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HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES CAN BENEFIT FROM RETHINKING EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE

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By John Riley, Director, Digital Experience at Cognizant

 

The financial services sector has had a somewhat paradoxical pandemic. Mobilising teams to work remotely overnight while retaining high levels of service and security was a mammoth task for a complex, highly regulated industry and it inevitably made for some highly stressful times. It’s an event few would like to see repeated.

Yet, the pandemic was also a watershed moment, as efforts received by grateful customers accelerated the redemptive arc the sector has been on for the past decade or so since the 2008 crash.

Over the last year and a half, banks have been a vital lifeline for businesses and individuals as lockdowns decimated the economy and halted employment. There is a new appreciation from customers of what banks can do for them and a reinvigorated sense of purpose within the institutions themselves.

John Riley

Customers value employee willingness to go the extra mile, translating into a superior customer experience. In fact, those moments when employees have the right information, tools and empowerment to help customers can be brand defining. But, employees can’t demonstrate that empathy or go above and beyond if they themselves don’t feel supported. In extraordinary circumstances, financial organisations did all they could to help remote working staff. They moved beyond day-to-day management, from checking in on employees’ mental wellbeing to investing in technologies to reduce some of the burden of dealing with hundreds of queries every day.

Now that financial services companies have shown they can deliver on customer experience while supporting employees in a crisis, it’s time to embrace those learnings and apply them to the everyday working.

It’s not just an empty assertion – there is plenty of proof that caring for employees translates into superior customer experience. But despite that, historically, there has not been enough of a focus on employee experience in banking and financial services.

More than half (58%) of companies we surveyed in partnership with Forrester agreed that they were not investing enough in employee enablement which was, in turn, hindering their CX performance.

What does employee enablement look like? Certainly, the aforementioned mental health wellbeing check-ins for remote staff were important during moments of high stress, but the way to make sure employees feel valued and empowered to deliver great customer experience is much more fundamental.

Companies have underinvested in initiatives to align systems, workflows and technologies that allow employees to deliver their intended outcomes. The result is cumbersome processes that impact both the engagement of employees and the end customer, such as unnecesary delays in getting information, inaccurate responses, the need to use many channels (i.e. the call center, mobile app and branch) the need to repeat requests.

This misalignment can have any number of knock-on effects – employees miss internal targets resulting in stress and possible sanctions when they had little power to change the outcome; exasperated customers take their frustrations out on front-line staff impacting their mental health. Either way, this increases cost to serve, reduces customer and employee satisfaction and ultimately, leads to high staff turnover and customer churn.

Unsurprisingly, CX leaders in the financial services sector are much more likely to enable all parts of the experience ecosystem, including improving employee enablement. Nearly half (44%) of all FS CX leaders believe this completely describes their company’s vision, compared to a little over a quarter of followers (28%). And when asked if their employees were successful in delivering the business’s CX vision, 87% of FS CX leaders agreed compared to 65% of followers.

Providing the systems and processes that make the day-to-day execution of their role easier is key to employee enablement. Leaders and followers both prioritise improving the human experience through digital enablement in our  survey, including access to a productive work environment and the resources they need to solve client problems. But, inevitably, there’s room for improvement.

It is natural that all organisations, not just financial services, should focus on delivering the best customer experience possible. It is a defined goal against which you can both measure brand success and deliver revenue growth. But it cannot be achieved without focusing on your employees too. The level of customer experience they deliver is a direct reflection of their own, internal experience and enablement. A happy employee doesn’t means more than a happy customer – it is a win for the business as well.

 

Business

HOW CAN BUSINESSES BREAK INTO MARKETS BEYOND THE EU?

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HOW CAN BUSINESSES BREAK INTO MARKETS BEYOND THE EU?

Atul Bhakta, CEO of One World Express

 

The build-up and aftermath of Brexit impeded the long-term plans of businesses both in the UK, and of EU businesses trading to the UK. The heavily protracted negotiations induced a culture of uncertainty in business, with few able to adequately prepare for all the future trading landscapes left on the table.

Once a deal was struck, with just one week before the Brexit deadline of 31st January 2020, organisations were then left scrambling to improvise new processes to translate their operations to the new systems and avoid spiralling costs, shipping delays, and various other disruptions.

As a result, businesses both here and in the EU saw a substantial trading slowdown in the months following Brexit, with new rules on customs checks, lengthy tailbacks at ports, denser and knottier administrative rules and new limitations on visas for the workforce all contributing to a tense trading relationship.

Indeed, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed a precipitous drop in trading immediately after Brexit, with UK exports to the continent plummeting 40.7% year on year to January 2021.

This is a striking decline, given the historically close economic and cultural ties between the UK and EU. Inevitably, this caused a lull in long-term confidence amongst UK businesses. Indeed, a previous study conducted by One World Express in January 2021 found that 25% of UK companies doubted that they would last until the end of the year.

Atul Bhakta

Of course, Brexit is even now not a finalised issue – it will shift and evolve in significance and relevance as time passes and economies reshape; but the loss of confidence for businesses in UK-EU trade has been a tangible impact within the first year.

Accordingly, some organisations have begun exploring the scope for expansion into territories beyond the EU.

 

New opportunities attracting attention

As noted, the UK’s trade with the EU saw a sharp decline immediately following the formalisation of Brexit. While this decline has recovered steadily over the year, there has been an equally impressive parallel forming, as non-EU trade has remained mostly stable throughout.

Of course, UK imports from global markets have always remained at high levels, and when considering business growth and the economy as a whole, outward trade holds a heightened significance. On the export side of matters, ONS figures suggest that UK exports outside of the EU increased by 1.7% year-on-year to January 2021.

While a very modest increase, such figures indicate that international expansion could carry promise for business leaders, and hint at potentially lucrative opportunities within non-EU markets.

As 2021 progressed, it became evident that UK businesses’ appetite to explore opportunities further afield had grown. To take in the views of decision-makers, One World Express commissioned an independent survey of 752 business leaders in the UK, finding that 61% were either already operating abroad in some capacity, or had plans to expand into new territories over the coming year. More than six in ten (62%) reported Brexit as a key motivator in their decision to diversify beyond trading with the EU.

There was also some evidence that these plans were not solely in pursuit of the gains of modest uplifts in trade with non-EU countries. The survey found that more than two thirds (68%) of exporters had observed increased overseas demand for their products in the previous year, while 63% felt that markets outside of the EU were more willing to pay a premium for British-made goods.

The role of ‘Brand UK’ is significant here. For many years, products made in the UK have benefitted from the country’s reputation for high quality production and excellent service, which has driven a consistent rise in demand as emerging markets with high levels of consumer spending, such as India or China. In turn, UK businesses have found it easier than most to gain a foothold in new markets. Indeed, the majority (67%) of exporters reported their British brand had enhanced the reputation and demand for their goods and services when targeting international consumers.

Despite this innate – and highly welcome – competitive advantage, there are a number of factors UK firms must consider before diving in to unfamiliar markets.

 

The importance of planning

Many would be surprised to learn that a large number of businesses look to enter new markets with minimal planning in place. Notably, almost one third (32%) of exporters do not have such a strategy in place, which is likely to hamper the growth of British businesses abroad if left unaddressed. A crucial starting point for any international expansion plan lies in the research and relationship building.

Ascertaining the consumer preferences and audience behaviours in target markets, and forging appropriate connections with distributors, vendors, and ecommerce platforms, will allow firms to access consumers more easily, and in greater numbers, than marketing from scratch in unfamiliar territory. Encouragingly, according to One World Express’ research, 72% of exporters already include this in their plans.

UK organisations must also recognise the value of a robust and flexible logistics strategy. When products are being shipped to the furthest corners of the globe, there is a degree of risk if the finer details are not handled correctly. Delayed, missing, or damaged deliveries will erode consumer trust, and diminish the prospects of companies before they get off the ground. Accordingly, companies should ensure they have a transparent tracking system and efficient and user-friendly returns process. Investment in adopting the right software solutions to manage the shipping will create a streamlined and cost-effective process, affording firms the best chance at success.

Naturally, the EU will always be one of the UK’s most critical trading partners. However, as the dust settles on Brexit and the pandemic recedes into memory, the next few years present an interesting crossroads for the international prospects of UK businesses. With a tranche of new free trade agreements arriving in the near future, and international demand for Brand UK going from strength to strength, the scope for expansion into unfamiliar markets is growing apace. Provided business leaders get the finer details right, the rewards for bold investment in expansion could help charge a boom in the UK exports sector.

 

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WHAT FIREFIGHTERS CAN TEACH FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ABOUT DATA COLLABORATION

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Gabriele Albarosa, CEO, LiveDataset

 

Digital transformation can be difficult for any business, but in the financial services industry it can prove especially tricky. Replacing manual data processes is a big step, but in an industry so heavily regulated and audited, cohesive and comprehensive transformation is crucial.

Today, the challenge is no longer in convincing financial services organisations that they need to transform their processes and tasks; the vast majority understand the benefits of automating and streamlining their financial processes.

Instead, it’s about instilling the message that there is more to transformation than ripping out and replacing outdated technologies. A good financial transformation strategy must also take into account how these technologies are implemented, ensuring they integrate into an organisation’s culture, connect data and guarantee compliance, without completely demolishing the custom processes that employees want to use.

 

Little Fires Everywhere

While business transformation offers long-term benefits throughout an organisation, individual departments are often loathe to abandon the bespoke processes that facilitate day-to-day operations. Many organisations feel under pressure to transform quickly, and subsequently focus on how to get their employees onboard with a new solution rather than integrating every minute component of the old.

As a result, digital transformation efforts tend to bypass these disparate components, leaving small, potentially non-compliant hazards smouldering like little fires across an organisation.

These “little fires” don’t immediately represent a threat to business operations, but the lack of quality control, integration, and visibility of these manual workflows, means they’re inherently high-risk.

When a pressure situation hits the organisation, like a surprise audit, legal proceedings or new reporting demands, these processes become a highly combustible cocktail for non-compliance, lost data and human error.

 

Tackling the flames

Organisations need to tackle these little fires early on, rather than sitting back and hoping they will burn themselves out. But how can they be dealt with?

If you think of these small, unregistered processes as little fires, then your team needs to think like a firefighter — being fast, agile, flexible, and well-prepared for potential risks.

So how can CFOs, CXOs and Chief Transformation Officers bring this strategy to life?

 

  1. Be fast — don’t wait around for largescale digital transformation

There’s a common misconception amongst financial service organisations that before facing the issue, you need to wait until an overhaul of department processes or an in-depth audit. This could leave you waiting years for a solution that needs to be implemented in weeks, putting your department at risk.

Organisations must act with speed and address the issue head-on as soon as it has been spotted. Businesses don’t need to wait for largescale transformation; temporary or even permanent solutions do exist and can be tailored and installed immediately — targeting the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.

In my own business, we recommend a three 3-step approach to tackle these issue quickly: First, listening to an organisation’s business challenges to locate the most pressing fire. Second, build a working example for business leaders and decision-makers to evaluate. Finally, follow up with real-time collaboration to ensure that wider company processes don’t cause similar problems in future.

 

  1. Be agile and flexible — look for customisable solution that evolve over time

Organisations are ever-evolving, and so are the problems they face. However, some financial services organisations see the answer to these problems as a one-time, short-term fix. Working to put out these fires at speed shouldn’t stop organisations from considering how to prevent and deal with future ones. That’s why businesses run fire drills!

Financial organisations need forward-thinking systems that will work now and in the future, whenever they face their next data collaboration crisis. The ability to act in an agile way is fundamental to this sort of futureproofing.

Agile, flexible solutions will enable organisations to fight multiple fires, with the same systems, as time goes on. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work here. Putting one fire to rest won’t prevent more from happening, and not all fires are the same (just try throwing water on a chip pan fire!) Every organisation has distinct needs and that means customised solutions.

 

  1. Be prepared — implement solutions before disruption occurs

To understand their weakness and subsequently prevent fires, financial service organisations must encourage employees across departments to hold an ethos of self-improvement. Preparation is key to success.

That means establishing a comprehensive understanding of the day-to-day routines of employees at all levels. It’s in habit and routine (one-off processes, keeping data on email, spreadsheets as systems, etc) where financial fire hazards thrive.

If new, more compliant technologies are to be installed, they cannot dismantle these existing routines. Flexible data collaboration solutions are needed that perfectly match the existing way of working. Achieving the goals of transformation without any of the disruption.

 

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