A banking associate reviews paperwork and tasks on his laptop screen
By Brian Wallace | October 03, 2022

If You Want to Streamline Operational Processes at Your Bank Branches, You Must Simplify Communications and Tasks. These Changes May Help.

You may think branch staff have the tools they need to be agile and nimble, and to provide an excellent customer experience, but they don’t. Here’s the truth about technology.

Over the years, banks have added a lot of systems, solutions, and technology to their branches. Branch staff have more information than ever before—about their customers, about their daily responsibilities, about corporate goals and initiatives. But this hasn’t made the branch environment simpler or more efficient.

In fact, it’s made employees’ lives more difficult, constantly switching between disparate systems for each activity—from compliance trainings, to emails, to fraud alerts, to customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and more. Every time they switch activities or need new information, employees have to actively login to a new system in order to hunt down and retrieve each item.

This is ineffective and inefficient, and it leads to employee frustration and unnecessary risk.  Think about how your branches are communicating information today. Are your branch teams texting, instant messaging, or using other non-approved communications tools? Are your IT and security teams concerned with front-line teams using un-secured or un-auditable communication methods? In Zebra’s Third Annual International Branch Banking Employee Survey, 61% of respondents said they have seen employees' or customers' personally identifiable information shared via non-bank sanctioned communication channels. 

Just last year, the SEC's head of enforcement told U.S. financial institutions that they must stay on top of the many "issues raised by the increased use of personal devices, new communications channels, and other technological developments,” warning that "failure to retain and produce” communication records can obstruct regulatory investigations, and raise “broader accountability, integrity and spoliation issues.” 

In other words, your branch communications strategy and staff communications policy are not to be taken lightly. People across the banking industry have lost their jobs over unauthorized use of personal communications channels for work-related discussions – and for allowing use of consumer technologies that lack the security and control mechanisms that sensitive banking operations require. 

Of course, poor in-branch execution and communications can negatively impact customer service.  Employees not having the right tools to efficiently and effectively do their jobs leads to diminished customer satisfaction ratings and branch audit performance. So, there are many reasons why it’s important to consider the tools being used to facilitate communications and task execution in your bank branches. 

What You Can Change Right Now, Even if Resources are Tight

Branch execution and communication is challenging even in the best of times. But, today, with branches needing to run on leaner staffing models, it makes it significantly more difficult to complete tasks on time and communicate information efficiently without the right technology tools in place.

Now, I know I said “tools” (plural), but the truth is the more you can streamline communication and consolidate tasks into a single intelligent operations management system, the easier it becomes to prioritize – and only push relevant – communications to employees. 

Here are a few ways that using a single execution and communication system can provide concrete benefits to your branch operations:  

1. Empower a Real-Time Response at Your Branches

Are your branch staff using a pull model to gather information, meaning they must actively log into new systems each time they need to hunt down and retrieve new, essential pieces of information? If so, they’re fighting an uphill battle to productivity, and they’re efficiency is not where it could be. Pull models significantly slow down branch employees and result in poorer execution of critical activities.

That’s why a single execution and communication system is the only type of system you should be using. If configured properly, it facilitates a pushed work model in which real-time notifications and alerts—bespoke by role, location, and individual user—are delivered directly to a branch associate’s device, enabling immediate action and attestation.

For example, if a collateral update is required, the branch employee with the right skill set will receive an automatic task assignment notification on an authorized device with all the relevant details. The project has been prioritized by the AI-powered system, so the employee doesn’t have to wonder about the task’s urgency amidst other requests, and all details can be accessed from a single to-do list on a mobile device or desktop computer with all the associate’s other activities, including any knowledge support an employee may need. Once they complete the collateral update, they can easily upload a picture or evidence of completion within the same system.

All of this improves the ability of branch, field, and corporate leaders to get insights into branch execution and ensure that the most important projects are immediately addressed and completed.

2. Improve Employee Engagement and Productivity

A single system for branch execution and communication also helps to ensure that branch employees are continuously engaged and productive during their shifts. Instead of toggling between Excel sheets or paper checklists, managers and employees can access and complete assigned activities from mobile devices for improved visibility and accountability. These systems can also prioritize work, flag exceptions, and ensure the quick resolution of recurring problems. Ultimately, this enables employees to do more, efficiently, self-sufficiently, and on the fly.

Likewise, bank branch leaders can empower staff to provide a nimble response in a crisis situation, whether a storm or pandemic. All staff can login to the same intelligent workforce and execution system to get a complete view of daily branch activities and touchpoints. They can easily see what needs to be done from a single interface and management can ensure that employees have received, read, and executed the latest bank directives and activities. As a result, managers avoid wasted time and effort performing branch or regional follow-up, and branch staff don’t have to waste time waiting for – or chasing down – someone who can tell them what to do next or how to complete an assigned task, especially if they’re covering for someone or filling multiple roles due to acute or chronic staffing shortages.

3. Provide More Secure and Streamlined Communication

Your bank, like most banks, may already have a mix of approved communications channels and platforms, such as smartphone apps, email, text, call trees, secure intranet pages, and more. While it may seem like a combination of these channels is functioning for your organization, the reality is that it’s wildly ineffective and has a number of security risks.

That’s why it’s essential to migrate to a single, mobile-first execution and communications solution as soon as possible. You must eliminate the inefficiencies that come with outdated and disparate methods of communication if you want to be able to sustain, much less grown, your operations as your workforce becomes leaner, branch foot traffic increases, and people’s patience wears thinner. By offering corporate and branch teams a communications hub, you can give employees a consistent place to receive and send communications and get questions answered with real-time visibility into updates – which will benefit everyone.

These are just a few of the qualities your system should possess if you want it to truly solve current communication and execution challenges:

1. Accessibility: Unless you plan to give all employees a company-owned mobile device to use on the floor, they must be able to easily access the system via devices of their choice. This includes essential functionality, such as messaging, employee self-service tools, and time and attendance reporting tools. From a self-service perspective, look for a system that offers automated AI responses to routine questions, as that can make gathering information easier than ever before, essentially ending the time-consuming “hunt” most employees embark on today.

2. Auditability: Using a single comprehensive platform for communications, workforce management and task management allows you to confirm that employees have received, read, and executed the latest bank directives, according to established guidelines. This mitigates risk and ensures that critical messages and communication are processed by all relevant employees and properly stored for later review if required during investigations.

3. Security: By providing employees with a centralized, internal system through which they can communicate important information, you can verify what information is sent and received through secure channels and confirm that employees aren’t communicating information that they shouldn’t. If you are seeing the rate of communications drop, that might indicate that employees aren’t using these secure channels to share information and additional training or compliance enforcement measures are needed to minimize the risk of data leaks or privacy law violations.

As a bank leader, you’re in the perfect position to move your branches into the modern world by recommending or steering the implementation of a holistic technology system that can intelligently organize communications, manage staff, and provide you with real-time views of task execution. You can transform your branch efficiency to the next level—the level you will need to reach to achieve operational excellence, deliver great service, and grow your business. You can make your workforce seem larger than it is – and therefore serve more customers – by removing the inefficiencies constraining staff today.

If you’re interested in learning more about how other bank branches are leveraging AI-powered technology to improve operations, customer experiences, and employee productivity, our team would be happy to sit down with you. We can talk about how your current challenges and goals compare, as well as the more individualized approach we recommend for your business to ensure you and your team can handle anything – without stress levels spiking to the same level they probably have these past couple of years. Visit our website to learn more.

Best Practices, Banking,
Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace serves as the General Manager of Banking at Reflexis, which was acquired by Zebra in 2020. He has over 20 years of experience developing and executing operational strategy and technology solutions across both retail and banking. 

Brian founded the Branch Workforce Planning team at JPMorgan Chase, transforming its capabilities to deliver improved scheduling practices, regulatory compliance, wait times and customer satisfaction. While at The Home Depot, Brian was responsible for over $250MM of cost savings through driving efficiencies across store operations, supply chain, and merchandising.

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