Fintech zeitgeist! Every Monday, we might look back at last week; look ahead to this week; share a few thoughts (our own or others); or discuss anything that catches our eye.
This week, Banking Technology’s editor Tanya Andreasyan looks at one bank that has managed to successfully converge its digital and “brick and mortar” journeys into a comprehensive strategy.
This is Banca D’Alba, a regional co-operative bank in Italy, whose 52,000 members make it Europe’s largest co-operative bank. 60% of its branches are dotted across the small villages in the Piedmont region of Italy.
Banking Technology caught up with Paolo Taricco, communications manager at Banca D’Alba, at the recent Self-Service Banking Europe event held in London.
“We are a rural bank that acts as a global bank when it comes to digital,” states Taricco. “You can say we are not rural in a rural environment.”
The bank has been offering internet banking services for over 20 years, and was the first in Italy to introduce contactless cards back in 2010. Its long-standing software provider in the digital space is Auriga.
Auriga took the time “to understand us” and was instrumental in developing the omnichannel strategy for the bank, says Taricco, which has proved to be a success.
The key is “the convergence of channels” – i.e. a customer can start their journey on a desktop, continue it on a mobile and finish it in a branch – all without having to start from scratch, fill out the same forms again and resubmit the data.
Auriga’s software sits in front of the bank’s legacy technology, harmonising mobile, online, self-service and assisted service operations. It has also been extended to support queue management, inventory management and real-time cash management, Taricco says.
The bank is now rolling out 24×7 self-service machines across its branches. The idea is that straightforward tasks can be routed to self-service/assisted service, while more complex interactions are done face-to-face.
Five branches have already been fully equipped and Taricco anticipates that in five years “all branches will adopt this philosophy”.
The key to success of this venture is education, he believes. Banca D’Alba has been carrying out training sessions at the branches and the head office for both the customers and the staff. “Explain, teach, involve, convince.” There are many advantages to using self-service channels – it is more environmentally-friendly (no paper), cost-effective and offers flexibility to bank whenever and wherever, Taricco notes, and it is important to get this message across.
He adds that the results have been encouraging: out of 16 million transactions, only 2.5 million have been done in branch involving “physical interaction”.
“Technology is not replacing people or branches at Banca D’Alba,” Taricco emphasises. “What we strive for is a convergence of technology and personal guidance – a truly omnichannel proposition.”
He says that this philosophy appeals to both its long-standing rural customer base (on average, clients in rural areas visit Banca D’Alba’s branches twice a week) and the younger population.
An average customer of Banca D’Alba customer is 47 years old. A fifth of the bank’s customer base comprises “digital natives”. Last year, 2,500 of 4,000 new members were under the age of 27, says Taricco.
“We have to offer them the same level of service as banking giants,” he observes. But there also has to be something else, something more – you have to differentiate somehow.
Banca D’Alba has five medical centres, where customers can get physiotherapy and other treatments free of charge. The first centre was set up in 1994 and the latest one opened last year in Turine. 1.5 million treatments have been done by the centres to date, Taricco says.
The bank also has two travel offices, which offer discounts on holidays and travel to its customers. Around 5,000 members are using this service every year.
“You have to understand who you are as a brand.”