While the arrival of the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in global treasury services is not likely to help foment revolution, banks’ use of social media channels and features to service corporate customers does promise to introduce profoundly more interactive relationships. Banks have been reaching out to consumers through social media for a few years now, but the uptake at the business-to-business level has been slow. Security is a concern, and the more experienced executives running corporate finance departments—a polite way of saying the 50-plus crowd—tend to show less enthusiasm for adopting the latest technology. Nevertheless, at least a few national banks plan to launch social media initiatives this year that are intended to facilitate the flow of ideas between the bank and its treasury customers as well as among those customers.
Banks routinely engage in meetings with corporate clients in person or through webinars to discuss initiatives and allow clients to share their experiences. Such meetings are limited by space, time and the number of participants. Wells Fargo, for example, started up advisory councils in 2003 made up of more than 100 representatives from treasury clients, including big and small companies and governmental institutions. The councils meet once or twice a year to talk about services and such issues as how to integrate acquisitions most effectively.
And those features’ “discoverability”—their intuitiveness—has been important in today’s troubled economy, where employee turnover may be high and new or existing employees have limited time to learn new duties. “It’s easier for associates to learn about the product, because these patterns are so common,” Santiago says.
He adds that Bank of America’s advisory committee meetings still take place in person or via Cisco TelePresence, which lessens geographical constraints but still requires participants to attend at a specific time. Social media channels on the other hand enable participation at virtually any time and from any place. In today’s busy world, as upper-level executives become more comfortable using social media channels, a virtual setting to provide and exchange ideas would appear almost inevitable.