In March of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic caught many people off-guard. One week it was business as usual, the next, statewide shutdowns and closures. Many community banks quickly formulated plans to keep their employees and customers safe. Technology once considered nice-to-have -- online applications and account openings, e-signatures -- was now essential.
But for banks treating digital platforms as “once the pandemic is over” projects, the Delta variant has turned the tables again. Cases are on the rise almost everywhere. States that lifted mask mandates, and limits on gatherings, are imposing them again. This means that heading into the winter months, community banks must brace themselves for restrictions that match -- or exceed – previous lockdown requirements.
Facing the Threat of the Delta Variant
In late August, the Federal Reserve abruptly canceled an in-person conference, leading many to question reopening plans in the financial sector. Vincent Reinhart, a former Fed staffer turned chief economist at BNY Mellon Asset Management, told Reuters,
“We have made all the easy wins of reopening, and the plain fact is the virus is catching up with us.”
For now, policies regarding returning to the office, mask mandates, and vaccine requirements run the gamut. Some of the larger banks that previously announced reopening plans, such as BlackRock and Wells Fargo, have pushed back return to office dates to October as the virus continues spreading.
Some community banks are reconsidering remote work for their employees or have created Covid-19 task forces to monitor the situation. This begs the question: Are community banks more prepared to serve their customers now than they were 18 months ago?
Changes in Customer Expectations
The pandemic forced the accelerated demand for digital offerings from customers across many industries. And while bank customers were patient at the onset of the pandemic, as community banks adjusted to closed offices and limited access, they won’t be as tolerant this time. They assume that banks made the necessary technology improvements to support remote, online, or digital solutions.
If banks are forced to close their doors again or re-impose measures that impede the ability to bank efficiently, they risk losing customers to financial institutions that provide these options.
With or without Covid, consumers expect the convenience of doing business from the comfort of their homes, be it ordering food online or applying for a small business loan. Banks must provide the solutions that customers demand.
Short- and Long-Term Solutions
If community banks don’t have a committee that evaluates technology needs, now is the time to add one. Focus on creating “quick wins,” with easily implemented solutions, that serve borrowers remotely. Also, plan for the long-term needs of the bank to keep it moving forward.
Epic River has platforms that streamline lending workflows and enable banks to support remote operations. Our borrower portal collects applicant information, identity verification detects potential fraud, and remote online notary makes remote closings possible.
Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn how easy it is to implement any of these solutions within your bank.
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