Adam Oldfield, Business Development Director, Unisys
The branch of today looks very different to what it looked like twenty or so years ago. Cash slips, pens hanging from chains and queues that lasted longer than it took to walk to the branch, were all the rage. But in the digital age, we rely on technology more than ever before. Tech-savvy consumers and their high demands have resulted in banks having to transform their approach. Now, they are looking to digitalisation models to create an effective customer loyalty strategy – and this goes beyond mobile and online banking, and into bricks and mortar. After all, whilst online and mobile banking are fundamental in today’s banking approaches – customers still rely on interactions in-branch for important activities that require a level of consultation – such as mortgages.
Yet, some players are lagging behind in the race for digitalisation. Regulation, understanding which technologies to invest in and working with complex or legacy infrastructures, has left some institutions looking irrelevant. Aside from these challenges is the fact that there are now smaller, more agile competitors on the horizon. Their innovation is threatening the ‘big guns’ of the industry. So how can larger or more mature institutions compete?
Don’t forget to change the channel
We’re all aware of the popularity of m-banking – 42% of mobile users now bank through their mobile device, which is up from 26% in 2013. Yet, whilst a large proportion of people are checking their balances and making transactions at their fingertips via mobile device, in-store convenience is as important as ever. To cater to demands of multiple channels, some banks stay open later or on the weekend.
The reason for this? People still value face time with trusted advisors and sometimes, it’s actually more convenient to pop into the branch when you’re in the area than digging out your online membership number.
Banks must transform branches into areas that blend online and offline together. Barclays’ introduction of iPads for customers and employees in-branch is a good example of this. It offers customers a device that they’re used to working from, whilst having the assurance of advisors in the same vicinity.
Just like retailers, banks must think about personalisation. That means offering their customers bespoke services and information, based on customer data. Whilst some banks are offering personalisation on online platforms, it’s rarely relevant. Greeting messages and clunky emails to alert you to services that may or may not be relevant are at the top of their agendas.
Future-gazing technologies, such as iBeacons, provide a cocktail of an offline and online model. For instance, if a customer is using a Bluetooth enabled device, banks can send notifications to them whilst they are in the branch. However, this is only effective if the bank is basing this interaction on the context of that customer.
Cloud, mobility and analytics are critical to digitalisation. You can’t have the front-office tricks, if you don’t have the fundamental back-office systems to help you achieve personalisation and convenience. Yet, many aren’t taking a leap of faith to these emerging technologies whole-heartedly because they are unsure how to integrate these emerging technologies into their existing infrastructure. There are solutions out there that help synergise complex legacy systems with the new solutions. The key to this is to do your homework so that you’re investing in providers that ensure compliance and regulation are a key priority.
To execute a digitalisation plan, banks must align their channels – online and offline – and in some cases blend the channels together. But critically, they must invest in the back-office systems that enable these technologies to flourish. By doing so, they are offering a new level of convenience and are able to compete with new digital banks seeking to offer online services only.