Small banks need big data to maintain customer service edge
Big data isn’t just for big banks.
The modern banking customer wants advanced online and mobile banking options, and delivering such services requires even the smallest community bank to get a handle on customer data, said Corey LeBlanc, chief technology officer and vice president at Origin Bank in Ruston, La.
“We continue to evolve on our understanding of data since it's our most valuable resource,” LeBlanc said. “It doesn't matter if you're a small bank, community bank or large bank, we're all competing for that same pool of revenue."
LeBlanc has spent the last 12 years at the $4.2 billion-asset Origin, whose headquarters is roughly an hour from Shreveport, La. He is now interested in finding partners who can work across multiple platforms and create a central point for shareable data. The bank is a unit of Origin Bancorp.
“Most people understand that most of our lines of business are just as much about information as they are about the finances," he said. "How do you differentiate yourself? It’s through data.”
In the following interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, the CTO says small banks can better organize and analyze their transaction data, explains why data should matter to even community banks and tells where Origin finds the talent to analyze its customer data.
What is the difference between analyzing transaction data at small banks versus big banks?
COREY LeBLANC: It's definitely a balancing act for small banks to evaluate end to end that transaction data across all channels. Small banks have fewer resources and smaller budgets to use to pull the information together to get that full picture and understand that landscape.
You have to consider the fact that we don't house all of our customers' transactions either. So knowing what they're doing or not with us is difficult. I don't think it's as simple as suggesting small banks are less precise. I don't necessarily agree with that wording. We've worked really hard to defy that notion.
We're all in on data analytics and that's the core of what we're trying to do. We continue to push every single day to get even further with the right relationships with third-party companies, like MX and FIS. With that kind of effort, we can create a similar understanding with our customers’ needs just as well as the larger banks.
Can you talk about some of the tech initiatives Origin has going on?
A big thing for us is creating omnichannel. We’re trying to create the ability for customers to do whatever they want to do in the banking life from the channel of their preference. If they don't want to take a lunch break to deposit a check or look into some information or apply for a loan, we're trying to create that channel through all available avenues.
With MX Personal Finance, we just rolled out an ability to see not only Origin bank accounts, but also external bank accounts as well through our mobile app. So we can create a central hub for customers and limit the amount of time they have to spend in their various bank environments and still be able to control their finances in a healthy way.
For me, the most valuable thing is giving that customer that time of their day back. We're allowing them to see everything from a single point. If we can create a place where they can get in and out, fast, but also have a good understanding of what's going on in their financial life, then they are going to be more responsible with their finances.
How will Origin increase the amount of data it collects, or the granularity of its data?
As a community-minded bank, we have to stay in tune with our customers’ data. Now that they are choosing more digital channels to conduct their business, if we want to be first in producing that personal touch, we have to improve that overall experience and learn from data how to engage them in a more meaningful way.
Understanding what they are doing in their lives goes a long ways for us to put the right product and the right person in front of them so that we can help.
What about hiring talent to analyze that data? Who at Origin is responsible for that?
It's evolving for us, and it has been for a couple years. There's a role for IT there, there's a role in operations tasks, and some people out in retail that can evaluate that data as well.
Really, the hardest part is how you aggregate all the data. You have to have that human touch to take stuff and digest it completely to know where you're going. But you also have to be able to get the right relevant data all into one spot, so you can paint that landscape that helps you see the whole picture.
We're trying to get that process down. A lot of that effort has involved internal people picking up new responsibilities, and we're also looking to grow that as well.
Is the bank looking to hire new people?
I think we have to get more talent from inside the coding world. People who work in data and moving data in blocks, those are really valuable people for us. We also want to have people with experience in taking data and information and utilizing it, whether from the sales perspective or marketing perspective or just in actually connecting with customers. It comes from so many different avenues, but I think younger people are much more aware of the utilization of data than some of the people who have significant banking experience.
Where is the bank looking for those people?
I like someone who has experience. So while academia can be helpful, at times, I steer away from that source unless the person is right. I think candidates from fintech and the Silicon Valley worlds definitely have some advantages because they are already focused on a specific line of business; they understand the technology and data mining. I don't think anyone is going to understand the value of data more than they will.