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Banks must invest in digital transformation to address the skills gap

In early 2020 – before the global impact of COVID-19 – organisations laid out what they thought would be their priorities for the year. For retail banking, last year’s Financial Brand report revealed that ‘removing friction from the customer journey’ was one of those key priorities. In truth, all businesses – regardless of size or sector – need to invest in technologies to better communicate and engage with customers. A seamless customer journey can quickly propel a business ahead of its competitors and build loyalty. 

 The impact of COVID-19 and the ‘new normal’ means that retail banking institutions have now had to prioritise and accelerate a shift to digital for customers and employees, with branches going dark to comply with social distancing regulations. As seen in the May 2020 Financial Brand report, whilst many of the initial challenges brought about through working from home have been overcome, the vast majority of banking institutions  have not yet leveraged technology to help employees improve the customer experience.

 As we transition to the ‘next normal’, and branches re-awaken, it is time to focus on why Financial Services institutions (FSIs) must consider not only the customer experience but also employee experience and engagement.

 Pandemic shifts need for skills and talent

It took many employees a few weeks to truly adjust to working from home, even though today’s workforce is more digitally native than ever. As banks and FSIs settle into working from environments other than the traditional offices, leaders are now realising that there is a skills gap which presents an urgent need to reskill current staff.

The current crisis will have exacerbated frustrations for employees who are not part of IT savvy organisations, a significant risk to both the business’s success and employees’ mental health. Employees want to be part of companies that are future proof; enabled by the right digital technology to withstand disruption, whilst also allowing them to continue growing their own careers and skills. In essence, they are looking for ‘destination employers’.

Yet, even before the current crisis, many FSIs  were not living up to this. The result is an unprecedented skills gap. According to the May 2020 Financial Brand report (US), 72% of those surveyed believed there was either a moderate (37%) or significant (35%) skills gap for the next 5 years.

In a world full of profitable challenger banks and innovative FinTech startups, it is no wonder that FS businesses are struggling to attract and retain the next generation of talent. In order to survive, they will need to reconsider the way that they think about the employee experience, placing just as much importance on it as they do the customer experience.

After all, a lack of talent in the industry is likely to have an impact on how a business services its customers. Therefore, the first step towards delivering the optimum customer experience should be investing in the employee experience.

Becoming a virtual ‘destination employer’

To attract young professionals into FS, leaders need to consider their processes and invest in innovation that will dispel negative assumptions of an outdated industry.

Recently, the biggest hurdle to making FS jobs attractive has been providing flexibility, as traditionally employees were tied to their desks and offices. Yet the impact of COVID-19 has accelerated the remote working trend; the traditional ‘9 to 5+’ has gone out the window. FSIs now need to capitalise on this opportunity to improve their employee engagement and ensure they’re seen as a ‘destination employer’ – virtually.

Millennials consistently identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting; as high as 92% of this demographic, according to Forbes. Moreover, we are now seeing that flexibility is an important aspect of business continuity and risk management. In fact, 81% of FS executives agree that the remote work changes we have seen due to COVID-19 will create more opportunities long term.  

However, if companies are to offer the benefits of flexible working to their staff, they need to ensure employees can still communicate and collaborate more effectively with their teammates to solve problems and bounce around ideas while working remotely.  As such, FSIs  need to invest in solutions which enable their staff to continue working effectively and productively from remote locations, whilst remaining secure.

Another issue is the prevalence of ‘low value’ tasks, like paperwork and administrative duties. Whilst important, these duties can often be seen as boring, involving few problem-solving skills and keeping young professionals away from higher value tasks. Currently, 45% of FS organisations do not use any process automation. By investing in the latest innovations and automation tools, FSIs  can reduce the amount of low-value work, allowing employees to spend time on more engaging tasks and, ultimately, improving the employee experience and therefore deliver improved customer experiences and engagements.

Engagements have now changed as a result of the pandemic

Recent months have caused the customer journey to move front of mind. As businesses settle into the next normal, organisations that were looking to move their workforce back to the office are now questioning whether they should and the risks associated. 

But, how do companies deliver on a hybrid working model while ensuring employees and customers have seamless experiences? It is not an easy task for any business.

Customers are no longer happy with wait times, and delays in the service they receive. This impatience is the root cause of unease around brand loyalty. Those who were proactive supportive, and delivered personalized and frictionless engagements and service of their customers during the difficult times were the ones who gained very strong brand loyalty.

In times of need, we remember who was there supporting us; it is no longer enough to provide financial services. FS institutions must provide financial services and a smooth, thoughtful experiences and engagements throughout the entire journey.

Employee experience – the new driver for an enhanced customer experience

The COVID-19 crisis will have pushed FSIs to adopt some more modern technologies, but this is only the start. Creating a modern, digital working environment, which is still both collaborative and supportive, will be a huge draw for millennials and talented employees. Those job hunting in the ‘new normal’ will want to join organisations which have demonstrated a commitment to investing in digital solutions that have made the business more resilient.  The entire operating model has shifted.

Some ways retail banks can improve the employee experience is by providing technology solutions to support remote working, reduce repetitive admin tasks, and ensure employees have the tools to collaborate virtually. Institutions will be able to deliver a higher level of customer experience and better overall performance than ever before.   It is a proven fact that increased employee engagement drives optimal customer experience which equals to higher ROI.



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