Banking Fintech Mobile & Online

Banks must go flat out for real success

Banks must topple their silos and meet their customers on every level, says Jouk Pleiter.
Written by Jouk Pleiter

To stay relevant in today’s competitive marketplace, banks must topple their silos and meet their customers on every level, at every touchpoint, on the terms their customers choose. Story by Jouk Pleiter.

Banks are struggling to come to terms with the magnitude of changes they’re facing. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the only way to continue to grow means changing their entire business structure. It’s a scary thought for a number of reasons, the biggest two being cost and uncertainty. You can’t blame them for dragging their feet, yet many do. In fact, banks have taken a beating in the fintech press of late, and we don’t think it’s very fair.

If you look at the big picture, banks have often risen to the challenge of using the latest technologies to help them meet their customers’ needs and streamline operations. It’s one of the things that has gotten them into the mess they find themselves in now. Banks have spent untold amounts of money on their old IT infrastructures, responding to customer demands, adding channels and delineating their offerings. They have adapted and built, and adapted and built, and adapted and built for so long that the end result is an impenetrable fortress of isolated technologies and product silos.

Toppling the silos

Customers are no longer content to do the groundwork, shuffling between the call center silo, the branch silo, the online silo, and innumerable product silos to have their needs met. They want the kind of service that other online enterprises such as Amazon and Zappos, or new financial providers such as Simple and Moven, offer. Customers don’t care that these businesses were built using the latest technologies, and subsequently aren’t locked behind aging core systems, unable to leverage the data, big or small, that everyone keeps banging on about. Customers just want the banks to provide the services they feel they’re already paying banks to provide.

The rise of online banking is only strengthening this notion. For every branch that closes, customers are thinking, ‘Hey, I don’t take up your time by coming into the branch anymore. I’m practically doing your job for you and you’re still making my life difficult’. The average customer doesn’t want to know about how their credit card and savings account are operated by different systems (silos) and that’s why they have to log in and out of different platforms, or worse, end up having to call (and pay more!) and be put on hold, only to be transferred and have the line drop.

Customers just want things to be easy. They want to be able to move from device to device, crossing channels smoothly, regardless of product or transaction type. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just tip the silos over, join them end to end and create a seamlessly connected, unified experience? Well, we can’t do that, but it’s possible to make the customer think we did.

The all-seeing, all-knowing omni-channel banking experience

We recently held a webinar in which we explored the concept of omni-channel banking. It’s basically the next level up from cross-channel banking. The major differences being the level of inclusivity of all channels, including traditional branches, products, and services, combined with customer data and context. Recent research conducted by Google shows that 90% of consumers use multiple screens sequentially to complete a task over time. A real omni-channel approach would mean that at no point during that journey would the customer be forced to start from the beginning, even when switching devices, even if the sales cycle was over an extended period of time.

For traditional financial institutions, there’s a long way to travel before any of this can become a reality, but we can definitely start taking steps towards making it a realistic goal. The good news for banks is that it’s not necessary to completely replace their existing systems.

Chosen correctly, a new solution can help banks to begin creating a unified omni-channel banking experience by introducing a new, rich, and responsive user experience layer that sits on top of existing systems instead of replacing them. This highly flexible, interactive layer not only gives customers the online experience they want, it also enables the bank’s digital marketing and e-business teams to work easily across public and secure areas.

At Backbase, we do this with Backbase Portal. A fully omni-channel-ready portal, Backbase links services as well as products and channels, with the customer always at the center.

Backbase Portal is able to create a unified, relevant and personal experience for end-customers because it sits on top of existing systems to aggregate the relevant data, and uses small, autonomous apps called widgets to provide functionality. Business owners can manage and curate the end-customer experience by creating and deploying these apps, and have their own widgets that enable them to aggregate and analyze customer data. The most important thing is that Backbase, in essence, unites the silos. It levels the playing field, creating a totally consistent experience across all devices and all touchpoints for the end-customer and business owner alike.

Imagine if the customer who perused mortgages online a week ago is able to stop in at a random branch to find out more, and upon giving their name to the teller, is immediately asked if they would like to look through the different mortgage packages or sit down and discuss a savings plan towards purchasing a house. All because the teller was able to access the omni-channel portal and immediately find the customers account profile and see a 360º view of the customer’s activity on a single screen. This is one of the first steps towards creating the omni-channel banking experience, and it’s possible right now.

About the author

Jouk Pleiter

Jouk Pleiter is CEO and co-founder of Backbase, a software company that delivers digital solutions to financial services institutions around the world. Before Backbase, Jouk was president and co-founder of Tridion, one of the world’s leading WCM software vendors, later acquired by SDL and renamed SDL Tridion. He also co-founded Twinspark Consultancy, one of the first interactive web agencies in the Netherlands.

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