Early in November, NatWest launched its new Cora+ chatbot powered by generative AI to enhance productivity and customer experience. The launch is just one of the latest iterations of the global banking sector placing digital transformation driven by improved customer experiences front and centre.

The benefits of digital banking are clear – increasing accessibility to banks’ services and products increases the number of customers and take-up of products – and many banks are now working to optimise their operations with tech. Yet for banks to truly harness the potential of digital banking, investment in new digital services must come in tandem with investment in a digitally skilled workforce.

Customer experience

The customer experience is integral to banking’s digital revolution. Tech improvements and new tech-driven products in the banking sector, long considered traditional, are about making user experiences as seamless as possible, helping banks to stand out to customers in an increasingly competitive landscape. In fact, research by 10x Banking revealed that banks lose 20% of their customers as a direct result of sub-standard user experience.

A strong example of how introducing digital services can improve the customer experience is provided by the BBVA, which recently built digital channels that allow customers to engage with its products more easily. As a result, BBVA’s US branches have seen 42% more products sold per month, and from 2019 to 2020, the bank’s individual client acquisition increased by 56%.

Digital upskilling

However, these success stories are practically impossible to achieve without a digitally skilled workforce to implement the necessary changes and adapt the technology to customer needs. Put simply, banks need digitally competent and skilled teams who can understand customer data and identify where improvements are needed.

This aspect of a successful digital transformation is often overlooked, but banks that fail to recognise the role of talent in implementing a digital transformation do so at their peril. Investing in a digitally skilled team is just as important as investing in software itself.

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However, this presents banks with another challenge, as acquiring digitally skilled talent is not always straight-forward; two thirds of large businesses in the UK struggle to recruit employees with the necessary digital skillset. And it’s not just the UK, sourcing tech talent is a global challenge. Fortunately, an alternative solution lies internally: upskilling your workforce.

Internal digital skilling programmes circumvent the challenges of the competitive tech talent hiring markets and provide a pipeline for a bespoke talent pool that matches the specific digital skills a bank’s digital transformation and growth plan requires. In addition, banks will also reap the benefits of increased employee satisfaction from the investment in employee’s career development, in turn leading to increased productivity and greater workforce retention.

How to successfully digitally upskill

But where to start? In order to ensure the most efficient investment of a bank’s resources, a successful digital skilling programme will begin with a thorough audit of employees’ existing skills. It is important that these proficiencies are understood. Banks may uncover talent, and in turn service rollouts, that can be fast tracked.

Skilling pathways must also be mapped against banks’ short term and long-term digital goals, ensuring training focuses on different skillsets in line with business goals – for example, AI, data analysis or cloud-based skills. Talent management software can be a useful tool for keeping track of the impact of training, and when employee’s proficiency is sufficient to roll out a new service line for the bank.

A bank for the digital era

To stand out in today’s banking market, it is vital that banks invest in their digital services, and the key to a successful roll out of customer focused digital services is a workforce with strong digital skills. It is this talent pool that will manage and maintain the service lines and products which empower customers and boost margins.

Internal digital skilling programmes can build this bespoke talent pool, with the added benefit of a more satisfied and productive workforce. Quite simply, it’s a business imperative for banks that want to stay in the game amongst disrupting fintechs and competitor evolution.

Aileen Allkins is Chief Executive Officer, elev8 digital skilling