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Keeping the Love Alive: How Banks Can Strengthen Client Relationships

By Jeff Ficke, Senior Vice President and Treasury Management Sales Director, Fifth Third Bank While clients have always looked to their banks as trusted advisers, the depth to which that trust is needed and the desire for strong strategic counsel has never been greater. The financial challenges of the last 18 to 24 months have altered the way bank-client relationships are perceived. Clients today have higher standards and expectations for their banks than ever before, and as a result,

By Jeff Ficke, Senior Vice President and Treasury Management Sales Director, Fifth Third Bank

While clients have always looked to their banks as trusted advisers, the depth to which that trust is needed and the desire for strong strategic counsel has never been greater. The financial challenges of the last 18 to 24 months have altered the way bank-client relationships are perceived. Clients today have higher standards and expectations for their banks than ever before, and as a result, bankers need a new mindset focused on anticipating client needs and meeting them in innovative ways that address a rapidly changing marketplace.For some banks, taking a client-centric approach has been little more than good marketing spin. Often, banks place more emphasis on what the bank has to offer, rather than what is going to benefit the client most. Truly understanding client needs, listening to their business challenges and working to solve them is key to building deeper relationships.

In order to maximize the value that banks offer, it is imperative that they engage with clients, so they can gain true insight into the pressing issues facing their clients. By fostering an open dialogue with treasury officers, banks can better position themselves to deliver solutions that are going to make a significant bottom-line difference.

It is imperative for banks to look at clients holistically to understand how best to support their business needs. By analyzing balance sheets and income statements, banks can identify areas where they can help clients more effectively manage their working capital. With the right technology tools and models in place, banks can evaluate a client's collective treasury requirements and offer solutions that add real value and provide overall benefit to the organization.

In taking such an approach, banks are able to earn the "trusted adviser" moniker and put themselves in a position to grow their business with clients.

Commercial banks can take some valuable lessons from retail banking best practices when it comes to strengthening customer relationships. At Fifth Third Bank, the retail organization has successfully gathered critical analytics around the customer experience. Based on an analysis of data gathered across the entire retail organization, leadership has renewed their focus on matching customer needs with relevant solutions that meet customer expectations and create deeper loyalty.

Banks should look within their organizations for similar best practices and apply those relationship strengthening measures to their treasury management business. Commercial banks can derive real benefit through the development of an analytical approach to measuring client experience.

As the nation begins to emerge from the recent financial crisis, banks find themselves operating in a new normal. The business landscape banks face today requires them to continually raise the bar for themselves in terms of addressing client needs, pain points and expectations. Evolving technology is making it possible for banks to remain out in front of client needs, anticipating their treasury requirements, and providing innovative solutions that enable them to succeed.

Banks have an opportunity to be subject matter experts and thought leaders for clients who are looking toward the future. In building deeper relationships, banks should provide innovative ideas and feedback that will help take clients and their businesses to the next level. The future of banking lies in the strength of the client relationship.

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