All different kinds of businesses have been forced to change in the face of the global pandemic. Most grocery stores now offer delivery. Restaurants curb-side pickup. Health providers drive-thru testing. And the sector underpinning all of them—financial services—has had to adapt in its own unique and fundamental ways to support customers forced to change their own behaviors.
For example, permitted to stay open as an essential business, retail banks have seen a dramatic decline in customers visiting branches. But that didn’t slow forward-thinking financial institutions down because they have been moving toward digital-first engagement for some time.
“One thing everyone has learned from this period is that you have to be very close to your customers,” said Levent Yildirmak, senior vice president for Technology Infrastructure at ING Bank Turkey. “Customers shouldn’t come to the branches. We can still serve them well in other ways using technology.”
Yildirmak and other executives from global financial services organizations shared their insights about exceptional customer experience in the VMworld 2020 panel session (OCTO 1222), “The Next Normal in Financial Services: The Way We Work and How It’s Changing.” The session, which was led by Matthew O’Neill, industry managing director for Financial Services in VMware’s Office of the CTO, also featured Biswabrata Chakravorty, chief information officer at IndusInd Bank in India; Graham Elliott, Head of Infrastructure Technology at Allied Irish Bank; and Haim Inger, chief technology officer of Clal Insurance in Israel.
All Eyes on Customer Experience
All of the financial industry IT leaders agreed the pandemic has accelerated a shift among banks and insurance companies to be more customer focused than they have been in the past. They also agreed digitalization was critical to achieving their goals.
Yildirmak said Turkish regulators have empowered banks to offer new services, enabled by digital solutions. For ING Bank Turkey, that has meant exploring ways to digitally sign up new customers. “We’d like to do digital onboarding so that the next day—or in the next few hours—customers can start using the banking functionality,” said Yildirmak.
“People are starting to use contactless payment methods,” Yildirmak said. “People are starting to use digital channels a lot. Mobile applications, Internet banking…. They actually don’t want to go to branches, and branch utilization is decreasing day by day.”
Yet even as banking customers have adapted, consumer-facing financial applications have shown strain, leading banks to look further at ways of digitally supporting customers.
“Customers are happy that they’ve been able to continue to transact during this period, but we’re not sure how long they’re going to remain happy,” said VMware’s O’Neill. “So, it’s not about digitizing everything; it’s about thinking differently.”
Customer Journeys Hold the Key
It’s one thing for a bank to digitize the mortgage application process. It’s another to help a customer own a home. For a business that was once largely transactional, COVID-19 has forced financial services organizations to think more in terms of customer journeys.
“From a banking perspective, we’ve had to look at how our customers have had to adapt,” said Elliott of Allied Irish Bank. “In Ireland, as companies sent people home, some were in a position where they continued to be paid, while some were being supplemented. As a bank, we had to understand how things changed. As an industry, we needed to be there to support them, understand, and actually be flexible and agile in working with them.”
To compound the challenge, different customers have different perceptions of their financial requirements, meaning a bank’s agility could take it in different directions.
“My 12-year-old daughter has realized cash is not a big thing anymore,” according to Elliott. “She wants an account and a bank card. My parents, on the other hand, have been cash-driven, so the challenge is bringing them into a contactless experience. We’re enabling generations to close that gap and evolving quicker. But we need to progress at a faster pace to meet customers’ needs over the next coming months.”
Digital Tools Make the Right Connections
In many cases, being closer to customers means giving financial services employees the technology tools they need to deliver value. That can include the digital workspace and video conferencing solutions that allow customers to consult safely with bankers as well as mobile applications that run seamlessly across devices to enable service delivery wherever customers and bankers meet—even if it’s not in the same room.
“For the past 10 years, we’ve had discussions that customers won’t use because it’s too complicated,” said Clal Insurance’s CTO, Inger. “We’d still need to visit our customers at their homes to sell insurance or deal with claims. When COVID-19 came, it was an instant challenge, and something we tried to implement for 10 years got implemented in a few days.”
At India’s IndusInd Bank, migrating to a cloud architecture has given employees easy access to applications that help strengthen ties with customers. That was especially important when the bank went from a 30 percent home-based workforce to 60 percent of employees working from home.
“We are using so many apps, particularly mobile apps,” said IndusInd Bank CIO, Chakravorty. “A relationship manager may be using customer data and accessing records, trying to complete a transaction on a mobile phone.”
IndusInd Bank implemented a mobile device management (MDM) platform using VMware Workspace ONE to secure its mobile apps and make them available enterprise-wide. “We’ve scaled up to 25,000 or 30,000 users across the bank,” Chakravorty said.
Security is Part of Challenging the Status Quo
Across the financial services sector, incumbent companies are taking heritage systems and turning them into consumable services. Newcomers are introducing fresh capabilities that respond faster to customers’ needs. And all are keenly aware that, especially now, bad actors stand poised to test the cybersecurity of financial services providers.
“With all of the change—all of the disruption and new ways of working and transacting—the criminals are out in force,” said VMware’s O’Neill.
Built in, or intrinsic security, a strategy for leveraging a company’s digital infrastructure differently to secure resources across apps, clouds, and devices, represents a more context-aware paradigm reflected in banks’ need to better deliver financial services where and how customers prefer to consume them.
“I never expected to be 24×7—virtually, physically, every which way,” explained Chakravorty of IndusInd Bank. “That’s one of the key lessons of COVID-29. There’s not an hour when we’re not at our jobs, because the world is completely online.”
As VMware’s O’Neill summed things up, “This new normal may be enabled by technology, but it’s really about people, and there’s never been a better time to challenge the status quo.”