ABA Banking Journal - November/December 2015 - (Page 59)
Proactive steps and strong communication keep customers engaged
BY JULIE KNUDSON
erging two organizations
is rarely simple. Financial
institutions face additional
challenges as they work to
support customers while
also undergoing a host of internal
transitions. It takes focus and careful
planning to juggle excellent client
service while transforming operations
toward a stronger institution.
Know the challenges
that lie ahead
Presenting a consistent message
to customers and employees while
bringing together two separate and
distinct cultures is an early obstacle
banks may encounter. "Undoubtedly
there is going to be a different
approach to doing business on the
part of the two financial institutions
involved," says Karen Partee, CFMP,
SVP and chief marketing officer at
Texas Bank and Trust in Longview.
Melding the best parts of each
bank into one cohesive team takes
time. "It's not going to happen
overnight, even in the best of
circumstances," Partee adds.
Employees within both organizations
may be anxious about their own
futures or worried that new workflows
will hamper productivity. Showing
customers a unified face, while
dealing with this early uncertainty,
can be particularly tricky.
Complicating the process is simple
human impatience, which may be
on full display as long periods of time
stretch between the announcement
of a merger and the actual system
conversions that impact customers.
"In an age where people expect
instantaneous information, they want
to know everything on day one,"
says Alison van Harskamp, CFMP,
SVP and brand communications
group leader at Lititz, Pa.-based
Susquehanna Bancshares, Inc., which
was acquired by BB&T Corporation
this year in one of the biggest bank
deals since the financial crisis.
Unfortunately, many decisions that
will ultimately touch customers-from
how online logins will be impacted to
whether their favorite teller will remain in
the local branch-likely won't be made
right away. "It may not be for months,"
van Harskamp says. Managing
customer expectations is made even
more difficult when the benefits
of the merger, such as improved
ATM access or mobile services,
haven't yet been hammered out.
Because many decisions are on the
horizon, the merging banks may not
even be able to give employees the
information they need to be comfortable
with what the future will bring. Jamie
Guise, SVP of community engagement
at Evansville, Ind.-based Old National
Bank, says there are several common
questions employees are likely to have:
"What does that mean for me? Am
I going to have a job? If I do have a
position, will it be the same position?"
Employees' personal worries may
pull their attention away from the
merger process, making them
less able to provide the kind of
outstanding customer support the
new organization wants to embody.
"Recognize that there is going to be
some focus inward," Guise says.
What's the worst
that can happen?
The pitfalls banks must avoid anytime
a merger or acquisition occurs are
very real. "You're always concerned
about your brand," Partee says.
She sees customer retention, loyalty
and brand integrity all potentially
at stake if the existing relationships
on both sides of the merger aren't
attended to throughout the process.
Acquiring new customers takes far
more resources than maintaining
current ones, something banks must
keep in mind any time they join with
another institution. Partee warns
that if customers "start to desert you
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ABA Banking Journal - November/December 2015
A Conversation With the Comptroller
Cover Story Doing the Right Thing
Big Data and Predictive Analytics: A Big Deal, Indeed
Stress Testing: Feeling the Pressure?
ABA Compliance Center Inbox
Cybersecurity Self-Assessment Tool Helps Combat Risk
Real Estate Lending
Banker Recommended Reading
From the States
Corporate Social Responsibility
Index of Advertisers
ABA Banking Journal - November/December 2015