With information being available at will, the world is one’s oyster. For banks, the democratisation of information represents an opportunity to stay abreast of the world’s latest developments and absorb its best practices more easily.
This is also positive from the customers’ point of view. Over the years, cross-industry learning has improved many facets of banking. The experience of the consumer goods industry pointed out the importance of understanding customer needs and fulfilling
them through slick marketing and wider distribution. Global banks led the trend of branding and consumer advertising, which percolated down the order. Products were packaged better and promised more choice.
Retailers have lent many ideas to financial services, starting with the experiment of ‘in-branch’ cafes. While that may not have worked, the nexus between the two businesses continues in the form of in-store branches and ATM kiosks, greatly improving shopping
convenience. Banks have imbibed many customer service practices from the retail industry, and as they widen their offerings, can learn from the latter’s ability to manage a huge variety of products under one roof. Last but not least, banks are engaging more
intimately with customer communities over social networks, à la retail companies.
However, it is the information and communication business that has made the biggest impact on banking by showing how to leverage technology to improve scale, efficiency and access, all at lower cost. The linkages between the two industries are deepening with
banks emulating the telecom model to improve financial inclusion and partnering with network operators to facilitate mobile commerce.
Like automobile and computer hardware companies which are increasingly allowing customers to specify configurations, banks too can offer their customers greater freedom of choice by letting them personalise products, services and experiences. Going forward,
financial service providers might also want their offerings to go the same way as electronic hardware, which gets progressively smarter, sleeker, faster, cheaper and more capable.