We are living in the times of intersecting relationships. The world has become a closely knit, well networked entity, with each individual getting connected to the other in different ways. Advent of social media, affordability of technology has demystified the web and has made it more affable to users. More and more are going online and getting connected. More often than not, we find that relationships that were long forgotten, or a childhood school friend who was part of our memories pop up in our Facebook pages, thereby helping us to renew contacts.

Social media, be it Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp etc. are metamorphosing themselves into community driven platforms, from individual centric offerings. Initially Facebook started off with connecting people (borrowing from Nokia!) at a deeply personal level. Once majority of the world population is in, the platform is moving towards treating its user base as a community, rather than as individuals. We now see offerings tailor made to countries, religions, localities, qualifications, and other demographic segmentation of its users. At the center of Facebook’s transformation is its Graph API. It’s a powerful piece of software that is able to unravel complex and sometimes buried links between various people in the community, convert that into meaningful relationships and help them get connected.

Never before has mankind been so open and borderless. Business are being crowdfunded, reviews are crowdsourced, problems are being crowd solved etc. Collaboration and sharing are two key habits brought about by the social revolution. Social media is now encouraging businesses among entities based on intelligent data analytics, thereby enriching the community experience further. Data is being tapped to make it more meaningful, using which business can be started, services be provided and financial decisions can be made. Data is being converted into money.

Similar parallels can be drawn to banking too. Banking is a deeply personal business. Each person trusts the institution to take good care of his funds and banks in turn were lending to individuals. Banks have always been treasure houses for authentic data of customer demographics and spend patterns. To keep abreast with changing times, we believe that banks should take the Facebook approach to their business. They should begin looking at their customers as interconnected entities that can participate among themselves more meaningfully, thereby exploring avenues for income generation to the bank.

Community banking, as the name suggests, is to treat a cluster of individuals as one single entity that can interact between themselves as individuals and with the external world as one cohesive unit. These groups could be Self Help Groups in rural areas that pool money among themselves to start a business. Banks could help them with seed capital and also find out avenues within their own customer base to market their produce. With banks adopting Digital as a strategy, it becomes easier for them to mine their huge treasure trove of data that provide gainful insights into their customer spend patterns. As compared to cities, communities are more prevalent in villages. It would make sound business sense for banks to merge this offering along with their Business Correspondents / Agent network already out on the field.

Banks need to take a cue out of Facebook’s Graph API. This is the core engine that helps the social media giant transform itself into a community centric behemoth. Digital strategies in banks should emulate Graph APIs structure, depth and capability. Data is already available with them. It is now just a matter of connecting the dots and provide more meaningful opportunities to the community as a whole.

Padmanabhan R

Career Banker, Galleried Photographer and Travel Columnist. Also develop banking applications in free time. Finished my CA and have done my tour of duty with organizations like Times Group, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank, before landing up in Clayfin to create digital banking channel solutions.

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