5 Frontline Tips for Banking During Coronavirus from a Roundtable of Experts


As part of our ongoing effort to help financial services companies navigate the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve created a series of roundtable discussions on the topic. Attendees collaborate over breakfast (provided via a GrubHub gift card) around best practices for engaging customers and improving outcomes right now.

Our second roundtable kicked off last week, led by Jane Barratt, Chief Advocacy Officer at MX, and Andrei Cherny, CEO and Co-Founder of Aspiration, an LA-based bank that's founded on the principle of doing what's good for people and the planet.


[Join the next 35-minute roundtable discussion on Thursday, May 12th at 8:30am EST.]


Jane Barratt started things off by pointing to the potential for financial services companies to thrive during this time. She said, “Unlike the last financial crisis where financial institutions were the bad guys, this really is an opportunity for the entire industry to really shine, and to be able to come out of this as being advocates for their customers.” She then added, “It really is the time to focus less around product sales and much more around what we can do to help.”


Barratt then structured the discussion around three key questions:


  1. What programs are you putting in place to support customers right now?

  2. What communications are you putting out there to support customers?

  3. How are you supporting your own teams?


Here are 5 tips we’ve curated from the responses to these questions.


1. Revisit first principles.

Andrei Cherny talked about how, for Aspiration, this crisis represents “a chance to go back to first principles and think about what we're doing, why we're doing it, what our business strategy is.” Cherny added that he believes that long-term thinking is the key to true financial success. As an example of such a program, Aspiration launched Plant Your Change, which rounds each purchase made with an Aspiration debit card to the nearest whole dollar and then donates the rounded amount toward planting trees. Amazingly, they’ve already had almost 30 percent of their customer base volunteer to participate in the program, solidifying Aspiration as a brand that cares about their first principle of helping people and the planet.


2. Retrain and empower your frontline employees.

One participant shared how they’ve trained frontline employees to be more versatile. These employees now know how to help customers sign up for mobile banking, online banking, and other digital products in addition to a range of other processes. Similarly, another participant said that they’ve seen their call volume triple and have had to send overflow calls to branch employees, helping to ensure those employees will keep their jobs and thereby reducing anxiety across the team.


3. Double down on customer communication.

Another participant stated that they believe the most important thing they can do right now is amplify customer communication. They’ve started reaching out to customers directly to help them through the PPP loan process, and they’ve processed millions in PPP loans with an acceptance rate of more than 90 percent as a result. “We've taken an all-hands-on-deck approach —physical, digital, or whatever it takes to reach out to the customers to find ways that we can help in any way, shape, or form,” they said. Another participant said their company started an extensive outbound call campaign to ask customers how they’re doing and whether there is anything the company could do for them. The point is to truly listen for what customers need right now.


4. Give directly to your local community.

One participant said that they gave their employees a direct cash bonus to use in the local community —no chains or superstores —within a week. This program benefited their community and built goodwill and brand recognition with prospects. In this same vein, a fintech company on the call amplified their efforts to connect customers with vetted resources in three categories: food, health, and financial. They said they’ve seen hundreds of thousands of requests to help with food assistance, indicating how dire the situation is for people right now.


5. Offer your customers automated financial guidance.

An MX client on the call shared that they’ve seen a sharp increase in interest around MX products. Customers are increasingly aggregating their accounts, using the budgeting tools, checking spending by category, and so on. All of this has made the client realize the importance of leaning on data and knowing their customers more fully —all for the purpose of offering true financial guidance.


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Jane Barratt ended the discussion by inviting all participants to ask themselves whether their customers are better off banking with them rather than with someone else. She said, “If we come out the other side as true customer advocates by using tools and services to help people move their financial lives forward, then we will create a good outcome from a very bad situation.”


Want more tips about how to bank during coronavirus? Join the next 35-minute roundtable discussion on Thursday, May 12th at 8:30am EST and read the MX resource library on Covid-19.


Also, check out our Easy SBA Portal to reduce the 30-minute PPP application time to 30 seconds.