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Technology can transform relationships between banks and their customers. For the better.

Does increasing use of technology need to mean that business and personal interactions will be increasingly anonymous and purely functional?  I believe not, and that banks should be using technology as a way to build personal relationships, not eliminate them.

It’s acknowledged that banks face mounting pressure to control costs.  Customers are demanding easier, 24-hour a day access through ATMs, PCs, tablets and mobile.  New companies are entering the banking sector and ‘fintechs’ with new approaches and often lower costs are increasing pressure on established providers.

It follows that technology can help banks to reduce costs and improve  accuracy.  We can imagine a future of fully automated bank branches, but it’s hard to imagine what would drive a customer to one bank over another if that was to happen.

I believe that banks need to see technology as a way of enabling enhanced personal relationships and that. new technology is a way of enabling and empowering bank staff to do more and serve customers better.

According to a report by Accenture, banks need to focus on the customer experience, a novelty for some traditional institutions, but a key behaviour of the most successful companies in a whole range of industries.

I hold to the vision of branches supporting a widening range of automated services deployed on machines from multiple hardware vendors and supported by well architected software.   This will free up time for staff to help customers with more complex enquiries and provide them the tools and information to do so. Importantly these staff members will provide the personal contact to the bank, a person who the customer can get to know and trust, and of course someone able to make appropriate new product suggestions if and when necessary.   The technology should provide staff with an overview of the customer’s circumstances and all their interactions with the bank which can be used to dramatically enhance the customer experience.

Deployed properly this will enable the bank to restore the sense that it is looking after its customers, recognising them, taking their needs into account and seeing them as more than just a source of revenue. Providing customers with a personalised and contextualised service delivered through automation supported by staff will help differentiate banks and enable customers to choose the service (and the provider) that most suits them.  Technology when used like this is not a barrier, separating the bank from the public, but an enabler allowing more positive and rewarding experiences for both parties.

This is the future of branches and the future of banking that I hope for.


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