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BOK Financial On The Growing Important Of Offering A Digital-First Banking Experience

Financial institutions’ needs to strategize for innovation and advance digital banking were well-known around the globe long before March 2020. As technology advanced and the health crisis led to branch shutdowns and reduced hours, a growing number of consumers began to expect digital access to their accounts.

BOK Financial Corp., a regional financial services company headquartered in Oklahoma, said it was well-prepared for this shift. Before the pandemic, approximately 65 percent of its customers accessed its digital banking tools online and via its app.

“Even before the pandemic, we had high overall digital usage,” Thomas Hay, chief operating officer of consumer banking at BOK Financial, told PYMNTS. “It’s a way to meet everyday banking needs, such as checking balances, transferring money, paying a bill and opening an account.”

Over the past 15 months, Hay said the number of customers who routinely accessed their accounts digitally increased by about 10 percentage points, bringing the total to 75 percent. Supporting digital choices for customers was intentional from the start, he said because BOK recognized the power behind enabling consumers to make most of their transactions online and via mobile app.

“The pandemic certainly spurred digital usage across the board for all demographics,” he said. “We’ve seen increasing levels of populations that are leveraging different digital capabilities. We have a high concentration of digital servicing clients as well as a high rate of login traffic.”

Taking Onboarding 100 Percent Digital

Hay noted BOK Financial has had an online account opening platform for the past five years that allows new customers to open accounts in less than five minutes without visiting branches. The technology enables customers to onboard and fund checking, savings and CD accounts without presenting documents in person. This functionality can help FIs keep customers engaged throughout the process, and Hay said it has been instrumental in helping BOK Financial’s applicants complete onboarding.

“That’s everything from authentication, validation, funding, everything,” he said. “We’re seeing more people leveraging digital capabilities to bridge them into a physical experience. We have one of the highest online app completion rates across the in- dustry, even when compared to big banks.”

BOK Financial is working with LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group, a portfolio of brands that span industries and provides customers with information-based analytics, decision tools and data services, to support its digital investments. In addition, Hay said, BOK Financial uses an assortment of other digital innovations to authenticate applicants and determine that they are who they say they are.

“We use other tools that we’ve built internally that leverage outside data feeds to effectively confirm verification,” he said.

Interactive teller machines (ITMs) are also making waves in the financial services space, and Hay said BOK Financial is preparing to use the technology. These tools operate similarly to ATMs but offer a few additional features that allow customers to complete transactions, request banking services and receive immediate assistance with live videoconferencing from a remote bank teller.

“We are preparing for a future that has ITMs because we see a lot of customer benefit in adding them,” he said. “If employees can’t make it to a branch during a snowstorm or a flood or something like that, we have a remote ITM group that can continue to offer branch service capabilities.”

Hay said BOK Financial purchased ATMs over the past year and plans to pay about $1,500 per unit for software that can cost-effectively and easily turn them into ITMs. He also noted that an ITM pilot program is underway and that the units could be installed as early as next year.

Since the pandemic began, the company has also seen an increased use of service appointments settings. Hay said there have been 30 times the number of customers who have chosen that option as a way to meet safely and without waiting. Also, after considering the adoption of peer-to-peer payment service Zelle, the company added it in Q4 2020.

“Usage has really gone up markedly,” Hay said.

Even business clients have been getting in on the digital shift over the past year, Hay said. He explained that BOK Financial’s service centers were flooded with calls from businesses asking questions about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The company responded, he said, by adding online PPP account access, which business clients were eager to use.

FIs have good reason to believe that consumers will continue moving away from branches and toward digital channels. Those that continue to make technology available while prioritizing innovation will be likelier to stay in step with consumer demand.

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