Simmons’ $100M digital bet pays off in attracting customers | Arkansas Business News

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Simmons Bank’s investment in its Next Generation Bank initiative appears to be paying off.

In 2018, Pine Bluff Bank, with $25.1 billion in assets, announced the initiative, representing a $100 million multi-year investment in technology.

Then in 2019, Simmons brought on Alex Carriles as executive vice president and chief digital officer. Under Carriles, Simmons revamped its mobile app and launched Coin Checking, a digital account designed to target new checking account users.

In Simmons’ first quarter, 7.2% of all of its consumer checking accounts were coin-operated checking accounts. “For the first year, that’s a pretty significant number,” Carriles said.

Meanwhile, digital transactions grew 40% in the first quarter compared to the same quarter in 2021, according to Simmons Bank.

About 85% of Simmons’ consumer accounts are digitally managed or are a mobile or online banking profile. Simmons does not publish the number of its consumer accounts, Carriles said.

For his efforts, Carriles was named American Banker’s 2022 Digital Banker of the Year.

“I really think these guys are ahead of the curve when it comes to technology adoption and trying to be at the forefront of how to think about attracting new customers and using the mobile banking platforms,” ​​said Stephen Scouten, Managing Director and Principal Research Analyst. at Piper Sandler, a research and financial services company. Scouten covers 25 banks in the South East that are similar to publicly traded Simmons.

Late last month, Simmons launched Coin Savings, which is linked to a Coin Checking account.

Alex Carriles

Carriles said he couldn’t say specifically what he was currently working on, other than that other products for the digital platform were in the works.

“Love the new app”

Prior to joining Simmons in July 2019, Carriles was executive director of mobile, online and digital accounts at investment bank BBVA USA.

His interest in user experience grew during his years at BBVA Compass, where the app he launched won several industry accolades for seven consecutive years.

“Alex is an industry leader whose innovation, management skills and track record of digital banking success are truly extraordinary,” said George Makris, President and CEO of Simmons First National Corp. ., in a press release in July 2019. “We look forward to our clients feeling the impact of his talent through our digital offerings.

In October 2019, Simmons launched its new mobile app, developed in conjunction with banking technology firm Jack Henry & Associates of Monett, Missouri, and its Banno software. But Carriles said he didn’t want to force customers to switch to the Simmons Bank mobile app by ending the old app.

Carriles said he remembered his frustration when he tried to use an airline’s mobile app while rushing to the airport to change flights, and the app was put on hold. updated and the old one had stopped working. “I was so scared by that experience that literally that day ‘he said he would never do that to his clients.

He said users of Simmons’ app are encouraged to try out the news and provide feedback. He said other financial institutions report that when they update their apps, “it’s chaos” and their call centers are inundated with questions.

“Here we haven’t seen anything like that,” Carriles said.

In 45 days, Simmons’ app went from a rating of about 2.3 to 4.8 out of five in app stores, he said. He said about 40% to 50% of reviewers used “love” in comments, such as “Love the new app. Love being able to do this. Love Simmons Bank.

And during those 45 days, more than 95% of users switched to the new app. “So it was a very, very smooth transition,” he said.

Piper Sandler’s Scouten said he doesn’t know what impact a bank’s app has on attracting customers. “It can obviously help retain customers, but for me it’s one of those costs of doing business,” he said.

Take a page from Disney

Last year, Simmons launched Coin Checking, a digital bank account designed to appeal to young, first-time customers.

“We’ve highlighted a few things that we think most major financial institutions haven’t understood yet,” Carriles said.

Most financial institutions require the funding of a current account when opening it. But if it’s a client’s first account, there may not be enough money to do it, causing more than 66% of applicants to drop out of the process, he said.

“What we did was we flipped this thing,” Carriles said. Coin Checking does not require the user to put money into the account to open it.

Additionally, Carriles said he wanted to make the account sign-up experience quick and fun. He wanted to emulate the Disneyland experience, in which people queuing for a ride are entertained with screens and videos so the wait doesn’t seem so long. “We got a page out of it,” he said.

One step of the application process takes about 20 seconds, which seems long if a person is looking at an icon. “So we did something fun…and started sending you these funny messages at the top of the app,” like “sanitize your debit card,” he said.

The programmers also changed the app’s language from “you agree to the following terms and conditions” to “let’s make our lawyers happy and agree to the following,” Carriles said. “And when we do those tests, there’s a smile on that customer’s face when they look at that.”

It takes about five minutes to open an account. Instead of entering their name and address, users scan their driver’s licenses, which include name and address data. This is verified by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Simmons was one of the first banks in the country to use a customer’s driver’s license information to open an account. And there are no typos or errors, Carriles said.

“So all I need to ask you, really, is your social security number, your phone number, and your email address,” he said. “Three fields. That’s it.”

Piper Sandler’s Scouten said the fact that 7% of Simmons’ new checking accounts opened in the first quarter of this year were coin-operated checking accounts “shows that there is some desire and market opportunity for a product of this guy”.

Scouten said when Simmons made the investment announcement, there were questions about whether the initiative was worth it. “But they’ve done a really good job of investing where they need it for…the next generation,” while managing overall spending, he said. “From a spend perspective, they’ve done a really good job of building those capabilities without causing a massive downturn on the spend side.”