Director of Industry Marketing for Banking, Reflexis Systems
Industry experience: 23 years
As digital transformation continues to disrupt the banking industry, banks are forced to adjust their branch strategy in the same way as traditional retailers. But so far, all banks have really done is close branches and reduce staff, according to Ron Wellman, director of industry marketing for banking at the Dedham-based Reflexis Systems, a leading provider of real-time store operations solutions. Wellman believes the industry is lagging behind retail in transforming operations to reap efficiencies as routine transaction volumes have declined.
Before joining Reflexis in 2018, Wellman worked for seven years at Pegasystems in several roles, most recently as senior director and industry principal for the company’s CRM solutions in its financial services group. Prior to that, Wellman worked as senior vice president of business banking strategy for Citizens Bank and an online banking product manager at Bank of America.
Q: Reflexis recently launched products aimed at retail banking. What are they and how can they help banks?
A: With Reflexis ONE for Banking, we aim to transform the branch banking experiences by optimizing network staffing and empowering employee productivity. [Our cloud-based] solutions include increasing forecasting accuracy to over 90 percent using AI-based models, while improving staffing flexibility with tools that support multiple strategies and put the right-skilled colleague in the right place at the right time to increase client engagement. Other solutions include a scheduling feature, which aims to reduce staff turnover, real-time activity management, branch inspection tools and intelligent forms.
Q: Your model is based on ones you’ve used for leading retailers like CVS and Walgreens. Why do you think it is important for banks to think like these companies?
A: We think that retailers have responded well to the impact of online/digital disruption and have embraced new technologies to ensure the performance of their brick-and-mortar locations. They’ve also been adept at empowering their staffs and increasing employee satisfaction with mobile scheduling and productivity tools. In both of these areas, banks are severely lagging and could benefit from the innovation that has happened in retailing.
CVS and Walgreens are examples of how this has worked in a highly regulated industry with highly skilled and certified staff. Reflexis has customers where the high-touch service experience is a critical business element, which banks are targeting via cafe style interactive branches, wealth advice centers and mortgage offices.
Q: Reflexis can help banks increase customer satisfaction and eliminate labor violation expenses. Where are banks currently lagging on customer satisfaction? Is it common for them to have labor violation expenses?
A: Initially, banks had a knee-jerk reaction to close branches and lay-off staff given the rise of online and mobile banking, which reduced routine branch transactions. This reaction occurred without a more thoughtful and strategic approach to the branch channel, which in turn led to pain points in customer branch experience and staff dissatisfaction.
Additionally, as banks do more with less branch staff, they increasingly encounter the need to have more flexible staff trained in multiple areas of banking, not just routine teller services. When attempting to swap associate shifts or have someone call in sick, it has led to issues including violating local predictability scheduling laws, fines and reputational damage.
Q: Branches are obviously a big topic of discussion among banks. Are they still important? What role will the branch play in the future of banking?
A: Yes, in fact, there are significant statistical studies that show that while branches are not needed as much for routine transactions, they are seen as valued by almost all demographic groups. Whether its opening accounts, which still happens most of the time at a branch, or more complex sales and servicing that can’t be accomplished via online, mobile or phone channels, branches are still very important to the customer experience.
I think we are in a transition period following the knee-jerk reaction to digitization of banking services, where banks will continue to experiment with the best and most productive uses of branches and branch staff. This is exactly where innovation happens, in the chaos of change and discovering more efficient ways of doing things, a shift that has occurred in retail and which can be applied to branch banking now.
Wellman’s Five Questions for Banks About Branch Strategy:
- Is your bank nimble enough to support market-level or geofenced staffing?
- Are you planning to leverage AI in your forecasting and scheduling to align specific staff to key times and appointments?
- If your workforce management vendor is going through a merger, have you considered alternatives and timelines if the future roadmap is compromised?
- Do you value employee satisfaction and engagement by integrating mobility into your staffing and scheduling process?
- How are you measuring, managing, and streamlining the 20 percent of branch staff time most branches still spend on non-customer branch activities?