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COVID-19 forced US middle market companies to embrace digital banking

Regional and community banks scored points with US middle-market companies last year by leveraging their high-touch service models to provide support during the COVID-19 crisis. As such, regional banks dominate the list of 2020 Greenwich Excellence Award winners in US Middle Market Banking.

"Since these awards are based on client ratings of the service received from banks over the past 12 months, the number of regional and community banks appearing on the list this year shows they hustled their way through one of the most challenging business environments on record,” commented Chris McDonnell, head of Digital Benchmarking, Banking & CEM at Greenwich Associates.

A challenging year

With work-from-home requirements impacting most day-to-day interactions, companies of all sizes were forced to evolve their banking interactions and processes. For many smaller and regional providers, this meant that bankers and service professionals were working late into the night and over weekends. 

During this same time, the country’s biggest banks accelerated their already aggressive rollout of digital solutions, and approximately 80% of the middle market companies surveyed by Greenwich Associates in Q3 2020 rated national banks as “excellent” or “above average” in terms of the help they provided during the crisis. 

When assessing bank performance during the crisis, companies considered many factors into account. At the top of that list was liquidity and flexibility on credit terms amid challenging business conditions, but with business owners, executives and treasury staff working remotely, digital capabilities rose to a top priority. More than 90% of study respondents said they had visited their bank’s web site in the past 90 days, far outpacing the 55% who visited a branch and the 53% who called their banker. 

Making the switch

Digital banking has become so important that a full 35% of all commercial banking customers who switched bank providers in 2020 cited “better online banking capabilities or services” as a primary reason for making the move, up from just a quarter in 2019.This increased emphasis on digital plays to the strengths of the biggest national providers. 

“Regional and community banks were struggling to keep up with the pace of digital investments set by national banks before the crisis,” added McDonnell. “With COVID-19 accelerating both the development and adoption of digital banking channels, that gap is poised to get even wider.”

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