Ongoing Innovation in Retail Banking

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The banking industry has been transitioning for more than a decade. Pandemic might have put human life at a standstill, but it has spurred innovation even more. Innovation is constant, and whatever has been brewing and were supposed to be out in upcoming years have made its appearance even stronger.

The financial and banking sectors have taken enormous risks out of bare necessity to move past the remote working environment and release innovative financial products in the market to meet customer expectations. The digital transformation is accelerated in banks and financial institutions based on customer requirements.

Organizations are using different tools that are readily available for building new digital platforms but were never used before. Even though this unprecedented situation has accelerated the growth of the digital platform, still some organizations feel that they are far behind in innovation and digital transformation. To overcome the challenge of preventing economic depression owing to the prevailing circumstances, the financial and banking sectors are more drawn toward creating a stronger foundation of digital transformation.

In the following years, the economic impact on the banking industry is probably vague and unpredictable. But the role that innovation is likely to play and transpire the digital transactions cannot be ruled out. Hence, it is definite to keep investing in creating an innovative product range to meet customer expectations or even exceed them.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic situation has provided a threat to the industry. But it has also provided an opportunity to invent and improve technologies and help organizations realize their potential in terms of digital growth. It will allow the financial industry to cater to its customer requirements even during hard times.

Fear of the spread of Covid has restricted all contact. Hence, the contactless or no-contact operation is urging banks and financial institutions to innovate transactions solution across key business areas. Following are the innovations that the financial and banking sectors are focusing on currently and will continue to do so going forward.

Innovations for contactless transactions

With significantly reduced footfall in the banks, personal banking is now elevated to digital banking encourages hassle-free and contactless transactions across all digital platforms. With fewer in-branch operational activities, consumers no longer have to visit the branch to meet their needs. During a time of dire necessity, financial institutions unleashed their full potential to win their customer’s confidence.

Digital customer onboarding The innovative digital customer onboarding process enables you to register your customers online over an inventive digital platform.

Video KYC Video KYC is an innovative technique where the customer’s documents are validated and verified through a mobile video conversation between the banker and customers.

Contactless payments – With a new norm of no-contact or contactless being the practice, consumers are opting to minimize physical contact. Using facial and voice recognition customers are using payments, ATMs, and business correspondent-enabled banking transactions.

Virtual customer service – Not just payments and transactions, a bank needs to address other requirements and complaints of their clients. Enterprises are now incorporating enhanced bots with their service websites. Contact centres are virtualized through cloud-based systems.

Redefine banking experience With limited human and physical interaction, the banks are further adding value to their services. There is a significant emphasis on technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.

Technologies that enable remote working

Improving Employee Access – Since the “work-from-home” option is unlikely to end anytime soon, financial institutions are vying for productivity enhancement. To standardize the workforce industries are replicating office-like environments by implementing robust, distributed, and secured setup for uninterrupted operations. A cloud-based solution is flexible enough to track the volatility of financial transactions.

Enhancing Employee Productivity – The older tools may be obsolete when it comes to catering to the need of employees during this tiring time. Understanding the situation, organizations are implementing AI-based productivity enhancement tools to predict human behaviour, track performance, and identify development areas. Further, the organizations are introducing learning and training programmes remotely to improve their employee productivity, they are reaping maximum benefits from AR and VR technology.

 Technologies to track employees’ physical and psychological well-being

There is no doubt that the pandemic had created quite a stir, taking a toll on the physical, emotional, and psychological health of people. To maintain the balance, organizations took corrective and preventive measures such as no-contact attendance, monitoring the temperature of employees and video-based conference meetings. Employees also opted for virtual medical assistance to ensure physical and psychological well-being. The trend proved successful and likely to continue for the years to come.

Technologies to reclaim economic growth

The current condition retarded economic growth and severely affected a few key business areas. With the help of technical innovations, financial institutions are making all possible efforts to retrieve from an economic downturn and offer services and solutions to their customers.

Customized Financial Product – The years 2020 & 2021 have exposed lending and banking services to business uncertainty and risk. The retail banks have customized solutions to meet customer needs. Customized products allowed organizations to identify solutions and monitor risk.

Monitoring and Evaluating Assets – The travel restriction posed challenges to evaluating and monitoring assets. Organizations used IoT-based systems to evaluate assets remotely. With this solution, financial institutions could evaluate and monitor products such as trade and lease financing, asset maintenance financing, and manufacturing and infrastructure financing.

Innovative Risk Assessment – The concurrent situation has led to business uncertainties. Calculating risk based on the traditional form of obtaining data may no longer be reliable. Financial institutions are relying on AI & ML -enabled models, which could help in creating an early warning system to monitor risk. Risk assessment of customer data through this technique enabled the organizations to understand customers’ creditworthiness.

Transaction Exchange – By integrating APIs of one financial institution with another, organizations could offer supply chain financing, marketplace lending, and POS-based lending products to their partners. It improved underwriting, pricing, and collections by tapping into the cash inflow of small and medium enterprises.

Changes in Retail Banking

  1. Innovations were moving at a slower pace, but the sudden outbreak of the global pandemic caught many industries off-guard
  2. Before the situation, many organizations were still holding onto traditional ways of catering to their customer requirements
  3. In-house and personal banking was the standard operations for many retail banks until they discovered that digital platforms can be an option

How did the retail banks deal with the changes?

  • Speeding up digital innovation – There were several digital innovations, which were lying in the pipeline to be released in upcoming years. Enterprises were already investing in the technologies in hope that they would bear fruits in the future. The challenge has pre-ponded the release, speeding up the digital innovations. Customers are relying more on digital banking and contactless interaction, which is reducing the footfall in the branches. Smart banking solutions such as video KYC and virtual banking have gained prominence now.
  • Reorganizing branch banking strategy – During 2020 & 2021, some of the banks had to decide on closing a few of their branches. Before Covid, banks relied on branch banking. They had greater dependencies on branch banking, which were reduced during the pandemic situation. Bank branches shutting down at a faster rate across the world has pushed decision-makers to reorganize their branch banking strategies.
  • Reforming customer services – Banks need to cater to their customer requirements, with or without limits. Before the critical time, customers relied more on in-branch banking. With lockdown being imposed globally and restrictions in the movement have led people to depend more on contactless transactions, giving a boost to digitalization. Digitalization allowed the organizations to facilitate no-contact banking for their customers.
  • Revisiting operating models – Banking operations used to heavily rely on manual effort. Driven by the current scenario, the financial sector is steadily moving towards digitalization. To address customer requirements, banking sectors identified opportunities. They simplified the banking operation process by automating the process and lowering operating expenses. Banks also introduced digital solutions to monitor and manage the remotely working workforce.

Initiatives taken by banks during the critical time and continued thereafter

There was a tremendous impact on financial growth, globally. To bounce back from this financial debacle, banks needed to consider short-term as well as long-term strategies. For banks had to yield profitable growth and had to focus on long-term strategies. Below are some of the initiatives that the banks are taking to ensure their financial stability.

  1. Cost optimization

Cost optimizing ensures growth and sustainability. To prevent further financial loss during the challenging time, the organization planned methodically to adapt to cost-cutting measures and took bold steps towards cost reformation. However, several complexities arise during the tedious time, and the effect was much more adverse than anticipated. The same methods that worked during other times did not work during this time.

In 2020 & 2021, 77% of the organizations implemented cost containment as a best business practice of maintaining expense levels by preventing unnecessary spending. It helped in reducing expenses and improving profitability without risking long-term damage to the company. 65% of the companies cancelled planned investments, 48% changed their financial plans, while 5% refrain from taking any financial actions because of restrictions. 26% of the companies changed their merger and acquisition strategy, and 40% adjusted guidance.

  • Re-designing the business continuity process

With social distancing, banks needed more innovative technologies to ensure smooth services for customers. The banking and financial sectors have various touchpoints, branches, support operations, ATMs, call centres and more. The criticalities of this situation compelled BFSI sectors to manage their touchpoints while adhering to social distancing guidelines. However, there was still a need to control the spread of the pandemic. This facilitated banks to adopt and deploy new technologies. The retail banks are developing and implementing new SOPs to ease in-branch and remote (digital) banking operations.

Branches must serve their customers while ensuring social distancing, but surely there are challenges in the focus business areas. Organizations are initiated the following ways to take care of their customer needs, without affecting their business flow.

  • Reducing branch and ATM footfall by encouraging the use of mobile banking
  • Cash management and technology support minimized ATM downtimes
  • Operations promoting digital platforms and transactions to the customers
  • Bank operation teams are using bots, and IVR (interactive voice response) to address customer queries related to loan moratorium, charges, product features, credit cards and branch appointments
  • Setting up goals to increase volumes and adjust staffing models
  • Redefining SOPs and service-level agreements (SLAs) for smooth internal operations
  • Adopting technologies which remained unutilized for long
  • Distributing workloads across operational sites
  • Digital transformation

As digital platforms evolved, organizations embraced digitalization to allow contactless sales, services and customer-employee, employer-employee interactions and more.

The journey of digital transformation may have started a few years ago, but the Covid crisis has accelerated the entire process. Digital transformation is not just handling the challenge, but it is likely to play a major role during post-Covid recovery. With digitalization being felt everywhere, both urban and rural part is slowly gaining access to data as well as gaining high mobile penetration. To cater to their customers remotely or in-branch, banks are creating new digital solutions to enable digital banking for them.

  • Banks are now leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), including natural language processing and emotional recognition capabilities across various customer touchpoint
  • Driving salesforce digitally to generate sales within the work-from-home option
  • Identifying potential FinTech partners in various categories such as payments, onboarding, credit underwriting and collections, and partnering with them quickly to enable contactless services
  • Investing a high share in the digitalization of the marketing budget
  • Applying digital transformation to improve customer experience and encouraging remote collaborative working
  • Improving data and cybersecurity measures, which are the principal need of digital transformation for customers and employees

  • Productivity
Ideally in a crisis like the current one, there could be a possibility that the organization might have to compromise on employee productivity. Organizations need a better crisis-management system to manage the concurrent situation. Hence organizations created innovative solutions, one such solution is digital transformation across all key operational and business areas. Banks are looking for new initiatives to drive the workforce and enhance productivity during this Pandemic. A few of these initiatives are mentioned below.
  • To focus more on digital and automated options to develop capabilities
  • Strictly monitoring lead management system to reduce effort leakage
  • Taking advantage of data analytics support to boost productivity
  • Defining workflows by activities by re-designing business process
  • To cater to unconventional business demands, organizations utilized workflow management tools
  • To define the Key Result Areas (KRA) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for ownership and responsibility of the workload, organizations are using performance monitoring tools
  • To improve sales and services amidst this pandemic and its restrictions, organizations deployed digital tools for employees to access
  • Following the strict SLAs, enterprises applied ring-fencing to review the scope of segregating non-essential services and outsourcing them to vendors
  • To further enhance the skills of their employees, enterprises designed online training modules
  • Handling online communication with all stakeholders even during the ongoing crisis

  • Asset-lite operating model

The fixed costs can be reduced by shifting to an asset-lite model. With a larger focus on digital platforms and remote working, the enterprises function without disrupting the business and services.

  • Making the customer-employee interaction easy with the right digital assets
  • Providing support for the workforce working remotely
  • Analyzing different specialized services and non-value services and accordingly outsourcing them
  • It also helped in utilizing footprint and optimizing real estate  

Adopting an asset-lite operating model lowers recurring fixed costs like rentals, lower support, and maintenance costs, direct connection with customers, higher utilization of self-service platforms and easier compliance with standards/regulations.

  • Planning business strategies

Businesses had to bounce back from the economical setback post-Covid. It was even more challenging to keep up during this crisis. Banks cut down the expenses on non-essential parts that no longer serve them. They planned different approaches due to their low lending capabilities, low-interest income, and increase stressed assets. Banks’ approaches and initiatives are different now. A few of those initiatives are as mentioned below:

  • Changing business models based on customers’ financial needs, products, and channels as well as adapting and analyzing new customer requirements
  • Customizing services by ring-fencing for prospective customers
  • Building brand image to gain customer loyalty
  • Considering wider requirements and scenarios to build a resilience plan
  • Building strategies around new products, services, and channels to capture new market segments
  • Assessing intra-industry collaborations for sales and services

Innovation in Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance is an inseparable aspect of the banking and financial industry. Enterprises decided to innovate in testing to speed up the process. Currently, the testing process in banks and financial institutions follows DevOps – Agile methodologies. They have included continuous testing along with continuous integration and continuous deployment.

The financial and the banking sector shifts to digital quality assurance with a high emphasis on automating the testing process wherever possible and holds applicable to accelerate their digital transformation journey. Banks are confidently adopting the open-source testing platform and AI-based testing to speed up the time to market and reduce the cost and effort. AI components focus on advanced test automation that saves time and enhances accuracy in the digital testing process. It is a self-healing automation process that produces more reliable outcomes. It helps in writing the test scripts and analyzing the large datasets faster. AI-based testing tools minimize future defects in applications by predicting instead of detecting them.

Enterprises are likely to adapt to both offshore and onsite testing models based on their specific requirements. If an organization can set up an in-house testing architecture to execute the testing projects, an onsite testing model would be advisable for them. However, if they are reluctant to invest in in-house testing, they can opt for offshore testing models. Whether offshore or onsite, both can be equally beneficial for a bank and financial institutions if the testing partner has the competency to execute end-to-end testing with expected results.  

Conclusion –

Yethi is a niche QA services provider with years of experience delivering high-quality testing projects. We have worked with 100+ clients across 22+ countries and executed end-to-end testing services across all the major core banking applications with functional areas like core banking, payments, lending, and more. Our quality assurance services include functional testing (user acceptance, functional acceptance, system integrationregression, UI/UX), non-functional testing (usability, performancesecuritydata migration), and testing advisory services.

Our testing centre of excellence is a team of highly experienced testing & domain specialists who understand the processes and technologies involved in digital projects & quickly scale capacity to meet the needs of your business. We have a test repository of 850K+ reusable assets built with highly probable test cases and scenarios in the financial and banking sector.

Our 5th generation robotic codeless test automation tool, Tenjin, is built with intuitive features and supports our QA services. It is a fast and scalable test automation platform and works flawlessly across multiple applications to provide accurate test results.