So finally the dam has broken and we have a new substantial national contender in High Street banking with the Co-operative winning the prize of 600-plus Lloyds TSB branches.
Or do we?
To paraphrase, this is only the start of the beginning for the “new” bank and not yet the beginning of the end. Reports suggest that the Co-operative Bank has had to do some heavy lifting to convince the regulators that it can accommodate a rapid expansion
in branches and customers. Now it has to do the difficult work of merging together people, back offices, products and customer-bases in order to make its new presence on the High Street a success.
And there are some obvious IT hurdles coming up fast too.
Firstly, how to untangle the newly acquired branches from the Lloyds infrastructure and plug them into the Co-operative Bank platforms and systems. Don’t underestimate the scale of this challenge especially when it appears other new contender banks like
Tesco Bank have found their ambitions held back by the tricky problems of integrating and migrating legacy systems.
Secondly, how can the new bank’s information management systems especially around customer relationship management help it meet expectations for a fresh force in current account banking? Focusing on branch rebranding and soft touches – water bowls for customer’s
pet dogs and public loos are the mantra of new customer friendly banks it seems – are a natural priority but customers have complex multichannel relationships with their banks and it is this that defines how we rate our banking customer experience. In fact
it is failing to get this right that’s annoying customers today as much, if not more, than whether there’s a branch on my street corner.
Both these challenges make a case for the Co-operative Bank to be innovative in its IT strategy. A wrap and renew approach to bring together and re-vitalise the branch and back office systems seems an obvious route to take. The bringing back to life of the
TSB brand could be a matter of simply wrapping an agile technology around the existing Lloyds systems to apply branding, user experience consistency and new functionality at a much cheaper price point that updating the core software. This wrapper of agility
would also ease the migration of the underlying systems to the Co-operative Bank infrastructure over the course of the transition.
What makes an even stronger case for a BPM built for change approach is that the Co-operative Bank would have the tools to make a customer banking experience that’s unique to the bank. No identikit ‘Big software’ stack banking apps but an approach to bank
customer service that’s personalised, dynamic and customer centric.
I wish the Co-operative Bank well with its transformation into a national retail banking force – I am sure they will succeed. Clearly this deal should be a milestone for change in the banking industry. But the measure of this will be whether a branch sell-off
demanded by policy makers delivers real value for current account holders across multiple channels.