Financial Fitness for Banks and CUs in 2010: 1h on TweetChat, 6 Questions, 20+ Participants, 200+ Tweets

Yesterday afternoon while checking what was going on in social media and banking via twitter, I found a great conversation at #ditownhall. From my opinion, hashtags are always ‘obscure’. Nevertheless it is a great way to flag a conversation, tag your tweets, and bring a bit more structure to the enormous amount of info and noice on the most popular micro-blogging platform, or shall I say one of the fastest growing “social networks”.

In that case, it meant “Digital Insight Town Hall”. Digital Insight is part of Intuit which delivers popular products and services like TurboTax, FinanceWorks or (check my video interviews with Aaron Patzer, Mint’s CEO). I have been following them for a while now. Did you know that DI / Intuit have over 10 twitter accounts (@Intuit, @QuickBooks, @IntuitPayroll, @IntuitDeals, @IntuitInc, @1practicalgal, @Mint, @FinanceWorks…)?

It was their second twitter town hall via, this time focused on a big topic “financial fitness for banks and CUs in 2010”.

As stated in my title, this initiative was a success with over 200 tweets sent during the hour long virtual meeting and some very positive feedback at the end: “Interesting dialog – thanks!”, “great forum. was a lot of fun”, “Thanks for the discussion. Great townhall”.

I invite you to check my Visible Banking Twitter Watch and  my Directory of Social Media initiatives in Banking & Financial Services. Please do not hesitate to flag any missing initiatives!

Great topics, good conversations, but where were the financial institutions?
Even though I couldn’t actively participate, I enjoyed the conversations despite the lack of participation from the Financial Institutions (only one bank and a couple of credit unions).

In all fairness, the main challenge for any organizers of events focused on innovation or social media in banking is to manage to “fill the room” with banking professionals willing to participate, learn, and share.

On the other hand, consultants and vendors are always keen to participate and collect some valuable info they could then share with their clients. This week, it happened at the Financial Services Forum event I contributed to, and during this tweetchat yesterday.

Special kudos to the @1stMarinerBank team (Kevin, Steve – who I briefly met at Finovate 09 in NYC – , and Ashley) who demonstrated their hands-on experience of social media, and who were not afraid to share their learnings with all the participants.

@Bellco_CU made a big contribution to the conversations too.

In terms of moderation, @FinanceWorks didn’t do much except from asking the participants to introduce themselves, then asking their six main questions, and at the end asking people to respond to their survey. Al Ko,the Product Management leader for the consumer offerings which include FinanceWorks, was the most active of the DI tweeps.
It was only Digital Insight’s second tweetchat, and guess what, we are all learning in social. They did a good job overall.

Once again, Shawn Ward (watch my video interview w/Shawn shot atFinovate 07) demonstrated Geezeo’s love of twitter and their clever use of the micro-blogging site being the only PFM solution provider engaged in this discussion. I still wonder why Jwaala (watch my interview w/Andrew Taylor – CTO) and Wesabe (watch my interview w/Marc Hedlund – CEO) wouldn’t spend more time on twitter with such an active and successful competitor? Recently, they outshine a competitor and closed a deal with 1st Mariner Bank thanks to one friendly tweet about snow in Baltimore…

Even though I agree with Shawn when he advise financial institutions to use a different tone on twitter and be more friendly, more human, I must remind all my US peers that being too friendly you are very unlikely to succeed in Europe. I can’t imagine a similar success story happening in the European banking industry.

Great range of topics: Social media (of course!), financial education, pfm (revenue generator vs engagement tool, I look forward to reading Ron’s soon to be released PFM report with insights from his 900-user survey), conversations vs monologues, customer service on twitter (1stMarinerBank reminded us of their success with Aaron Brazell@technosailor – check this presentationwhich includes the 1stMB success story), blogs (I disagee with the figures announced regarding inactivity or tone of voice on most of the credit union blogs – I invite you to check my Visible Banking Blogging Watch series), mobile banking and iPhone apps (soon I will share some insights on the 90+ iphone apps I am currently tracking), notion of Friends, listening (you can’t insist too much on the importance of listening – Start now! If you don’t have any budget, use free resources such as Google Alerts/Search/Blog Search, Twitter or Hootsuite, Facebook…), provide valuable info and don’t hardly sell but on specific occasions (best practice: @UBank and their hugely successful recent 10@10 initiative).

Please find below some of the most active participants during the tweetchat yesterday.
* Digital Insight / Intuit: alko1 (Al Ko), FinanceWorksTobin_Leehalmand
* Credit Unions: Bellco_CUDayAirCU
* Banks: 1stMarinerBank (Steve Kruskamp, Kevin Lynch and Ashley Newnan)
* Other: CookeonCUs (Sarah Cooke), fpassociation (Lee Baker),bjaskiewiczhouseofstarrryanshellFPKohlerbryanlink (watch my video interview w/Bryan shot at Finovate 09), karenbuellshawnwardcraver,rshevlin (Ron Shevlin), Visible_Banking.

Questions & Selected Answers
You will find below the questions and my pick of the most insightful answers and comments.

Q1: @fpassociation, what can FPA tell us about what to expect from Americans in 2010?
* You can expect savvier consumers. They are doing a lot more research and paying more attention to details. They are quite skeptical and trust has become a much bigger issue. (via @fpassociation)
* Exactly. We are expecting members to have close look at their finances, re-evaluate and expect more from their FI as well. Members are getting to know what’s in the fine print and what ?s to ask. (via Bellco_CU)
* We see our consumers relying more on their networks for financial planning and advise. Hence why Social Media is part of our marketing/communication strategy. (via @1stMarinerBank)
* For the FI participants, what sorts of products/services are you looking at offering to meet these trends? (via @CookeonCUs)

Q2: How can financial institutions help consumers become more financially fit while positioning themselves for growth?
* FIs can provide people tools to know exactly where $ goes so they can budget & save more. That’s real financial fitness (via @alko1)
* Providing personal financial management platforms for their customers. Including a community component. Actually, the demographics of social media are skewing towards older generations.  Interestingly, many large banks don’t see the value of aggregating accounts. i.e. Wells, PNC…etc. (via @1stMarinerBank)
* The more FIs can work toward being a “trusted advisor,” the better positioned they will be to build trust with consumers. (via @Bellco_CU)
* FIs can inexpensively provide access to good info by parterning with other organizations for content. (via @fpassociation)
* FIs can enable users to set savings goals and track them in online banking. (via @houseofstarr)
* For credit unions, this should be a fitness year & rebuilding networth year. (via @ryanshell)
* Networking, financial education both online and face to face, adding certified financial counselors to staff. products/household – yes, we’ve seen an increase in membership tied directly to financial education. Financial Education is definitely free to members and non-members/groups (via @DayAirCU)
* Aite just surveyed 950 users of Mint, Yodlee, and Geezeo. The impact of PFM on fin. life and bank/CU relationships is huge (via @rshevlin)

Q3: As fee-revenue is scrutinized by regulators & public opinion, how can FIs find new and alternative revenue streams?
* Sales and service staff should use/understand PFMs so they can “sell” to members. Does your sales staff use the tools? (via @bjaskiewicz)
* Some ideas we have been exploring: Virtual Safe Deposit Box, Online Community Access and other value add services. @rshevlin PFM as a revenue generator is tough considering the competitive landscape. Mint is free. (via @1stMarinerBank)
* It means banks/CUs need to either: 1) deploy and push PFM, or 2) figure out if the impact is ltd to the minority that use PFM. @1stMarinerBank I’m not talking about PFM as revenue generator, but as a platform for engagement (via @rshevlin)

Q4: What role can technology and social media play in leading and supporting these efforts?
* Social media and online outreach (video, webinars, etc.) are going to be a huge component in our educational efforts. We work to “curate” info for members. Provide links to current news stories and personal finance info. (via @Bellco_CU)
* Expanding online offerings and engagement is key to the new model. Customer behavior dictates that we offer these alternative services. Branch interaction continue to decline but customer needs for their banking information doesn’t. Customers want transparency, greater communication and a sense of “knowing” their institution. We have multiple examples of servicing customers through social media. Mainly via twitter. Service and lead generation. We had to respond to a tweet once, “1st Mariner, you’re dead to me.” Upset customer was serviced and converted to an evangelist. Best practice: use twitter monitoring tools like hootsuite or tweetdeck to search for brand specific keywords. (via @1stMarinerBank)
* Done right, PFM (w/community) should increase engagement and cross sell opportunities (via @shawnward)
* There are many studies that show that customers/members who “follow” via social media become more loyal users (via @alko1)
* The benefits of using social media are low cost of entry and high volume of participants. SM will def play a role. (via @karenbuell)
* @1stMarinerBank Although, for small biz, PFM could be revenue generator (thx to @dmgerbino for that one) (via @rshevlin)
* Social media needs to be two-way: 99% of FI blogs, FB,or twitter profiles are push only. Can’t get true engagement this way (via @shawnward)
* And always provide social media followers with value-adds. Look at ING Direct as a great model. (via @houseofstarr)
* Identify your target market on different social media sites; 75% of our FB fans aren’t customers (via @houseofstarr)
* Another benefit of SM is brand awareness. Message has to be consistent – in alignment with other brand efforts, and 2-ways. (via @karenbuell)
* Sounds like customer service continues to be hot topic for social media – let’s stick with this for couple more minutes (via @FinanceWorks)

Q5: What technology investments do financial institutions believe will provide the greatest return on investment?
* PFM and Mobile. Smart phones are becoming more ubiquitous and a first option for people to access their online accounts (email, social, banking) (via @1stMarinerBank)
* Investing in multiple channels (social, SMS texts, web, mobile, online, etc.) to reach consumers on their terms. (via @Bellco_CU)
* Make twitter personable/intersting. like real life, people want to follow/talk with interesting people – can’t be all work (via @shawnward)
* Agree w/ @Bellco_CU – invest in diverse channels in order to capture people where they’re at. P2P pmts, iPhone app, wherever. (via @karenbuell)
* Our data on mobile banking suggests that it increases the touch points in addition to PC banking – not just a replacement (via @alko1)

Q6: What advice would you give to other small and regional financial institutions that are looking to gain ground?
* Who wants to “friend” their FI? But, it’s not about that. It’s about news, value, and service for me as a consumer. (via @karenbuell)
* Explore online channels because printing and distribution costs are eliminated. Just need to invest the time. And online interaction helps build trust and loyalty. I may offer a link to a product if the situation is right. Other than that, I stay low key regarding sales. (via @Bellco_CU)
* Listen to your customers. I mean really, really listen. (via @fpassociation)
* Imagine the power/depth of the relationship if you could interact with ALL of your customers on a daily basis – it’s possible (via @alko1)
* Build digital media strategy: know who audience is, where they are (physically/virtually),what makes you unique. attack! (via @shawnward)
* @bryanlink You’re right, core issues don’t change, however, the way customers want to interact does. (via @1stMarinerBank)

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

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