Coronavirus accelerated Truist’s innovation plans

Truist Financial is preparing for the next phase of the coronavirus crisis.

The $ 506 billion-asset company, formed by the December merger of BB&T and SunTrust Banks, has taken big initial steps in response to the pandemic.

It pledged $ 25 million in mid-March to help communities affected by COVID-19, and it has also received approvals for $ 12.6 billion in small business loans under the Check Protection Program. government payroll.

Truist has pledged an additional $ 25 million for nonprofits and volunteer efforts, investments in technology for communities lacking high-tech infrastructure, as well as for small businesses and community development financial institutions. .

During the crisis, Truist learned to deliver services faster and more efficiently, says Dontá Wilson, customer and digital experience manager for Charlotte, NC.

New technology products that would have taken months to create are produced in as little as three days. More and more customers, especially business customers, have become familiar with digital banking services, while thousands of Truist employees have settled into work-from-home arrangements.

“We are constantly evaluating” Truist’s operating model, Wilson said in an interview. “One of the bright spots of the crisis is how to deploy our staff remotely when needed.”

Wilson discussed Truist’s latest financial commitment, as well as his take on technological innovation in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Why did Truist decide to double his commitment against the coronavirus?

DONTÁ WILSON: We were delighted to see the benefits of our first round of investment. After 22 days, the commitment was oversubscribed. You can’t just watch things like this happen and not help more.

We also realized that this crisis was going to last longer than many people originally thought. There are four stages: an immediate need, an emerging need, a period of resilience and reconstruction. [Assistance] tends to disappear in the last phase, so we started to think about what would be important when rebuilding.

We recognize that small businesses are particularly vulnerable, so we wanted to make sure we spent $ 10 million on technology services and grants with a focus on women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

We are pleased with the progress made in bridging the technology gap in [underserved communities], but the need was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will allow communities, many of which are rural, to recover. We encourage solutions for [out-of-school] learn by trying to rebuild the landscape permanently.

Our employees wanted to be active volunteers, but they are limited by social distancing. We are therefore committed to making a contribution for every kilometer traveled by our employees. [during the pandemic]. Many galas and non-profit events have also been postponed, and we want to help these groups when needed.

How has the pandemic changed Truist’s approach to innovation? How will this change represent a permanent change for the company?

When we struck the deal, it was a merger of equals designed for something more than just cutting costs. We really wanted to move forward in a meaningful way with innovation by combining touch and technology to develop a high level of confidence. We have moved digital, data analysis and other functions under the same umbrella.

COVID-19 has advanced and accelerated our efforts to establish technology roadmaps. … We created a digital customer experience network that met every day. We have partnered with companies to deploy solutions in days. We created a mortgage chatbot and converted and digitized the manual mortgage forbearance forms in four days.

“COVID-19 has advanced and accelerated our efforts to create technology roadmaps,” said Dontá Wilson, Truist Digital and Customer Experience Manager.

Before PPP, we didn’t have a digital portal. We had to do a work for two heritage systems. We have developed a client [application programming interface] in the middle of that and an extended electronic signature for remote people. None of these initiatives took more than 10 days to build and most were created in three to four days.

This is how we will work in the future. We will work with the client and be nimble to do what took six to nine months in a matter of days.

What has the pandemic done for digital adoption rates? Do you think new adopters will continue to use digital channels when the crisis is over?

We are already seeing digital transactions improving year on year, but COVID-19 is moving us on an accelerated path. You had people who started using their computers to log in to check account balances, and then they started using mobile check deposit services. They became more engaged, seeing the convenience and wondering why they would return to [in-person banking]. It’s similar to my experience with picking up groceries. I had never used it before, but came to really like it.

And I think we’ve done a good job educating people about digital banking, including a simulator on our website to familiarize them with our products and services.

How effective was working from home? Other Truist executives have discussed more about using the model when things are normalizing.

We have fantastic teammates. The environment and location do not matter to them. Their engagement caught fire. They figured out how to be successful even when working remotely.

We are constantly evaluating the [model]. One of the positives of the crisis is how to deploy our staff remotely when needed.

Are there other crisis-related takeouts that you think will be permanent at Truist?

We experienced a new way of working, finding out how to co-create in days rather than months and years. The crisis has also accelerated the rapprochement necessary for the creation of a new culture. It allowed employees of both [predecessor banks] to see what we do in terms of tutoring [for their children], flexible working hours and childcare assistance.

When you launch your brand, you want to tell your story. You get there with a whole program in mind. COVID was not in the plan. But the first interaction of our customers will be through this experience, and it will stand out for them. I think it’s a permanent thing that will connect us to our communities.

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