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Digital Tools for Business Banking

Enhanced mobile platforms and upgraded websites are among the features that banks are offering to serve Minnesota business customers.

Digital Tools for Business Banking

Professional relationships, excellent services, and good financing packages always have been key considerations when business customers choose their bankers.

Now, in the digital age, many companies also want to work with financial institutions that offer them the ability to conduct business via apps and websites.

To see what area banks are doing to keep up with this trend, Twin Cities Business contacted seven of them and asked them two pivotal questions.

  1. What have you done to provide strong digital tools to serve business customers? Have you upgraded your website and added apps or other mobile or digital options? Are there some changes in particular you made in the past 12 months?
  2. Even though we live in a digital age, what types of services or transactions do your business customers still prefer to access in face-to-face interactions in your banks?

Leaders from each bank describe what they are offering to ensure convenient and secure digital services. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

—Liz Fedor, Trending Editor

U.S. Bank

Matt Thompson, Twin Cities business banking market leader

 

Providing digital tools:
In the past year, we launched a simplified digital solution for small businesses seeking debt financing up to $250,000. The intuitive and secure loan application can be completed on any device—mobile, tablet, or computer—and it allows the borrower to review their loan details and electronically sign their closing documents.

The entire process, from application to funding, can be completed the same day, often within an hour or less, dramatically speeding up the experience for busy entrepreneurs.

It provides access to existing U.S. Bank lending products. Since it launched, the application has been updated to offer financing for new equipment and to accommodate multiple-owner firms that can sign documents at different times and different locations if necessary.

U.S. Bank also redesigned our business banking website in 2019, consolidating pages to reduce clicks, making it more responsive on mobile devices and adding links to the new digital application tools.

Offering face-to-face contacts:
We want to serve our customers when, where, and how they prefer. In the U.S. Bank network of more than 130 branches in Minnesota, we have thousands of employees providing service. That includes bankers making in-person visits to the stores, offices, and factories of our customers.

We help business owners build wealth, especially during transitional points in life like when they buy and sell a business or a building, invite family members into ownership, or decide to retire.


Bremer Bank

Dan Flaningan, chief strategy officer

 

Providing digital tools
Bremer is focused on providing digital solutions that save our commercial customers time and money. We’ve added new capabilities to process cash at our customers’ business locations and that automate and turn their payables into a revenue stream.

Recently, we introduced Bremer Edge Loan, a purely digital experience that extends credit to our small-business owners within minutes, all while enhancing that customer’s relationship with their banker. In May, we revitalized our website to a new and modern design focused on valuable content and usability for our core customer segments.

Offering face-to-face contacts:
We know that our customers value a personal relationship and that they most desire the expertise of our people. They enjoy working elbow-to-elbow with our team to help them solve their problems and grow. Our focus for all of our customers is in seeking opportunities, listening and discovering, co-creating solutions, and finding ways for them to sustain and expand. We know that each customer is different, and how we implement a new solution into a customer’s culture is critical to its success.


Alerus

Karna Loyland, director of deposits

 

Providing digital tools:
Whether it’s improved payment processing, cash management efficiencies, or fraud mitigation tools, we strive to find the right digital solutions for each client.

We not only support clients in improving their cash cycles, but also ensure we are doing so in a secure fashion. We have invested in and implemented behavioral analytics and other anomaly detection software to identify potential red flags on outgoing transactions and online activity.

We continue to invest in our mobile platform; we recognize the necessity for business owners to be able to transact business remotely, so clients can approve payroll and outgoing wires while out of the office. For smaller businesses, mobile deposit options have proved to be invaluable to their business management.

We also work with clients to evaluate best practices in the area of electronic payments, including same-day ACH (automated clearing house) options. This gives business owners the ability to fund and transact payroll, for example, all on the same business day.

 


Sara Ausman, regional president, Twin Cities

 

Offering face-to-face contacts:
While technology and digital tools allow our clients to be in control of their day-to-day finances, there are still times when a face-to-face meeting with an experienced advisor is preferred. We often see business clients seeking guidance during more complex stages in their business, such as business transition planning or deciding whether to move to a high-deductible health plan.

We also work more closely with clients when they are looking to solve a problem. This includes business clients with short-term cash-flow needs, or those who are looking for operational productivity, such as gaining efficiencies through payroll and benefits. In each of these instances, a digital tool can’t foster the conversation needed to guide clients in making the right decision for their business. Face-to-face interaction from a trusted financial advisor is essential, especially when navigating important financial decisions.


Highland Bank

Troy Rosenbrook, president

 

Providing digital tools:
As we think about digital apps, we instinctively think of personal tools, which is often where the development of digital products will begin, ultimately making their way to the business banking side. Contributing to the somewhat slower innovation rate on the business side are such factors as risk management and the likely need for multiple users with different authorities.

 

Many of our clients take advantage of benefits of remote/mobile deposit, fraud prevention tools, and electronic payments, all of which have been available over the past decade or so. More recently, we have implemented products such as mobile wallet (Samsung Pay, Google, and Apple Pay), debit card controls (ability to turn off/manage transactions on debit cards), and real-time alerts. We also completely redesigned our Highland Bank website to provide customers intuitive access to products and a responsive design that adapts to all mobile devices.

Under the category of “coming soon” are expanded cash management alerts, account aggregation, enhanced security measures, online applications for commercial deposits and credit product needs, expanded payment options, and lastly, enhanced customization of dashboards and digital device optimization.

Offering face-to-face contacts: The majority of our business clients still prefer that face-to-face relationship for certain types of transactions such as borrowing needs, discussions around strategic changes to the business, economic changes, acquisitions, and nonconventional financing. The majority of these interactions occur at the client’s office, which is consistent with meeting the customers’ expectations and enhances communication.


PNC Bank

Kate Kelly, Minnesota regional president

 

Providing digital tools:
The trend toward adoption of digital solutions continues to move at an accelerated pace across nearly every client segment PNC supports. We regularly update our online and mobile access channels with new services, features, security enhancements, and usability improvements.

 

Some of the biggest changes in the last year have been the addition of application programming interfaces to provide our clients a real-time way to interact with PNC, for payments, receivables, or account information through their own internal applications or platforms. This is much the same way as a shared ride application would use an interface to pull geo-location data from a map provider; PNC clients can now pull their banking functions directly into their business applications.

In addition, PNC was the first bank in the country to receive Real Time Payments ™ and one of the first to originate Real Time Payments on behalf of clients. This new payment system, run by The Clearinghouse, has revolutionized the payments industry with speed, secure and irrevocable payments, and additional message types, such as request for payment (RFP) and request for information (RFI) that automate the natural interactions between trading partners.

Offering face-to-face contacts:
Banking and financial services, since inception, has been and will continue to be a people-oriented business. Branch locations, even with the rise of mobile banking, provide an important touch point for customers to meet with their PNC banker. In fact, the branch now serves as a meeting place for consultative conversations with clients about a wide range of needs.

Approximately 68 percent of consumer customers used nonteller channels for the majority of their transactions during the first quarter of this year, but when it comes to lending needs and financing considerations that support a business owner’s strategic plan, there’s no substitute for personal conversation.


Sunrise Banks

David Reiling, CEO

 

Providing digital tools:
We understand the importance of meeting customers where they are and offering digital tools that make their life easier and their financial goals more attainable.

 

We’ve recently implemented a transaction dispute module that lets users easily dispute fraudulent transactions from their online banking account. The module also allows them to track the dispute throughout the process and receive updates on the current status of the dispute.

We’re currently in the process of revamping our website and focusing on ADA compliance standards as well.

Beyond our brick-and-mortar locations, we have also been working with financial technology companies, or fintechs. We partner with mission-driven fintechs that look to fix issues of economic inequality by delivering easy-to-use applications to end users. While we are able to store and transfer money, these fintechs are on the cutting edge of financial technology and provide users with convenient, digital solutions. Sunrise works with companies like TrueConnect and SelfLender, two fintechs that strive to help individuals improve their financial health.

The technological changes we’re working on represent an attempt to make banking easier—and more secure—for clients. In today’s digital world, clients don’t only want convenience, they also want to have peace of mind that their private information isn’t vulnerable.

Offering face-to-face contacts:
Usually, questions about loans or bigger financial decisions are made in person. Although online banking—making deposits, transfers—has eliminated some need for interactions with bankers, we’ve found that many clients still want to talk to a real person if they have questions about their accounts or transactions. As a community bank, we also like seeing our clients face-to-face. It gives us a better idea of their needs.


Wells Fargo

Secil Watson, executive vice president, head of digital solutions for business

 

Providing digital tools:
We put the highest priority on using innovation and technology to simplify the way our customers bank.

 

For our commercial banking mobile app, CEO Mobile, we broadly introduced an eyeprint biometric feature last April so customers can securely sign on by scanning the unique patterns of their eyes, which helps reduce login time by about 10 seconds. We’ve also launched an app for the Apple Watch so customers can view account balances and receive alerts for critical items requiring action like wires needing approval.

We continue to leverage application programming interfaces to digitally bring the bank to business customers in new ways. For example, a business can securely connect its accounting system directly to Wells Fargo through an application programming interface (API) for continuously updated account balances on one screen. There’s no need to jump between accounts or systems with multiple logins to access up-to-date information.

Our business deposit customers can apply to accept card payments and purchase processing equipment through an online merchant services application. Business owners also can go online and apply for Wells Fargo’s unsecured business term loans, both the Wells Fargo BusinessLoan term loan and FastFlex Small Business Loan, using one fast and easy application.

Offering face-to-face contacts:
Our bankers are trusted advisors for our customers as they face more complex tasks and decisions, especially as their businesses grow and they need advice and solutions to help them succeed financially.

More than 90 percent of Wells Fargo branches have a business advocate or small-business banker to address the specific needs of small business customers. It may be that they’re looking to open a new location and need advice on loans or additional services, such as developing a customized cash flow plan.

For businesses with more complex credit and treasury management needs, we have a team of regional business relationship managers, business acquisition managers, and business development officers across the country who build relationships and sharpen our focus on meeting specific needs in key industry segments.

These businesses also may prefer to meet face-to-face to find the right digital solutions to help them become more efficient in their treasury operations, or to discuss big-picture items like financing large purchases or asset management direction.

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