Pub 12 2023 Issue 6

he term “relationship banking” has been a core concept of our business for decades. Fundamentally, it asserts that a bank’s relationship with a business is a partnership built on trust, shared objectives and ongoing communication, with a relationship manager at its center. The relationship manager assures personal connectivity between the bank and its business client and avails the client of all bank products and services that support its success. Relationship banking historically has created the basis for mutual benefit — the business client is well-served by a banker who becomes steeped in the company’s business and objectives, becoming a de facto extension of their team; and, in turn, the bank can introduce to the business client a span of relevant products and services, potentially enlarging the bank’s opportunity. As with most aspects of our business, technology is rapidly reframing the concept of relationship banking. Digital transformation has moved much industry activity online, both with wholly online entrants and physical banks’ adoption of online banking. The resultant shrinking of banking’s aggregate physical footprint reduces community presence and the number of business relationship managers. Relationship Banking in the Digital Age By Brian Hoffart, nbkc bank In this context, how is “relationship banking” redefined? What are the appropriate and realistic expectations for a business/bank relationship? And, really, is it still relevant? Integrating Technology into the Relationship The answer to the last of those questions is, profoundly, “yes.” The challenge, and the opportunity, is to successfully integrate technology into the relationship banking context. If accomplished, this can enrich a relationship, rather than weaken or replace it. Technology should simplify routine banking tasks; allow for completion of “prework” for human interactions; and provide for two-way visibility of important relationship data for both client and bank. It also enables business clients to engage on their terms. They sometimes will prefer self-service and may value the efficiency and perceived anonymity of digital banking. Keeping the Human Touch The digital/human proportionality and cadence of each relationship likely will be unique. That said, certain elements of the human part of the relationship will be irreplaceable, from the perspective of both the bank and the business client. The better the bank and client know each other, the greater the chance of mutual success. Therefore, routinized transparent communication, inclusive of business clients’ results and strategies and banks’ professional and market insights, will remain critical. It enriches the mutual understanding, and advances the mutual success, of both parties. Whatever the digital/human construct, banks will rise and fall by “being there” in “moments of truth” … those times when clients’ needs transcend technology platforms or call centers and a reliable, empathetic, trusted and knowledgeable voice is there unfailingly. T 32