flexible architecture that can be customized to specific use cases. The provider also will need to have made significant investment in engineering teams and code infrastructure.

The partner’s commitment to your success

Many technology platforms offer little in the way of embedded, ongoing user support, and charge expensive fees for ongoing professional development.

Just as important as the affordability of user education are its breadth and accessibility. Programs offering only basic, in-person programs severely limit how quickly your users can get up to speed—or become an expert—on a technology and what they can do with it in the long term. That’s why the best technology partners make their training curriculum rich and varied. They also take enablement a step further by arming their customers with important tools, such as pre-built marketing messages, content and journeys, and tips and best practices.

In marketing tech, it is a game changer for customers to receive ready-made marketing materials that are in-platform, customizable to their organization and consistent with industry best practices. This kind of support takes years off an institution’s push for return on investment.

Proven results in financial services

It’s important to work with partners who aren’t just good at tech—they need to know the ins and outs of financial services as well.

Does the company show an understanding of the connections between big topics like customer experience and the actual, practical technology infrastructure that makes for a great experience in banking? Providers that focus on your industry should be able to guide you in your next steps in upgrading customer experience based on where you are today and where you want to go.

Next, check out who the potential provider works with. Find out if the company supports industry-leading financial institutions and ask for tangible examples of transformative improvements to customers’ businesses. Providers that invest in gathering feedback from customers will have readily available data that allows you to assess the company through reviews, survey results and net promoter score. Independent awards, distinctions and commendations also help you gauge a company’s performance.

Using these three practices, you’ll be much better prepared to recognize the marketing tech and fintech companies whose realities closely align with their marketing messages. These are the ones that can keep the promises they make to you.

J.J. Slygh is a customer experience consultant at Total Expert.

Discover how fintechs are an increasingly valuable resource for banks in the BAI Executive Report “Banks and fintechs are on the partnership track.”