Community banks, credit unions must modernize to compete and thrive

A digital-first approach is changing the banking industry — and quickly. All you need to do is look at fintech disruptors like the peer-to-peer payment app Venmo (owned by that other late ‘90s disruptor, PayPal), micro-investment platform Acorns or the fee-free mobile banking app Chime to understand that tech-savvy consumers’ demand is forcing the banking industry to adapt.

Digital transformation has been bandied about for years, but it’s no longer a buzzword and instead is now defining how banks are using technology and modernization to meet their customers’ needs. Consumers are also demanding experiences similar to what Netflix or Amazon offers, a consistent experience across any device, and ease of use. One way to meet this is to adopt a digital banking platform.

Regardless of size, digital transformation is shaking up banking. While large, global banks are often able to invest to quickly scale to what their customers want, community banks and credit unions can be just as competitive in offering products and pricing that consumers want. How? By giving customers the experiences they want, rewarding them with personalized incentives to increase loyalty, and using personalization to meet each customer’s specific need. 

Transform your bank, products and pricing with a digital platform

In order to remain competitive, community banks and credit unions need to adopt an agile model that offers customers the services and experiences they demand.

Most smaller banks haven’t changed their business model much over the years and stuck to an in-person strategy to deliver first-class customer service that built loyalty. In the U.S. there are more than 5,000 credit unions in 2020, a decline of 2.4% since the previous year, and nearly 5,000 community banks, a number that also declined due to asset thresholds. American Banker reports that for these banks to successfully transform and modernize, there are six steps to follow, including adopting a top-down commitment to organizational change and making innovation a priority and part of an organization’s structure. These decisions reside at the top and for a bank to be successful, it needs to be embraced throughout the entire organization. 

Beyond recognizing the need to modernize, a customer-centric approach is essential. In some ways, this is intuitive — community banks have long focused on supporting their customers by investing in organizations or causes they care about, and credit unions operate as nonprofits where customers as members own the bank. In each instance, this gives these banks a unique understanding of who their customers are. What’s trickier is finding out what each customer wants.

Helping these banks better understand what their customers want and allowing them to be nimble in delivering their products, Zafin’s enterprise-wide solutions lets banks determine the products and pricing that meet market and customer demand. 

Zafin lets banks determine who their target audiences are, provide offers to meet demand, and iterate as customers evolve or new consumers enter the market. Our solutions also enable banks to quickly transform lines of business when the landscape shifts. 

For example, when the coronavirus pandemic started, community banks and credit unions were on the front line of helping small businesses navigate through a time of severe economic stress. For a community bank to be able to quickly — and positively — react to unpredictable situations is an essential way to foster customer loyalty and give customers what they want, when they need it most. 

On top of this, a recent Zafin survey showed that during the pandemic 80% said that online and mobile banking is making it easier for them. This adoption rate is projected to increase — the growing Gen Z segment, many of who are under the age of 10 and have yet to establish a relationship with a bank but are digital natives, further emphasizes why digital innovation and personalized experiences will help banks gain more customers in the future. A move to a digital banking platform is not just a solution for now, but the future as well. 

“It’s widely known that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of digital banking tools,” Alexandra Roddy, Zafin CMO and EVP, said. “The biggest takeaway, however, is that many banks have not been prepared to match consumers’ desire for a more personalized banking experience because of their outdated legacy systems. [Our] survey shows expectations have changed, and banks now have a massive opportunity to re-evaluate how the systems they have in place may be holding them back from the modernization they know their customers want and need.”

What differentiates Zafin is that our solutions can scale to specific product delivery needs, get these products to market quickly, and use personalization technology for a customer-centric experience. This allows banks to be nimble and cost-effective when innovating to give their customers what they want, when they want it and whether it’s a situation that’s anticipated or not.

Giving customers what they want

The rise of fintechs has shown how customization of products and services can match user demands. Zafin’s solutions make it easy for banks to do the same. Beyond the need to pivot quickly because of coronavirus, our survey went more in-depth to find what consumers want. Here are some highlights:

  • 88% want their banks to provide them with relevant recommendations, but 41% say their current bank doesn’t offer them what they’re looking for
  • 86% of millennials said if they received rewards to help them meet their financial goals, whether it’s saving for a down payment on a house or reducing debt, they would expand their current relationship with a bank or move to one that offers such incentives
  • Online banking is the most important factor when Gen Z and millennials choose a bank while those near or at retirement age look for low fees
  • Nearly 8% of Gen Z does not use a bank. Banks with the foresight to prepare now for this next digitally native generation will be in a good position to establish long-term relationships. (And let’s not forget this generation comprises 68 million people in the U.S. alone.)

Every generation wants to get all the services they need from a single bank. With Zafin’s segmentation targeting and personalization technology, it’s easy for banks to identify — and meet — this demand.

Your bottom line

Time is money. That’s why Zafin’s implementation is fast, meaning that you can move your product and pricing offers quickly to the market and reap the benefits.

We’ve created an 8-step process to get you up and running quickly. Starting with an assessment, we work with you to develop a plan that fits your unique needs. We provide training, configure solutions that work for you, and test and iterate so that you can meet your goals. 

Our goal is to help your product managers get your products to market quickly and have the capabilities at hand to identify, customize and adjust to any changes in the market or consumer demand. The Zafin solution also seamlessly integrates with legacy tech stacks.

At Zafin, we’re with you every step of the way. Our suite of solutions includes easy-to-use dashboards to help you segment and target specific audiences of any size, monitor and measure, and streamline compliance by consolidating product and regulatory information into a centralized repository. 

What is corporate travel management?

No matter what industry you’re in, every aspect of your business requires planning, organizing, and analysis. One of these aspects is business travel — and that involves a lot more than booking airline tickets and hotels. From logistics and travel spend to tracking your travelers and monitoring travel expenses, a lot goes into creating a successful corporate travel program.

The advantages of having a managed business travel program are extensive. Beyond tracking and managing your travel spend, a well-executed program also helps you ensure your travelers are safe, provides them with personalized travel options, and empowers travelers to book and update their travel at their desk or on the go in the mobile app. A managed program should also give you the technology you need to gain in-depth data insights so that you can optimize your program to increase compliance, find new savings opportunities, save time, and more.

What are the benefits of a managed business travel program?

Travel programs are beneficial to businesses of all sizes. A growing business needs a travel management company (TMC) that will support its corporate travel program so they can scale and evolve. A global organization needs a business travel management solution that can be tailored for each region where they conduct business so that local requirements and travel options are centralized and easy to find. This also means each area can be measured for compliance, costs, spending caps, and more.

At Egencia, we help corporate travel managers in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing tools to create a travel policy that meets the business’ ROI goals by monitoring and forecasting travel spend. A well-crafted policy also helps you increase compliance — and when compliance goes up, costs go down.
  • Savings opportunities at 35,000 hotels with Egencia Preferred Rates. Last-minute mobile-only deals that can save you up to 70 percent and access to an extensive travel inventory from Expedia Group to find the travel options that fit your budget.
  • Optimization reporting from Egencia Analytics Studio to find more savings. The Benchmarking dashboard lets you measure your spend against other, similarly sized businesses to use this data to negotiate better hotel and airfare rates.
  • Data visualization dashboards make it easy to pull reports on your most traveled routes by individuals or groups, find your CO2 footprint, and understand the impact of global travel situations like COVID-19.

Need help building a travel policy? Use our free guide.

How does travel technology simplify business travel management?

When it comes to travel management, technology matters. This holds true as much in the workplace today as it does in your personal life. Booking business travel should be as frictionless as booking a vacation. We understand this – Egencia was the original innovator in digital corporate travel. We built and own the technology we use for business travel management, allowing us to innovate quickly and deliver a complete and seamless end-to-end travel experience that delights travelers and travel managers.

Egencia gives you everything you need to create and manage a successful corporate travel program. Easily manage traveler profiles, payment options and travel policies, or use risk management tools like Egencia Traveler Tracker to help you locate business travelers in case of an emergency. With everything in one place, it also makes booking and approving travel simple — there’s no need for multiple travel booking tools or complicated approval processes. And you can make booking, policy updates and approvals from wherever you are, across any device.

Travelers on the road will get alerts if anything that could disrupt their travel happens. If they need help, they can use Egencia AssistMe and get a call back within a few minutes. Our expert travel consultants use the same tools as travelers and arrangers so they can view any traveler’s complete itinerary to resolve any issue and get them back on the road as soon as possible. These experts provide support around the clock, every day of the year, online or off.

What role does travel data play?

An abundance of business travel data from Egencia and Expedia Group fuels our technology; machine learning uses what we know about corporate travel policies, booking histories, property preferences, travel industry benchmarks, and a host of other information to create compelling, relevant travel choices. Travelers can find in-policy options at the top of their search, making policy compliance easy, encouraging traveler satisfaction, and keeping travel costs under control.

As part of Expedia Group, we can deliver the benefit of having the same choices and prices your travelers would get on or alongside specifically negotiated corporate rates corporate from Egencia. Egencia Preferred Rates offer your travelers better value flights and hotel stays with exclusive rates that aren’t available to other TMCs and include amenities like flexible cancellations, breakfast, and Wi-Fi.

Corporate travel management from Egencia

Corporate travel management should help you gain efficiency in your travel program, save time and money, take care of your travelers, get around-the-clock customer support, and provide you with actionable data.

At Egencia, we’re always here for our customers, from onboarding to helping them navigate travel disruptions. Find out how corporate travel expertise from Egencia can help you have a successful travel program.


Man Wins Lottery Not Once, But Twice, Within 24 hours

SEATTLE — Talk about having a lucky day.

Cary Collings of Puyallup had what has to be, hands down, a great day when he won the lottery not once, but twice, within 24 hours. The 61-year-old first won $55,555 in the “Red Hot 5′s” scratch-off ticket lottery on June 14. The next morning, after claiming his prize money at Washington’s Lottery Federal Way office, he stopped to get a pizza for lunch. While he was waiting for his pie, he went to the Fred Meyer next door and bought three “Bring on Bens” scratch-off tickets.

As luck would have it, the first ticket proved to be a winner, and Collings raked in another $200,000. Collings said he plans to use the funds from his first win to pay off debt and has yet to decide what to do with the rest of his winnings. He’s not going to take early retirement, however, and said he plans to return to his job at the Boeing Auburn plant.

A portrait of the Arist: Healthy, happy, ready to play

Prince at Mill City Music Festival
By Vickie Gilmer/Star Tribune
At his Paisley Park studio, Prince is a gracious tour guide. He escorts a visitor through his wardrobe room, his rehearsal space, his studio, making introductions to his musicians and wife, Mayte, and pausing to pet bassist Larry Graham’s Maltese dog, who nips at his heels. But when it comes to talking about his music, he pauses. He talks about records he likes — James Brown and the old-school sound of certain hip-hop recordings — and his desire to sell software of samples of his music. But it seems he’d rather just shut up and play.

“It’s been a great year for me,” he says. He has a new record, “Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic,” to be released in November on Arista Records. And he’s preparing to take the stage Monday at the Mill City Music Festival — his first-ever outdoor performance in his hometown.

“There will be special guests — very interesting people — and a lot of surprises,” he promised Wednesday. “We’ll play one song from the new album and we’ll probably do a Sheryl Crow cover. ‘Pretty Man’ is the new song that I originally wrote for the Time [who also are playing Monday], but it was so good I kept it. In fact, I wish I had kept some other songs I gave them. I wish I had kept ‘Cool’ or at least still had one like it,” he adds, laughing.

The new album features Crow — with whom Prince jammed recently in Toronto — Chuck D of Public Enemy, saxophonist Maceo Parker, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, and indie singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco. Prince long has been an admirer of DiFranco, a pioneer in setting up her own record company.

“I wanted to meet Ani DiFranco and, lo and behold, she’s everything I expected,” he says. “We jammed for four hours and she danced the whole time. We had to quit because she wore us out. After being with her, it dawned on me why she’s like that — she’s never had a ceiling over her. People want to put ceilings on you or people think they have ceilings over them. We don’t come here [Paisley] to be put in a box.”

Querying him about the motives behind his art seems to demean the funky, butt-shaking synergy inherent in it. It’s all about sound and feeling, not definitions of why or how. And as the Artist — a name he says he adopted out of necessity to distance himself from the media hype that depersonalized his given name — he wants to talk of “the Truth.”

It’s a Truth with a capital “T” because it’s tied to his spirituality; it’s what he lives day in and day out. It’s also a Truth that he doesn’t think a lot of people understand, and he tried to explain why he wants to look forward rather than back.

“I know that people want to talk about the past,” he says. “But we’re not at ‘Purple Rain’ anymore. We don’t look like that, we don’t dress like that, we’re different people now. If you talk about that, the next thing you know, people start writing things like the Revolution is going to reunite!

“I can’t really tell you why I decided to do things or play Mill City, because they’re decisions in the past and to go back and try to remember why I agreed to things before is difficult. I am living in today and looking forward,” he says. 

A degree of separation

He’s not ready to let outsiders listen to the new record, but the Artist talked about his decision to enlist an outside producer: someone by the name of Prince. Making that distinction was a way to draw a line between the performer standing in front of the control booth and the person sitting inside it.

“You do have to mentally divorce yourself. And when you do allow yourself to have a ‘different’ producer on an album, I allowed him to have the final say. As strange as that may sound, it’s really not strange. Look at it this way: Malcolm X thinks differently than Malcolm Little [Malcolm’s birth name]. When you’re trying to change, you have to divorce yourself from the past.”

Because Arista will distribute “Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic,” it’s been trumpeted as his return to a major label after his much-publicized departure from Warner Bros. Records and his recent effort to sell CDs via the Internet. But Prince makes it clear that this is not the kind of traditional relationship between musicians and labels with a lengthy contract that sets boundaries as to what each party will or won’t do.

“People are looking for drama in it. It’s for one album. There could be a second. The contract is [only] this thick,” he said, holding his forefinger and thumb millimeters apart. “When I was at Warner Bros., I always heard from a third party,” he says. But Prince met directly with Arista’s president, Clive Davis.

“Record companies want to own our creations, but no one owns the creation but the creator. It’s an actual ideology and Clive agrees you should own your masters. He also told me, ‘I have free will, too.’ Which was good that he said that to me.”

Prince’s belabored battles with Warner Bros. have made him a staunch advocate for artists’ rights. And he holds the same ideal for all artists. He’s helped release albums by Chaka Khan and Graham — best known as bassist for Sly and the Family Stone — allowing them use of his studios and distribution through his NPG Records without all the restrictions involved in most recording contracts.

He says all artists should have the same right to own their master recordings that he now does. He laments the “mental and emotional” abuse that musicians such as Phoebe Snow have suffered at the hands of an industry that’s made them captives by not releasing their work. He applauds the work of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and gripes about the low “points” (percentage of record sales) that most musicians receive. He and Mayte have founded a charitable organization that has donated money to various organizations, including the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, which provides help to musicians, and he’s donated instruments through Mill City’s Music Cares program to the Minneapolis school district. He’s also gotten inspiration from some of his new collaborators.

“Chuck D. and I talked about hip-hop and how we have to knock down what they value, and the dollar bill is nothing to put a value on. . . . What I would like to see is the spiritual aspect come back in to the inner city. It’s very important that people realize that we’re in a situation that only God can fix at this point.”

His beliefs — spiritually, musically and professionally — make him animated. He jumps up to make a point, cites biblical references that drive home his spiritual beliefs and exalts the positive influence of those around him. Clearly, there’s a lot of Truth to be told, and he wants to know that you “feel” what he’s saying, because it’s not just words, he says — it’s a way of life.

“I implore you to realize that I’m perfectly healthy and happy. My wife and I, you can see nobody’s kicked her out. We decided to do this whole thing together. The main course is spiritual well-being. My protection comes from my faith in God. I know I’m going to be all right.”

He stands and offers an invitation to sit in on his rehearsal. In the room, it’s obvious he’s happy, as are those around him. He smiles as the group runs through “Let’s Go Crazy,” breaks out laughing when one of his back-up singers comes in too early on the chorus for “Kiss” and drills home the groovy rhythm of “U Got the Look” and other songs he’ll play in concert. After a quick 20-minute drill, he walks his guest to the door. As Mayte showed him a magazine article on their new home in Spain that she’s working on, you don’t need to be persuaded that Prince is healthy, happy and, above all, all right.