Barlow Business Banking Conference 2019: The Digital + People Strategy

Sal Trifilio

May 30, 2019

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Barlow Research Associate’s annual Barlow Business Banking Conference went off without a hitch on May 20-21 in Chicago, IL.

The yearly event routinely draws banking and fintech thought leaders from across the country, and last week’s agenda included People’s United Bank’s Ravi Vakacherla and our very own Dan O’Malley.

The two met on stage for a fireside chat on how technology is transforming lending and shaping a new era of business banking opportunity. The talk was moderated by Barlow’s Sandy Hanson, small business program director.

Sandy opened the talk by calling out an often unspoken irony in business banking — while many leading banks tout their “service” as a differentiator, those same banks have invested in technology that disintermediates banking relationships.

This online lending tech, or the software aimed at replacing relationships with digital interfaces, is cannibalizing a customer experience that made these banks successful in the first place.

Barlows fireside chat made for compelling content because People’s United Bank has decided to take a different path towards digital transformation. Rather than replacing their bankers with technology, they’ve chosen to work with Numerated to empower their bankers with it.

Ravi and Dan spent most of the chat explaining why the future of business banking is a mix of digital + people, and only by combining the two can relationship banks survive in an evolving ecosystem of megabanks and alternative lenders.

A digital + people strategy allows People’s United Bank to meet their customers where they are — either online or in a branch — and through the medium they prefer. But their customers are still getting the same level of quality service, from the same bankers they’ve grown to know and trust.

Outside of the strategy People’s is executing with the help of Numerated, Ravi and Dan also got into the weeds of what successful fintech partnerships look like. Ravi explained how change must come from the top down, but with support from the bottom up. Dan emphasized that success only comes from partnerships where the fintech and bank are working towards the same goals. There are trade-offs, they both agreed, but working together is the fastest way relationship banks can deliver this level of functionality to their consumer base.

Looking to the future, Ravi agreed that a day might come when consumers want to handle all of their banking needs through the assistance of artificial intelligence, no human interaction required. But that kind of AI technology doesn’t yet exist—at least at the level that could replace a human relationship. At the end of the day, we’re dealing with people’s money and when friction occurs, Ravi says his customers want to talk with a human.

That can only be possible through a digital + people strategy.


Get more Barlow content by watching our webinar replay on why digital-only business lending strategies fall short in delivering growth.

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