Digital journey that most of the retail banks have embarked upon can be described as “transformative”. It can be elaborated in terms of products, processes, and people.
Banks are exploring ways to deliver banking services to customers whenever and wherever they need it, in a manner that is personalised, contextual but non-intrusive and frictionless.
Banks are looking to provide an audio-visual interface to the customers so that they can interact with their mobile banking App almost like human interactions. Moreover, the mobile app is becoming more aware of the customers’ context and can provide meaningful offers and deals, remind them of the pending payments, help them to set up and achieve their financial goals and advise them on their financials at a time which is the most convenient to the customers. In this way, the mobile App is envisaged to go much beyond than a chatbot and become a constant companion of the customers for their financial needs.
We will soon see a much closer integration with the social media and banking App. Customers will be able to share transactions details to their friends in social media directly from mobile banking App and “like” a transaction or comment on a transaction like a social media post.
The other visible change is redesigning of physical channels where banks are rethinking about their physical presence, like branch, call center etc. and physical means of transactions like cheques. Bank branches are being redesigned and with the aid of technology can provide a self-serve experience to customers, help customers to realise that most of their transactional needs can be self-served from the digital channels and visit to a branch may not be necessary. The personnel at bank’s branches can then assume the role of a financial advisor, rather than serving transactional needs of the customers.
The push towards digital channels have seen some interesting use cases emerging that provides a fantastic blend of physical and digital channels – for example, ability to deposit cheques from mobile banking app, pre-stage a transaction and get approval before going to an ATM and then enter scan a QR code sent to mobile or enter an One Time Password sent to mobile to withdraw money.
Banks are also in a journey to adopt Open Bank approach and started collaborating with larger ecosystems, including aggregators, billing service provides etc. as well as among themselves using Open Application Programming Interface (API) standards.
Technology is also bringing in speed and efficiency in delivery of digital payments. Near real time payment has already become a reality in many geographies. Moreover, payment mechanism is evolving to hide receivers’ financial details from a payment transaction, by making it possible to accept payment on an alias or token, which could be a mobile number or an email address or even a virtual payment address. Further, adoption of Blockchain Distributed Ledger Technology will bring in efficiency in settlement and asset and value transfer processes, like trade finance, international payments etc.
While the advancement in software and services are visible to the customers and outside world in general, banks are also transforming the way they do software development. They are constantly working on to improve their ability to deliver advancement in their software products to customers by deepening their adaption of agile methodology of software development and by bringing in continuous integration and deployment processes so that they can move way from a fixed release cycle of software deployment and can release changes in production more frequently.
Moreover, increased focus on automation or robotic process automation, either in software engineering processes or in those banking operations that consist mainly of mundane and repeated tasks, means that manual labour is being freed up resulting in increased productivity.
Moreover, one of the of basic principles of agile methodology is that it requires business and technical sides of the organisation to work closely in defining the software changes as well as in executing software development. Many organisations are therefore changing the structure of the organisation for bringing business and technology teams closer and to make them jointly accountable for both the software development and business outcome.
Banks are also constantly adapting open source technology stack for their software development unlocking themselves for a vendor dependency. Banks are also looking to utilise flexibility and scalability of cloud infrastructure within their defined framework of data security and proximity of data centers.
Until recently, banks interaction with tech start-ups and technology academia has been quite limited. As banks are constantly looking to bring about innovation in their product delivery, it is expected that banks will progressively redefine the way they have been thinking about collaboration with start-up communities and technology academia.
Moreover, to be able to deliver this huge transformation, banks need to hire technical talent which brings them in direct competition with tech companies for talent acquisition, who are also looking for similar talent. Banks are striving hard to build their brand as technical organisation to attract technical talents to work for them.
In other words, banks journey for adoption of digital technology can also be described as becoming more like a technology firm at least for the engineering teams working for the retails banks. One of analysts mentioned this as “ wall street aims for silicon valley ” in the context of the USA, which is true for other geographies as well.
(The writer is Pinak Chakraborty, Senior Vice President, DBS. He is developing a mobile first, in branchless and paperless banking experience for customers. Views expressed here are a personal opinion).