In The News - Bank Innovation

June 18, 2019

How Rockland Trust is using an AI-based tool to grow sales

Suman Bhattacharyya
June 18, 2019

Rockland Trust

In the battle for customer loyalty with digital-first competitors, Rockland Trust has deployed an AI tool to boost its customer acquisition efforts.

Like other small and medium-sized banks, Rockland Trust, which has more than $11 billion in assets and 96 locations, is keenly aware of the encroachment of digital-only challenger banks and other tech companies vying for market share. To grow customer loyalty and increase sales, the bank has deployed an AI-based platform called Albert for the past two years to tailor its online marketing campaigns to closely align with customers’ intent and characteristics.

“We’re not naive,” said Jennifer Marino, chief marketing and customer officer at the Rockland, Mass.-based bank. “Between fintech and bigger brands like Amazon moving into new areas, we always are thinking about that. What we do is we work really hard to understand our customers and deliver an experience that sets us apart.”

Connecting how customers behave online with offline behavior was key, according Marino. The solution: Employ an an AI-based tool that can comb through customers’ attributes and behaviors, match them with like-minded audience segments and push out ads that best fit the customers’ intentions.

With Albert, the bank inputs its creative assets, such as product images, videos and ad copy. In turn, Albert, which is plugged into Facebook, Instagram and Google Search, is able to produce different types of ad formats depending on the goal (for example, increase account openings) and audience type.

“We still have many customers that walk into a branch to open up their account and, on the other hand, we have customers that are willing to do the whole process online but want to know that there are branches nearby if they need help,” Marino said. “There’s a mix of people that choose their own path.”

Since customers interact with their financial institutions through complex trajectories of online and offline-based interactions, tailoring the online marketing approach was critical. “There are about 200 different variables that go into every decision; it’s a massive multi-variate equation,” added Mark Kirschner, Albert’s chief marketing officer.
According to Rockland, Albert is adept at accounting for customer trajectories online that aren’t always linear. For example, a customer that’s exposed to a checking account ad may actually open a home equity loan, Marino noted.

So far, the efforts are showing results. According to the bank, between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, conversion rates jumped 10%. “It’s delivering the ads to the right people at the right time, and that eventually will lead to a new customer,” said Marilois Snowman, CEO of Mediastruction, a consultancy that worked with the bank on its AI marketing automation efforts.

While these results are encouraging, community and regional banks still are racing to keep up with upstart digital-only counterparts. As Ron Shevlin, research director at Cornerstone Advisors recently noted, customers increasingly are looking  beyond their local financial institutions. “Consumers still may want a financial institution with a local presence, but they increasingly rely on non-local providers–both traditional institutions and new fintech startups–in addition to that local provider,” he argued.

For Rockland’s part, staying abreast of consumer trends by effectively connecting online and strategically using the branch network to offer added value is the route to ongoing customer loyalty. It’s the reason, according to Marino, that the bank’s attrition rate is “in the single digits. [It’s about] understanding customers’ needs first, then delivering the experience that works for them and letting them decide what kind of relationship they want with us,” she said.

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