How Can Smaller FIs Compete Against the Big Guys?

Embrace and amplify what you are (and don’t try to be what you’re not!)

As we head into 2015, community banks and credit unions are feeling increasingly crunched – with big banks on one side, and non-traditional players (like Google, Apple, PayPal, Wal-Mart, &Target) on the other. How can smaller financial institutions stand out from the goliaths? Be local; be the good guy; and be the opposite of big and behemoth.

Be “hyper-local” in all kinds of small ways with ideas like this...

  • Send your team members to parades, bake sales, and community sporting events.
  • Sponsor neighborhood events – like concerts, fundraisers, fish fries, and euchre contests.
  • Advertise in the community theater program. Congratulate all who worked on the latest production.
  • Give out free popcorn at a monthly matinee at your movie theater.

 Don’t just say you support local businesses; show it with ideas like this...

  •  Feature local products in your lobby. Give away locally grown apples. Send your customers locally made baked goods.
  • Host a surprise “cash mob” for a local business. Give your employees $5 a piece to spend at chosen local businesses. Citizens Bank of Edmond, OK has enjoyed a lot of fun with this idea.
  • Offer a financing workshop for small businesses, so they understand what to expect when they apply for a loan or line of credit.

 “Humanize” your client’s experience both online and offline with ideas like this...

  • Evaluate your processes based on the customer’s experience. Are your business loans are taking too long to process? Perhaps your automated phone system is deterring customers from actually getting the help they need? Small improvements in efficiency and helpfulness could be the determining factor when customers have to choose where to get their next loan, line, or account.
  • Mobile apps and online tools are all the rage, but there are plenty of times that your customers want to talk with an expert – in person, via chat, or via video conference. Give clients options for Q&A, coaching, and consulting with real people.

 Be visible in and out of the branch with ideas like this...

  • Your people are your brand wherever they go, so make sure they wear branded apparel to events, board meetings, volunteer efforts, and around town.
  • Use every opportunity to inject your FI’s brand at all touch points – at your branches, on your website, on social media outlets, and on your mobile efforts including…
    • Make sure your mobile banking app shows your true colors (logo, colors, image, and message).
    • Offer a branded, mobile discount program to your clients, so you can help them save money (with location-based discounts), shop local, and stay informed of your FI’s offerings.

The big guys may have big names, enormous marketing budgets, international notoriety, or branch offices in your town, but they’ll never be truly “hometown and homegrown.” When your bank or credit union shows its “local pride” by helping local businesses and delighting customers in personalized and innovative ways, then you’ll show clients how you’re better than the big guys, and they’ll show you their appreciation in loyalty, referrals, and maybe even a hug here and there.

You may also enjoy reading on Larky Smarts...

Case study: Christian Financial Credit Union Launches Community Ca$h.

Larky is a mobile loyalty platform branded for your financial institution that drives retention, acquisition, wallet share, and interchange revenue. To learn more, visit or email us at

Posted on January 26, 2015 by AndrewB - No Comments

Topics: Financial Institutions, Loyalty, Mobile