With the universal banking model being an accepted fact of life for the UK’s ‘Big Four’ banks, these institutions have struggled to shake off the taint of association with their investment arms, whose vilification in the press has led to a catastrophic
loss of trust amongst a number of customers, and younger customers in particular. To many, it is now clear that UK retail banks may have to consider taking radical steps to re-engage with the younger demographic. Polish banking powerhouse Alior’s new Alior
Sync venture would be a radical departure for any bank but, in this case, Eastern Europe may point the way for UK retail banks. In particular, lessons could be learnt on how to rebuild trust and engage younger customers to the point where they are ready to
spend their money on the value-added services that retail banks need to sell to maintain their profitability.
Alior Sync is an online bank –there’s nothing particularly new about that, of course– but it is one of the world’s first full-service online banks. The 24-hour virtual branch allows customers to talk with customer consultants through video conferencing,
VOIP voice calling and conventional webchat, at any time. The efficiencies gained mean that, not only can the virtual branch be open 24 hours, but it can retain ‘free if in credit’ current accounts for its customers.
A ground-up approach to designing a bank for younger customers has also resulted in a number of innovations in the customer service field. For example, the bank allows transfers of cash entirely within Facebook: customers message the person they wish to
receive funds, and the bank then automatically requests the necessary account details from the receiving party. In a market where some banks still charge to transfer in-branch to an account held at another bank, any progress towards an easier to use system
would surely be welcomed by consumers. This is especially true for younger people who find that, while their bank might have a mobile app that lets them perform some basic functions, it certainly doesn’t have all the functionality that they would get from
a bank branch, and definitely doesn’t have the ease of use they have come to expect from the leading mobile apps.
Alior’s model won’t suit every bank, nor every customer, but for retail banks looking for ways to build bridges with a generation that feels even more alienated from the financial services industry than its parents do, Alior Sync has a number of innovations
worthy of consideration. It will be interesting to see how this impacts global banking set-ups, but also how banks get to grips with an ever evolving voice of the customer.