By now, practically every traditional bank or credit union understands that they have to find ways to either compete with or embrace financial technology to attract and keep customers.
But it’s not just about retail customers, or millennials in particular, who have been raised to expect that technology should put just about every need at their fingertips. Fintech firms also have their eye on business customers, including a plethora of alternative financial services startups backed by investors and venture capitalists, lending money to small businesses that traditional institutions turn down–small businesses who then leave those institutions for good.
A 2015 World Economic Forum report estimates that marketplace lenders granted $12 billion to U.S. small and medium-sized businesses by the end of 2015. By 2020, annual U.S. volume could reach $47 billion, according to Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.
How can a traditional bank or credit union compete? It can compete by providing products and services to make commercial customers’ lives easier, particularly using the mobile channel. This not only means offering mobile merchant services and treasury management solutions, such as remote cash deposit services, Check 21 compliant check images, expedited payments and interconnected vaults at merchant locations, but also an increasing array of cloud-based solutions.
Traditional banks and credit unions can even capitalize on the alternative lending movement. You name it, institutions can leverage any fintech solution that a business customer could possibly need. But how can institutions below the top 30 money center banks and large regionals—institutions with limited resources—offer solutions like that?
Let’s just look at one example at how challenging adopting fintech solutions on a piecemeal basis can be for one of those institutions: offering a mobile app for remote deposit capture. It’s seemingly a relatively simple app to offer, but to get that solution to market, an institution typically has to rely on its core processor to allow a third-party app developer to connect its solution to the core system. However, most core vendors do not want to open up their systems in real time for posting those deposits because they don’t want the third-party accessing the core—that’s a problem.
Then an institution has to figure out how to handle potential security issues that remote deposit capture poses. For example, a fraudster could take a picture of a fake check, or take a picture and deposit a real check remotely, but then immediately try to cash the check at the institution’s branch or at another institution. That’s another challenge. Working with a third-party app provider presents other problems as well. There could be issues importing images, and not getting upgrades delivered. On top of that, an institution has so much already on its plate that it can’t even imagine also handling sales and marketing of these third-party apps.
This example pales in comparison with what a bank or credit union has to do to provide its own solutions to commercial customers. While an institution’s niche may be primarily banking merchants and corporate entities, its focus may be just on commercial lending. However, to increase the stickiness of commercial customers, institutions should strongly consider offering a much fuller array of non-lending products, and those solutions must be cloud-based and easily accessible via mobile.
Therein lies the most daunting challenge of all: Contending with the financial industry’s own version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse— operations, compliance, IT and sales. Banks and credit unions have options how to best overcome these challenges. They could invest in technologies to launch fintech solutions on their own and pay for the required expertise to appropriately manage those Four Horsemen themselves. They could also choose to partner with fintech vendors for each separate solution and try to coordinate management of the various operations, compliance, IT and sales duties that come with each solution. Alternatively, they could work with “concierge” partners that have wider menus of fintech solutions, as well as the expertise to help institutions manage the entire process.
Whichever approach banks and credit unions choose to compete in the new world, one thing is certain: They ignore fintech at their peril, as they risk losing business customers altogether.