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Banking during the pandemic and beyond


Steven Cochran, Head of products and growth platforms, Allied Irish Bank

Philip Garner, Innovation Lead, Lloyds Banking Group

Angela Byrne, Managing director, Shared experience and digital transformation NatWest Group

Kevin Trilli, Chief product officer, Onfido

What types of emerging technology are helping the financial services industry to meet changing customer needs?

AB: Throughout the pandemic it’s been really clear that customers wanted to get in touch with us a lot. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) as an emerging technology has aided us hugely in helping to solve customers’ needs, be that through chatbots or in implementing technology to try to make things more safe and secure for customers.

PG: Firstly, there was an almost overnight change in how different customers needed to interact with us and so those different channels had to adapt. There were a number of technologies underpinning our ability to manage those volumes up and down such as the use of automation, AI and cloud.

KT: In some cases, a lot of banks have made it so good on the frontend they’re actually piled up on the backend trying to process things. The user experience is so good, the technology is so available, the inbound request of all these transactions has really challenged the ability to process some of the queues in some cases. It’s a good problem to solve.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) as an emerging technology has aided us hugely in helping to solve customers’ needs

SC: The move to the back office and being able to process loan requests and those payment holidays in a paperless way was a huge step forward. The bank could have planned for that for 12 months and we still wouldn’t have landed it on time, yet we had to do it in weeks. The customer-interface technology has been crucial. But the back-office architecture required to deliver that has been equally important.

In terms of interaction, how can banks find a balance between digital and the human touch?

SC: It does need both, we see that from our customers and, up until now, it was almost seen as a convenient opportunity for banks to close branches. Actually, this has shown we have to move the branch to the customer, into their living rooms, into their phones, and that’s worked really well.

AB: Customers will expect a seamless customer experience, so combining digital where they can self-serve should they want to do so and then also integrating that with the human support experience seamlessly, is important. If it is not seamless, it will create friction. So there has to be a concerted effort to integrate that and to make the experience joined up, whether it’s starting in digital, then handing off to human support, or continuing digital straight through.

How important is feedback along the customer journey for banks to improve their levels of service?

AB: That ongoing feedback is imperative and also helps us with fixing painpoints and with research. In a digital world, feedback is instant, whether it be on social media or as part of the journey, and it’s imperative we continue to leverage that.

PG: You have that real-time performance data throughout your various journeys. If you can see there are problems within that – users getting stuck at some point in the journey – you can get in there and address it; you don’t need to wait for feedback to find its way through the organisation.

KT: Everything we do here needs to be tested, so we’re getting lots of feedback all the time through live behaviour. This tried-and-true approach of A/B testing, all these different things are important because you always have happy paths and unhappy paths, and people stuck in the middle. How do you think through that? Having a design-first approach to designing these flows is critical, especially when you introduce different types of security that might be right turns or left turns for the user.

How can partnerships between the incumbent banks and fintechs help to deliver change?

PG: I think it’s been an approach that we, at Lloyds, are seeing as increasingly important to parts of our transformation agenda, particularly as the maturity of the fintech sector has grown so much over the past few years.

SC: It can be a tense relationship at times. But we both do want the same thing and I think fintech partnerships for banks are absolutely critical because that is where most of the innovation will come.

KT: It’s very important to find areas you can trust third parties to work on. In addition to being able to focus and specialise, we also have an aggregate knowledge of all our customers we can bring. You need to find those extra benefits for partnerships to work. Potentially, working with a vendor, even part time for a few years, can bring something to market faster than the build side of it.

Has the pandemic prioritised the development of products that are able to respond and adapt easily to changing customer needs?

SC: We used to build a product, and you took a loan and you repaid it over five years or 25 years, and we saw you at the end and that was it. That’s all changed now. This is going to become a really emerging area for us in the next 12 months.

AB: Also, through the pandemic, we’ve shown that we can do it, so we can be nimble and we can react quickly. Being nimble and flexible, and able to respond to those expectations quickly, is going to be a competitive advantage.

Where do you see the banking industry in five years’ time?

KT: It’s clearly becoming a mobile experience. The brands will continue; they are going to be looked at in the future as trusted repositories of our information.

PG: If you think how many internet-enabled devices there will be, some elements of banking may become more embedded in our daily activities. That will just make people’s lives better and easier. But I also think that other aspects of banking will, in turn, become more visible such as engaging with customers to give them a better picture of their financial health and helping them plan for the longer term.

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