Given how new technologies have been revolutionising customer experience across a variety of sectors, proclaiming the importance for banks to embrace digital transformation may sound like old news. Haven’t all banks already created compelling online banking services by now, to satisfy the tech-savvy consumer’s demand for anytime, anywhere banking?
Well, no. The banking and financial services industries have traditionally been digital laggards, partly as a result of the highly regulated industry in which they operate and partly because senior decision makers have been slow to recognise the potential ROI. We are now entering a critical new phase in which intelligent machines are enabling – indeed, compelling – banks to fundamentally see and do everything differently. With the growing threat of FinTech firms increasingly gaining traction with consumers due to the accessibility, flexibility and availability of the financial products which they provide, banks now have a significant incentive to accelerate the move into the digital age.
Embracing the digital age
Digital transformation will affect all working practices and the way banking organisations are structured. New intelligent technologies for augmenting human performance will make it easy to achieve things that seemed impossible before.
Employees will become more speedy and productive – as well as happier and more fulfilled.
Banks will be able to reach incredible new levels of efficiency, accuracy, safety and security, and adopt radical new approaches to the way products and services are constructed.
Banks will soon be able to digitise every conversation they have with customers and then use algorithms to anticipate problems – for example, with contactless cards or credit card misuse. Based on these predictions, glitches can be prevented before they even arise.
Another way that intelligent technology can create a win-win for banks, staff and customers alike is with Robotics Process Automation. Machines can be programmed to do mundane, repetitive tasks, thousands of times faster and more accurately than humans. This frees up employees to do more fulfilling work that needs a personal touch – significantly improving customers’ experience all round.
Reaping the benefits of early adoption
Not all banks have been slow to embrace digital transformation. Here are some examples of how digital innovation is already benefiting organisations whose technology-embracing boldness is paying off:
The global financial services firm recently introduced a Contract Intelligence (COiN) platform to analyse legal documents and extract relevant insights and data. If their staff manually revised 12,000 annual sales contracts, it would take around 360,000 hours. With Machine Learning technologies, the same task can be done in minutes.
The Bank of America
Meet ERICA, who works for The Bank of America. You can’t shake hands (she doesn’t have any). This is the first time Artificial Intelligence has been used to help customers manage their savings. ERICA does this using AI, Predictive Analytics and Conversational Interfaces.
N26 describes itself as ‘a bank account for your phone’. Using an International Bank Account Number, customers can do everything they could with a traditional bank, except faster and from anywhere. The app is integrated with Pulse26, an analytical virtual assistant that provides personal insights based on each individual consumer’s needs.
CapitalOne was the first bank to offer a new way for customers to interact through a completely different channel. It integrates online banking with Amazon Echo so that customers can ask Alexa (the virtual assistant in the device) real-time information about their bank account, and perform transactions just by using their voices.
Citibank has recently acquired Feedzai, a Data Science company that works in real time to identify and eliminate fraud. By constantly and rapidly evaluating vast amounts of data, Feedzai identifies suspect activity and alerts customers immediately.
Act now or be left behind
As the above examples show, this technology is already revealing some astonishing benefits for financial institutions. And yet, many established banking organisations are still a long way from embracing this next stage of digital transformation. According to a recent PWC study, two banks out of three in the US have not yet adopted any meaningful application of these powerful new tools.
There are various reasons for this, such as operational, regulatory, budgetary and resource constraints. But the fact is, we are at a once-in-a-decade, pivotal moment – similar to the dawning of the internet age, back in the nineties. Leaders must transform how they run their banking organisations and embed these new technologies in their business or risk being left behind by the competition.
For those banking organisations looking to press ahead with their digital transformation journey, here are some important considerations:
Recognise the importance of agility
With the maturing world of powerful intelligent technologies such as AI, organisational agility is more essential than ever before, and many established financial institutions still lack this key requirement to digitally transform their businesses.
Engage the entire organisation
It’s imperative to have engagement from all levels of the organisation, from board level downwards. This is a fundamental transformation programme that will touch every aspect of the business. To truly benefit from these innovations, an entire organisation will need to be engaged in the journey and adopt the mind-set necessary to embrace the new technologies.
Be measured about the potential results
The potential benefits of the new technology are enormous, but it’s safer to be conservative with estimates – they will still be impressive. Organisations should exercise some healthy caution, perhaps born out of previous investments in technology that only delivered marginal improvements.
Demystify the terminology
Machine Learning, Intelligent Machines, Cognitive Platforms, Deep Learning, Intelligent Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Products, Virtual Assistants, APIs…. the list goes on and on. These new capabilities are wrapped in a language that to many is impenetrable. Find ways to simplify it. Compile a glossary. Educate everyone so you’re all speaking the same language.
Create powerful practical examples
It’s important to communicate effectively at board level, in a way that demystifies the potential of the technology. The best way to do this is by creating powerful examples that show this intelligent technology in action. Take a look at how IBM is demonstrating what these technologies can do: https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/you/uk-en/.
Bring in business areas early
Reinforce the idea that digital transformation is much more than a big IT initiative. Bring in other business areas early to work on proof of concepts.
For the first time, the technologies now exist to radically transform all aspects of a banking organisation. The potential of digital transformation is yet to be fully realised but the warning signs for banks are clear – those that don’t act now to embrace the future will rapidly be left behind.
Neil Svensen is the CEO at creative agency Rufus Leonard