Summer Reading & Banking's Transition
Just finished a new book, "Late Edition" (Amazon link), by one of my favorite writers, Bob Greene. This is a touching, often funny memoir of Greene's days as a newspaper rookie in Columbus, Ohio in the 1960s. It was a simpler time in a lot of ways. Most people got their news solely from their daily newspaper, and it was an awesome responsibility for the people who ran the papers to be the arbiters of what was and wasn't news, what did and did not get into print.
Hard to remember this era today, when news is ubiquitous on TV, online and, yes, occasionally from one of our surviving newspapers. And when anyone who can spell "blog" can have one.
It seems inevitable that banking institutions are going to transition from serving my dad's generation to my daughter's, and the brick-and-mortar institutions are going to give way to new electronic services.
Greene's story resonates with me for a couple of reasons: 1) I got my career start at my own hometown newspaper many moons ago, and I remember what it was like to be a part of The Show. 2) I see a lot of parallels to banking - specifically, the transition from branch banking to electronic.
Remember what it was like before ATMs, even, when you had to do all your deposits and withdrawals inside a bank lobby? Location was everything then - you wanted a bank branch that was convenient to access. And the tellers were the competitive differentiators. If you liked the friendly, helpful tellers in the lobby, then you kept coming back.
My 74-year-old dad still does business that way. He's never used an ATM, and to him "mobile banking" means using the drive-thru window - and he's not crazy about that, either. He prefers to do his banking in the lobby, where he knows the tellers by name. He buys them each small Christmas gifts each year, and last week he presented them with fresh strawberry shortcakes.
My dad also still subscribes to his hometown newspaper. He's never read an online edition - never will.
But my dad is the exception. My 18-year-old daughter, I believe, is the rule. She lives her life with three basic necessities: a hair dryer, a cell phone and a debit card. I'm not sure she's even been inside a traditional bank lobby. She chose her bank based on the one that had a mini-branch in the local grocery store, and the institution that sticks with her is going to be the one that lets her run her entire financial world from the palm of her hand.
It seems inevitable that banking institutions are going to transition from serving my dad's generation to my daughter's, and the brick-and-mortar institutions are going to give way to new electronic services. And yet I hear mixed reports on the adoption of electronic/mobile banking.
Talking to Christine Barry of Aite group, she sees a lot of new activity in mobile banking and remote capture - especially among small-to-midsized institutions, which are seeking new deposits from younger customers and smaller businesses.
But then to talk to Dennis Simmons of SWACHA, and he's just conducted a recent survey of Texas banking customers who indicate that less than 10% currently use mobile banking services. Eighty percent of respondents say they have no interest in such services from their institution.
Security concerns are barriers of entry for institutions and customers alike, of course. People are fearful of identity theft or of being the next Heartland. But it's not like brick-and-mortar institutions have been immune from threats. Remember bank robberies?
I lived through the news media transition Greene writes about in "Late Edition," and I believe we're all seeing the banking evolution happen around us now.
Where is your institution in this transition? And tell me: What do you miss most about the old days, and what do you welcome most from the new?