Published on July 6, 2021 by Ashutosh Gupta
The pandemic has affected our lives and businesses in many ways. Businesses have started looking to adopt technological innovations to survive, something that was not very common before this crisis. In terms of the banking sector, however, has technical innovation been a blessing in disguise? This has yet to be answered, but one thing is for sure — visits to the bank to meet banking needs will never be the same again. The crisis has transformed banking processes from the physical to the digital, fast-tracking them significantly. It has completely shifted the customer experience and customer behaviour towards banking, and the digitalisation process has introduced a new breed of banking apps, increasing customer satisfaction and the need for future-ready products.
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” This has been very hard on many businesses, but they have adapted to the change. The banking sector, too, would not be able to go back to the old ways of doing business and would have to adopt the new phenomenon of extreme customer-centricity, the single most important factor that would shape the sector. Enhancing the customer experience is now a means not just to surpass the competition but also to survive and not become obsolete. In the current scenario, all product developments and changes would have to start with the customer experience and subsequently integrate the other factors.
High standards have already been set in terms of the digital banking customer experience, and we expect banking institutions to raise the bar even higher to avoid customer dissatisfaction. According to McKinsey research, 75% of banking customers have tried different brands and their services since the start of this pandemic, and 60% of them are willing to change their banking partners to enjoy better digital services.
We list below key emerging trends in the sector that will likely change the landscape:
Artificial intelligence (AI). If applied appropriately, AI can do wonders for the banking sector. Apart from providing 24*7 transactional capability, customer support, personal assistance, personal reminders and financial planning, it would also enhance its security capabilities. This would be in addition to enhancing the customer experience and ensuring meaningful customer engagement for the long term.
An example is the use of chatbots within payment platforms to make transactions faster and easier. Virtual financial assistant Erica in Bank of America’s mobile banking app helps customers with account information. This is like talking to Alexa, Siri or Google. Erica can pull your account balances, locate past transactions, provide a snapshot of your weekly/monthly spending, monitor recurring charges and alert you on any abnormalities. The customer has just to make a command or ask a question, for example, “Have I paid my credit card bill?” The more users interact with Erica, the more the bot learns, and the better it becomes at providing help and making financial decisions.
Simple, safe and seamless payments. Thanks to innovative technology, payments have grown exponentially. The use of QR codes, contactless cards, digital wallets and biometric authentication is becoming common, making our lives simpler, safer and seamless, at least for the day-to-day payment experience. This is another important aspect in enhancing the banking customer’s experience.
- Unified Payment Interface (UPI) payment apps enable payment just by pointing your mobile device to a QR code and using your fingerprint
- Token-based payments where actual card information is never shared, but the token is shared to protect the account and card details — uses Secure code for risk-based authentication
- API integration with banks and other apps to make payments seamless
- Digital wallets using biometric authentication for faster and safe payments
Digital experience. Enhancing a customer’s digital experience by making interaction with the app more enjoyable. This new model of a small game built into the banking app appeals to customers and their need for fun and social interaction, inclination to compete and desire to earn rewards; this encourages users to check the payment app frequently to play the game/compete with other users and earn rewards such as cashbacks. Over time, users become more engaged with new banking solutions.
One example is PNC Bank’s Punch the Pig game, where if a customer is banking online, it allows the customer to transfer a certain sum of money into a savings account by punching the piggy bank that appears on the screen. This promotes the saving mindset in a fun and interesting way. Another example is Google Pay’s Go India Champion rewards game; this encourages users to check the payment app frequently to play the game/compete with other users and earn rewards such as cashbacks while making the usual payments or money.
Subscription services. These are still in the discussion stage, but are likely to become a reality, considering the changes in the banking sector. In fact, they could generate a feel-good factor. Approximately 44% of bank customers are willing to change their banking partners if they are offered personalised banking services. The change in customer attitude is a result of recent developments in banking and other marketing services. Consumers now want more than standard services — they are looking for a tailored service offering for which they are ready to share their transaction data and pay a recurring fee.
Most banks across the world offer mobile banking services free at present. There is a debate in the banking sector, however, whether banks should charge a fee for these services from those who want additional perks and would not mind paying a fee. Benefits that could be offered include advanced personal finance management tools, low interest rates on different types of loans, preferential card offers and subscription media services. Recent trends indicate that consumers expect their banks to provide more than just financial services; they want tailored offers and other services based on their spending habits.
The new trend of subscription services presents an opportunity for banks to earn steady revenue stream, helping generate a better customer experience and new customers willing to pay for a host of value-added personalised services.
Virtual cards. Virtual cards have become a reality amid the current crisis. These are cards issued virtually by the provider and can be used for online payments. The sector expects 20–25% of accounts payable volume to move from automated clearing house (ACH) transfers and cheques to virtual card payment by 2021. These cards are now used more and more in B2B payments due to their advantages.
- Virtual cards help make a business’s purchase transactions simpler because of their acceptance by most suppliers, and their convenience and cost-effectiveness.
- This type of card includes a one-time-use card number and usually expires if not used within a month. This helps stop online fraud, and it is impossible to clone the card, as it is virtual.
- A virtual card programme can offer specific rewards and offers based on a set of cards; this is not possible with credit cards.
- They provide better internal control and cash flow management.
Virtual currency token. The need to ensure a satisfactory customer experience and meet demand has forced the banking sector to adapt and change. Crypto tokens, also called crypto assets, are special kinds of virtual currency tokens that reside on their own blockchain and represent an asset. A good example is US Dollar Coin (USDC), a virtual currency token that represents a claim on US dollars held in a US-insured depository institution. It can be used for any kind of global payment and trade finance and has its own set of advantages such as the following:
- Virtual currency tokens attract very low or minimal fees for international transactions
- Payments can be made through mobile payment apps, which are accessible 24*7 without approaching a bank
- Crypto tokens provide greater liquidity for illiquid assets
- Tokens provide better transparency, as holders have their rights inbuilt into the tokens and tokens have a record of ownership unlike cryptocurrencies, which are anonymous
We believe this is the best time for banks to think about how they can provide better services and help customers. Only through empowering an experience-based inner culture would banks be able to become digital-first and adapt quickly. We believe emotional connections will play a very important role in the post-pandemic world, and those brands that connect emotionally with their customers through their financial products will succeed. To date banking industry functions infractions, to enhance customer experience and provide personalized service there has to be a consistent and smooth flow of information throughout banking products and services. All this cannot be achieved by the banking sector alone; it would have to be ready to enter into partnership with fintechs and technology companies if they want not just to survive but thrive.
“With great power comes great responsibility” — we believe the banking sector has such power and that all it has to do is expand and transform the digital perspective and way of doing business to reap the benefits.
The Acuity Knowledge Partners advantage
We been partnering with financial institutions, including many commercial banks globally, for over 13 years to set up best-in-class RFP processes to deliver true efficiencies in terms of cost and quality. We are experienced in setting up multiple structures, as outlined above, that work best for our clients and have a talent pool that includes some of the most seasoned proposal writers and content managers who understand the art and science of proposal writing and content management and have worked at major global banks and appreciate the needs of banking clientele. We also have industry-leading information security policies and robust compliance policies in place, including strict Chinese walls, to ensure client confidentiality is never compromised.
We offer a one-stop shop for our clients’ sales and marketing requirements. In addition to RFP services, we offer support that includes content management, designing, pitchbooks, presentations and brochures, digital marketing and client reporting. An example is our use of natural language generation (NLG), a subset of artificial intelligence, in narrative writing, generating earnings reports and client reporting. NLG makes the process accurate, fast and simple, and is able to integrate many data sources and produce highly customised reports and commentaries.
Our clients can consider a holistic approach to outsourcing and explore setting up their entire sales and marketing organisations by partnering with us. These services are supported by our proprietary suite of Business Excellence and Automation Tools (BEAT) that offer domain-specific contextual technology.
With Acuity’s unique blend of the trident approach comprising process, people and technology, our commercial-banking clients can expect a partnership that offers a true “plug-and-play” service capable of delivering quicker results and a return on investment that is unmatched in the industry.
About the Author
Ashutosh, Delivery manager, has 14 years of total work experience in sales enablement and operations management, with expertise in proposal and bid management. In his current role at Acuity Knowledge Partners, he is supporting the RFP/RFI/DDQ processes for the banking sector. Prior to this, he was part of the Sales Enablement team at BNY Mellon India Operations. He holds a Master of Marketing Management from Pune University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Business management with dual specialization in Services and Marketing Management.