Financial Wellness – Are You Missing a Growth Opportunity?

Doctors Improve Physical Health – Bankers Must Improve Financial Health

I had an “aha moment” while sitting in the waiting area for a doctor appointment. It occurred to me my doctor’s job is to ask really good questions, diagnose my ailment and offer the best remedy to restore my health. She’s a health partner in my life journey and I take her advice most of the time. healthy-moneyIt’s really that simple. Then I thought, “So why is there a scarcity of bankers who place a priority on the simple concept of helping customers or members improve their financial health?”

You may be thinking, “But we give financial advice all day every day.” To that we quote Ron Shevlin from Cornerstone Advisors: “Too often, what banks try to pass off as advice is nothing more than marketing offers. In other words, the ‘advice’ is what’s good for the bank, and not necessarily the customer. Even when advice is what’s best for the customer, it’s hard to prove it.” (Applicable to many credit unions as well.)

Consumers Want You to Help Them Improve Their Financial Health

It’s getting harder to ignore that financial wellness is in demand by employers and consumers want help from their financial institutions. A 2015 Gallup survey of 11,809 adults clearly demonstrated that “consumers want banks to improve their financial well-being, not just sell them products” (the findings apply equally to credit unions). Some other key findings include:

  1. Financial-Wellness-Barbara-SanfilippoWhen customers strongly agreed their banks looked out for their financial well-being, about 84% were fully engaged and none were actively disengaged.
  2. Banks that take the time to address customers’ financial health saw strong consumer confidence.
  3. Unfortunately, only one in four respondents strongly agreed their banking institution looks out for their financial well-being (sounds like opportunity to us!).

Why do we undermine the member or customer relationship by focusing our staff on pushing products and getting a sale instead of diagnosing what stands between members and their financial health? They’d be just as likely to purchase products (or even more so) if they saw we had a genuine interest in helping them better manage their finances. In this post we’ll explore how you can seize financial wellness as a huge growth opportunity.

Financial Wellness Offers a Great Opportunity to Improve the Member or Customer Experience and Increase Revenue Generation

As bankers, you certainly are aware that financial anxiety is at an all-time high. Here are some grim stats from research by Dave Ramsay’s organization:

  • 70% are living paycheck to paycheck
  • 24% of pay is spent on non-mortgage debt such as credit cards
  • 64% don’t have enough cash to cover one month’s mortgage cost or groceries
  • 56% of Gen X workers (age 36-49) say they’ll need $1-2 million to retire comfortably yet they have an average savings of $70,000

People represented by the above percentages need more than just isolated products without further guidance. They need a financial partner. The numbers illustrate the need. Here’s the want:

  • opportunityMillennials are actively seeking financial advice and need help building credit, saving and managing finances
  • Business owners and SEGs are looking for financial education for employees
  • Boomers and seniors are concerned about income protection and many are looking for help

Is Your Staff Diagnosing for Financial Wellness or Just Selling Isolated Products?

Imagine this scene: As customers or members walk into your branch or call in for help your staff are trained to think, “I wonder what ‘pain’ this person has today and what their goal or dream is for the future? My job is to find out so I can help them be in the best financial health possible and have peace of mind.” Imagine how this would radically change the conversation, create member and customer loyalty and impact share of wallet.

Face it; your customers don’t want your products! They want to alleviate a pain, reach a goal or enjoy financial peace. Read this finding again: The Gallup study clearly demonstrates that consumers want you to improve their financial well-being, not just sell them products. Our job as bankers is not simply to sell a product but diagnose correctly. Unfortunately many of your staff is thinking “what can I sell this person today.” Here’s what we see all too often:

  1. SellingMost of us are stuck in the old, tired 1980’s sales training model of transactional product-selling. Our staff is trained to listen for a cue so they can quickly discuss product features and benefits. Unfortunately they are not skilled or comfortable in uncovering financial anxieties, goals and dreams that builds the member or customer relationship.
  2. Monthly product goals and incentives encourage short-term sales, the wrong behaviors and a very underwhelming or repelling member or customer experience.
  3. Your marketing slogan or brand promise claims, “we help you achieve financial security and reach your dreams.” However, that’s not what people are experiencing.

Is It Time to Change Your Direction? Here’s What You Can Do

With strategic planning coming up this fall, we challenge you to rethink and redefine your sales model. Does it support your philosophy and branding? Are your employees highly engaged and feel they make a difference in the lives of your customers or members? Are you missing out on the growth opportunities that improving financial health offers your bank or credit union? If changing course is under consideration, here are some actions items to consider.

  1. Change-DirectionBe sure to include an objective in your strategic plan that your bank or credit union is advancing beyond a transactional, product selling model to a relationship-advice model. In fact, consider playing down or removing the term “sales culture” and replace it with member or customer relationship building culture.
  2. Create a team of elite financial coaches armed with interactive tools and skilled in engaging customers or members to discuss budgets, goals, pains and dreams. These folks can be your personal bankers, MSRs or FSRs and don’t need to be licensed.
  3. Remember, technology doesn’t build relationships – your people do! Examine your existing sales training to determine if it focuses on transactional product selling and product pushing. Decide to invest in relationship management and financial coaching training instead.
  4. Take a hard look at your current incentive plan as it may be driving the wrong behaviors. Ultimately you want to grow share of wallet with each customer or member over time. In addition, be sure to recognize key activities such as pre-call planning and entering life events, anxieties, goals and dreams in the customer or member profile in your CRM.
  5. Educate your leadership team and board on the benefits of a relationship-driven approach combined with financial health. Many clients ask their execs to read these white papers on these topics as preparation for strategic planning.

At High Definition Banking® we believe if you want to be relevant in the lives of your customers or members, you must be genuinely committed to improving their financial health. In doing so you will have a loyal following that considers you their financial doctor! If you need help, we have the prescription.

Thanks for reading,
Barbara Sanfilippo and Bob Romano

Your Thoughts?
We are interested in your feedback. www.HighDefinitionBanking.comWe are interested in your feedback. In the comments section below, please tell us whether you agree or disagree with the ideas in this post. Also, what challenges or questions do you have that we can answer in this post?

Speaking, Consulting and Training Services

If you are considering a consulting and training partner in 2017 and beyond to implement either an onboarding, reboarding or financial coaching team process, we’re happy to have an exploratory call. Visit our website at In addition, Barbara Sanfilippo is available to speak at your all-staff training day, sales meeting or leadership retreat. View her demo video at and Contact Us for availability.


“Wow, we’ve had speakers before at our Annual Employee Training Day, but Barb’s Dream Big! program was amazing! She got us energized about serving and delighting our customers and building deeper relationships with them. Even better, she showed us how we can take personal responsibility for our own life and job satisfaction and act on our future dreams. Barb is highly engaging, provides take home value and best of all–inspired us to Dream Big! — 1st Summit Bank, PA

The High Definition Banking® process is clearly helping our credit union reach our strategic objective of moving beyond transactional selling to a relationship building model and improving the financial success of our members. Previously, our staff just opened an account and attempted to cross-sell a couple of products. Now they take ownership of the relationship and work on deepening it. Best of all, your process has elevated the role of our MSRs beyond just sales people. They now view themselves as advisors committed to improving our members’ financial wellness throughout their life journey. — Jim Wookey, COO, WESTconsin Credit Union

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