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Every day fintech entrants are bringing noticeable competition to the financial industry’s traditional banking and credit union organizations. What differentiates them from traditional banks and CUs is their agility in addressing specific pain points such as payments, loans, mortgages, personal finance and remittance at speeds and pricing that is difficult for traditional organizations to match.

The most savvy traditional banks and credit unions see opportunities resulting from these new market entrants and are already embracing the trend with in-house start-ups or mobile-first banking apps. However, most are hesitating—or having difficulty—crossing the new technology adoption chasm.

One major reason traditional banks and CUs are challenged by fintech is due to their large, departmentalized organization structure, which inhibits a quick response to customers and market changes. For example, a mortgage application may take several weeks to be processed by all the relevant stakeholders in a traditional banking organization, including the mortgage, legal, risk and compliance departments. In contrast, start-ups like Rocket Mortgage allow customers to move from application to approval in minutes.

The other major hurdle has to do with technology. Traditional banks and CUs have a large number of legacy systems in place and busy IT teams. IT spends a lot of time on maintenance of business critical systems that are using technologies that are no longer supported.

There are four things banks and CUs can do to overcome these hurdles and fight the fintech battle. Let’s take a look at each of them.

  1. Leverage historical strengths to manage the customer’s moments of truth.

Traditional banks and CUs have a long history with customers and despite the financial crisis, they remain the primary institution managing savings. Customers may like online access for convenience, but approximately 80 percent still prefer to engage with a “flesh and bones” bank representative at the moment of truth for an important purchase decision. Providing best in class customer experience at these moments of truth can be a huge differentiator.

  1. Create small, dedicated and “self-contained” teams charged with digital transformation.

Traditional banks and CUs, with the organizational and technological barriers they face, cannot hope to move as a whole company with the speed and agility of fintech. However, large banking organizations can drive successful digital transformation projects with small teams shielded from the rest of the organization and charged with the sole objective of making change happen.

  1. Let mobile lead the way.

According to a 2015 Bank of America Trends in Consumer Mobility Report, 51 percent of respondents said they use mobile or online as their primary method of banking and 57 percent have tried mobile banking apps.

Banks and CUs need to think about what kind of mobile solutions they want to use depending on their goals. While native mobile applications are very effective for maintaining strong lines of communication with existing customers, responsive web applications are a better choice for prospects. There are fewer barriers for adoption when browsing mobile websites as prospects consume content in an instant with no download or registration.

  1. Adopt cloud solutions for agility.

Cloud solutions are growing fast in a financial industry that has long resisted change. Often driven by the lines of business or marketing departments, forward thinking financial institutions understand the advantages cloud-based approaches can bring. They see cloud-based solutions as a way to:

  • benefit from business capabilities in an instant, not months
  • scale business operations at a moment’s notice
  • relieve their IT team from maintaining yet another system
  • benefit from other solutions available in the same ecosystem

Resistance from compliance, legal and risk departments around data ownership is a big topic. Nonetheless, there is a growing trend in the willingness of banks and credit unions to adopt hybrid cloud-based solutions to design customer interfaces, business rules or documents while keeping sensitive customer data on their own servers.

Leadership from the top is essential for success.

Successful banks and credit unions have board members setting a clear vision, transparently explaining the reasons for their choices and motivations. They can make the case for how their enterprise should respond to the fintech market evolution. They must leverage strengths and manage their risks while embracing a whole new technological revolution about to hit the banking industry harder than any before.


Antoine Hemon-Laurens is Banking Customer Communications Management Expert at GMC Software Technology. His focus is on helping banks better engage with their customers through mobile solutions, customer engagement and digital signatures. Contact him at  a.laurens@gmc.net or on Twitter @anthemlau.



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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

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Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

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