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FS Disruptor Forum: Learning from other industries

29 September 2022

The digital revolution has reshaped the way in which customers interact with products and services, and there is an almost universal demand for high levels of personalisation and real-time responses. As financial services companies seek to transform their operations to meet this demand, there is much they can learn from other disrupted sectors.

Attendees at the latest FS Disruptor Forum, led by Apex Group, heard how businesses such as Netflix and Amazon are influencing financial services sector disruptors; the ways in which the highly regulated financial sector can help companies move towards automation, and how all organisations can give customers the best experience as they transform their operations.

Solid foundations

Financial services companies need solid foundations on which they can transform from a traditional client-facing organisation to one that successfully interacts through apps and online platforms.

“Retaining customers’ trust is important for all banks but it is particularly important to digital channels because when something goes wrong, we can’t tell them to come into the branch to discuss it,” says Jason Maude, Chief Technology Advocate at Starling Bank. “We can’t be sure 100% of the time that everything is working. We must make sure we recover gracefully from any failures, and that there is minimal impact to customers.”

Maude says financial services companies can learn from the resilience that is built into many online retail platforms. He gave the example of Amazon’s customer returns policy, which provides replacements for faulty goods with no charge and minimal disruption for users.

“Amazon have considered that things will go wrong with their ordering process and have something in place to make that be minimal as possible on the customer. Starling has the same idea; our systems are designed so that if they fail, they can catch up so the customer can continue their transaction where they left off.”

Human touch

By its nature the digital transformation implies scaling back human intervention, yet Maude argues people still have an important role to play.

For a digital channel to be truly resilient when something goes wrong, there needs to be what Maude calls the “human touch” to not just solve the problem but to acknowledge the customer’s experience.

“For more serious problems, customers want organisations to acknowledge the problem and have an emotional connection. Computers aren’t good enough to take that emotional load; people need another human to talk to.”

Financial services organisations can also learn from the over-automation and excessive personalisation of processes witnessed in some online digital platforms, which Maude says creates an ‘unprofessional’ experience.

“Using data to really drill down into a customer’s preferences and personalise everything can become a bit creepy when you try to use it to become too intimate,” he says.

Overcoming regulatory challenges

Panelists also discussed the unique challenges for companies that are disrupting the heavily regulated financial services sector.

Louisa Williams, Head of Communications and Content at Apex Group, says: “If the financial services sector is going to transform, we have to learn more than we’ve ever learnt and be more fleet of foot than we have ever been.”

She argues that while regulation is undoubtedly a barrier to disruption, it cannot prevent progress.

“Change can be shocking, but you can either be put off by the regulation, or you accept that you can’t achieve everything today and instead break it into small bits, and get the right people on board to drive change through.”

Williams says Apex “values engaging with right people at the right levels” and adds: “For financial services that means working with government bodies, industry and other businesses that are looking to embrace change and make things happen.”

Gurdeep Singh Kohli, a member of SC Ventures at Standard Chartered Bank, encouraged financial services companies to be courageous and to look at other sectors where organisations have branched out.

“We can look at Netflix and see how it transformed from DVD rental deliveries to a major streaming service before becoming a production powerhouse. Amazon is an entirely different business entity today, having added new business lines.”

He concludes: “Banking will look phenomenally different in five ten years to how it looks now, but it takes courage to move beyond digitisation and disrupt your core business and the industry.”

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