How did banks strengthen their digital transformation & business continuity with evolving opportunities during a pandemic?

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The global pandemic (2020-2021) had led to unanticipated issues such as economic crisis and credit risk. The upcoming years looked uncertain while facing a critical time. To protect from the economic fallout, the leading business entrepreneurs focused on finding out possible solutions that they thought would help them in stabilizing business continuity and serving their customers better.

One of the Gartner’s Business Continuity Survey reveals that as less as 12 per cent of organizations were prepared to combat the effect of a deadly catastrophe like coronavirus. Amidst the threat of spreading COVID-19, the leading financial institutions considered evaluating their business continuity plans and pandemic planning initiatives to ensure they put safety and efficiency first.

Banking and financial institutions considered agile methodology to adapt to the changing global scenario. The unforeseen event urged the BFSI sectors to reflect on their fundamental practices and how prepared were they for the future. The impact of the pandemic was so widespread that banks faced a weak investment return leading to future credit risks and economic uncertainties. Reportedly, the European banks collectively have experienced an estimated credit loss of an average of €700m in Q1 2020. Meanwhile, in the US three popular banks informed that they noticed a significant credit loss of $25b in Q2 2020.

Current Trend and Opportunities

To prevent the pitfall and evolve from this economic crisis, banks seized available opportunities and prepared their next business module. This catastrophe has urged banks to re-evaluate and analyze their core and non-core assets. Under this scenario, 60% of the banks considered the divestment option, a plan to divest in the next 12 months.

The possibility is likely to play a massive role in understanding the type of organizations banks would like to connect with in the future and how conveniently they can transform their existing process. A growing interest in digitalization is driving banks to adopt digital banking products and solutions to cater to customer requirements. They are taking steps to boost their digital transformation plans.

With a growing threat during a pandemic and different phases of the lockdown being imposed everywhere, financial institutions had adopted remote working policies. It provided an opportunity for the business leaders to reconsider working remotely, operating in the long-term, and consider the monetary impact this approach could have.

This situation enabled many banks to understand their resilience and capabilities. They also reconsidered their cost transformation programs to move in tune with the new challenges of this crisis. The future from here on looks promising and inspiring.

From the online purchase of grocery items to electronic goods, banking and financial institutions, companies introduced promotions, special services, and reward points to re-establish their position in the market. The customers’ purchase behavior was requirement-based, as a product was bought and sold based on bare necessity.

Customers were driven more by emotion during the crisis. Hence, for organizations, brand messaging, tone and purpose became extremely important while connecting with their customers at an emotional level. It helped in establishing customer brand loyalty. Customer purchase behavior depends on four principles, as stated below:

  • As customers remain indecisive, empathy and commitment become two ways to win their trust. During the pandemic, consumers reacted positively to inspiring content that highlighted social, financial, and other real-life aspects.
  • Brands should keep informing their customers about the crisis, how to protect themselves and change in the situation. Customers are likely to trust brands that provide reliable and accurate information about the current situation.
  • Engaging and connecting your customers by facilitating and extending social support are assured ways of improving brand loyalty. Social engagement with customer support and responding instantly during this pandemic have helped build brand loyalty.
  • Offering new schemes, promotions, and offers helps your brands to evolve through endorsement. These efforts have an impact on your customers.

Digital Transformation

Digital banking solutions, which have been brewing for a long time, have accelerated during this unprecedented time. This pandemic situation profoundly changed the behavior of retail and corporate banking clients and facilitated the use of digital banking.

A recent survey done by Ernst and Young, reveals that 62% of consumers said they would use less cash in the future, while 59% will opt for contactless payments. The use of digital services and products propelled more expansion when some of the bank branches were closed, and in response, banks accelerated digital and technology transformation programs.

The small and mid-size companies started adopting digital solutions faster than anticipated. There was an increase of new digital accounts by 2.4 times in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the first quarter of 2019, and a 49% rise in SME digital loan applications in 2020 as compared to 30% in 2019, in one of the Singapore-based banks.

The concurrent situation has led to massive economic uncertainty, and there is a requirement for the bank to endure this sudden disruption. With a low margin, banks opted for digital tools and focused on sustainable digital enablement that helped them save cost and time. Their motto was, “Grow your business with digital innovations to live up to your customer’s expectations”.

When assessing customers’ requirements, it was observed that a combination of UI and UX of a digital platform contributed to customer satisfaction and experience. Since banking and financial institutions were turning their services online, they needed a platform that could improve the appeal and undisrupted performance.

The following instance supports the claim of how banking is relying on digital and online platforms. In April 2020, Lloyds Banking Group decided to provide a tablet to their 2,000 customers over the age of 70. The objective was to provide training and support to help them access online banking. As banks are now adopting the best digital practices and customer-centric solutions, they form a well-connected digital ecosystem and unique value propositions for their clients. The whole objective shifts to serving their customers better through an outstanding and uninterrupted online banking experience.

Banking has been evolving even before the pandemic swept the entire world. Based on customer requirements and expectations, banks are compelled to leverage digital channels, accounts payments or transfers and online wallets. To avoid the risk of spreading the infection, consumers opted for cashless payments during this pandemic situation. Consumers who did not consider online payment and transactions as options were encouraged to migrate to a digital platform. Since many consumers were not fully familiar with the digital platform, banks have taken it upon them to educate their customers for an outstanding experience.

As the cashless transaction became the new reality of the ongoing situation, banking and financial sectors had to speed up their digital innovation process in response to customer needs by leveraging cross-channel, customer-centric metrics and tracking the success of digital banking. To re-align sales, reduce operational costs, and offer excellent customer experience, data and analytics, AI and automation played a significant role.

A Cost-effective Managed Services

A well-panned managed service can offer operational flexibility and ensure uninterrupted business-continuity plans against unanticipated challenges during the global crisis. With the pace at which the market situation changed, the banks and financial institutions could not afford to hold back the digital revolution for long. Organizations realized that if they suspend their online operational transformation, they will suffer business loss. They understood the competitive edge the change would bring and hence started managing the costs more carefully.

A well-managed service allowed the banks to reduce operating expenses for the long term, and the sudden outburst gave a reason to the bank to adopt managed services. Managed services helped banks to formulate a strong business continuity plan. It is during the time of crisis that managed services helped the banks to maintain the system stability.

The financial instability during this challenging time urged banks to develop strategies to encourage their customer to move online and prove their operational flexibility. With this rapid digital growth, banks were compelled to invest in security, virtual collaboration and cloud infrastructure, analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation. The banks and financial institutions were quick to adopt digital transformation. And the one who did could recover from the economic setback and establish a strong foothold.

Since banking operations largely depend on customer behavior and satisfaction, the banks must face and overcome the challenges of maintaining their standard of customer services, while mitigating operational hurdles.

Current Contact Centers

Digital and mobile banking witnessed a sharp rise during this critical situation, along with the voice channel to serve consumers well. Despite the fully functional digital operation, a few of the banks were operating from branches in different locations. It proved that even if we were relying on a digital platform, we still needed human interventions. We realized the importance of both during a crisis like the current one. AI-driven technology replaced this to achieve the objective. AI could smartly detect the call intention and provide real-time data to the users. This technology helped in reducing call time, and improved efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

Rise of Open Banking Solutions

The situation gave rise to open banking solutions as there has been an 832% increase in open banking during the global lockdown. Banks took more interest in the open banking payment initiative to gain more understanding of their financial situation. Consequently, more and more banks used the opportunity and invested in open banking solutions. The European financial institutions witnessed a steady increase, and globally the organizations were eager to have a different perspective. They did not mind sharing the information on an open platform. A recent report revealed that there was a rise of 20-29% of investments in open banking services for two-thirds of the respondents.

Partnering with FinTech

Banks were simultaneously looking to speed up the digital innovations during the prevailing global situation when the economies across the globe were slowing down. Also, during this pandemic situation, many venture capitalists were restricted from investing in FinTechs. Hence, partnering with FinTech in this situation proved to be economically and mutually beneficial.

Many governments slowly eased rules and regulations in FinTech companies to encourage the growth of innovations and balance out economic disruption. It came as a relief against the long-standing rules, which were once imposed on them.

The current situation provided opportunities for FinTechs to strike a balance between digital transformation while creating a secure financial backbone. As banks and FinTechs together collaborated, it helped them to bridge the funding gap.

As banks were in the earlier stages of digital transformation, partnering with FinTech companies proved to be helpful in terms of improving technological expertise. Banks in collaboration with FinTechs could develop platforms for financial inclusion, analyze transactions and other data for deep insights, capability development and deploy automation for compliance.

Mortgage Refinancing & Payment Deferral

The crisis raised lots of dependability on banks as to how they are addressing their customer’s issues. Due to low-interest rates, there was a steady rise in mortgage refinancing in April and May 2020, resulting in high loan volumes for lenders. As the whole world was suffering because of layoffs, and pay cuts, the homeowners found it to be challenging to pay their instalments on time. This catastrophe has left many customers asking for mortgage deferrals.

Many banks waived fees, increased credit card limits, and granted mortgage payment holidays in response to customers’ inability to keep up the monthly mortgage payments. They made a few adjustments with the short-term and long-term financial changes. Banks provided tailored solutions based on the customer’s requirements by leveraging machine learning, AI and analytics and driving improved engagement.

Managing System Performance and Unexpected Risks through QA

The customers looked for additional support during this crisis in terms of credit facilities from the banks globally. Banks had to be prepared for the upcoming risks and take measures to keep their business and customers protected from the financial debacle, as default and bad loan cases were expected to rise in numbers.

Banks had to build a powerful fraud and risk management and strengthen their portfolio using their analytical capabilities. It helped them to generate useful insights, improve the operational process, and decide quickly on process-related matters. The impact of the global setback urged the banks to focus, assess and review their stress testing models. Since banks actively took steps towards digital transformation, they had to ensure that their systems had seamless performance, system integration and customer acceptance of their digital platform.

Efficient software and algorithm were needed to detect fraud and reevaluate the risk modelling. It allowed banks to calculate pricing, and evaluate and measure the credit risk of borrowers. Banks needed real-time data and an advanced risk calculator, as the economic impact during this time turned a large amount of data unreliable. Banks had to develop advanced analytical capabilities to filter data accurately and spot anomalies quickly.

Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, there has been a significant rise in criminal activities, increasing the threat of money laundering. Banks will also have to strengthen their KYC and Anti-money Laundering (AML) programs. It helped the banks and financial sectors to manage risks and keep pace with changing regulatory scenarios.  

Journey Ahead from Here

The rising concern and uncertainty of this pandemic situation have made the global banks sort out multiple ways to address their customer requirements. The customers require extensive support and flexible services, and interaction. As the situation demanded high technical upliftment, banks were likely to adopt the followings that allowed and helped them to meet their customer expectations. 

  • Accelerated digitalization efforts
  • Cloud migration
  • Intelligent workflow management
  • Partnerships with the BFS sector and FinTechs
  • Embedding security and governance across operations
  • Advanced risk modelling

The current condition posed multiple challenges and compelled banks and financial institutions to invest more in the digital future. They are now improving their operations by leveraging innovative technologies and continuing to inspire other industries that have not reached digital excellence. The financial sector is on the right track to reap the benefits and enjoy the success of its cost transformation programs for the future.