Blog | April 6, 2023 | 9 min read 9 Questions to Ask When Deciding on a Core Banking Technology Partner TwitterFacebookLinkedInEmailMessengerAs the banking industry evolves alongside customer demands, effective and efficient core banking technology becomes increasingly critical. Meeting the demands of the digital age, both within and outside the branch, requires technology partners that provide cutting-edge solutions and support. But converting to a new core banking solution is no small feat and can seem like a heart transplant to many institutions. After all, the core banking platform is the foundation upon which all other banking technology depends. So, whether your financial institution has experienced red flags with its current core or simply wants to understand its options, it must conduct due diligence. The following nine questions can help your institution determine whether a core banking technology provider is the right fit. For a more holistic view of a successful core partnership, refer to our Definitive Guide to a Modern Core Partnership. Getting Started: Finding the Right Technology Already Built In Before considering a core banking technology provider, ensure the baseline technology suits your needs. Is it an enterprise-integrated core banking system with essential features like digital banking, CRM and onboarding? Does it provide ad-hoc cross-application reporting pulled into a single view? A dynamic, digital-first integrated core should have several technological features built in. For instance, exposure to APIs (more on that later), business intelligence, remote work capabilities and compliance tools should be table stakes. With this foundation, you should both meet customer demands and ease internal processes. A provider’s technology strategy should include their approach to security and data privacy. Cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, and it’s essential to ensure that robust security measures protect your customers’ data and your institution overall. Ensure that their technology platform meets industry standards and complies with relevant regulations. Question 1: What is your technology strategy and vision for the future of banking? A technology provider’s strategy and vision for the future of banking provides insight into its approach to innovation and ability to adapt to industry changes. Ask about their plans for implementing new technologies and staying ahead of the curve. A partner that is proactive about innovation and possesses a clear strategy for remaining so is more likely to provide you with the solutions you need to stay competitive. For example, you may ask how they conduct research and development for their core banking software. Do they have sufficient internal resources dedicated to this initiative, or do they allocate resources elsewhere? You might also consider their approach to emerging technologies such as open banking, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data analytics. How do they plan to incorporate these technologies into their platform? What opportunities do they see for these technologies, and how are they working to leverage those opportunities? Overall, understanding your potential partner’s technology strategy and vision for the future of banking is crucial for ensuring they are the right fit for your organization. Their approach should align with your business objectives and be able to adapt to changing industry trends and customer needs. Ensure a potential technology partner’s strategy and vision align with your business objectives. Question 2: What’s your process for adding enhancements, and how do you charge for that? A robust core banking platform should be able to meet your needs and adapt to change without requiring significant technical overhauls or inconveniences for your customers. The flexibility and adaptability to incorporate new features and functionality are essential to an effective core. However, as your business and the industry evolve, enhancements to your core banking technology (including new features and patches) are inevitable. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand your partner’s process for adding new features and the costs involved. Ask about their product roadmap, the process for submitting enhancement requests and how they prioritize their development roadmap. This will give you a vision of when to expect those enhancements to roll out, providing you a better sense of when there will be improvements for your employees or customers. Aside from aligning with your business objectives, their responses must also align with your budget. The last thing you want is to be nickeled and dimed down the road and spend significantly more on maintaining your core banking system in the long run. Question 3: What percentage of your platform is exposed to APIs? For the flexibility and adaptability that they afford, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become a critical component of modern banking technology. APIs enable banks to leverage third-party solutions from their core provider or another technology vendor to provide the optimum customer experience. Therefore, it’s essential to ask your partner about their API strategy, including how many APIs they offer, how they are managed and their security standards. Open banking ultimately enables the development and deployment of innovative technological solutions without requiring you to build them internally. A technology partner that is proactive in adopting open banking standards and APIs can help your bank stay competitive and provide your customers with the best possible experience. This can be through platform banking, the process through which you offer that core provider’s technologies. Examples include digital banking, money movement, lending and more, all developed and maintained by that trusted technology partner. These technologies can also come from a third-party fintech with a niche product you want to offer. An open banking platform also enables exciting opportunities like Banking as a Service (BaaS), the process by which your institution can offer banking capabilities to another organization. Ultimately, a core banking platform with a healthy approach to the open ecosystem will help your institution grow. Question 4: What’s your average contract length? Some providers may require long-term contracts, limiting your ability to switch vendors if you are unhappy with their service. By contrast, others may offer more flexible options. Knowing the typical length of your partner’s contracts will help you plan and budget for the future. Ensure you understand the contract terms, including the renewal process, termination clauses and fees. If you are satisfied and renew once the current contract ends, will the pricing remain the same? If you must switch cores early, are there early termination fees? Clear answers to these questions will better inform your budgetary planning and technology strategy. Direct responses will also give you a better idea of the partnership and culture fit. Question 5: How do you measure the quality of your customer support? The customer support team that works with your institution plays an important role in resolving problems promptly and ensuring your business runs smoothly. In other words, your core technology partner should be supportive and effective behind the scenes so that you can focus on what matters. Therefore, it’s essential to ask how they measure the quality and timing availability of their customer support. Ask about their customer satisfaction scores, how they track and report on support tickets and how they respond to complaints. Do they walk the walk, and can existing customers confirm that? It’s also advisable to request a list of existing customers that you can follow up with to gauge their overall experience and satisfaction. Remember that you’ll likely be working with your core vendor’s staff for years to come, and the last thing you want is lackluster or insufficient support. A comfortable core vendor that confidently provides a list of referenceable customers is more likely to prove effective business outcomes. One that shies away may be a red flag. Ensure you’ll be treated like a person, not a number. Question 6: How many customers does each relationship manager support? The vendor’s customer relationship manager-to-bank ratio is another helpful metric to gauge the level of support you can expect. Consider it a classic case of quality or quantity. If a relationship manager is tasked with supporting too many customers, they may struggle to provide adequate support or take significant time to resolve any issues or questions. Your institution will doubtlessly have unique needs and pain points. Your customer service representative must develop a true partnership to understand them appropriately. An effective manager-to-bank ratio gives your institution’s staff a better chance of being treated like a person rather than a number. By knowing your relationship manager and vice versa, your interactions throughout the years to come will also run much more smoothly. Question 7: How frequently will my relationship manager meet with my bank? Regular communication with your technology partner ensures your business runs smoothly. As an offshoot of the previous question, it’s essential to understand the frequency of meetings with your relationship manager and how they prefer to communicate. This question speaks to both the level of customer service and overall culture fit with your institution. Ensure that their communication style aligns with your own and that they will be accessible when needed. Remember that a true partnership has ongoing, two-way communication. You may prefer your relationship manager to come onsite regularly or conduct video or phone calls more frequently. An engaged relationship manager will establish clear means to hear from you often. By knowing these means in advance, you can organize and plan accordingly. Question 8: How many support tickets do you log each week? The number of support tickets that a core technology provider receives can tell you a lot about the quality of their technology and the level of support they offer. If they receive a high volume of tickets, it could indicate that their technology is unreliable or understaffed. All the bells and whistles in the world are only helpful so long as they are functional. By asking this question, you’ll better understand how frequently they are and hopefully sidestep obstacles in the future. This question may provide insight into the overall satisfaction and potentially lost business you can expect. However, it could offer additional insight into the technology provider’s support capabilities in conjunction with the following question. Suppose a core provider logs a high volume of support tickets but can quickly and effectively resolve them. In that case, the silver lining is that they likely have a strong support team that can swiftly address issues that arise. It’s critical to explore how commonly the technology provider faces issues, and how they respond to them. Question 9: How quickly do you resolve tickets, on average? As mentioned above, the number of support tickets is far from the whole story. It could be something simple like a patching error or, on rare occasions, something more significant. With technology, there are bound to be hiccups from time to time. But as the old saying goes, “It’s not what happens to you. It’s how you respond to it that matters.” Knowing the average resolution time for support tickets can help you understand what to expect when encountering issues. Ask your partner about their response times, including their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for critical issues. Ensure that they have a system for tracking and reporting on resolution times. This is also an excellent opportunity to reiterate how they communicate, so that you are in the loop if a problem arises. Finding the Right Core Banking Technology Partner The quest for the right technology partnership can be arduous and involves long conversations with technology providers, consultants and peers. Asking the right questions each step of the way can help you make an informed decision and find a partner that provides both the technology and support you need. By asking about their technology strategy, enhancements, APIs, contract length and beyond, you’re more likely to find a partner that aligns with your business objectives, supports your growth and keeps you competitive. For more insight into what that core partnership should look like and a sample implementation timeline, dive into our Definitive Guide to a Modern Core Banking Partnership. READ NOW Allison Maddock serves as senior vice president and chief product officer, a role in which she leads CSI’s product management team to deliver solutions aligned with CSI’s vision and strategy. As a member of the executive leadership team, she uses her product management, strategy, operations and technology expertise to advance CSI’s products and services.