Reshaping the banking experience
If you’re working at a bank, chances are the word ’digital’ features regularly in your daily, if not hourly, vocabulary. There is a hyper-focus on digital, throwing into question everything from the sustainability of banking careers, to how clients will transact and interact with the financial system in the future. If you aren’t already all over it, the odds are seemingly stacked against your survival.
Interestingly, banks have realised that digital on its own, despite the noise, does not guarantee success.
Retail banking remains very much about connecting with clients: success lies in arranging the ideal marriage between digital and the human touch. A client’s loyalty to a bank is now dependent on a holistic client experience: an expert to help them with big financial decisions, such as buying a home or planning for retirement, combined with the transactional convenience of digital.
Building a better client experience
Banks are now consciously putting themselves in their clients’ shoes, designing experiences rather than products. Emerging technologies such as AI are making it possible to mine deep insights into their clients’ life goals and preferences and translate them into solutions that are a much better fit.
If the goal is for clients to have a convenient and customised experience, banks need to focus on providing more choice via digital, rather than pushing for digital above all else. It’s about creating different experiences for different types of people, who may not be equally digitally-savvy.
For instance, a client with more sophisticated wealth management needs reviewing their investment portfolios on their smartphone, should be able to web chat or do a video call with their relationship manager about potential investment decisions, without having to visit a branch – unless they want to.
In Africa, many consumers have gone straight to mobile banking, skipping the transition from branch to online altogether. For the emerging affluent there, digital banks, such as the ones we run in eight markets, including Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya, are a natural fit for their needs.
By increasing accessibility and transparency, digital also allows banks to slot almost seamlessly into people’s lives. In markets such as Hong Kong, clients can access banking directly from a messaging platform of their choice. Digitisation makes account opening much simpler and faster by integrating with centralised government bureaus for identity checks.
In Hong Kong, new holders of virtual bank licences, including Standard Chartered are partnering with multiple lifestyle providers such as telecommunications companies and travel agencies to be a part of their clients’ daily lives.
Delivering banking through unified platforms and building holistic ecosystems will also be key to the survival of financial institutions. In Hong Kong, new holders of virtual bank licences, including Standard Chartered are partnering with multiple lifestyle providers such as telecommunications companies and travel agencies to be a part of their clients’ daily lives. WeChat in China is a window into the future, where a client can do pretty much everything from buying movie tickets and groceries to paying their children’s school fees all through one platform.
How does disruption help?
Disruption means letting go of old ways of working and becoming truly agile in the way we think and operate. It’s about adopting a ‘fail fast’ approach – disrupting the way you work by learning from error rather than avoiding it to maintain the safety of the status quo.
As we disrupt old systems, the ‘build once for many’ approach may not always work for banks. We had to build from our existing technology stack for our digital banks in Africa, but in Hong Kong, our virtual bank will be built on completely new architecture and operate as a wholly separate entity.
Digital transformations can be a complete failure if not accompanied by a change in the way both banks and clients think and engage.
For instance, when we look at automating how we sign up new clients, success can only happen if both relationship managers and clients are comfortable shifting away from the paperwork they found tedious, yet familiar.
Letting go of the familiar is key: I encourage my colleagues to hang out at tech-savvy companies in travel and e-commerce, for instance, so they can see first-hand how other industries have successfully reinvented themselves. They come back with fresh perspective, a lot of energy and full of disruptive new ideas.
With the pace of change in technology and client preferences, disruption needs to be in the DNA of a company without the fear of failure. The manager of Liverpool FC – which we proudly sponsor – summed it up excellently in the club’s official match-day programme: “We don’t do ‘if only’.”
By Aalishaan Zaidi, global head of client experience, channels and digital banking, Standard Chartered Bank