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Leading a consumer bank through the coronavirus pandemic

The implications of the COVID-19 crisis are profound for consumer and small-business banks, and the steps they take now will shape operations long into the future. Here is where to start.

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How consumer and small-business banks respond to the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on customers, employees, and, indeed, the economy at large. As deposit gatherers, credit guarantors, and payment facilitators, these banks are among the financial institutions most personally connected to the public.

While the near-term humanitarian challenge looms large, the situation is also likely to accelerate fundamental changes in customer behavior. As we shelter in place, we are all rapidly accelerating our adoption of digital technologies, whether they be videoconferencing, peer-to-peer payments, or online banking. This increasing comfort with digital technologies and decreased reliance on physical branches could accelerate the transformation of the banking landscape, advantaging the banks with stronger digital capabilities. In China and Italy, for example, four weeks after the coronavirus began to spread, the estimated increase in customers’ digital engagement is 10 to 20 percent. If these customers have a positive experience, it could shift behavior for the longer term.

Based on our conversations with consumer — and small-business-banking leaders from across the world, there are several top-of-mind questions: How do we get the best out of our operating model as the situation evolves? How do we serve our customers and differentiate ourselves? And how should we both accelerate out of the downturn and redefine? Each of these are momentous challenges in their own right. In this article, we share our perspectives on these issues, along with suggestions for how leaders of consumer and small-business banks can respond to them.