The financial services industry has always had to embrace new digital technologies and platforms in order to remain competitive. – Bart Coole, country manager VMware Belux
As a consumer, however, we don’t particularly care about the back office technology. Yes, the point of competitive difference for most financial services organizations has centered on its ability to collect and deliver insights to support decision making, and technology can certainly support this. But, consumers look for an experience that will simply give them what they need, when they need it and on the platforms they use.
The use of new technology has transformed the way in which workflow and processes happen in the industry but it can also help win and retain customers by creating an experience better than others. However, multiple successive generations of technology innovation have left them with a big problem; that of managing these legacy systems, instead of delivering based on user needs.
These systems can make it difficult for applications to be moved onto new, more agile platforms, largely because of cost and complexity involved. Even with new, shiny looking technology, there is often a ‘Frankenstein’-like mess of middleware – software trying to make older systems communicate with newer systems. In reality, it becomes slower to update new applications, creating a possible loss of revenue and customers if time to market is slowed down. It restricts the flexibility of a system, resulting in a greater cost model to support and critically ensure regulatory compliance.
A shifting landscape
The rise of mobile: Mobile technology has changed the way in which people interact with their financial services provider, with consumers moving away from the traditional high-street bank, and turning to their numerous devices to access and manage their accounts. This drop in footfall requires banks to change their delivery of customer services and look to modernize and mobilize their applications, whilst transforming the in-branch experience for high street banks. In fact, 86 percent of European banks include digital as part of their strategy, with more than two thirds establishing a ‘chief digital officer’.
Disruptive competition: A new breed of challenger, digital-first, mobile-only banks are starting to challenge the more established brands in the field. New players, such as Monzo are finding new ways to deliver almost every type of financial service – from peer to peer lending, to digital and contactless payments, to personal trading platforms and beyond. But it’s not easy for the start-ups, as many of them lack the reputation to win the trust of many traditional customers. Their strategy instead will be to target younger customers. However, whilst starts ups have lower support costs, targeting the younger generation comes with its own challenges as they are more than happy to move their money based upon incentives and experience.
The future of customer experience in financial services
Digital challengers are looking to differentiate through personalization. Changes are being driven by a demand for better customer experience. The norm is being able to manage our money, wherever and however we please. It is no longer about what we want, but what we expect.
This leads us on to the concept of an omni-channel experience, whereby the customer experience is unified across online, mobile and the branch. Omnichannel banks will give customers a more integrated journey across channels for sales and service. For example, customers could initiate their cash transaction on their mobile device and then complete it when they arrive at the bank using the Near Field Capabilities (NFC) feature on their device. This is all underpinned by the continued cultural shift towards customer-centricity. Retail banks in particular, need to ensure they have the correct mobile platforms to support these changes and differentiate them from their competitors.
This will have an impact on employees, as well as customers. For example, in-store teller staff can become more mobile through the use of a ‘digital workspace’ portal accessed by tablets. This enables them to work on the branch floor, rather than being stuck behind the counter. For customers, a mobile check in app where you can input the service or transaction you’re waiting for, gives the staff more information and therefore could improve waiting times at the branch.
The geographical spread of the workforce could also be a challenge, with employees working across multiple offices, for example the head office, high-street branches and the call centre. Initiatives such as identity management and application provisioning provide employees with the flexibility to work from home if needed, whilst still being able to deliver customer sensitive data to any location.
 Accenture, May 2016