Like other midsize banks, Umpqua Bank is seeing an increase in digital adoption during the pandemic.
For Portland, Oregon-based Umpqua, however, digital means more than self-service transactions online or through its mobile app. Since March, Umpqua reported a 30% jump in signups for its Go-To platform, a stand-alone app that lets customers text their preferred personal bankers about any banking issue.
"Customers value this notion of direct access," said Brian Read, executive vice president and head of retail banking at Umpqua. "It takes the pain out of having to figure out how to navigate [reaching the right person]." Go-To bankers can answer questions about account opening, applying for loans, personal finance management and using the mobile app.
The Go-To app, which launched nearly two years ago, has more than 63,000 users. Through it, bankers can nurture ongoing connections with customers. Umpqua, which has $29.6 billion in assets, has long sought to distinguish itself through a focus on relationship banking. Its 238 physical branches, which have been open for appointments throughout the pandemic, are designed to function as community spaces where customers can relax, work and discuss their finances with bankers.
Since lingering in branches isn't possible during the pandemic, Go-To has been an important tool through which the bank can nurture one-on-one conversations with customers over time. Customers choose their Go-To banker by perusing through profiles that include a picture, along with a brief description of the banker’s interests and areas of expertise.
"When [customers] have gotten on Go-To, they build a relationship of trust with the individual," Read said.
Go-To app usage nearly doubled in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the previous three months, the bank reported.
Go-To allows the bank to track customer preferences and conversations — personalizing future interactions and making cross-selling easier.
"Based on the modeling we've done, what we're finding with Go-To customers is that they have a deeper breadth of relationship with the bank and they’re even more profitable customers," Read said.
The rise in Go-To enrollment is driving increased digital transactions, Read said. Mobile banking was up 21% year over year during the second quarter, with unique sessions growing 30%, the bank reported. Meanwhile, branch transactions fell 30% one month into the pandemic, Read said.
Since the pandemic began, Umpqua customers' mobile check deposit activity grew 18.5%, mobile peer-to-peer payments jumped 13% and mobile bill payments increased 11%, J.D. Power research found.
The technology for Go-To was developed by Pivotus, a former Umpqua subsidiary that was acquired by technology provider Kony in 2018. Temenos acquired Kony last year and is a vendor for Temenos Infinity Engage, the tech that underpins the Go-To offering.
Ten institutions worldwide use Engage, including WSFS, Temenos said. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, WSFS reported that its Engage-based app, launched in 2019, saw a 400% increase in adoption and a 500% increase in usage between March and April.
Go-To enables Umpqua to bring a level of sophistication to its retail client relationships, said Bob Meara, a senior analyst at Celent.
"Having relationship managers with a book of business and relationships that they cultivate and maintain has always been the realm of wealth management and private banking, because you couldn't possibly deliver that same experience at scale and cost effectively," he said.
But Umpqua could strengthen Go-To by adding artificial intelligence to facilitate proactive communications on behalf of Go-To bankers, Meara said.
Temenos and Umpqua said neither company planned to add AI-based tools to the human-centered conversational banking platform.
"One of the primary differentiators of the Go-To app and the direct access it provides to customers is the connection with a real person," Read said. "There may be a use case for AI around certain elements, but the human piece is still front and center for us, and time and time again why our customers say they choose [us]."