Thought Leadership

Relationships: Not What You Think They Are

July 11, 2018
Relationships: Not What You Think They Are
By Bryan Adler

I was motivated to write this article after having a thought provoking lunch with Tom Petro, Managing Partner of 1867 Capital Partners, former Chairman and Board Member of state and local community banker associations, former CEO of Fox Chase Bank and just an overall great guy!

When it comes to banking, establishing and maintaining strong customer relationships absolutely matter, and are one of the pillars in which all community financial institutions depend on. First, what is a relationship?  According to Webster’s, it is “a connection, association and involvement.” Bankers pride themselves on customer relationships, which is the process and manner by which they develop, establish, and maintain relationships with its customers. It has been the bedrock of banking.  Many banks still rely on the old-fashioned way (i.e. we are part of your community and by implication, we have much in common) and by face to face interactions (i.e. we know you).

Relationships still matter, but consumers and business owners expectations of relationships are being shaped by their own experiences in the digital economy. Now in the digital economy that “connection, association and involvement” is being expressed in different ways – and oftentimes these new patterns are cementing a deeper sense of being “connected” than the old fashioned non-digital modes that bankers have long prided themselves on.

So what is different about how relationships are formed, nurtured and maintained in the digital economy?  

First, the businesses we love interacting with know us.  They know our preferences and remind us of our past purchasing behaviors. They might even suggest new things we might like based on things we bought before.  The sense of connection between customer and business is really strong because they really know a great deal about us.

Second, what they know about us is presented in ways meant to help us.  It is far removed from some creepy sense of “big brother is watching.” They use what they know about us to help us make new choices, and we can choose to ignore or use their personalized recommendations.  They put us in charge. So, on Spotify I can choose my own playlists based on recently played music, and Amazon always has recommendations for me based on what I last purchased. It gives us a sense of control and a sense of choice – and we prefer relationships where we have an equal and fair voice.  

Finally, they make it easy and convenient.  We can interact with them on our terms, when, where and how we want to transact business. The convenience aspect of the digital relationship is the most valuable asset for customer retention. If a product or service is convenient and easy to use at anytime they want, then customers will continue coming back for more.

These three dynamics are shaping our relationship expectations, and businesses that can’t meet these or match them are increasingly viewed as out of touch. This, a force to be reckoned with, simply because our expectations of what is a relationship are changing.  Those who cling to the old model will find themselves increasingly irrelevant – not because they are not good at what they do – but because what customers want is something different – they want a different relationship!

The proof is in the data!

Customers would recommend it’s friends to Amazon over 6x more than the leading CFI, and Amazon is now coming out with competing banking products such as their new checking account!

It took 25 years for telephones to reach 10% adoption but less than five years for mobile devices to achieve the same adoption rate. Smartphones, on the other hand, accomplished a 40% penetration rate in just 10 years. (Source)

By tweaking and understanding the definition of customer relationships, CFIs can leverage their core competencies to stop this trend in its tracks and maintain their bank as the go-to for financial services. Gain a competitive advantage and start forming better customer relationships with your clients.

< Back to all articles

Interested in profitable and sustainable growth?

Sign up for a complimentary growth strategy consultation today:
Our support team is ready to help you. Call us at (646) 518-8238 or email us at