How to prepare for the death of linear banking

By Sudeepto Mukherjee, Executive Vice President, Financial Services at Publicis Sapient


The future of banking is ever-evolving as banks must adapt to new technologies and customer preferences. Over the last few years, most banks have used Customer journeys to become more customer centric and enhance core areas of their business business. Focus on improving services like “onboarding” or “getting a loan” have resulted in a better experience and faster response times for most customers.  However, customer journeys remain far from what they could be – most are designed for the most basic experiences and aren’t hyper-personal or specifically targeted. Legacy technology , siloed operating model and the inability to capture timely metrics around customer needs and pain points  can be barriers to overcoming this challenge.

As a result, customers are inevitably offered generic journeys with a thin veneer of personalization that barely scratches the surface of feeling tailored.  But with the rise of digital banking, innovative FinTechs, AI, machine learning and data analytics, banks can now offer customers infinitely more options than ever before when it comes to managing their finances and a clear trend towards more personalised and non-linear banking experiences is emerging.

Because of this, the future of banking will be significantly different. An area where huge progress can be made is hyper personalisation – experiences  will be customized for the individual by meeting specific needs and processing a wide range of metadata around behaviour, assets, age, ethnicity, gender and literacy. Customer journeys will ultimately  feel much more personal and inclusive.

For banks, this means moving away from making decisions based on broad segment categorisation to analysing and understanding data on an individual level.

Sudeepto Mukherjee

Troublesome journeys

One of the catalysts for these changes is that while the current focus on journeys has driven optimisation and cost savings, it has failed to significantly move the needle on increasing wallet share (through cross sell) and enhancing customer experience. Most journeys follow a traditional “channel marketing” style – a linear process of a product or service from start to finish. This process raises challenges because channel marketing is so focused on the endgame, in terms of distribution, that it sticks to a rigid design and fails to provide optionality to customers. With this approach and these constraints that allow for no diversions, the result is that customer journeys are lacklustre and in need of an overhaul.

A customer journey is typically designed as a ‘happy path’. But when companies have ‘unhappy paths’ to deal with, like seemingly insurmountable expectations around products or experiences, there is little room for flexibility or adaptation. The distribution-led channel approach makes the customer journey unresponsive to feedback, for example, which isn’t ideal.

Once linear customer journeys are replaced by always-on targetted solutions, the pathways can become more reflexive. The result will be tailored feedback that can be sent in real-time to make the journey more relevant to solving specific needs. Here’s how this change could happen.

The human approach

Every brand wants to be both inclusive and accessible. In the financial services industry, banks are arguably one of the most integral parts of societal infrastructure. If your money isn’t held in a bank, it’s likely you don’t meet the most basic requirements for survival, such as getting a home or a job, and as a result you become unable to fulfil basic daily tasks and functions. You see a huge focus in developing countries like India to make banking more accessible to citizens. This is a win-win as banks benefit from rising customer deposits and citizens benefit by getting access to more financial products and services to enhance their wealth.

But, banks face a dilemma: their products and services are targeted towards people who have money as they derive a majority of profits from them –  yet by not catering to people who don’t have money, they are missing out on a huge opportunity to enhance future profits as these people can significantly enhance their wealth by becoming bank customers.

The big reason for this is the high cost of serving the different cohorts and this cost of variance means that banks can’t be inclusive to those whose money isn’t sitting in a bank or to people of protected characteristics because it’s simply too expensive. But as we have discussed above, there is not only a moral and societal expectation but also a huge financial benefit for banking providers to be inclusive of all members of society. The core reason for their inability to do this comes down to the limitations of technology, a gap in data and the degree to which experiences can be adaptive and hyper-personalised. Computation Design where machines and algorithms can leverage data to provide specific experiences tailored to very individual needs can help change this paradigm.

Using machine learning to emulate human experience

The human approach and computational design thinking are aligned in many ways. Both approaches operate on the idea that experience is personal, subjective and contextual. In addition, our understanding of society will be increasingly necessary in creating those adaptive and inclusive experiences.

Computational design will drive adaptive experiences for customers through the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Machines will be able to create experiences without a need for direct human intervention and this will, in turn allow experiences to scale. Going forwards, scaling won’t be about our ability to design – it will be about our ability to understand different populations of people and the subtle differences in their needs.

Diversity and inclusion targets are targets which everyone should be morally driven to strive towards because there’s absolutely no question that being inclusive and representative of society is the right thing to do and drives financial and mental well being for citizens To reach the point at which a financial services organisation can be inclusive, it must move on from generic customer journeys and focus on adaptive experiences. It must start considering the data that it wants to capture now and this process is about getting that data through current systems, interfaces and experiences.

The next major issue that banks will have to address as they gear up for the future of their customer journeys is how to wrestle with their privacy policy. This is the degree to which organisations think about data privacy: what they can and cannot capture and what they will and will not do with the data in ways that are more transparent and explicit than they are now.

Two things that banks can start doing now are thinking about the richer data needs of the future and start capturing data now, to collect high-quality data sets that will support personalisation in the future – and understand that data privacy and customer data policies should be much more intentional to ensure they’re aligned with customer values.

Although many current journeys lack flexibility, banks can start analysing them now because they can still be valuable in terms of data captured for the future. And, even if they can’t act on it right now,  organisations should begin to capture data –  to build and gather information in advance of its value. This will make the process of an organisational shift towards non-linear banking journeys in the future much easier.

The End (of the customer journey)

The traditional linear banking customer journey will  continue exist to fulfil the most basic of needs like onboarding and providing access to core banking services. . However, banks need to start shifting towards a more adaptive model delivering first-rate, personalised customer experiences based on individual needs. The technology will soon exist where consent driven customer data will underpin a more direct customer experience engagement method that utilises chat-bots, real-time support and advice in order to truly meet customer expectations for 2023 and beyond.



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