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High Tech, High Touch

By: Nicole Sherman, EVP, Director of Retail Banking and Digital Integration, Columbia Bank

Digital banking has surged in popularity amid the social distancing imposed by the novel coronavirus. To be sure, most Americans have for years steadily managed more and more of their banking business online and via mobile devices. But the virus hastened the trend.

The pandemic once limited physical mobility and amplified the importance of digital platforms, demonstrating the myriad of tools banks increasingly provide their clients. This is essential as it enables clients to safely navigate their daily lives without fear of exposure to an illness we are only now beginning to fully understand.

This shift to digital, ultimately, should prove positive for both banks and their clients. Greater tech capabilities provide clients convenience and speed–and banks can deliver continually improving products and services more efficiently and, over time, less expensively.

And yet, for bankers, there is another vital piece to the puzzle. We must not only maintain but nurture the human connections we have with our clients. They trust us to assist them with their finances–always among Americans’ top priorities–because they know us. When they meet with us, they see that we care about their situation and they know they can count on valuable financial expertise.

"It’s more important now than ever for clients to choose how, when, and where they access financial services"

Because clients know us, they know that when they identify new opportunities or face financial challenges, they can connect with us and we will personally work alongside them to craft plans and match them with the best financial solutions.

For these reasons, branches will always remain an essential part of our business model. While fewer physical locations may be required, the value they deliver becomes even more heightened in the digital world. Inviting physical spaces where clients can meet with their banker to discuss any important financial decisions–whether it’s budgeting, buying a home, starting a new business, investing, or retirement.

In this unprecedented time, it’s more important now than ever for clients to choose how, when, and where they access financial services. As a result, it is vital that bankers know the value of an in-person meeting as well as the power of technology–live chats and video teleconferencing – to ensure that we connect with our clients personally when they need us most. Advancing technology enables us to see and hear clients directly, one-on-one, and work in partnership to ensure they reach their financial goals.

As we capitalize on digital offerings to provide uninterrupted service, we must stay focused on the value of human connections we make with our clients. Ultimately, banking is a relationship business – that is true now, and it will be true on the other side of this pandemic as well.

High-tech? Yes, absolutely! But also, high-touch. B

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