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Custom Fitting FI Modernizations Requires Pushing The New While Supporting The Old

The modernization journey that banks and financial institutions (FIs) are on today always comes back to the same place: customer need.

CheckAlt Director of Customer Experience Margie Huntley told PYMNTS it is only by understanding that concept that the FIs and businesses CheckAlt works with can begin the important work of mapping out how they plan to deliver on their clients’ needs.

If that doesn’t happen right from the start, she noted, things can easily become a “train wreck” of half-realized innovations that ultimately don’t stick or don’t work for consumers.

“We have to understand their needs, their payables, their receivables,” Huntley explained. “Do they have peak times? How often do they bill? How do they internally reconcile? What services do they offer their clients? And most importantly, how can we help facilitate that need?”

Facilitating that need, she said, is about creating partnerships that don’t just provide firms with technological tools but help clients develop the custom fit strategies they need, and then put those tools into operation strategically.

Consumers have come to expect a certain high level of personalized service from these digital tools, she said, meaning FIs need to offer “both what is comfortable as well as what is cutting-edge” to their client base.

Creating The Conditions For Success

The challenge of the digital era isn’t in capability, such as digitizing payments, speeding up payments or ditching paper checks, which are all very doable from a technology perspective. The hard part, she said, is putting that into place while also maintaining and serving other members with services that are not being digitally upgraded.

Just getting to the cutting edge isn’t the goal, she said. It’s about striking a balance between innovation and client comfort levels.

“I’ve often likened it to having two airplanes flying in the air at the same time and taking them apart and putting them back together into one airplane without dropping anything or crashing,” she said of the high-wire act of building out modern systems on top of legacy ones.

But it’s a necessary challenge in moving financial services forward in a modern but manageable way, she said.

And making that livewire construction process fly means that a big part of what CheckAlt does is client education, since handing FIs tools isn’t the only job, she said. Teaching the more advanced ways of doing things while still allowing them to have a comfort level of what it is that they’re doing and how they are doing it is equally important.

Liberation Through Automation

She said the end goal isn’t to transform every firm CheckAlt works with in a single stroke, but to allow them to tap into the power of automation, for example, to simplify their lives and businesses. Automation takes processes that were once 20 steps long down to a single step. That’s faster, but it also removes friction across the board by keeping everything up to date and running faster than has previously been possible.

“It will also free us up to strategize and look for better things in the future at the same time,” Huntley said.

Better is out there, and FIs are pursuing it more avidly each day, she said. But that doesn’t mean transformations are going to happen overnight since paper-based payment products and other outdated systems are going to be with us for a “long time” despite a widely held notion they’ll be wiped away tomorrow.

It’s an ongoing process and one creating better optionality for firms and consumers alike, at a pace that’s manageable for all, she said.

“It’s really about the journey that our clients have inside their own company,” she said. “And it’s a matter of understanding what it is that we’re trying to help our clients facilitate and get done.”

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