2020 was a year unlike any other. Covid-19 was a massive shock not only to the public health of the world, but to the economic systems that rely to varying degrees on interpersonal interaction.
Financial services are unique in that banks and credit unions feel their customers’ financial stresses — seeing the large-scale economic disruption of Covid-19 play out on an individual level, across individuals’ various employment scenarios, household makeups and unique financial challenges.
Personal finance is often thought of as transactional and sterile, but the reality is that it is deeply intimate and emotional. Banks and credit unions interact in this intimate space, and there are key learnings executives and directors should take away from this year.
You Are the Expert
In 2008 and 2009, the global economic meltdown happened relatively quickly, but at a snail’s pace compared to the economic changes of 2020. This year, businesses were ordered to close overnight, money was pulled from pre-planned engagements, and individuals had to restructure their daily life in a matter of days.
This rapid pace of change applied to other arenas too, such as the financial world. Small businesses were allowed to apply for economic relief funding, landlord and tenants laws were given temporary alterations, and stimulus checks were largely distributed directly to individuals’ bank accounts.
As a financial institution, your organization had to know about all of these changes for your own business purposes. However, your intimate knowledge about changing laws and financial practices lends you to be an expert and source of knowledge for your customers.
Increasingly, we’re seeing customers ask for more from their financial institutions, particularly in terms of digital tools and help with their personal finance and budgeting. You should apply this thought process to macro-level changes as well, and be the “translator” that can communicate the way new laws and policies affect your customers on a case-by-case basis.
Coaching For Change Should Be Constant
When Covid-19 hit, your financial organization likely had to change protocol on the fly, specifically to assist customers using your digital platform for the first time or to re-allocate responsibility to staff among temporary branch closures.
Hopefully, your organization had a strong protocol in place for training for new skills and change management. If not, now is the time to establish those change management operations as a permanent part of your organization. New technology, partnerships with FinTech organizations and disruption in the financial services world all necessitate a regular, established training routine to help your staff adapt to new skills. Make sure to invest in your people and make sure they can help customers navigate new offerings and make the most of the ways your organization is improving.
Do the Right Thing
It sounds simple, but ethics in business has moved beyond a basic underlying function and come to represent a major feature of brand identity. Make sure your organization is doing things that are beneficial for your customers, particularly in times of hardship, to position yourself as a trusted partner and friendly face in a sometimes harsh financial world. You’ll be rewarded with passionate brand advocates and a deepened customer relationship.