Doubtless you have heard of the social enterprise by now. It is Marc Benioff’s leading salient in a world he is convinced needs his solution to modern business. But you also know that, like many other trends, this one is a work in progress. For every Kimberly-Clark, Burberry’s and NBC Universal there are, what? Banks!
No, not the banks that ran fast, free and loose with investor’s money or made up mortgage backed securities and cleverly also invented derivative insurance at the same time on the theory that every boat needs a lifeboat. No, those were investment banks. Regular old banks that do the mundane tasks of balancing the books, offering free checking, loans and credit cards are among the late adopters of the social enterprise or so says an article in today’s Ne York Times.
According to the Times article, most banks are slow on the uptake of social technologies. While many have social outposts like Facebook pages these banks do a minimal job of patrolling social media for customer comments and other signals that something might need doing. Experts quoted in the article used words like “hibernating,” and “amateurish,” to describe banks’ efforts along with, “displaying tokenism attitudes.” Ouch!
Let’s call them “Social In Name Only” or SINOs after RINOs, a group of upstanding and principled people the Republican Party apparently no longer has room for. I’d say that SINOs are different in many ways. For starters, they haven’t abandoned anything or been abandoned by the society at large. They simply are late to the party.
A better question to ask about SINOs is why they are late. Is it that they are organized top down and the message simply has not gotten up to the head cheese? Or is it possible the intense regulatory climate that they live in (which investment banking cousins somehow evaded) has not caught up with the social tsunami due to older customer demographics? Or is it possible that a certain amount of risk aversion keeps banks from dealing with their customers on their own terms? The article suggests that high net worth customers under 50 might be about to lead a charge to social.
I don’t know but I expect some combine of forces is at work. I also smell a business opportunity and it’s bi-directional. We can figure out the upside pretty easily — better customer outreach and interaction resulting in more banking activity. But the bigger win for banks might actually be on the cost avoidance side. If you’ve ever tried to understand a statement or get a question answered about that check you bounced you know that many banks are still mired in phone hell caused by call center business processes that were engineered during the very first Bush administration.
Seems to me that your average bank could ramp up service AND cut costs significantly if it paid attention to social media and leveraged it like any other social enterprise would. But then what would we call them? Having just invented SINOs I am fatigued from my creative efforts and don’t want to think about it. Look at how short the idea cycle has become.