Greg Corombos, News Director at Radio America 00:06
Hi, I’m Greg Corombos. Welcome to Banking Compliance Insights by Wolters Kluwer(R), a podcast series from Wolters Kluwer. This series was created to deliver insights on compliance trends and strategies for navigating today’s regulatory and risk environments. Today’s episode, banking operations, adapting to find opportunities, will focus on how banks are optimizing processes to adapt to today’s environment. Here to lead our discussion on this subject is Wolters Kluwer Banking Segment Leader Samir Agarwal, and he is joined today by Jim Wrbanek, a Sales and Client Engagement Director with Wolters Kluwer, to share some of his observations on emerging trends in community bank operations. Samir, let me pass the conversation over to you.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 00:54
Thank you, Greg 2020 hashtag. Is it over yet? What a year of change and new regulations, especially for those of us in the banking industry. For those just joining our podcast series now, do check out our past casts, where we discussed how the pandemic affected banking operations, how it transformed the way customers are served, gave us new concerns around the financial and individual security of each transaction, as well as how to understand how the Cares Act can be understood better, and allow us to operate more strategically. Today, our invite was sent to Jim Wrbanek, A colleague and friend of mine, that is extremely versed with adaptation to change. He is a Wolters Kluwer leader for Sales and Client Engagement. We are going to discuss some practical insights into how banks have successfully adapted operations in the new normal, and also highlight successful practices. That is now becoming part of the permanent strategy of operations. Welcome, Jim, tell us a little bit about you and what you do day today.
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 01:59
Thank you, Samir, and thank you so much for the invitation. I’m happy to be here. Well, let me start off just a little bit about some history of myself, you know, I’ve come from the IT space, Tech space, but a lot of my career was in the Imaging or better known as the Copier space. It’s an industry that’s in massive change at this particular moment. It’s was also in significant change back in 2010, with a massive amount of movement towards digitization, the beginning movement towards digitization, and the organizations, companies had to make a massive pivot, and within those pivots, what we’ve done within those organizations is, is we couldn’t go about talking about a copier, and speed, in a feed, in a feature, in a function. We had to become much more customer-focused, much more customer solve. There’s problems, and each of the verticals that we are is serving, and we served many. So, we had to start to really chunk out those slices of pie within those particular industries and what we ended up doing was we ended up building sub-sectors within our own business that became relative experts, inside the Healthcare the K12, the Professional Services, and Accounting and Law to really understand what their pains are? What can we solve? We also looked at what else can our relationships that trust that they’ve given to us? What else could we do to serve or better serve them and help them navigate some of the transitions that were happening? As I said before, it was the beginning of digitization and so what we ended up doing was actually helping them go through the process of taking file cabinets, and taking hard docs, and turning them into digital functionalities, and help them out with workflows that actually made their organization significantly more productive.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 03:52
It’s not so different from banking, in that space, right? We’re taking paper workflows and kind of converting them. So, you’ve done this before, right, Jim?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 04:02
I’ve done it before. No question and you’re exactly right. This is a movement that is happening today as well within the banking sector but just in a little bit different space. You know, there has been a move to the LOS’s and simple steps into digitization and workflow processes and so forth. But we have a new, you know, we have a new pain, we have a new solve, and that is the pandemic and not so much who we were when we began 2020. But it’s who we are going to be when we go into 21 and how are we going to look to serve this customer base of the community banks of which are very significantly different all throughout the regions of the United States and certain sizes that are there and what are they going to need to do in order to best satisfy and serve not just their current generation of clients, but how they’re going to serve this next generation of client in this new normal?
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 04:56
How many banks and credit unions are you serving today? I know you’re on the front line. So, what I’m curious is, what are you witnessing as well?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 05:04
Currently, Wolters Kluwer within our space, we’re servicing over 6,500 organizations today and what we’re seeing is a massive movement towards the digital play, right? You know, you’re looking at organizations that are going to need to execute their mortgages via an electronic platform where you have nervous customers that typically would have walked into your institution to go through, and execute, and handhold, and shake hands, and build that type of a rapport. Now, it all has to happen on the digital front. Your website is now your lobby. How are you affecting and bringing in embracing not just multiple generations, all the way through? But how are you helping them handle those questions? Engage and make it a simple, seamless process of which we know is usually a pretty anxious time for an individual, especially a new homeowner, or even those that are professional home buyers. If you’re used to doing it in person, and now you’re transitioning to an electronic front, it’s an anxious time, and we’re trying to help our organizations make that shift both from servicing the product, but also where I love about Wolters Kluwer, and what I think is truly our ace in the hole, how we’re going to service you, after the fact because they’re the customer, our customer, is also struggling with making this leap into the digital front.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 06:31
It’s so interesting that you have stated the obvious, but that your webpage is your lobby and I remember from my days back in consumer banking, that that culture can shift violently from different regions in the country. You know, if you go to New York, it’s, hey, I need to get in and get out. But if you go out to the Midwest or to the west, it’s a completely different banking experience when you’re in the lobby, and that’s where the comfort zone is met. So, what do you hear about digitization in terms of using that portal as a quote, unquote, the lobby of the institution?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 07:07
So, let’s think about it this way. You know, there, there’s been so many movements that have happened in the community bank space, right, I think it started with the shift of an organization that had to go work from home. That was difficult. Many of our community bankers don’t have the same type of assets, resources of some of our large bank customers that that are at their disposal. So making this move was being done by an individual that may not be truly an IT expert, you had to worry about the peripheral equipment, you had to worry about the connectivity, you had to worry about how all this is going to happen, just to make sure that the day to day efforts of an individual was going to happen and so once that got once that started to happen and occur, the organization started to realize, well, how am I going to really be able to engage now that I got my internal staff ready? How do I engage that customer and to help them go down that space? Right, so our Online Loan Application process, and the back and forth of which that service is, has been an unbelievably successful solution, you know, really mitigating a problem that so many of them had, you double that down with, you know, the ability to do digital signatures through a WK E-Sign scenarios, that’s there. But when you go into, you know, the question you asked around the lobby, it is a reflection of your brand, right, you know, you’re right. You know, in New York, you’re going to go the in and out culture, you’re going to go in the Midwest, it becomes a destination culture, you got the coffee, you got the doughnuts, you got the cookies, you got the same people you’ve seen for generations, you’re introducing them from grandpa to son to grandson, and they’re there for a period of time, that website that engagement needs to reflect that brand. Right? And having an organization like WK to actually help ensure that you have the portals and the engagement is to make it very seamless so that you’re a click away from beginning a process that is completely embracing the experience you’re driving, you’re winning, right, that’s a big deal. Second, to that, I see that these organizations are absolutely thirsty for the touch as much of a human touch as possible to ensure that the execution is flawless and seamless and it’s not just about the initiated, and now we’re up and running and the products there, but it’s as we go on and I think what we’ve done and built out in our customer success division is really embrace that and help those organizations move through this process which has been difficult. It’s been an absolute necessity and a tremendous asset to have that customer service customer success: division Two guide and assist post-sale for our clients.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 10:03
There’s some things that that you mentioned, like Online Loan Applications, or E-Signature, and I want to I want to kind of talk about those a little bit to the online presence is a clear definitive brand statement to your customers or to any other customer that’s out there, and then we talk about transactions, and we really get into transactions, we’re talking about how to conduct ourselves online. What’s going on with E-Sign? Have you seen a lot of adoption into that space? Or are banks really saying, hey, go online, fill out the information, and then they’re coming back in another way through mail or through another, you know, notarized method for signatures?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 10:46
Good question, and to make it very, a very simple answer, which is not my forte, but we’ve pretty much doubled the amount of users in less than a year within our E-Sign product mix right now. Huge demand is what you’re telling me. In fact, I’ll speak to it this way is when the work from home began, Pre-PPP, we started to see this unbelievable amount of demand on our subject matter expert team, our Triple S Team, and these are individuals that know the product thoroughly fully, and they’re doing demos, they were doing one on one demos to the point of around 58 on a weekly basis, it, we didn’t have time to do anything other. So, what we ended up doing was putting together mass demos, and we brought in anywhere from 10 to 15 to 25 institutions on one call walking them through this. We would do that three times a week, for three weeks running in the month of March. You became an extension of the training program at the smaller institutions because they needed help, and they need to use more modern products. Is that the way to think about it? That’s a great way to think about it.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 11:58
Yes. That’s impressive. Talk to me a little bit about webinars one on one, awesome, but how did you How are you able to scale using the webinar approach and when we talked about these institutions, what was a comfort level to receive training for their individuals in that format,
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 12:14
I’ll just go by a few stats that I’ve noticed was first that, you know, we would have anywhere from 15 to 25 institutions on a call a post that there probably were around upwards of five that might need an additional hand-holding after the fact. But you’ve got 20, that was very well satisfied with what they heard so that they could go down a process internally to say that this is the way they’re going to go and that they would commit within the solution and they were going to bring it into their institution. So, I would say roughly around 20% needed a little extra, right. But 80% were satisfied with what they received through the web training, the web portal, the web demo.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 13:01
So, do you feel that that’s another new norm that may become permanent is for service providers to act like the extension of a training division of company or at any kind of financial institution,
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 13:13
I think any organization that wants to live a long life in this new norm absolutely needs to be there as a support mechanism, and quite frankly, at WK, we talk quite a bit, as you know, about becoming that trusted advisor, right? If you’re only going to be there to sell a widget, and you’re going to move on to another organization to sell another widget, and you’re not there to tell them how where that widget needs to go in order to make the contraption work at its absolute optimal level. Good luck in the long term, you have to be there, you have to be there for the customer. As I said before, we’re moving WK is pivoting off of a product-centric environment too much more of a customer-centric solve environment, and in order to be that, you have to bring the training the embrace and quite frankly, our desire is to be the first call. When the executives break out of their strategic meetings, on a, on a one year, three years, five-year strategy. I want them calling into WK, whether they believe we’ve got the product or solution or not. But they know that we can guide them in the right space in order to get the solve that they’re looking for.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 14:18
We briefly touched on the number of institutions that you touch, and if we think about just from the Federal Savings and Loans, there’s just a hair above 5,000 Institutions in the United States, then there’s much more when we integrate the fact that Credit Unions do the same thing and some FinTech’s are now getting into space with Bank Charters in a limited basis. What’s the actual demographic of your client base? We are talking about just across the coast coast, but then the bulk of your client base exists where?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 14:48
Yes, we cover the United States, but the lion’s share of where the business primarily is is number one in the Central U.S. and then of course within the East Coast, down to you know the South East Coast, you know, the West Coast is growing, we’ve got more happening out in the West Coast, mountain regions, and so on and so forth. But if you look at a concentration within the Midwest, all the way down into Texas, and all the way over into the Northeast, down to the Southeast is where the lion’s share of our customers are today.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 15:22
The other part that I’m really interested in, it sounds like you’ve got two-thirds of the country, you’ve got a growth base happening out west. Which of the two is would you say everyone is focused on is growth or survival?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 15:34
It’s a heck of a mix right now, right? You know, the mergers and acquisitions are still out there, things are happening, not as quickly as they were in 2019 and such, but I believe we have a good percentage of our organizations are here for growth. They’re here for organic growth. I will say within those organizations that we were able to support through PPP, Samir, a significant amount of those organizations through the PPP process and how they embraced their community, not just their current customers, but they embrace their community and some other institutions didn’t embrace the community in such a macro move, some incurred a significant amount of, of commercial growth that had come through. I also see in terms of growth through PPP, a much stronger desire to drive into the SBA bucket of opportunity that’s there. Many organizations stood away from it, they thought it was too difficult, too tenuous of a process to get into, and now they’re looking at embracing it and see it as a significant nationwide opportunity for them. So, the majority to answer the question is much more around growth than the survival of the organizations; I’m dealing with more on a regular basis.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 16:55
So, it sounds like a fringe benefit of the Paycheck Protection Program was a catalyst to change. Right? It was, even though this was aimed at getting sheer dollars into the hands of small businesses. It also was forcing banks to adapt and change very quickly into how to serve the public and through small businesses, ultimately.
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 17:17
Absolutely, and I have to say, you know, as much as we as an organization had to really challenge ourselves, in terms of getting a product out in the market that would be able to execute, the way that it did was unbelievable. But if you take a look at what our client base had to do, as well, they just went work from home. They’re not exactly the, you know, they don’t have all the same technological assets as their big competitor, large banks do. But what they did in terms of pivoting and moving as quickly as they did much quicker than even some of the large banks could, they would put there some organizations I heard that we serve that moved 80% of their human capital into assisting and processing PPP for their communities. It is an unbelievable move by the industry, by the community banks, to embrace this, to embrace their customers. But the way that their staff rose up, really showed in my opinion, why community banks are just so integral to the U.S. fabric right now, and I believe it’s got massive longevity to it.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 18:30
So, something interesting that takes place with that story is whether intended or not. I’m using the term fringe benefit from the SBA PPP program is this reliance on having to do something, and having to adapt and move into an environment to help communities out, to get the right funds into the right places, to do forgiveness for those funds. But also, when you talk about traditional business, it really draws a focus on how to use technology, to continue to exist, and then there’s an opportunity also to grow. I mean, this isn’t the Kodak or Xerox story, where failure to change meant drastically reducing your business size, right? We don’t have that opportunity. We’re not big corporations as community banks or credit unions. So, now Is there a new focus on technology and I think you’ve already said yes, but what types of technology and then also, is that being used to say, Hey, we need outside help? What are you finding in terms of interest or the demonstrations that you’re talking about with your team?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 19:35
Great question. You know, it was it’d been an interesting year and 2020, no question about it, and what we’ve seen is, I don’t want to say post-PPP, but we’re close to it. We’re in the middle of forgiveness at this particular time. What our customer bases are now looking at is how they can be as nimble as possible. It’s not going back to the way that business was, right? Think about what PPP was, and you think about that product of TSoftPlus that we rolled out to the community to SaaS-based product that had a direct line 7a into the SBA and then we constantly built and built that thing out, in order to have the assets to make it extremely easy to manage those accounts all the way through. But the key to that product and the key to our ability to be nimble was that it was a SaaS-based product, it wasn’t an on-prem product. So, our ability as an organization to be nimble and to satisfy the needs of the market only happened with a SaaS cloud-based solution. And with Why am I saying that? Well, quite frankly, that’s exactly what our customers are looking for as well. Because I talked about the struggles that they had moving people from the offices, from the branches to their homes. There were connectivity issues; there was are they going to be able to have access to the content that they needed, there was a lot of questions, and a lot of fear that was there and what they’re all looking for now is they don’t want to have to deal with that again and quite frankly, I think they also see that how much more effective they could possibly be by maybe having a more of a hybrid model into their institutions. In order to do that, they need to have the right type of technology, cloud-based nimble technology, that will allow their customers, or their staff and customers, to access the content that’s needed, in order to do the business that’s needed and I think those individuals that are truly invested in growth, are looking for partners to provide those types of solutions all the way through.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 21:42
So, SaaS, that’s part one, right? I need my tech stack to be a certain way; I need my software products to serve my business in a certain way. What about the next step of how do I pay for my products? Is the appetite for a bank now, also changing from owning the software, or owning a license and maintenance to saying, Hey, can I just pay as I go?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 22:05
Yeah, I think it’s a combination today, that’s there, I’ll talk about our TSoftPlus product that was associated with PPP, and it was a pay as you go, as you use the particular product, and once an organization became extremely comfortable with the product, they executed at just an unbelievably rocket ship level once the customers got, you know, comfortable, and the institution became comfortable, and I think they liked that, in fact, you know, there’s an organization that we have a partner without East that quite frankly if we came to them with TSoftPlus PPP in a subscription basis probably wouldn’t have used it other than an as you go type of a model that was actually stated to me verbatim from their Executive Vice President. So, I think the ability to be nimble in terms of our offerings is important. I’m not hearing it loudly around; give it as an as you go model, subscriptions are still loud. But it’s definitely an there’s an appetite for that type of solution. So, yeah, we definitely hear it, and I think we’re going to start to hear it louder and louder as we continue to move forward.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 23:16
With so much change going on to mitigate financial risk or operational risk, then the pay per use or pay as you go is going to become significant and potentially a competing notion within service companies, which will be hard to manage. But I think there’s a positive gain from on all fronts for that. So, let’s talk about your approach when you are looking at banks are starting to talk to them, and you don’t know if there’s a sale or not. You just know that, hey, you want to make a relationship and extend an arm out to that institution. Do you offer them diagnostics, or how does the open go with being able to understand and help?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 23:56
First, it starts with trust, right? You know, we’re blessed with having 6,500 some odd customers, and out of those 6,500 some odd customers, there’s a darn good chance that someone knows the organization we’re about to talk to. Someone we work with knows the organization we’re engaging with. So, trust is huge, and so we try to connect the dots between that, so we have a good soft opening reference that comes through that. Second, is taking the time to truly understand what are they looking for? What’s that solve that we’re going for? Not so much about, let me tell you about this new sexy thing that just came off the shelf and tell you about the features and benefits and functions of it. But it’s more about hearing an organization talk about where they believe their biggest pain points are and slowing down enough to have them go further and allow them to tell us as much about that as possible. Once we’re able to get their Samir, it’s about spending a little bit more time with their team, their organization, and bringing that entire community together to walk through a scoping call about. Who they are today? What they’re doing and what they’re striving to be? And then going into the demo and making sure that that demo is very customly thought through to show them specifically the solve that we believe we have. And that’s the process that we’ve been going. That’s the new way organizations buying. That’s where they see an organization slowing down enough to understand them, and not just pitching a product. As you know, we have a Customer Advisory Board, and one of those organizations out in the Midwest out of Missouri speaks to that all the time about the differentiator around WK and the others in this space.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 25:46
What advice would you give? You know, in this market, there are many service providers, there are large ones, small ones, and what should a bank hone in on is a key differentiator or even risk mitigant? I mean, this is almost too many FinTech’s out there. So, what approach are the right questions they should be asking when evaluating a third-party provider?
Jim Wrbanek, Director of Sales, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 26:11
That’s great. I think, you know, the questions that I think that they should be considering. Well, first off, it’s about the organization that really understands what they’re striving for. Many of these organizations are looking for a firm that’s going to be able to provide many solutions at an expert level. They want less vendor relationships; they want more trusted adviser relationships, right? So, number one question, are you a one-trick pony? What other solutions can you bring? Do you have expertise in deposit, commercial, consumer, mortgage, right? Do you have other aspects of business that you can bring to the table as advisory solutions? That can help consult us through the next pivot and change that we’re bringing to our customer base? I think trying to understand the scope of what it could be delivered as a partner to the institution is critical, and the more at an expert level and instant an organization like WK can do for this vertical, I believe, the stronger of a trusted advisory relationship we will have.
Samir Agarwal, Vice President, Banking Compliance Solutions, Wolters Kluwer 27:17
Jim, thank you for making some time to have a conversation with us today. I know we’re gonna have further conversation at a later date on some of the observations that we talked about today and then some of the some of the outcomes as the year progresses. Great to speak with you, and I just want to make sure that you understand our listeners understand that it’s been enlightening to hear what’s happening on the street and thank you again, Greg, let me turn things back over to you.
Greg Corombos, News Director at Radio America 27:42
That’s Wolters Kluwer Banking Segment Leader Samir Agarwal, joined by Jim Wrbanek, a Sales and Client Engagement Director with Wolters Kluwer. Wolters Kluwer is the host of this podcast and a market-leading provider of advisory services and technology solutions for optimizing compliance and risk management programs. For more information and additional guidance, please visit Wolters Kluwer.com or call 1-800-397-2341. Please join us for future podcasts focused on navigating emerging trends in regulatory compliance.