Temenos is betting on a social banking tool to help small banks compete

Customers can text a personal banker from the Umpqua Go-To app.

To Switzerland-based banking tech provider Temenos, a human-centered digital approach will help small institutions compete with large players.

Through its acquisition of software-as-a-service provider Kony last August, Temenos added social platform Engage to its toolkit for client banks. Engage features profiles of bankers reminiscent of dating apps, matching customers with associates. It lets customers communicate with bankers via instant messages, and is touted as a relationship builder for institutions.

A year ago, Kony gained the technology for Engage thorough an acquisition of Pivotus, which was a wholly-owned innovation subsidiary of Umpqua Bank. For Temenos, a digital communications platform for personal bankers is a differentiator in an industry with ever-expanding competition.

“Engage was set up as a tool to be able to have those personal relationships but using digital tools,” said Jeffery Kendall, executive vice president of North America sales and distribution at Temenos. “It gives everybody the best of what we what we all want — which is digital access [to banks] — but we still have a human being to help when we have a problem.”

Since Temenos acquired the technology through Umpqua Bank via its Kony acquisition, it’s been offering Engage as a white label tool for client banks, either as a standalone app or as an integrated offering with a core banking solution. Temenos’ efforts dovetail the efforts of banks and other financial companies to incorporate human input into customer interactions through digital channels.

For example, Bank of America recently rolled out a human-supported digital capability to support its robo-adviser, and Umpqua Bank’s Go-To app was the among the first to incorporate Engage into its capabilities last year. In July, the company reported the Go-To app had 27,000 users.

“It’s creating a highly personalized experience, but one that we’re able to scale,” Eve Callahan, Umpqua Bank’s executive vice president told Bank Innovation in July. “We’re not seeing customers text every day or every week; it goes in waves.” Go-To app customers can message bankers during specified hours, and specialists can be brought in for three-way chats if the banker can’t immediately handle an issue.

See also: Umpqua’s Tinder-style banking app attracts 27k users

Temenos would not say how many institutions are currently using the Engage tool, but the following clients are public: Partners Credit Union, based in Burbank, California and Credit Union Australia.

Beyond customer acquisition and retention, interactions through Engage offer institutions a trove of data on how users interact with the brands. Since acquiring the technology, Temenos has learned some important lessons, noted Kendall. When offered the option to speak to an agent if a customer’s designated personal banker isn’t available, more than 90% of users opted to wait instead of communicating with an anonymous staff member. In addition, while brands can market products through Engage, Temenos’ review of customer interactions revealed that they were less receptive to unsolicited product offers through the platform.

“There is a negative response from users when you push unsolicited offers to them through this channel,” noted Kendall. “They felt it was more of an invasion of their privacy than, for example, sending a blast email.”

Asked how institutions would handle inappropriate behavior among customers using Engage, Kendall said clients would use the same methods to address inappropriate behavior through the platform as they would when encountering similar challenges in person or over the phone. He acknowledged that clients are not reporting significant inappropriate behavior through Engage, because to sign up for the tool, the user has to be a customer of the institution.

“When you’re an Engage member, you’re already an established member of that bank or credit union,” he said. “It reduces the sort of  trolling and things that might come about just because [the platform] is open to the public.”