Pittsburgh USA based PNC Financial Services Group[i] is swiftly becoming one of the most digitally-savvy banks in the US. The $381 billion-asset bank has big plans for their digital transformation in 2019, from expanding their Virtual Wallet app and offering completely digital small-business loans[ii]. They currently provide services for over 8 million consumers and small businesses.
PNC’s Virtual Wallet app already had over a million users by 2012. Divided into three accounts– Spend, Growth and Reserve – the app separates the money in users’ accounts into available balance, short-term savings and long-term savings encouraging budgeting and financial control. Other innovative features offered include ‘Danger Days’ that are coded in red to prevent overspending, and reimbursement for non-PNC ATM transaction fees in some areas. The Virtual Wallet With Performance Spendis a paid app unless it meets conditions such as $2,000 average monthly balance across Spend and Reserve, etc.
PNC allows digital payments on a number of platforms – including their own, PNC Pay, which allows for the consumer to gain cashback, PNC Rewards, PNC Flex and PNC Points – all of which can be used to pay for purchases. They offer the option for digital payments on seven platforms, including Apple Pay, and Microsoft Wallet.[iii]
In October 2018, PNC launched a nation-wide expansion of their retail banking starting with a digital only savings account, with a 2.2% interest rate. They also offer an increase to 2.25% if customers open a Virtual Wallet account.
According to their research, 80% of their customers visited a branch in-person one or fewer times per year, but still wanted the presence of knowledgeable bank staff nearby. Aiming to be within a thirty-minute drive for customers, PNC is creating an ‘ultralight’ set of ‘solution centres’ for customer queries to be handled in person. While they have physical branches in 19 states, they are looking to expand with a “handful” of physical branches, starting in Dallas, Kansas City, and Minneapolis where they currently have no physical presence.[iv]
PNC announced their plans to allow completely digital loans for small businesses, up to $100,000 via the online lending platform OnDeck from early 2019. Customers will be able to complete their applications in little as five minutes from mobile or desktop devices and if approved, receive funding in one to three days. Focusing on SMEs in collaboration with OnDeck is part of PNC’s digital strategy to reinvent itself as a digital bank.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. Through PNC’s Digital Small Business Lending, we intend to create a seamless, customer-centric small business lending experience,” says Matthew Steenson, head of PNC’s Business Banking unit.
A new innovative service offered by PNC is the Digital Auto Shopping experience, which uses a 3-step program so that buyers can be confident when purchasing their car. The Browse-Borrow-Buy[v] approach provides a “seamless end-to-end digital car buying experience” for customers, giving them a chance to explore and search for their perfect car, providing them loans for purchase and allowing them to walk into the auto-dealership with confidence that they’ve received the best possible deal.
With the ‘Check Ready’ program, buyers can avail of loans and receive their approved amount without a specific car dealership name or final price, allowing them the chance to bargain and shop around for better deals. Check Ready allows for loans from $7,500 up to $50,000 – higher amount auto loans are handled by PNC via other products.
Digital Transformation Journey
PNC invests $1.8bn[vi] annually into product and technology development. In 2018, they partnered with Ripple and Zelle, in order to further their digital expansion. Their tie-up with Ripple allows them to provide national and international bank transfers in-near real time for commercial customers and leverage blockchain technology. Their partnership with Zelle gives them a multi-bank, mobile C2C payment network in which the consumer can send and receive money from an application with just an e-mail or phone number.
In terms of exploring the advantages that AI could offer the banking industry, PNC is currently working towards understanding the technology and the benefits it provides, as noted by Chris Ward, Executive VP and Head of Product Management for PNC Treasury Management. Noting how AI development errors could have effects on the operations of a bank, Ward also comments on the fact that a different skill-set will be required to work with AI, “adapting an organization’s talent and infrastructure,” when asked about potential challenges.[vii]
Given that 60% of PNC’s retail customers use non-teller channels for their transactions (up 40% from the last three years), the digital strategy adopted by the bank has been successfully implemented. PNC is in its fourth year of a five-year, $1.2-billion plan to modernise the company’s infrastructure and to build key technological and operational capabilities to complete their digital transformation. Over 421 physical branches have been closed since 2011, after increased digital interactions.
PNC’s Innovation Lab (iLab)[viii], launched in 2015 seeks to refine and personalise customer experiences while working on technology, marketing and sales, operations, etc. New products, technologies and experiences are conceived, developed and tested before they are launched.
On digitalization, CEO William Demchak notes, “It’s this balancing act of keeping your existing customer base happy as you build for the future of what the next generation of bank user will be.”
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