Who Owns the Virtual Branch – Part 2

Shortly after I penned the recent Where is the Virtual Branch located on your General Ledger? article on how financial institutions need to manage the virtual branch differently,  I ran across an excellent article from our friends at Cornerstone called, “Who Owns Digital? Ugh, That’s the Problem for Bankers” by Jessica Pinkston. Pinkston’s article is an excellent read and it aligns with the points I made in my earlier article.  Primarily:

  • Customer Experience (CX) is essential, not desired
  • Not assigning the digital channel to a true leader who “owns” its success
  • Need for a strategic digital roadmap
  • Enhance CX while enabling omni-channel functionality
  • Managing virtual branch performance
  • Managing vendor performance
  • Need for a digital “evangelist”
  • Investigating the market and competition to ensure digital relevance
  • Tracking and reporting digital banking outcomes

One of the elements from the Cornerstone article that particularly stuck with me is holding vendors accountable for the systems they deploy.  This is generally relegated to dealing with support calls and how responsive the vendor is in addressing issues with their platform. More important, there can be a mismatch between an institution’s expected outcome in using a vendor’s service and the actual outcome experienced.  When does a bank ever call their vendor with a list of items that were demonstrated or discussed in the “dating” phase that turn out to be less than desirable upon implementation?  Further, a virtual branch senior executive should be in regular communication with their vendors to discuss product roadmaps, suggesting enhancements and participating in user groups.  A critical element that often goes overlooked.

In addition to the important discussion of how the digital channel should be treated by the institution, the Cornerstone article goes on to share insight on what type of skills an individual taking on the leadership of the digital channel should possess.  After reviewing their list, I will say that they are pretty square on with the attributes that I would be seeking for a virtual branch senior executive. The skills include:

  • Ability to navigate both the strategic and tactical elements of the digital channel
  • A leader who can inspire others
  • Insight to ask probing questions and challenge the status quo
  • Must be flexible to pivot quickly, so much is changing quickly in our industry

To that list I would add someone who is inherently innovative, that is who can, on their own and with others, curate creative ideas that can be further developed into true innovations.  Someone with an open mind who can encourage any and all ideas that further can synthesize ideas into actionable innovations that align with a strategic vision for the virtual branch. Someone who would not automatically dismiss something like how Virtual Reality could become a standard element of delivering banking services. That’s the leader I would want.

There is a difference between offering some “out of the branch” services and having a true virtual branch / digital channel.  Without question, the commitment from the board and C-Suite to find the right leader and further fund the virtual branch commensurate to the physical branches will be the key to long lasting success.  As Pinkston says it, “Own It, Bankers!”.  She and Cornerstone are fully behind this idea. I teach it each summer to my Graduate Banking Students.  What’s holding you back from taking this important step to enable your institution for future success?  Send me a note at and share what you think your barriers are.