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Customer Intimacy

I hope you all had a great day yesterday.

I thought today I should muse a little around one of the themes from yesterday's opening plenary.  I am sure that like me, many of you noticed the more relaxed style of presentations.  This fitted well with the theme of SWIFT moving from operational excellence to customer intimacy.

Working more closely with customers has been important to me ever since my dayas in branch banking.  After all, these guys pay our salaries. But what does it mean to be be intimate with our customers?

For me, this means we should really understand our customers needs, to put ourselves in their shoes, understand what drives them, their real problems (not just what they tell you) and what make them happy.  That means talking to them about their overall business and listening (my theme from yesterday).  We can all do this if we put our customers first, but often we are not good at doing that. 

We're too busy or we have other priorities.  Often those priorities are linked to the annual targets we have been set -- to make hit sales targets, to generate income, to cut costs, etc. While these targets are important and cannot be overlooked if we are to create successful companies, they do not sit comfortably with true customer intimacy. 

I have often talked with industry coleagues and friends in London about how much more value SWIFT could add for our businesses if we bothered to use its services in new and interesting ways. 

Take loan administration, where huge volumes of paper and bills of exchange are still couriered around between SWIFT members.  Putting this sort of business onto the SWIFT network would reduce operating costs and operational risk (resulting in lower Basel II capital costs).

But have we moved forward? The answer is of course no.  Now I should blame my self for moving banks, roles and focus.  But I did leave the initiative with colleagues across the industry when I 'retired', so if there had been real interest such initiatives would have moved forward.

Dare I hope that with the new focus in SWIFT, we can see customer intimacy seeking out such opportunities and turning them into profitable business for all.  It certainly will not be on anyone's business sales targets, but could help the financial community all round.

I wish you all a great day and encourage you to think laterally about how you can really get to know your customer and generate new business benefits, particularly for SWIFT (after all, this week is SIBOS).   

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