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DIGITAL COMPETITION: HOW TRADITIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS CAN CONTINUE TO ADAPT IN THE FACE OF NEO-BANKS

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By Halil Aksu, CEO and co-founder of Digitopia

 

The meteoric rise of the neo-bank has given traditional financial institutions a lot to think about in recent years. Born in the era of mobile banking, the convenience of a digital-first approach can be epitomised by the customer base of leading financial technology company, Revolut. Having only crossed the 1 million customer mark in December 2017, Revolut now finds itself with 15.5 million global users, and this growth is only expected to continue.

Neo-banks are challenging traditional institutions that still operate with legacy systems. They are the “new kids on the block”, capable of quick money transfers and seamless payments, as well as a plethora of other financial services. Competition is fierce, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the pace and scope of change. In response, traditional banks have had to undergo severe digital transformation – and they have certainly stepped up to the plate.

 

Evolving with the Times

According to research undertaken by Digitopia, in conjunction with UAB Digital, traditional banks have made significant strides in their digital transformation efforts in the last 24 months.

The digital maturity of the banking sector is improving, especially when it comes to the adoption of technology, data analytics, employee upskilling, and customer experience. Judged across six dimensions – technology, governance, innovation, people, operations, and customers – the average digital maturity score for the banking sector sits at 3.27 out of 5. This shows, on average, an improvement of 0.2 maturity points per year.

Digital transformation can develop in multitudes across each of these six dimensions. While further improvement requires defining and following a clear strategy with company-wide roadmap alignment, Digitopia’s findings in digital maturity research point to a few specific areas where the banking and finance industries appear to be excelling the most:

  • Data is being acknowledged as a critical asset and analytics capabilities are developing.
  • Organisations know the importance of prioritising customer experience.
  • There is progress in:
    • Use of technology
    • Integration of processes
    • Employee upskilling
  • Businesses are applying new ways of working.
  • Data-led critical decision making

 

Digital Transformation Is a Process

To continue this progression, financial institutions must take a holistic approach in their digital transformation, encompassing six dimensions into their efforts; technology, governance, innovation, people, operations, and customers. There is no way to ‘complete’ a digital transformation. To drive true business value, digital transformation must be regularly measured and benchmarked across each of these six dimensions. 

Digital Transformation is a team sport. Each dimension requires equal attention and investment. One must excel across all each of these six dimensions to be successful.

 

Assessing Digital Maturity is Key

Accurately measuring and benchmarking digital progress is just as important as the digital transformation effort itself. Tracking digital maturity throughout the digital transformation journey enables organisations to consistently and efficiently improve their digital processes.

By following the methodology that the six dimensions provide, businesses will progress. With that said, it is just as essential to measure and benchmark this progress regularly.

Regularly measuring progress allows an organisation to look at the bigger picture and create a competitive advantage. This will allow for an accurate understanding of where the organisation is doing well, and where it must improve. With that knowledge, a business can finally move in the right direction, closer to digital maturity. Eventually, it will find business success.

 

Developing One Step at a Time

The journey toward digital maturity is complex. It covers a range of business domains and requires harmonious functioning across each one. Over the last two years, many financial institutions have achieved significant digital progress. They have developed a range of digital capabilities and a considerable degree of integration. However, the job is never finished.

Truly digital companies do not limit themselves to using new technology, allowing remote working and process automation. They must rethink their core value proposition and set a clear direction to develop their capabilities while moving towards their goal.

Developing digital maturity takes time and effort, but it is an extremely fulfilling process.

 

Finance

2021: THE YEAR THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR WILL ENTER THE ERA OF BOUNDLESS CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

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By

Steve Bell, VP EMEA Solutions Consulting, Verint Systems

 

It can feel like businesses lurch from one disruption to another. From macro-economic collapse to aggressive competitors, changes to regulations, political uncertainty, being slow to innovate; all these and more can undo the years of hard work that has been spent building up a viable, profitable company.

Yet dig beneath the surface of those issues, and despite the apparent variations there is a fundamental truth in all of them – that the reason for failure is an inability to change. History is littered with the names of once industry-leading companies that did not change their business model to reflect the evolving needs and demands of the market. Some have gone completely; others are shadows of their former selves.

 

Accelerated consumer demands

It’s likely that we will see more names follow them in the coming months and years. As we’ve seen in previous crises, not even storied banks are too big to fail. The pandemic will be blamed for much of it, and it will be a significant factor. But in all likelihood, all it will have done is accelerated what was already going to happen – just as it has done for digital transformation. We’re at a point now where consumers are expecting much more intuitive experiences and services from the brands they buy from, and that includes financial service providers.

Steve Bell

From new channels and ways of purchasing, to heightened expectations of what good looks like, banks are having to do much more with, in many cases, a workforce that is dispersed, disengaged, and underequipped to meet customer demands.

That means they need to adapt. They need to be able to offer self-service, social-media based customer interactions, mobile, ecommerce, and they need to be able to offer it at the same standard as innovators, all with a remote workforce. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling mortgages or fridges, whether you’ve been in business 12 months or 50 years – consumers are taking their experiences from other sectors and expecting everyone they interact with to be at the same standard. Put another way, financial service providers are no longer just judged against their sector competitors.

Decision-makers know this – a new study from Verint found that understanding and acting on rapidly changing customer behaviours was a top concern for 71% of financial service professionals. Their top challenges highlighted concerns relating to remote workforces, with maintaining established relationships with clients, a lack of physical interaction between employees and customers and inefficiencies in managing urgent client matters all causes for concern.

 

Ushering in a new era of customer engagement

It all points to creating a new approach to customer engagement. Banks and other financial service providers need to recognise that they have to deliver an always-on experience, irrespective of channel, while at the same time taking into account the fact that their workforce isn’t going to scale to meet the challenge.

What’s the solution? The answer combines culture and technology to create an approach known as boundless customer engagement.

It’s cultural because it demands a mindset change. One that sees the entire organisation as responsible for delivering an exemplary experience, not just customer service, or a subsection thereof. Where key performance indicators and objectives across all functions are dialled into how that department or team supports the delivery of better customer experiences. It’s also about empowering workforces to act appropriately and deliver the best response to customers, allowing the entire organisation to adapt and act faster.

 

Combining technology and culture

It needs to be cultural, because culture defines how the next part is used. Technology is inherently neutral – it is only through its deployment and adoption that it becomes either a force for good or simply a quicker root to short-term margin improvement. If the right cultural mindset is in place, then the technology that underpins it all will deliver boundless customer engagement.

It will do this through enabling the right balance of automation and human touch, allowing teams to scale without leaving customers feeling as if they are at the mercy of an impersonal algorithm. With artificial intelligence, everything from front-end chatbots to back-end knowledge management systems serving up the right information at the right time, can be deployed to meet accelerated customer expectations.

 

2021 – the year of boundless customer engagement

By combining a culture shift with the deployment of technology, financial service providers will be able to break down the barriers that disrupt better customer experiences and meet demand. And they’ll be able to do it without having to massively scale up or put teams under intolerable pressure.

Whatever else happens, the consumer experience in 2021 is going to be one characterised by speed, by intuition, and by a vast array of touchpoints. For financial service providers to be able to deliver on this promise without dramatically undermining their own employees will take a new approach – one that connects the realities of work today with data and experiences to build enduring relationships through boundless customer engagement. In doing so, banks, wealth managers and other finance organisations will drive real business outcomes that cements ongoing performance, irrespective of the wider economic climate.

 

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Business

HOW TO UP YOUR EMAIL MARKETING GAME IN THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY

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By

Sam Holding, Head of International, SparkPost

 

The secret to a successful marketing campaign, no matter the industry, comes down to a well-oiled email programme.

In the financial industry, high volumes of emails are being sent every day, and it is vitally important that customers trust the sender and understand the information that is being shared through the email. And in the financial industry, this is even more true. But ensuring that emails are being received correctly, both in terms of deliverability and content, is much easier said than done. How can organisations ensure that their emails are reaching customers and prospects successfully, and sending the right message?

While financial services firms certainly need to consider the content and branding of their emails, they must also prioritise the foundational elements of email, namely deliverability, in order to make email the ROI machine it can be. That said, deliverability, content, and branding are the combined ingredients necessary for financial services to fully realise the potential of their email programs.

For high volume senders, even a seemingly nominal decrease in deliverability rates can represent a huge decline in how many customers are actually seeing their emails. More than that, with financial institutions, the value of each converted customer can be quite high meaning that even a 1% decrease in inboxing rates can mean major losses. Once financial organisations understand the pounds and pence of deliverability, it’s time to start implementing tactical best practices to avoid the pitfalls of declining deliverability rates.

 

Step 1. Improve your reputation as a sender

For financial organisations, using email to help boost their credibility and reputation is essential. Actions such as sending on new IP addresses with unproven reputations, can seriously impact an organisations reputation with current and potential customers, therefore it is vital that email activity is set up to improve a company’s reputation and not the other way round. It is important that anything considered personally identifiable about a customer (or PII), like their phone number, account number, or address, are properly protected and only shared with the customer themselves. On the other hand, another way to build customer trust is by letting them know information that you will never ask for over email, so that they can easily identify any suspicious communication that occurs, without finding out the hard way.

Also, when it comes to building a solid sending reputation financial firms shouldn’t send too much, too soon, from a new IP address.

 

  1. Relevant email sending is key

Once the more technical aspects of email sending are in place, organisations must next ensure that the content they are sending in their emails is truly relevant to the recipients. No matter how engaging and interesting an email is, if it is not relevant to the recipient, it simply will not yield success. The more relevant the emails are, the more likely they will be well received by consumers.

Financial institutions should be mindful when building lists for sends and use data like past purchases, traffic logs, and on-site search to inform who they’d like to send to, avoiding the temptation to blanket their whole audience with a single email in the name of efficiency. In order to get the most out of email communications, sending highly targeted messages will be much more effective in not only building reputation, but building out a strong and engaged list.

 

  1. Produce high quality content

Once the relevant audiences have been defined through segmentation, the next task is to decide on the content of the emails. When it comes to sending out marketing messages, financial institutions should consider the kind of information their recipients find valuable and produce content that is in line with their needs. One way of ensuring marketing emails resonate with the audience is through promotions. Who doesn’t love a good offer? Customers need to be able to see the value in subscribing to emails, and offering valuable educational seminars and content and special offers tailored to their financial picture via email is a simple way to do that.

Another best practice for financial institutions is to pay close attention to writing great subject lines. Since many customers won’t see more than the first few words — especially on mobile – senders should put the most relevant and targeted terms up-front, making the value to the customer immediately clear. With smart content informed by great segmentation, financial firms can really leverage the power of email in their marketing strategies.

 

  1. Use strong branding to boost integrity

The last foundational ingredient to a great financial services email strategy is branding.

To ensure brand integrity, it is essential that every aspect of an organisation’s messaging — visual identity, voice, value proposition — is consistent and compelling. A common pitfall is to use different systems or third-party providers for automated transactional emails, marketing emails, and other types of messages. This can lead the look and feel of the messages customers receive to vary widely, creating a confusing brand experience. By managing all messages through a single system, financial firms can build a stronger connection with customers and make each email they receive feel part of a coherent and valuable relationship.

As part of a financial services organisation’s branding strategy, it’s a good idea to use the brand name in the “from” field that shows up in the recipient’s inbox. Some marketers use an individual’s name with the belief that it will seem more personal, but this can also make it seem like spam. Instead, use a name customers will expect to see, then stick with it consistently across all emails to build recognition and trust. Using a solid and consistent brand is a best practice for any brand that sends email!

When it comes to your email marketing strategy, different approaches will work for different organisations, and will depend on the intended outcome. For large volume senders, like financial organisations, this is particularly true, and it is even more important that you know why you are sending your email and who it is intended for in order to get the most success possible. By following best practices, and taking care in your approach, email can be the gateway to a higher reputation and more loyal customer base.

 

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