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Q&A: Enhancing the employee experience in the banking sector

Source: Finance Derivative

As costs for everyday items continue to fluctuate and reports of company layoffs and budget reviews increase, economic uncertainty around the world has people on edge.

In banking, these dynamics all place a strain on services. A continued tight labour market also makes it difficult to fill open jobs and keep expertise and staffing at the rights levels.

Consumers too are dealing with a considerable amount of stress to make ends meet. When they reach out to banks, employees on the frontline often find themselves the undeserving targets of angry customers. People get anxious when they are unable to quickly resolve their financial questions. And this has an economic impact for banks too – angry consumers are more likely to air their frustrations on social media, leading to reputational damage.

On top of this, there’s considerable tension between banks and their employees as many are ordering return-to-office mandates, with JPMorgan Chase recently joining the list of many organisations making this a requirement. Employees are also faced with concerns that their jobs may be displaced with the rise of automation and AI, leading them to feel increasingly insecure. Under these conditions, it is more important than ever that banks invest in their employee experience to support staff retention and in turn, customer satisfaction.

David Porter, Managing Director of Financial Services at Genesys, discusses the impact of increasing pressure on banking services and their employees, and how banks can deploy the right tools to alleviate this.

How have customer expectations of banks changed in recent years?

As technology evolves, customer expectations are continually being reset. People today want more. More convenience, more ease of use, and more seamless experiences. Brands such as Uber, Google and Amazon are setting this standard. Being able to self-serve has become a differentiator between those that deliver on customer expectations, and those that don’t. These expectations are no different to the ones the banking sector now faces.

In the banking industry, customers want digital experiences that allow them to perform tasks with ease, such as checking balances, transferring funds, and setting up recurring payments, all without having to step foot inside a branch. Any issues that may arise must be addressed quickly and efficiently, but this hasn’t been straightforward to achieve. And when you look at the data, it’s easy to see why – only 18% of banking executives have reported being in a ‘mature stage’ of digital transformation efforts.

What barriers does the banking sector currently face approaching their customer experience?

An executive at Citi recently shared with me that efficiency, quick wins, and employee engagement were top priorities at present – and they’re not alone as it appears to be a growing industry trend. This is a step change, as typically, the employee experience has been viewed as secondary to that of the customer experience within banking. However, as the industry increasingly faces challenges in hiring throughout customer service functions, from front to back office, the employee experience has become increasingly important. Banks are far more open to exploring introducing tools and capabilities to improve this. Yet barriers to implementing these tools remain.

Banks are highly regulated, meaning that adopting technology in a way that is compliant with industry standards is always a challenge. Any new channels or capabilities that are deployed need to be properly reviewed and risk assessed, which in some cases means a slower time to market.

While the industry has seen huge progress, with challenger banks accelerating the transition to a digital-first banking model, many financial services companies continue to be held back due to legacy technology infrastructures and silos between department; particularly larger traditional banks. This results in disjointed customer journeys. In fact, according to our own recent research, only 26% of financial services companies today offer multiple channels for customer interactions and have integrated technologies and connected data. With consumer demand for digital skyrocketing and contact volumes increasing, more needs to be done to accelerate the transition to a unified omnichannel experience that provides visibility into the customer journey end-to-end.

What has the impact of this been on employees?

Employees are under increasing amount of strain to meet heightened customer expectations. For example, when a customer reaches out for assistance, they expect employees to have the necessary information on how and why they got there. Customers don’t like having to repeat authentication processes and the details of their issue. Being met with unsatisfying solutions can quickly lead to frustration as they feel like they’re going round in circles. Employees often take the brunt of these frustrations.

Additionally, with banking services seeing an increasing number of customers reaching out, employees are being stretched to meet service demand. This means that customers are not always matched with the best person with the right expertise to deal with their issue, leading to additional stress on both sides if a meaningful solution isn’t found.

Why is it important that banks invest in their experience?

For banks to be successful, they need to recognise the link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. This will require an overhaul of traditional thinking around the employee experience.

While many banks are reverting back to office-based working, hybrid continues to be favoured by employees. As such, for banks to be competitive at a time where both customer and employee experience are closely tied, they need to cater to employee needs and empower them with ways of working that suit them. However, with no one set definition of what this looks like, banks are navigating doing so in a way that meets both employee and business needs.

At the same time, banks have faced an overhaul in service delivery. Branch-based service models have been in decline, which has pushed more customers to reach out via digital channels, increasing strain on services. When employees are under this amount of pressure, without the appropriate means to manage it, the outcome is often a high turnover of staff. Banks are then having to work harder to recruit new talent for roles that are increasingly difficult to fill, and remaining employees are increasingly stretched due to understaffing, which has a domino effect on the customer experience they deliver.

This has forced banking leaders to recognise the importance of employee engagement. With banks struggling to fill job vacancies, especially in the back office, they need to find ways to reduce employee frustration and make jobs more efficient, simpler and quicker. While the priority has been equipping customers with self-service options, now banks need to turn the table and provide employees and invest in the right tools to provide them with real and meaningful support.

With advancements in technology, particularly AI, banks have an opportunity to reimagine traditional work processes and empower their employees with the means to thrive. It’s important that instead of succumbing to fears about AI replacing employees, these are positioned as tools to help supercharge performance and create satisfying experiences for employees and customers alike. Doing so will not only drive greater efficiencies, but improve customer loyalty.

What technology can banks implement to improve their employee experience?

Banks stand a lot to gain by investing in modern cloud-based technologies. While banks face challenges in overhauling multiple legacy systems and ensuring solution aligns with strict regulation, adopting a single cloud-based platform means banks can better sync operations across the business for a more seamless experience for both customer and employee across the board.

At the same time, layering modern technologies, like AI, on top of this can add additional complexity, particularly when banks are dealing with sensitive customer information, meaning they need to have stringent measures to ensure data is handled securely. However, banks have already made significant progress with AI – predictive engagement and routing capabilities are supporting banks to offer personalised services by predicting customer needs and behaviours, and offering tailored products and solutions, vastly improving the customer journey.

Bots powered by generative AI are proving to be a gamechanger here, improving efficiency and outcomes for customers. Bots can quickly sort and prioritise knowledge content most relevant to customer inquiries, whether that’s on how to set up a saving account or where their local bank is. Through this, employees can save time resolving queries, while ensuring the solutions they provide are meaningful to the individual customer.

Additionally, investing in modern employee experience technologies tightly integrated with their customer experience can help banks improve engagement with their workforce. AI too has a role to play here. For example, through AI-powered coaching and real time insights, they can provide employees with valuable guidance on how to improve performance, supported with recommendations and training plans personalised to their specific need. This creates a continuous learning loop, where human capabilities are enhanced by AI’s support and insights.

Through implementing tools like these, and more specifically, AI, banks can become more employee centric and show themselves as employers who truly care. Employees have the support they need to thrive, allowing them to deliver an experience in line with what today’s customers want.

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Business

Enhancing sustainable commitments in retail banking

Source: Finance Derivative

Mikko Kähkönen, Head of Payment Cards Portfolio at Giesecke+Devrient

Today, more consumers are keeping environmental pledges from banks at the forefront of their financial decisions, and those banks that fall behind their competitors on sustainable action are risking the loss of customers, particularly among the younger generation. This shift highlights a growing expectation from consumers for their banks to make and uphold sustainable commitments, signalling a change in consumer priorities where environmental responsibility is increasingly seen as essential, not just an optional extra. Giesecke+Devrient research shows that as many as 64% of Gen Z consumers would be happy to switch banks if their current provider didn’t meet their expectations.

However, sustainable commitments must be authentic to avoid any accusations of greenwashing. Unfortunately for the banking sector, consumer trust is being strained as greenwashing incidents have risen by 70% around the world. Banks can’t simply make claims that can’t be backed up; pledges must be supported by evidence. There’s a number of practical steps they can take to prove their credentials.

Banking on the evolution of cards

The bank card has increasingly become a physical symbol of the relationship between consumer and bank. As such, banks have taken steps to ensure that it is designed with sustainability in mind. Many are now created with recycled PVC material, commonly up to 100%, with a lower carbon footprint.

Some banks are elevating their sustainable credentials by utilising cards that are made from plastic collected in oceans and coastal regions, helping to clear up the world’s beaches. Alongside this, others are issuing cards made of polylactic acid sourced from (inedible) corn starch. This is a fully renewable biomass that could be industrially composted.

Sustainable cards can then encourage further sustainable initiatives. We’re more often seeing issuers now actively taking part in local conservation, community development and educational projects around the world to help benefit the planet. Communicating these efforts to customers can help reinforce sustainable credentials and leave tangible evidence that proactive action is taking place.

Contributing to the circular economy

Powering the sustainable credentials of issued cards is one aspect, but it’s also vital that banks encourage their customers to do the right thing with them once they expire and they need to be discarded of. We’re already seeing prominent banks making progress in this area. UK retail bank, Santander, has launched a pilot scheme in branches and ATMs that encourages customers to return their outdated credit and debit cards for recycling, for example.

The collected cards are then turned into plastic pellets to be used elsewhere, for instance to make outdoor furniture, sponsored by Santander, for local communities. As more banks opt for card recycling, consumers will be empowered to dispose of their old or expired cards in a green way and help to reduce ecological footprint.

Into the digital world

Outside of card innovations, retail banks can add to their credible green claims with digital solutions. As an example, the card issuance process has typically involved paper letters, with additional PIN letter, that are posted out to customers to activate their payment cards. Instead, an ePIN service can enable customers to instantly access their PIN via their choice of a mobile app or SMS message, reducing paper waste and waiting times.

There are also innovations taking place in terms of QR codes and augmented reality (AR) solutions to enable digital marketing offerings. This means that printed collateral doesn’t need to physically sent out in the post. The more that these types of communications are sent out digitally, the more that consumers see a tangible commitment to sustainable practices.

Banks can even take an additional step by deploying third-party partners to track the CO2 footprint involved with every purchase or payment. By opting for organisations that have a solid track record in green practices, such as supporting product certifications and information on eco-products and their claims, they can make steps to compensate for each transaction carbon footprint.

Contributing to the green story

To ensure they don’t come under any criticism regarding their environmental claims, banks and financial institutions have the opportunity to adopt sustainable practices that align with their customers’ expectations for eco-friendly commitments in both their physical and digital services. They can introduce banking cards made from recycled or entirely compostable materials, eliminating plastic waste.

Digitally, banks can minimise unnecessary paper use by employing online applications to simplify the process of delivering PINs. By innovating in these domains, they can fulfil their environmental responsibilities and establish that essential trust with consumers, contributing positively to the planet’s wellbeing.

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Business

Successfully dealing with the unintended consequences of change

by Daniel Norman, Change Management Consultant at Symatrix

Most people dislike change. We are drawn to stability and established routines and feel unsettled when anything happens to disrupt the ‘status quo’. It’s bad enough when the local supermarket moves the bread section – but when the company we work for introduces a new digital system that completely changes how we work, it feels like ‘the sky is falling in’.

When change happens within businesses, there may initially be some resistance from employees: whether it be in the form of avoiding new systems, skipping training, clinging to old methods, or even quitting altogether. Change in business is a constant, however, and it is usually driven by a desire for improvement, and typically over time, becomes the new normal.

Good change management is all about smoothing this process of transition and that means engaging with people and helping them to seamlessly switch to a new model or ways of working.  Change management is not just concerned with implementing new systems or processes; it is just as much about listening intently to colleagues, customers, and stakeholders.

It’s working with people to get things right, building a deep understanding of the challenges we and our colleagues face, and shaping the vision for a future that resonates with people. Change is most successful when everyone feels they have a part to play in moving things forward. And that’s true of all change initiatives, large and small.

Finding a way forward

When it comes to managing change, it’s important to recognise that everyone will have their own journey; they’ll work through things at their own pace, and that’s more sustainable than pretending we’ll all arrive at the same point at the same time.

 It’s also important to focus on creating a supportive environment, or the right conditions for people to adapt, with as little friction as possible. The goal is to establish conditions that minimise friction and foster a collective sense of purpose. This philosophy is crucial in creating a environment conducive to individual and organisational growth.

Getting the planning process right

When planning for change, it’s essential to consider both the intended and unintended consequences. Just as technological advancements like social media have transformed communication but also introduced challenges such as misinformation and mental health concerns, organisational changes can have extensive, unforeseen impacts. A thorough exploration of current operational practices, beyond process maps or managerial assertions, is therefore, always a vital feature of any effective change management approach.

For that reason, it can often be a mistake to pull out those process maps the team updated 12 months ago or rely on the word of line managers that will tell you ‘this is how we operate’ without taking into consideration the work-arounds or simplifications that employees have developed over time.

Teams will naturally evolve, and patterns of work; ways of doing things that aren’t written down, will always be there. A good change manager must always be cognisant of that. Even small changes, like when a key person in the team changes roles, can have a big impact.

To manage change well, it’s important to talk to the people who will be most affected by it. This helps change managers to plan and effectively execute the change journey. By ignoring these key considerations, organisations risk their change strategy stalling from the outset and the opportunity for operational efficiencies may therefore never be fully realised.

Throughout the process, it is crucial to continuously monitor and measure the impact of change on all key stakeholders. One effective way of doing that is by embracing the principle of change curves: a popular model organisations can use to understand the different stages people and the organisation go through when a change occurs.

An effective strategy involves mapping stakeholders against this curve, whether as individuals or groups, during project check-ins. This approach can help project leaders gauge the current position of every team member on the curve, the impact of the project’s upcoming phase on them, or their colleagues, and additional support measures that could be implemented. Such an assessment facilitates a more tailored and effective change management strategy, ensuring stakeholders are adequately supported throughout the transition.

Not everything will run like clockwork, of course, no matter the change management approach that is put in place. Challenges, setbacks, and opportunities for improvement are inherent to any process, but proactive anticipation and planning for potential worst-case scenarios and unintended consequences significantly enhance our ability to support our colleagues and teams effectively. This strategic foresight is crucial in managing transitions smoothly and realising the intended benefits of initiatives.

A positive route ahead

Change, especially in business, are inevitable and often aimed at fostering improvement and growth. However, the journey through change is deeply personal and varies from one individual to another. By acknowledging this, creating a supportive environment, and engaging with all stakeholders, organisations can navigate the complexities of change with minimal resistance and maximum efficiency.

Effective change management, therefore, is not just about the technical implementation of new systems but about genuinely listening to and working with people to adapt and thrive in new circumstances. It’s about understanding the nuanced ways teams operate, the unofficial shortcuts and workarounds they’ve developed, and considering the broader implications of change beyond immediate operational efficiencies. Through a thoughtful approach that anticipates challenges and values stakeholder input, organisations can not only manage change but turn it into a catalyst for positive transformation and growth.

It is clear then that while people may inherently dislike change, with the right conditions, support, and leadership, the transition can become a journey of collective progress and innovation. Change, managed well, can transform the initial discomfort into an opportunity for development, making the once feared ‘sky falling in’ scenario a launchpad for reaching new heights.

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Business

Embedded finance: What consulting firms need to know

By Michael Pierce, VP of Sales at Toqio

Consulting firms are the architects of change in the business world, offering insights and solutions that guide companies toward growth and success. They navigate the intricate landscape of markets and industries, providing invaluable advice to their clients. In this evolving milieu, an opportunity is arising as embedded finance enters the scene, creating a unique and prospectively vital synergy between consultants and platform providers.

Embedded finance, especially within the scope of B2B enterprises, is a hot topic right now among consultancies and the outlook seems to be quite positive.

To date, much of the initial traction in embedded finance has been in the consumer sector, with products such as no- or low-interest financing, buy-now-pay-later (BNP), and others. On the B2B side, there is an increasing amount of mobilization. In recent months we’ve seen incumbent banks either entering the banking-as-a-service (BaaS) market or enabling their services through open banking partnerships, while strategy firms are busy advising corporate entities on the potential routes they can take. Early adopters have already made embedded finance a cornerstone of their digital or financial transformation programs: MVPs and proofs of concept have been on the rise.

As we all peer forward, the market is starting to look for scalable use cases to take advantage of these massive, predicted opportunities. Companies are searching for solutions that go beyond the hype.

For consulting firms, the messaging remains positive. The fundamentals of embedded finance drive strong service revenue. Even more importantly, the business cases for their clients stack up as well. Numerous opportunities are on the table when consultants incorporate embedded finance platforms into their projects, including increased revenue, improved retention rates, access to a wider range of data for better decision-making, and many more.

Adaptability delivers excellent results

Embedded finance helps to break down barriers faced by many companies when trying to access affordable financial services. By integrating financial services directly into the supply chain, companies can enjoy many benefits, such as liquidity management, credit accessibility, risk mitigation, and many others. That’s one of the reasons why embedded finance platforms are proving to be the latest addition to the consultant’s toolkit. They offer a wide array of solutions that enable businesses to integrate financial services into their products and services. What makes embedded finance platforms especially appealing to consultants is their adaptability and scalability.

Consulting firms understand the need for versatile solutions capable of addressing various business requirements. Versatility and adaptability are key, giving consultants the flexible tools they need to deliver on time and within budget.

Embedded finance platforms are a natural extension of consulting firms’ capabilities as they offer a comprehensive range of financial solutions that integrate perfectly into existing business processes. This alignment provides consulting firms with several advantages, such as  enhanced client services, data-driven insights, streamlined processes, scalability, and versatility.

A match made in finance

The compatibility between consulting firms and embedded finance platforms is readily apparent. Consultants excel at diagnosing business issues and embedded finance platforms provide a precise prescription for financial enhancements.

There is an extensive list of benefits that consulting firms can get from platforms like this. Diversifying their business is just one of them as embedded finance platforms augment the services that consultants offer. They allow consultants to present clients with solutions for intricate business ecosystem operations, such as payment processing, receivables management, and liquidity optimization.

Partnering with an embedded finance platform can also open up new revenue streams as well as being able to scale the solutions built with more agility. Consultants can use them to address the unique needs of projects of any size, whether working with an SME or a multinational enterprise.

The relationship between consulting firms and embedded finance platforms isn’t just about expanding services, it’s about offering integrated financial solutions that improve efficiency, profitability, and competitiveness. This partnership drives results. In a world where businesses seek comprehensive solutions, embedded finance platforms empower consulting firms to address complex financial challenges effectively.

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