Operations in the age of COVID | Kasasa Exchange

Episode 4: What's next

Operations in the age of COVID

This pandemic and the economic aftermath can be overwhelming. But to succeed, we have to embrace business as unusual. Nothing about what we’re experiencing right now is normal, and very little of it feels comfortable, but buried in that challenge is an amazing opportunity to show up for your community and your account holders. All these new challenges can be distractions, or we can use them to help us focus on what really matters.

 

In this episode, we talk with Kasasa’s Chief Operations Officer Vennesa Van Ameyde about what she learned from steering Kasasa through COVID-19 and how you can leverage those lessons to prepare your financial institution for whatever comes next.

Show notes:
  • 3:20  Vennesa Van Ameyde  is  Kasasa’s Chief Operations  Officer and is here to talk about how the company has negotiated COVID-19  and how community banks and credit unions can  leverage those lessons to prepare your financial institution for whatever comes next. 
  • 4:28  We started keeping an eye on  the situation in mid-February,  assembled a team and had presented a plan to  our  executive team, formed  a COVID  team  that meets three times a week.
  • 5:20  We leveraged  our business continuity plan and our disaster recovery plan, and  asked ourselves what  parts were  applicable to the pandemic?  We  started tracking and planning, which has  been key to our success to manage us through the last six months.  
  • 6:50  Of course,  we didn't do everything right.  We've tried to be really agile and recognize that we're not always  going to get it right, but we need to be constantly evolving. 
  • 7:38  We had  three guiding principles:  keep our employees safe,  continue to  provide badass service to  our clients, and  do our part to slow the spread of the virus, by being aware and informed and proactive and agile. 
  • 9:00  Many community financial institutions  struggled to respond. We  heard  over and over again  that they didn’t have the  structure in place  to  handle the  shutdown  in  day-to-day operations. 
  • 9:57  Many of our clients were overwhelmed,  especially  at  smaller community financial institutions.  They  just had to figure out how to reprioritize their days and how to rework their operations. And I think that they really did a fantastic job of adapting.  
  • 10:57  Community financial institutions have  provided a sense of security and trust, with some sending  out reassurance messaging, providing a real advantage in the market. 
  • 11:40 Another great tactic has been  proactively calling  their account holders to check on them,  adding a personal touch you don’t get from megabanks. This can set a  foundation for lifelong relationships.  
  • 12:30  Years from now, we're going to look back on  this  and say, this was the shift when consumers  realized that who they bank with matters.  
  • 13:15 There are two ways to look at the current situation: one is,  you’re  just keeping your head above water, right?  But the other is to see this  as an opportunity to reevaluate  the business and adapt, streamline, evolve  to  get to  where  we need to be in three to five years.  
  • 14:15  This is a chance for bankers to ask  what's the right thing to do with our business model now and in the future,  so that it's not just reactive, but you can use this as an opportunity to slow down and look at all the things you're doing. 
  • 14:40  Kasasa had to adapt too, making a quick shift on some of our online experience tools that we offer, like  online account opening,  implementing  a service that allowed businesses to apply for PPP loans with their community financial institutions,  and shifting the targeting and messaging of our marketing. 
  • 16:46  Our client institutions’ experiences have varied and some were hit harder than others. We just  try to have empathy and  be  there for them personally, to  go the extra mile and provide that relationship because we want to be a partner, not  just a vendor. 
  • 18:45  We should try and maintain the grace and empathy we’ve had through this time, to be more flexible, and  recognize that we're all in this together  going  forward.
  • 22:56 In a recent Financial  Brand piece  60% of financial institutions said that improving back office efficiencies was important to their digital banking transformation, but only 24% have achieved this.  
  • 23:22 It’s  challenging,  like doing construction on a  737 while it's in flight. You don't get to just press pause  to  work on operational efficiencies. 
  • 24:26 I always advise leaders   that  80% of the work that you're doing is a result of 20% of the things that didn't really matter. So  prioritize and  focus on that  20%. Don’t let it overwhelm you.
  • 27:16  Everyday changes can be hard to spot because you’re so used to them, but be sure to focus on the “forest” AND the “trees” when it comes to  your business operations.  
  • 28:45  Have conversations  with your front line, being aware of what's going on and how things are going and asking questions, finding  obstacles. But you also need to have a strategic vision of where you want to go  to  create  a holistic view of the entire ecosystem.  You can't be focused on any one silo in your business.  
  • 31:30  Use  technology  to maintain  connection and visibility into your team.  We use  Slack  for  instant messaging  and  video functionality, Salesforce for CRM  and  centralized  communications around our clients.  
  • 32:16  Daily or bi-weekly check-in meetings, which  can just be a five to 10 minute  meeting about what  you're  going  to focus on today? What are the hits  and misses, obstacles, etc.  that you want to share with the group for shared learning?  Open communication is really important. 
  • 33:00  We've also implemented a tool  called Lattice  to check in on employee satisfaction and emotional well being. We  also  use it for cascading goals throughout our organization,  seeing how we’re doing on those goals, and performance  reviews.
  • 35:55  Some of the feedback that I'm the most proud of during this COVID year is that our employees feel heard, they feel respected, they feel loved, they feel appreciated. And that means so much to us because as leaders. 
  • 36:20  Zac,  speaking  a s an individual contributor  who  has personally received  the flexibility and the  empathy,  and  can't say enough good things about what that has done for me, my quality of life, and  my attitude towards the company and my willingness to show up.   
  • 37:27 While we all want to learn from this and be prepared for next time, the truth is,  you can't predict these sort of things.  You just have to have  an element of readiness. 
  • 38:55 You need your  disaster recovery plan  and  your business continuity plan,  but they’re just  a foundation. And beyond that, you  just  have to be adaptable.  Listen to feedback, adjust, and accept that it’s okay  to not get there the way that you planned.  

    Business still has to get done. We  still have to  be accountable , but do it with that compassion, that kindness, that humanity.  

    The community that we create inside of our  businesses, our  institutions, taking care of each other, helping each other, loving each other  is what will get us  through this.  

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