I recently finished up a great history book, Why We’re All Romans. The book offers amazing and thought-provoking examples on how much of what the Western world enjoys today (in law, architecture, engineering, etc.) is directly attributable to the accomplishments of the Romans thousands of years ago.
Fun with history aside, the book title jarred me into thinking about something I discuss at length with credit unions and banks across the country. We’re all retailers, and financial institutions must evolve to think that way.
Many of the successful “big brands” people know and love have worked this angle for years.
Wal-Mart, Target, Toyota, Coca-Cola and Amazon come to mind. Whether you sell groceries, household wares, cars, soda or books, it all comes down to the retail mindset. Selling checking accounts and vehicle loans is no different. Some bank and credit union executives may chafe at this idea, but that doesn’t make it any less true. And if the financial services industry is a little
uncomfortable dealing with the reality that they are retailers, so much the better. Change rarely comes without discomfort and discomfort is a catalyst for growth.
Banks and credit unions that can successfully embrace the role of retailer will thrive. Those that don’t face extinction. It’s also time we stop prattling on and on about “sales and service culture” and proactively implement retail experience cultures in our banks and credit unions.
Rigidly defining our banks and credit unions as financial institutions (with all the white marble, stuffy tellers and inconvenient business hours that implies) limits who and what we can be to members and customers. Even stereotypical television banker Milburn Drysdale eventually learned there was more to Jed Clampett than his money on The Beverly Hillbillies. We’re not in the money business–we’re in the people business. Let’s start acting like it.
Points to ponder …
- Does your branch look like a retail store? If not, it should. In fact, Umpqua Bank calls branches stores.
- Go to your favorite retailer and take notes. What are they doing to enhance a
retail appearance that your bank or credit union could emulate?
- Review your favorite retail store websites. You are competing as an online retailer as
well. Check out popular retail websites and note what you could learn from them.