This interview is part of our Innovator of the Year series—  highlighting the most innovative in banking. Meet the rest of the winners here.

As technology continues to shape the direction of modern banking, the institutions who are thinking outside of the box and side-stepping traditional barriers are rising to the top. Today, we’re introducing you to one of those Institutions- United Bank of Michigan, who won this year’s Ultramodern Experience Award, part of Kinective’s Innovator of the Year Awards.

United Bank of Michigan goes above and beyond to meet their clients where they want to be met- empowering their team to do great work while also creating radical client experiences.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Soya, VP of Branch Administration at United Bank of Michigan. He shares fantastic insight and tool recommendations for creating streamlined client experiences that benefit not only the client, but the team too.

How has United Bank invested in improving the digital experience, products, and services?

Our executive management has always been open to modern technology, a trait that has been carried down through decades. This excitement and curiosity around new technologies isn’t new to us, and is really a core reason that continuing to adopt innovative technology comes naturally.

Digital support: Today, we’ve partnered with LSI to extend our phone and online chat customer support so that we now have 24/7 service. We’ve noticed that especially over the last few years clients are getting more used to texting and chat for communication- so us being able to offer that really helps us help our clients effectively.

ESignature: Adding eSign was a significant improvement in customer service, we knew it was just something we had to have. Being able to collect signatures electronically, both within the branch as well as remote, has really been a game changer  for us. We’ve really enjoyed implementing signature tablets in branches so instead of having the branch print a bunch of account documentation, walk across the office to get everything off the printer, spread it all out for the client to sign, and then giving the client a whole packet of paper to leave with- it all happens from a tablet. I don’t think our clients fully grasp how much sensitive information exists in those packets- so being able to deliver copies electronically doesn’t just save time and trees, it’s protecting their security and giving them full control over the documents.

Modernized online account opening: We started offering online account opening about 13 years ago, but we recently completely redesigned that system to take advantage of the newer technology and really worked on streamlining the workflow. We took a critical look at each step of the process- each thing a client interacts with- and were able to really simplify those steps for clients. It was really important to not pay attention to how things have been done, or how the industry is used to doing it, but really looking at it through the client lens.

What does a seamless client experience look like for United Bank?

Most of our branches now have Relationship Bankers who are cross-trained, which empowers our team to handle not only the traditional deposits and withdrawals, but they’re also equipped to handle more complex needs. It’s also offering ways in which clients can take care of their needs whenever and wherever they want.

How does United Bank keep banking personal?

Technology makes so many of the service experiences better, but we don’t let that replace humans. There are plenty of things that can be handled by tech, but there are a lot of times that someone just needs (or wants) assistance from a human. We make sure that our clients know that we are available for them when they need us.

What are some traditional in-branch service barriers that you’ve overcome?

Something we recently implemented was digital receipts- which gives clients the choice to receive their receipts through email or text instead of a piece of paper. Especially with clients becoming increasingly aware of carbon footprint- we love being able to give them the choice on how they want to receive their information.

What advice would you give to other financial institutions that are seeking to innovate?

It can be really easy to fall into the trap of saying “that’s how we’ve always don’t it.” You have to ask yourself a different question, which is “if we were building it today, is this how we would build it?” The solution probably made a lot of sense 10 or 20 years ago, but if you were starting from scratch today, especially with the advancement of technology, you’d probably do things differently based on trends and client expectations.