If I Were a Bank CEO... Vol. 3: Investing in an Online Presence

September 26, 2023

Carey Ransom

Carey Ransom is an SaaS entrepreneur, executive, investor and advisor, and has started, grown and/or led 8 B2B and consumer SaaS companies during startup and growth phases. He is currently the Managing Director of BankTech Ventures, a venture fund focused on compelling technologies for community banks, and founded and funded by leaders in the community bank ecosystem. Carey's 25-year career spans executive roles in product, marketing, business development, strategy and corporate development.

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If I were a bank CEO,

Vol. 3: Investing in an Online Presence

If I were a bank CEO, I'd hire an internet sales manager (ISM), like every auto dealer in the country has done in the last 15 years. This may sound odd, but please stay with me and let me explain.

As Internet shopping for cars began to proliferate years ago, dealers had to establish an online presence, participate in online marketplaces (Autotrader, Kelly Blue Book, etc.) and learn how to respond quickly to online inquiries. They began to hire people to meet the demands of this new set of consumers where they were: online. These new roles were sometimes called Internet Sales Managers, or ISMs. Community banks should do an analysis of their team and ask, “Who is our equivalent ISM?”

As efforts progressed, those salespeople were soon leading many of their dealerships in sales - more and more consumers were shopping there because of the online presence. The ISMs led the way in tailoring the sales experience to what the consumer wanted, not the legacy one imposed by the dealers. They eventually enabled fully online purchases, which involved delivering cars to peoples’ houses. Tesla has gone one step further with a complete e-commerce experience (I’ve done it, and it’s great).

My bank would need to start thinking and acting differently when it comes to customer shopping preferences, and this person (an ISM) could initiate it in a lightweight and focused way. They could ensure that our bank and products are listed and prioritized in online financial marketplaces (Lending Tree, Nerd Wallet, etc.), and could quickly respond to consumer and business leads or requests that start online. They could fill gaps and improve efficiency for us with existing manual processes, while we set up online account and application capabilities, doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that’s needed for customers to improve their idea of a “digital” experience.

This role could do even more for a bank:

  • Help us understand where we can compete and win business in digital marketplaces and communities, through better competitive analysis and listening to customers.
  • Monitor our online reputation and conversations. 
  • Lead us into scalable online marketing initiatives with positive returns, after finding our ideal customers there.

Who would this person be? They’re probably a smart, digital native who relates to and understands the target customer demographic and how they think. They’d also have a desire to work with customers and to help us compete online in a hands-on way, as well as inspire and educate the rest of our bank about aspects of our digital future. 

Despite the novelty and convenience of fully self-service online banking experiences, many customers may still want the guidance that they have come to expect from their in-person bank experiences. An Internet Sales Manager could provide both, as an architect of the online UX, and an advisor to customers visiting the “digital branch.”

Digital financial services are here, and soon it will be nearly the only way people shop and buy; younger customers already buy almost exclusively from digital-first providers. Banks need staff devoted to finding and working with customers (both businesses and consumers) who live primarily online.