“Having a consistent user experience regardless of device and one that can be personalized was paramount. Our mission is to be the best at serving our customers, one opportunity at a time, and no channel is more vital to being able to deliver on that promise than digital.” — Kevin Karrels, senior vice president and digital strategy executive, First Tennessee Bank investments and taking risks to win the competitive advantage. Most of them realize that this is, in fact, the less-risky course. While national players have the budget and personnel to handle a large-scale innovation project internally, many of their regional and community institution counterparts do not. Instead, these banks must take a risk and partner with younger, more-agile fintech companies. Staying with a large legacy in-cumbent providing disparate online and mobile banking prod-ucts may seem like the safer choice, but it’s actually the riskier option for the long term, as consumers grow increasingly less patient with inferior digital interactions. These emerging com-panies understand the increasingly digital nature of all services and can provide innovative features that the legacy providers simply do not have the flexibility to deploy. This is not to suggest banks behave irresponsibly. Not all emerg-ing tech companies are created equal. Financial institutions must carefully weigh their options and practice proper due diligence before selecting a partner, since this may be one of the most impor-tant projects a bank will undertake relative to its future ability to compete successfully. Vigilant planning, sufficient budgeting and an acute understanding of where the bank wants to be one, five or even 10 years down the road is imperative. If they successfully vet and decide to take a chance on a fintech partnership, the bank might just gain a significant competitive advantage. One financial institution that has already realized the importance of a strategic plan for investing in its future is Memphis-based First Tennessee Bank. Kevin Karrels, senior vice president and digital channel strategy executive at the bank, explained that in 2015, they decided to research digital banking vendors in the United States hoping to find a partner to provide them with the foundation they needed to implement their digital strategy for the next decade. After conducting an extensive review of the industry’s digital offerings, FTB determined that its business and technical strat-egies most closely aligned with one of the newer digital banking vendors that offered a complete set of banking services, archi-tected for timely integration, accessible from any digital device and powered by a data analytics capacity that helps personalize interactions with customers. Because of this partnership and its commitment to digital innovation, FTB will be able to reduce costs and complexity while offering a consistent, personalized user experience for its 438,000 digital banking customers. “Having a consistent user experience regardless of device and one that can be personalized was paramount,” Karrels said. “Our mission is to be the best at serving our customers, one opportunity at a time, and no channel is more vital to being able to deliver on that promise than digital.” IBERIABANK, a regional Southeastern bank headquartered in Lafayette, La., with more than $19 billion in assets, also understood the value of strategically aligning with a younger innovative startup. The bank bases its reputation on providing customers with excep-tional value-based service at every point of contact, so choosing a partner wasn’t something it took lightly. The bank went through an exhaustive evaluation of digital banking providers, ultimately selecting a solution that was highly configurable, offered a modern architecture and allowed the bank to offer customers a way to more easily access and manage their money. According to Robert Kottler, executive vice president and direc-tor of retail and small business banking for IBERIABANK, “Our digital channels have increasingly become more important points of contact with our customers, and we wanted a solution that would help them manage their finances more efficiently and effectively. Our new solution not only offers a superior user experience, but it is also built on a platform that will allow us to respond to new trends and expand our digital services. This platform, hosted in a secure and easily scalable environment, will enable us to strengthen our competitive position in digital banking for years to come.” IBERIABANK licensed the digital banking solutions offered by their vendor of choice for both consumer and small busi-nesses, providing a comprehensive set of digital services that simplify the lives of families and provide businesses access to financial services they need to succeed. “Digital banking must be consistent, efficient and innova-tive across all devices and channels, offering customers superior ways to move money, pay bills and check their balances,” Kottler added. “Our new digital banking solution will do just that.” Banks don’t care for risk and that is understandable, given their responsibility for the livelihoods of consumers and busi-nesses. Yet, with digital banking, the greatest risk is staying the current course, especially for community and regional banks. These institutions don’t have the resources of the large national players and must look to younger, more-nimble companies to help them better serve consumers by providing them a consis-tent, seamless platform, mirroring the experiences delivered by the Amazons and Googles of the world. Taking a calculated chance on younger fintech players may be a bit uncomfortable for some bankers, since buying from the legacy providers in the industry has been a more common prac-tice. However, to win the digital revolution in financial services will require that most institutions do just that. Michael Carter is market whisperer at D3 Banking. For more infor-mation, visit www.d3banking.com.