The 5-Minute Account Unicorn

You’ve probably seen them lately - the ads that claim you can stop by any location at a big, well-known bank and open an account and be on your way in five minutes. Sounds nice, right? Let’s talk about it.

That “5 minute” mark has been running around the banking industry for years. You’ve heard it at conferences, from vendors, and many other places. It almost has a magical aura about it at this point. Its a proverbial unicorn. Where did it come from? Your guess is as good as ours.

The problem is that we get caught on the number sometimes. We’ve even had banks ask us to take out a stopwatch, time the process, and make sure we can do it in that timeframe! Can we get there? Sure, if we don’t ask the customer any questions, they have their ID in hand and it has an updated address, they only want one basic account, and we don’t plan on talking about any other offerings that could help the customer.

Its that last one where we lose who we are as community banks. Can you get someone an account in five minutes? Sure. Can you build a relationship in five minutes? Not a very good one, and that is what sets us apart.

When this topic comes up at your bank, here are a few things to think about.

  • Focus on the idea, not the number. When we say we want a “5 minute” account, what we are really saying is “we need this to be faster”. Don’t try to chase a number, because you might cut valuable items to hit a goal. Chase the spirit of the idea.

  • Focus on the process, not the interaction. The whole interaction might take 15 minutes or an hour, and you need to be ready for both. Do they just have a bit of time over lunch? Let’s roll. Do they want to show you all the pictures or their grandkids on their phone? Let’s take a look. Moral of the story? You want to slim down the technical process, not take away valuable relationship building time. In fact, if you do things right you should be able to create more time for those discussions if you are able to cut from the process. We don’t want to spend 12 of that 15 minutes on paperwork.

  • Cut the right things. If you are trying to speed something up, focus on the non-value added activities in the process like all of the extra fields, forms, steps, etc. Do you really need to gather that? Do we really have to have a signature on this? Can we combine some of these documents?

  • Think about post-customer processes. We tend to try and do everything while the customer is there, when there are steps that could be taken after they leave. Make sure your process has a definite line where the banker can finish up items like letter printing, check ordering, etc. after that final handshake.

In short, when you hear this term again (and you will) focus on what is really being said – “this process takes too long, and its hurting our ability to provide great service”. If you’d like to discuss these processes more, we’re always happy to talk about these ideas and how we can help. Keep in touch with CC Interactive on our website ( or by contacting Jesse Cain or Hans Christensen for more on enabling bankers to create profitable customer relationships.

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