Using technology to know when not to use technology might sound like upside-down logic, but understanding when to push customers into electronic channels and when to get them physically in front of a teller or bank rep is vital for small banks to stay personally connected to their customers. Brian Coakley, CIO of North Country Savings Bank, a $250 million institution in Canton, NY, says using electronic channels to drive down costs and boost customer convenience is all well and good, but "as a community bank we need to make sure we move the right people to the electronic channel; but not everyone all the time, or we lose our ability to be a community bank. If they never do branch banking you lose your advantage as a community bank."

Coakley and the senior management team at North Country Savings recently embraced business intelligence technology from COCC to shed light on customer interactions by better collecting, sifting and presenting customer data in near real time to bank employees. After all, whether customer interaction is electronic or face-to-face it will be more effective if underpinned by sound and timely analytics.

Using TotalVision from core technology provider COCC, North Country does everything from displaying data in electronic 'dashboards' to producing complex financial reports for senior management. The bank can view branch performance in terms of new money, paid off loans, deposits, originations, and more. It can also display any account that has gone from a dormant status to active, any loan customer that collectors need to contact. "We don't want a Big Bang report every three years," Coakley says. "We want ongoing data that demonstrates changes so we can steer with subtlety and not make drastic changes."

Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite, says that more banks North Country's size are starting to explore how to better use customer analytics. "There's a huge interest among smaller and mid-sized institutions to have strategic analytics. There's a desire to be less seat-of-the-pants with decision making." This is especially true as institutions incorporate new electronic channels and customer interactions become more complex. North Country is the average size of the 30 or so banks that use TotalVision, according to COCC officials.

North Country has already used BI to embark on some creative ventures. One is ATM profit sharing with a local partner. After factoring in the cost of the ATM, renting the physical location, and creating and maintaining a secure environment, as well as who is using the machine and how often, the bank was able to create a justifiable revenue sharing arrangement.

The bank also used BI to weigh the cost of online bill payment, the rate of account cannibalization, balance changes, fees collected, and teller traffic curtailed. The bank developed an independent view of teller performance plus a standard to measure savings from electronic channels. And it's helping the bank determine how to reach customers. "Perhaps we do promotions in branches, or in electronic channels, or through electronic channels in the branches, such as kiosks," Coakley says.

This article can also be found at AmericanBanker.com.

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