Tomorrow morning, I’m speaking to over 100 bankers on social media and business.
I’m curious about how receptive bankers are to the notion of disruptive technologies and empowered clients. In the past two years, banking has had more than its fair share of bad press – mention ‘banking’ and you get mutterings of greed, fat cat bonuses, corruption and government bailouts. Ask anyone in academia in the UK about why they are having to work with decimated budgets and raise student fees, and they point the finger at the financial sector.
In my country, the impact of the financial meltdown has been somewhat cushioned – to the extent that some local bankers are surprised by the barricade mentality of their counterparts across the water. And yet, the bubble that burst has still impacted the local way of doing business, as all major banks have been forced to increase checks and balances and tighten up internal control procedures to make sure there is no repeat of the 2010 crash.
In this new ‘cautious’ brave new world, you can understand why some banks have been reluctant to explore using social media channels. Yes, there are blogs aplenty on financial issues, Deutsche Bank and American Express are doing some interesting things, but most of the ‘social’ in banking happens at an individual basis – or in the way some banks continue to engage with their customers – developing personal relationships, going the extra mile for clients who are known and trusted.
The corollary is that banks have had an online presence for many years – and yet, clients’ only interface with the bank’s website is to complete a basic transaction within as short a timeframe as possible: checking a balance, making a payment, viewing an electronic bank statement. I have serious doubts on how many people use the more ‘social’ functions of these sites – such as requesting a meeting, asking for information about a new set of financial instruments, engaging in the type of interaction that has to happen on a ‘face to face’ basis.
When I tweeted that I was running a workshop for bankers a couple of days ago, the instant reaction from the Twitterati went from ‘They seriously need to be receptive, Alex’ to ‘Yeah.. about time they got disrupted.’ A day or two later, a lovely lady from my local (village) branch called me on my mobile to ‘remind’ me that I had promised to meet her and a colleague to review a new set of financial instruments.
Somewhere, there is an opportunity to migrate the personal touch of the village bank online. Whether there is an interest in doing this, in the age of austerity and procedure will unravel.
In the meantime, Jeremiah Owyang et al continue to evangelise on the need to turn the corporate website social. Banks could do worse than start from this: how can they use their functional, utilitarian websites to help them operate more as village banks, and less as ‘suits’ hiding behind procedure?