Financial Services and the Global Pandemic: An Opportunity for Change?

COVID-19 has significantly impacted business and consumers alike. From furlough and business loans, to insurance and mortgage requests, financial organisations have faced an upheaval of customer requests and evolving policies.

On top of this, employees at financial institutions are working remotely within an industry that relies on security, impeccable connection and customer contact. This challenge, however, has presented the industry with an opportunity to accelerate change.

Alan Donnelly, Head of Financial Services at Salesforce believes that the pandemic has highlighted the digital imperative as we move to the ‘next normal’ and how customer-centricity can be re-invented in the digital economy.


Using technology for recovery and growth

Lockdown restrictions have plunged us into a virtual world that relies heavily on technology. For many traditional banks with bricks and mortar operations, this has been a test to the nature of the back office, call centres and customer-facing employees have all had to completely shift their way of working.

Financial institutions have had to transform their workforce and introduce new ways of working that had not been considered even months ago. Re-defining how we learn, develop and upskill to equip employees with the digital tools they need to succeed, must be a priority as the challenges of today are overcome and we move to a second phase of recovery and reopening.

Alongside the digitalisation of the workforce, platforms and services also need to match changing business priorities. Products and services that are scalable, flexible and robust will help to weather future crises and keep up with the pace of change.

Finding new ways for customers to communicate and engage with businesses is a great example. Banks could adopt technology such as SMS messaging, new customer community portals and other online communications channels to better support customer self-service and thus allow contact centres to deal with the more complex and higher-value requests. Likewise, the roll and scale of branch networks is under severe scrutiny.


Ensuring the customer is at the centre

This crisis has made clear that if the customer is not at the centre of everything you do, you’ll get left behind. Placing the customer at the centre will ensure that every single interaction happens in the context of that customer as an individual, no matter where they are.

Mapping customer journeys can provide the wealth of data required to do this. Many organisations are realising that they need to harness the customer life-cycle through data and agility. They need to identify those “magical moments” that make up their customers’ life, such as setting up a pension or planning for a family and offer seamless and personalised services for all stages.

By using AI for examples, financial services can begin to analyse data effectively and create a 360-degree view of the customer. There is no single answer or solution, but knowledge is power in the race for convenience. Above all else, those financial institutions that deliver timely connected and personalised experiences will win.


Building an ecosystem that is based on partnerships

Ecosystems and partnerships between old and new are increasingly becoming an important aspect of future planning for financial institutions. The rhetoric of challenger vs traditional bank is dissipating as both look to how they can survive and thrive in the long-term.

Fintechs have boomed because agility and innovation underpin both their customer base and business model. But these organisations are young and do not always have the data and scale that traditional banks do. Traditional banks possess historical information on how individuals and households spend and can use this to plot those crucial life moments.

Ecosystems offer a marketplace of financial services that customers can dip in and out of according to their current needs and future plans, whether this be a savings account or car insurance, accessing the best products out of a large portfolio. This enables traditional banks, fintechs and also non-financial companies to create an omnichannel business model that will work now and into the future. Allowing customers to be part of communities with common interests and needs will in many cases be crucial for customer retention and cross-selling.

The pandemic has highlighted again that the holy grail for financial services is being able to attract, add value and retain customers in a cohesive way. Core to all of this must be technology, the customer and partnerships – with these three ingredients financial services can create enduring long-term strategies for success.

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