Can CBANC Crack the Bank Social Media Riddle?

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / BennymIn the age of ubiquitous mobile devices and 1.5 billion Facebook users (give or take a few million), it’s clear banks can’t keep their employees from social media.

That opens bank systems to attacks via phishing and social engineering. But social media can also be useful for networking and tapping the expertise of colleagues outside a bank’s walls. This leaves banks in a bit of a quandary: to social media or to not social media?

CBANC has taken on the challenge with a closed network of financial services professionals who can share documents, as well as ask and answer questions — in other words, a social network in and of itself. CBANC has about $7 million in funding and is based in Austin, Texas. It has members from over 85% of the banks and 33% of the credit unions in the U.S.

One of the most commonly asked questions from one bank to another gets a little meta: “Can you share your social media policy?”

“Banks realize people may want to text something over their lunch break,” Bryan Koontz, CBANC’s CEO, told Bank Innovation. But from an organizational standpoint, social media use is still viewed as a risk, for the simple reason that unstructured interactions between consumers and bank employees are subject to careful scrutiny from regulators.

And banks need to be conservative because regulatory policy on social media interactions is anything but clear. Guidance was issued a few years ago, but hard-and-fast rules haven’t yet arrived, leaving regulated companies to do some guesswork.

CBANC eliminates the guesswork by only allowing verified employees of financial institutions to join and interact. The earliest interactions — CBANC was spun out of the virtual banking company Q2 in 2013 — were centered around document-sharing, but that has shifted to Q&A, according to Koontz. This seems like a positive development — asking and answering questions is a more active way of delivering and deriving value from a network. Questions cover compliance, the reliability of vendors, branch management strategy — stuff other bankers know that you can’t ask on Facebook (unless you want your nonbank friends to unfollow you).

There are other social networks for financial services professionals — Unience and Nexchange are two, to say nothing of the chat capabilities of Bloomberg terminals and Symphony — so how will CBANC differentiate? Koontz has released a raft of new features in 2016 based on user feedback and trial and error. Users now have reputations, and successfully answering questions or otherwise adding value to the network should lead other users to “up” that member’s reputation. A news feed of curated content exists on the site, and as the store of data is enriched, this can increasingly be tailored to suit users.

But what may be the most important change involves monetization. In February, CBANC began to allow vendors into the network, on a limited basis. Vendors pay to play, and see semi-anonymized data about the bankers. For example, instead of seeing a full name, and an email address or phone number,” vendors will see “VP of Compliance at a $500-million bank in the midwest.” So far, Koontz said, 82 vendor companies have signed up with the platform, and six have begun registering users.

A network full of bankers is obviously an attraction for bank marketers. “We can be a very interesting channel, likely the highest-converting channel in a marketer’s toolbox,” Koontz said.

Other social networks for bankers have tried and failed to build a community that was necessary or interesting enough for members to stick with it. Finect was one that premiered at Finovate in the fall of 2013, but quickly fizzled and is now “down for maintenance.” CBANC has the monetization part settled, but it is still a challenge to scale up and build enough value to make your site a daily habit.

Facebook and Twitter can be fun. They can also be extremely aggravating. Any social network that wants to succeed will have to make room for a little nonsense, and time-wasting. Banks already face the challenge of making banking enjoyable, particularly for millennial customers. Can they also make it enjoyable for employees?

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