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Technology and the ease of access that comes with doing business on our phones have affected every aspect of life, even banking.

According to Citi’s 2018 Mobile Banking study, 46% of consumers, including 62% of millennials, increased their mobile banking usage in the last year. Additionally, 91% of mobile banking users prefer to use the app over going to a physical branch.

Cindy Crotty, executive vice president and regional president at Peoples Bank in Beachwood, said mobile banking has changed the face of finance.

“Years ago, to reach customers, you had to have a branch around the corner, but now the branch is in their pocket,” she said. “They don’t want to even come into a branch, which can be challenging for banks.”

Crotty noted the generational shift in banking is part of the equation, as younger generations move to open accounts.

“But, everyone has a smartphone now. Before you were able to go on your computer or just go to the ATM, but as the capabilities have gotten better and the smartphones have become more powerful, it’s all fast and convenient for everyone,” she explained. “With cameras and taking checks and deposits, that’s a huge change too. You don’t have to go in.”

Though online interactions have grown, Crotty said banks, now more than ever, still need to find ways to physically bring people in to do their business.

“From the bank standpoint, we love when people come in because we can talk to them more personally. So, we’re always looking to see if there are other ways to engage with the customer,” she noted. “Being a community bank, we pride ourselves in having a relationship with our folks.”

With the younger generation servicing their banking needs online, Crotty said there is a big focus on bringing those customers in for educational purposes.

“Starting younger is a huge component of this,” she stated. “You have to understand how it all works, so financial literacy is a big part of this. It is so confusing, and if you don’t have face-to-face conversations with people, you can’t assume that people know everything. But, we are trying to find ways to do that digitally, too.”

At Peoples Bank specifically, Crotty said it’s all about having conversations and forming relationships.

“We want to see if there is anything we can help them with,” she said. “If they come in, we can talk to them. And we do try to call. We have a list of clients that we reach out to regularly. But again, people don’t answer the phones anymore. So, we send out mail too.”

Crotty added customers can then feel bombarded with a bank’s efforts in trying to connect with them, so it’s about trying out different things to establish a relationship outside of the online world.

“You have to meet people how they want to be contacted,” she explained. “We are just trying out different things as what works for someone doesn’t always work for others. It’s sort of a new world in that sense.”

Looking to the future of banking and the connection to the digital world, Crotty said she believes mobile banking will continue to be a key player.

“You’ve already seen a tremendous number of branch and bank consolidations,” she said. “But as far as apps, people can do everything on there. So, it’s harder to develop that real relationship with people unless you’re right in front of them. That’s going to continue to be the objective even though the future will be in the palm of our hand.”

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