Customers Bank Finds a Shift in Perspective

December 14, 2020


Customer’s Bank is a super-community bank with $18.8 billion in assets, offering commercial, consumer, and digital banking services across the country. Their CIO, Alex Balagour, joined us on a recent Fortimize Focus panel discussion to share insights gathered during the last few months of working from home.

Banks around the world had to rethink working in person and transition to a completely virtual way of working. Banking executives suddenly had to find ways to continue executing the same business strategies, keeping customers informed and satisfied, all while employees worked from home. 

At Customers Bank, plans shuffled around, priorities shifted, and digital transformation accelerated, especially in areas where customer to banker, face-to-face interaction was removed. In the beginning, Balagour said it felt hectic and very busy. But what he and his team discovered during their time at home was surprisingly different from what they were expecting. 

Read on to learn how Customers Bank managed to successfully implement technologies and platforms that drove dramatic digital transformation– and improved day-to-day experiences– for both customers and employees.

Customers Are Better Off with Digital Engagement

Balagour and his team already had some traditional plans for digital transformation in place at the beginning of 2020. When in-person business came to a halt, they knew right away that some of those plans had to be adjusted and prioritized. 

Thankfully, Docusign was already in place, and Customers Bank was able to move some additional initiatives like Microsoft Teams up in priority to meet the needs of a suddenly remote workforce and virtual customers. 

Virtual banking conversions for both businesses and consumers were also prioritized. Balagour realized quickly that despite the uncertainty of a post-pandemic world, his team didn’t miss a beat in getting their customers the digital capabilities they needed. He said that the speed at which the bank was able to adjust put customers in a better state than before the pandemic. 

“A lot of our customers were appreciative of additional capability they had, which no longer required a trip to the branch or to see a relationship manager face-to-face.”

Digital Internal Collaboration Increased

To help employees work from home easily and securely, Balagour said they found solutions with Meraki devices which expanded the corporate network into employees’ homes. A VPN was always on their disaster plan, but these devices provided better quality connectivity and reduced downtime to help keep employees connected to each other and to customers.

They also enabled Microsoft teams, and Balagour said it was transformational. Their teams, who were used to face-to-face interaction, were talking to each other non-stop with the app. It was essential to employees feeling like they were still connected, despite being at home.

The Pandemic Brought New Customers and New Products

As government support rolled out with the Paycheck Protection Program, Customers Bank recognized they had thousands of new fintech customers bringing in millions of dollars of PPP applications. Because of this, Balagour and his team quickly developed a new offering, building accelerated products on Salesforce to support their new customers and the loan writing needs with API’s. 

It wasn’t a traditional banking product, and Customers Bank recognized additional areas where they could implement new offerings. For example, digital deposit accounts were created for new customer segments that were previously not addressed. 

A Shift in Perspective

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the challenges that come with remote work, but as Alex and his team discovered, the swift changes also brought a shift in perspective. The various challenges they faced this year actually opened up opportunities for Customers Bank to get creative with technology solutions, and improve digital experiences for both customers and employees.

The team began to ask the question, “Why is our online banking platform the place our customers log into for the first time? Why not have them login to the experience portal, where we can do other things for them, rather than just showing them their money?” The answer to this question was in the Salesforce Experience Portal. Balagour said that having the platform in their hands gave them the opportunity to only be limited by their creativity, not by an online banking vendor.

Learn More From Your Banking Peers

Fortimize Focus is a learning series to support a community of peer banks and credit unions, with a goal to help this community build out their ever-changing digital transformation roadmaps. Along the way, we’ll share best practices and innovative ideas based on real experience to help each other succeed. To watch the latest webinar, click here.

Unlock endless possibilities

Thought Leadership Paper

Digital Transformation in the Financial Services Industry During COVID by Jim Collins