On May 13th, we hosted an outstanding panel discussion featuring some of Europe and Asia’s most innovative banking professionals.

The topic was Fintech’s CX Battleground: Building a customer experience-lead bank, and unsurprisingly, given the multiple approaches that banks are taking to this challenge, there were plenty of disagreements along the way. 

Joining Xtremepush CEO Tommy Kearns was Byran Carroll, Chief Digital Officer at Maritime Bank (Vietnam), Ben Robinson, co-founder and Head of Content at Aperture.co (formerly Chief Strategy Officer at Temenos), and Tao Baker, Head of Digital Innovation and Fintech at Permanent TSB (Ireland).

They shared their deep, personal insight into building a bank with CX at the core. Whether it’s building a data-driven digital bank from scratch, spearheading innovation projects within a traditional bank, or layering in transformative technology as a service provider, each panelist brought a unique perspective to the table.

You can watch the webinar in full here, or keep reading for a breakdown of the main talking points and opinions. 

The real impact of Covid-19 on banking

Of course, we couldn’t possibly have begun anywhere else than on this topic. With branches closed indefinitely around the world, it has been fascinating to watch how different banks are coping with the surge in online users.

As a keen observer, and influencer, of digital trends, Ben Robinson spoke about the acceleration of banking towards a new era. He emphasised in particular the breakdown of cultural barriers to fintech adoption and change; for example the insistence on selling only the classic banking services and the preference for building everything in-house. They are just some of the long-held philosophies that will fall away.

For Tao Baker, the ability of the banking industry to so quickly adjust to remote working has been a stand-out development. She also pointed to increased productivity, not just personally but also across her team. She hoped that long-term, this period would force the industry to embrace change. Certainly, she felt, roadmaps would need to be re-assessed in the context of what’s happening.

Tommy Kearns felt strongly that the speed at which banks have had to mobilise to set up things like cloud call centres to facilitate remote support centres will open their eyes more generally. There will be an expectancy moving forward, he said, that digital projects can, and should, progress at a much faster rate than has previously been the case. It was evident that in the short term, banks have had to adjust their priorities, temporarily pausing “backend transformations” to focus on improving the CX, or the “tip of the spear”.

Never one to couch his opinions, Bryan Carroll was adamant that Covid-19 has changed absolutely nothing in the industry, remarking it was far from the “magic wand” that some believe it to be. He was talking predominantly in terms of the mindset required by senior leadership within the industry, where he noted that there have been countless failed transformational attempts in the recent past already. The legacy of this current period, he said, will simply be the acceleration of the “winners and losers”, i.e. those already on the right track and those unable to catch up.

How should banks prioritise CX projects?

Many of the ideas broached throughout the conversation all came back to this debate that continues to rage; is it better to transform entirely or optimise incrementally? And when the reality is that most banks must carefully prioritise certain projects over others, how do they begin to make that choice?

Ben, drawing on his consultancy work, spoke about the need for financial services brands to take a step back and think in practical terms about what they need to achieve. Rather than looking at transformation in a general sense, it’s far more effective to look at it in terms of delivering key services to customers then putting the right structures in place. 

The blueprint for success can be found in companies like Amazon and how they arranged their infrastructure with customer engagement channels, distribution networks and an asynchronous accounting system. This is what a bank’s architecture should look like. He voiced his frustration that banks are focusing on upgrading existing infrastructure, and losing sight of the bigger picture; the bundling of banking with other services and embedding it into new channels.

With responsibility for her bank’s digital innovation strategy, Tao was quick to point out that actually listening to the customer’s needs and demands was crucial. Very often decisions are made without looking at the market research or getting customer feedback first. This is particularly crucial in a digital age where consumer expectations are evolving rapidly. She also spoke openly about the importance of looking at competitors, not only in local markets but globally as well. Modern consumers are increasingly homogeneous, with the same needs shared around the world.

Tommy meanwhile was adamant that banks need to look at removing friction from the customer journey, especially given the volume of digital users. He pointed to the onboarding process, for example, and how a series of digital nudges delivered in-app or on-site can help customers navigate by themselves, without needing to contact a call-centre. He also referenced a recent decision by one of Xtremepush’s tier one banking clients to roll out e-statements across their customer base. Not only has this improved the customer experience, but the cost-savings have been phenomenal. These are the sorts of practical use cases he’d like banks to focus on, as they can be delivered in a short time-frame and quickly drive value.

The future of of fintech

With reports that some fintechs lack the capital to last beyond the end of 2020, the panel was asked how the role of fintechs will change in the coming months. It was agreed that consolidation was inevitable, with some of smaller niche tech companies being swallowed up.

Ben was quick to note that this may be a golden opportunity for fintechs, with banks now more willing to partner for services than ever before.

Tao reflected on her own day to day role, recommending that banks not simply look at fintechs from a capability standpoint, but investigate the cultural fit too. She favours a partner-approach, demanding buy-in into the bank’s overall objectives and core values.

From his experience working with retail banks on developing and enhancing CX strategies, Tommy emphasised the need for “plug and play” functionality in order to deliver time-to-value. The fintechs that are unable to demonstrate their value in concrete terms, or can’t point to the use cases they’ve already rolled out, will struggle to gain traction. It’s about tangible results and swift deployment. The days of 12 month integrations are over.

Get in touch

These talking points are really only the tip of the iceberg from what was a compelling 60-minute discussion. They also dissected the entrance of big tech companies (Apple, Google, Amazon) into this space, teaseing out some of the learnings for the traditional players, and picked apart the “buy vs build” debate too. I would fully recommend you check out the webinar itself for a fuller picture.

Our next webinar takes place on Thursday 28th May, where we’ll be focusing on how brands can create better automated customer journeys. It’s suitable for marketing and CRM teams across every vertical. Register your place here.