Umpqua adds personal banker to banking app

Sharon Fisher//April 24, 2019

Umpqua adds personal banker to banking app

Sharon Fisher//April 24, 2019

photo of umpqua bank
Umpqua Bank has five branches in Idaho, including this one in downtown Boise. File photo.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the number of digital bankers. There will be 250, not 200. The story also incorrectly stated that personal bankers are not available in Boise.

A new banking app from Umpqua Bank will essentially let you swipe right to choose your banker.

Umpqua Go-To, which runs on iPhone and Android, went live after being piloted for about a year.

photo of eve callahan
Eve Callahan

While most banks have apps that let people transact business, Umpqua Go-To lets customers ask questions and build a relationship with one staffer, though other staffers can answer questions if that one isn’t available, said Eve Callahan, chief communications officer for the Portland-based company, which has five branches in Idaho.

“We began to think about how we can continue to provide personal banking expertise and knowledge as technology is changing how they do their banking,” Callahan said. “We saw a lot of research and statistics that Americans really need financial advice and help, and don’t feel they’re getting it.”

While bank customers can deposit checks and pay bills, what’s not getting answered are questions about how life decisions impact finances, she said.

After downloading the app, the first step is for users to choose their personal banker based on a brief description of their personality, as well as their banking expertise.

The personal bankers are all real people, not bots, Callahan said. They contribute to writing their own bios.

“We work with our bankers to understand what they want to feature, and post it accordingly,” she said. “You get to choose the person who feels like the right fit for you.”

While there will be about 250 personal bankers, only about 15 will be available to choose from at any given time, Callahan said.

“Pool player, dog petter, classic cocktail drinker,” read one representative bio. “Everyone has plans, fears and ambitions – I want to help with all of it. Tell me your story!”

Personal bankers will be dedicated to that job, though they can meet with customers when they come to the branch, Callahan said. She expects each banker to be able to handle from 700 to 800 customers digitally, while in a branch, that figure might be 100 to 150. Digital bankers can handle more people because their requests are more spread out and because the relationship history will be stored, making it easier to keep track of what a person has asked before.

“It allows bankers to manage a lot of relationships really closely,” she said.

Personal bankers are paid hourly or on salary, not by commission, depending on their position. However, the company does have an incentive program that rewards people for building relationships with their customers, using a variety of different metrics, Callahan said.

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Susan Raymond

So far, the company has 16,000 users on the app, and the level of inquiries is manageable, said Susan Raymond, Umpqua Bank community manager.

“We aren’t finding tons of messages in the morning, maybe three or four or five,” she said.

There may be some more on Mondays because people think about banking over the weekend, she added.

Each branch will likely have one or two personal bankers.

“Somewhere down the road, we may look at it as a position people can do from home,” Callahan said.

Umpqua is participating in a nationwide trend toward improved personal services in banks. While Idaho branches don’t have the full-fledged cafés some Portland-area Umpqua branches have, the downtown Boise branch has a free coffee bar and tea setup, as well as cookies on Fridays for customers or anyone else who drops by.

“It’s another perk,” Raymond said.