Banks: Complex Problems, Simple Solutions

In response to consumer fears, financial institutions are marketing their solvency and stability. By advertising their long history of safe lending practices, strong values, and community focus, banks are hoping to prevent widespread customer attrition and capture new business.

However, new research from the Financial Services Practice of The Corporate Executive Board finds that investing in this type of customer trust is overvalued. The opportunity presented by customers seeking safe depository products and institutions is quickly fading as the U.S. government steps in to insure and capitalize banks.

Instead, the biggest opportunity for financial institutions today lies with customers seeking help to rebuild their financial foundations that were shattered by the crisis. These are customers facing tough challenges to their basic financial well-being: such as a home to live in, a steady income, a minimum standard of living, even savings for emergencies.

Although customers view these challenges as complex, the solution is composed of relatively simple, traditional banking products like a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Customers need simple solutions not only because these products are best suited to address the issues but also because more complex products require the customer to take a leap of faith with the banker that may seem off-putting in today's environment.

Efforts to simplify customers' purchase decision-making process risks increasing their distrust and driving away potential business. Instead, create a sales process that clearly connects customers' complex problems with simple solutions through staff tools, frontline coaching and training, new online capabilities, and product development.

Banks must create a sales process that is thorough, transparent, and drives to a solution that customers will be certain will work. By providing their customers with more information on products, a clearer understanding of alternatives and risks, and precise clarity on how a particular product will solve their problem, banks will be better positioned for accomplishing two key goals: helping consumers regain their financial footing and capturing the post-crisis sales opportunity.

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