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Community banks in today’s digital world

By Hal Wentworth


Banking technology has changed exponentially over the past decade. From online banking and mobile deposits to enhancements in fraud monitoring, the way we use and monitor money is changing faster than consumers can keep up. These advancements have left many wondering where that leaves banks. Will the community bank disappear in today’s digital world? 

As a 30-year veteran of the financial industry, I’ve seen the incredible and positive impact technology advancements have had on the way we do business. In my current position, evaluating how technology can advance our offerings is part of our everyday discussions. 

Technology is all about service 

As a banking industry, our technology is all about efficiency, stability, and service. We want to make banking easier and more secure for our customers. To provide the best service possible, banks need an enhanced online-banking platform, robust enterprise-level call-center management tools, and technologies to increase internal efficiencies.

In addition to customer-facing technology, banks have a whole team of experts behind-the-scenes ensuring our internal technology is providing the best possible security and service to our customers. 

However, while banks will continue to rely more on technology, the need for a human connection will remain.

A need for relationships 

When customers walk through the doors of a bank for a mortgage, business loan, or other service, they normally have a lot of questions. What’s the best option for me? How long will this take? What’s the next step? 

As any financial professional will tell you, each situation is unique and the answers to these questions are different for every customer. The need for a face-to-face conversation to determine these answers is where the value in personal banking relationships lies, and that’s something online and mobile banking will never be able to completely replace.

We hear from customers time and time again that they choose a bank because they feel heard, appreciated, and understood. 

The future of banking 

When I look at the future of banking, I’m extremely excited about what’s to come. Technology will be ingrained in what we do like never before, helping us further our goal of helping customers with their financial needs whenever and wherever it’s needed. 

Advancements in technology will increase our abilities to understand and address customers’ needs at all times. 

From simple banking functions like making a loan payment and account transfers to more advanced services like opening accounts and applying for loans, the customer should and will have the option to conduct these in branch or in the comfort of their home based on their preferences. No customer is alike, and strong technology will be the driving factor to ensure all of our customer needs are met — in branch and beyond.             

Hal Wentworth is senior VP of retail banking at Community Bank N.A., which is headquartered in DeWitt and has more than 230 branches across upstate New York, northeastern Pennsylvania, western Massachusetts, and Vermont.

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