Hi-tech travelling bankers can aid banks in both improving customer relationships and assessing credit – two banking skills some fear are in decline, writes Brian Caplen.

With the relentless march of technology, it can seem as if nothing in the banking world is stable. Banks must get with the programme or face losing out to fintechs. They are busy recruiting millennials who understand the latest trends in social media and apps to help them stay in touch. In some banks, hitting the age of 30 is already seen as a disadvantage in this context. 

But it is important to understand that it is the banking channel that is changing and not the basic business of banking. In fact, some banks are using the new technology to do more effectively the old-fashioned kind of relationship banking that some feared had disappeared. 

Hi-tech bankers with laptops and tablets are getting out of branches and hitting the road to take the bank to the customer – particularly the small to medium-sized business customer. Everything that used to be done in a branch can now be done securely in a customer’s home or office. 

This has several positives – one, the customer gets a better service; second, the bank can cross-sell different products; and third, the visiting banker garners direct knowledge of their customer's business and is better able to assess their credit status. 

Is the shop or factory busy? Are there more workers than last time or less? Does it seem to be run efficiently? These are all things the old-fashioned branch manager knew but the pure credit scoring approach that took over may miss. 

So the new tech is not about sweeping away the basics of banking but using it to perform these basics more effectively. But banks must keep an eye on which channel is relevant. Investing lots of money in website design right now would be a big mistake when even commercial banking is rapidly going mobile.

Brian Caplen is the editor of The BankerFollow him on Twitter @BrianCaplen

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