Back to Blog

Savana CEO Mike Wolfel: How Active Intelligence and Adaptive Information Help Banks Boost CX

Savana CEO Mike Wolfel: How Active Intelligence and Adaptive Information Help Banks Boost CX

How has the challenge of digital transformation impacted banks and credit unions in recent years? Has the momentum for change slowed since the peak of the pandemic? How can banks win the “expectations game” with increasingly digital-first customers?

These are some of the questions we posed to Savana CEO Mike Wolfel. Headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Savana offers banks and other financial institutions a digital delivery platform that provides single location, real-time orchestration for all processes and transaction requests across the enterprise.

In recent months, Savana has announced partnerships with Primis Bank, Capco, and Battle Financial. Founded in 2009, the company has raised more than $53 million in funding from investors including Georgian and LiveOak Venture Partners.

What is the primary challenge for banks and credit unions that are trying to undergo digital transformation today in 2023?

Mike Wolfel: Most of the challenges banks and credit unions face center on technical innovation constraints based on their existing technical and operating architectures. Banks and credit unions are often limited either by their complex and rigid solutions already in place to support multiple channels or products, or by the inflexible multi-system architecture that allows them to be more agile. In addition, the lack of complete API exposure of underlying core systems leaves little opportunity to drive digital self-service or product innovation.

The inconsistency of processes implemented in different channels or across products is both a technical constraint and an operational efficiency challenge. These inconsistencies of processes and dependencies on manual work can also create regulatory issues or, at a minimum, lead to customer dissatisfaction.

There was a great deal of momentum behind digital transformation during COVID.  Has that momentum waned?  If so, why?

Wolfel: The momentum has not changed, but the focus seems to have shifted to different areas and more broadly expanded across various layers of the banking technology. The drive for transformation during COVID, especially during the first year, was a general improvement in digital consumer experiences due to the branch banking challenges. However, the banks we are working with seem to be taking a broader and more systemic internal view to recognize that they need more agility in terms of next-gen cores and more operationally efficient operations systems.

How can banks win the expectations game?  How can the customer experience at banks keep up with the kind of CX/UX people experience in other digital interactions?

Wolfel: Bank experiences need to deliver more active intelligence, using AI, to consumer experiences. An adaptive information approach to tailor content and action needs to be more dynamic based on customer intelligence and behavior analytics. Just as Amazon or social media applications recommend the content of interest, consumers can be enlightened with relevant information on their banking behavior that will enable them to see opportunities better.

In addition, the capabilities of the experience, not just a pretty design, need to provide an effective and comprehensive set of services to the consumer to take action without requiring the need to engage the bank in the direct channels (branch, call center). Clearly, consumers prefer self-service and being able to act at a time and place of their choosing. Additionally, having the same processes and awareness of customer engagement actions need to be available to the banker if the consumer reaches out for direct support. Often, in today’s environment, the bank is unaware of why the customer might be calling when making a transition for support between digital to direct engagement.

What are the first key steps a financial institution needs to take in order to be ready for digital transformation – to say nothing of executing the transformation itself?

Wolfel: That depends on the goals and the transformation journey desired by the bank. But, in general, several things are consistent for the banks we work with on their journeys. First, they are taking a much broader view than trying to solve for a specific channel improvement. For those that are considering new next-gen core technology, they need to decide on a big bang or progressive renovation approach.  The progressive renovation (gradual cutover to a new core) takes significant planning because it will create significant operational issues with customer and account data spread across multiple cores. 

Comparatively, a big bang cutover to a next-gen core will require significant ecosystem rework and presents a potentially higher risk. Fortunately, Savana’s approach and architecture support our bank partners regardless of their desired approach. In the end, having a clear vision of the full end-state vs. a siloed or segmented view is the critical consideration.

What role does Savana play in helping facilitate digital transformations for financial institutions?

 Wolfel: Savana’s Digital Delivery Platform is driving ‘Core-to-Customer’ innovation. Savana’s platform is designed to operationalize the bank across all cores, all products, and all channels. The system provides a consistent customer engagement experience and standardized bank operations processes from OAO & OLB across any engagement channel, including self-service, branch, and assisted call center operations.

Savana recently raised a significant amount of equity capital. What did that investment say about Savana’s accomplishments and potential. What will the investment enable the company to do in 2023 and beyond?

Wolfel: Savana has been working with early adopter customers over the last few years to get the platform into production and be able to continue the buildout of the solution architecture to meet the original strategy and the diverse needs of our bank partners. The investment by fintech investors and about six strategic bank partners is a validation of our strategy and confirmation of the capabilities and value that Savana’s platform brings to the market. The investment allows us to continue our growth strategy more broadly in the market across banks and credit unions. Savana has delivered a unique and differentiated solution for our bank partners to execute complex transformation journeys, as recognized by the investment. Savana will continue accelerating our offerings in all areas of digital, branch, call Center, and bank operations and for a broader market segment.

Photo by Croberin Photography