Annual Report 2017

Omnichannel sales Digital and personal

Many of the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken have made digitization a priority. VR Bank Main-Kinzig-Büdingen is an example of how an innovative sales process works at local level. It also highlights the advantages of a comprehensive digitization strategy in advisory business.

Talking to customers via video chat, changing a standing order over the telephone, or using text chat on the internet. At VR Bank Main-Kinzig-Büdingen’s first digital inhouse trade fair back in 2016, the 570 employees had the chance to test all the digital sales channels offered by their bank from the customer perspective. The aim was to turn the employees into ambassadors for the bank’s digital sales strategy. “Employees can only recommend suitable channels to their customers if they know how the digital channels work and what the benefits are,” explains Andreas Hof, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer.

“We are shaping a new future that is cooperative, regional, digital, and personal.”

Andreas Hof
Chief Executive Officer of
VR Bank Main-Kinzig-Büdigen eG

About 18 months ago, the local cooperative bank’s management team drew up a new mission statement: “We are shaping a new future that is cooperative, regional, digital, and personal.” “Customers increasingly expect flexibility and personalized products from their bank,” says CEO Hof. “Our new strategy enables us to focus on these requirements.” The bank is forging ahead with the use of digital technologies in its provision of advice to customers, who can now use Union Investment’s new robo-advisor MeinInvest to invest in a fund and open a new current account entirely online.

An omnichannel sales process has long been a reality at this local cooperative bank. Last year, the bank’s employees conducted 58,000 personal customer meetings, customers used the banking app 2.2 million times, and they accessed online banking 3.7 million times. Video chats are now routine, both for advisors in the central customer service center and for many employees working in the branches. The traditional telephone call is also an important channel, with 415,000 transactions carried out per year, e.g. for securities advice and account services. This might be the case if a customer is away from their home or office and does not wish to use online banking because they do not have a secure internet connection.

“Every customer should be able to find the right communication channel for getting in touch with us.”

In order to optimize customer contact, the bank is currently developing a new customer segmentation system, based on how comfortable customers are with digital technologies. Based on this system, the bank will decide which channels to use for particular customers and how it will use their data. For example, a MeinInvest user may receive automated investment proposals that have been tailored to his or her needs according to the existing data held by the bank. Hof is taking his cues from the pioneers of digital technology: “Companies like Google demonstrate how best to use data for contact with customers,” he states. “We banks have been far too reticent until now because that is what customers expected of us for a long time.” However, Hof is now seeing that many people are becoming more receptive: “We want to tap into this trend so that we can give our customers the best possible advice, depending on their preferences.”

Initiatives like the inhouse trade fair are designed to help employees buy into the new strategy. Staff are also undertaking special training, with participants obtaining a multi-level ‘digital driver’s license’ that allows them to use virtual sales channels. But if a problem does arise in day-to-day business, one of the bank’s 28 ‘pilots’ will lend a hand. These particularly tech-savvy employees are ready to help their colleagues at short notice if needed. The pilots range in age from 18 to 58.

“Our aim is to improve our customer advice and sales processes every year so that we can provide optimal advice to our customers, depending on their preferences.”

Andreas Hof believes this is a good opportunity for intergenerational collaboration – and clearly illustrates that willingness to learn new things does not necessarily depend on age. VR Bank Main-Kinzig-Büdingen plans to evolve continuously over the coming years. At the next inhouse trade fair on digital change, set to take place in April of this year, employees will find out more about customer focus, the omnichannel bank, and digitization. “We also regularly look at what other companies offer,” explains Hof. His aim is for the bank’s customer advice and sales processes to improve a little every year.