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Published in The Arkansas Banker – by Cesar Rivas, National Sales Director, Sound Payments Banking Technology Solutions – It has been a few months since the initial impact of the virus on the world. One of the longest lasting impacts of this crisis will probably have to do with infectious disease protocols, how to live our lives limiting physical social interactions. As difficult as the situation has become, it could not have happened at a more opportune time. Technology has created a sort of virtual society and modified our way of life with regards to daily activities like shopping and entertainment.

It is funny how up until just a few months ago technology was a concern for the older generations, fearing that it was isolating humans and doing away with established social norms. Fast forward to the present and now this same technology seems to be playing a sort of salvation. Can you imagine if we would have been exposed to this pandemic during the 1970’s or 80’s? With no capability to video chat, no possibility of shopping online, no video streaming, nor tweeting. What would have been the impact back then? Picture the group of people who are demonstrating against the social distancing measures because they are “sick” of being isolated, how would they have reacted 40 years ago?

Of course, there is also the grave financial impact the virus has had on the world economy. The reality is that all business which relied on human interaction will need to reevaluate how to evolve their model given the current situation and considering the future

consequences on humanity. Just like technology has played its role in making it more bearable to self-isolate, it may also play a vital role in adapting new business models to the reality of social distancing. With experts warning of a second wave of the virus coming in the fall, it is now the time to think ahead and prepare businesses for what is coming.

In the banking industry, virtual institutions (those that have no brick and mortar operations) will probably be the ones to benefit most since they possess a business model that is well equipped to adapt to this new reality. So, it is imperative that traditional institutions adopt some of the practices of their virtual competitors and while figuring out how the human interaction component of their business model can be modified to adhere to the new social norms. Banks will need to get creative in order to offer a personal touch in the way they service their clients while limiting the actual “touch points.”

I believe technology is one of the most important components to accomplish this shift in the traditional banking model. In order to remain competitive, banks should immediately focus on two technologies that will allow their business to operate with certain normality while limiting personal interactions:

1. Remote Banking Capability

2. Self-Service and Automation

Most banks already offer their clients options to do their banking remotely thru mobile and online platforms, but the number and type of transactions clients are able to process thru this channel will be critical going forward. A robust online and mobile banking platform will be indispensable in the future.

Self-service banking and automation will also need to improve, offering bank clients more options beyond the scope of current ATM functionality. The technology already exists for lobby kiosks to replace live tellers with simple, easy to use interfaces. These devices will possibly become the preferred method of banking given the advantage for no human interaction.

But is technology the only challenge banks will face? Not necessarily. An important element to consider is the fact that traditional banks were moving towards a more personalized branch environment, where

front-line bankers met with customers thru pre-established appointments. So now, banks will need to figure out a way their clients can still see a friendly face while inquiring about their accounts and services even as they limit in person interactions. The bottom line is that external factors are impacting currently established norms in most facets of our lives and it is our ability to adapt that will help us get thru the storm. Recognizing the challenges ahead and forming a visionary strategy is of utmost importance if businesses are to survive.