More things to bank on

“[T]he Internet will disappear. There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.” – Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Alphabet, “World Economic Forum in Davos”, 2015

In the past couple of years, mobile has been the key driver for innovation in the digital space. While it took some time, but banks ultimately moved from a “mobile-also” to “mobile-first” strategy; and this strategy did enable banks to innovate in their digital transformation journey. But as it is the case with technology, evolution is continuous and rapid – the mobile phone today is much more powerful in terms of capabilities, processing power, and embedded services, than it was a few years ago.

With increased capabilities of mobile, whatever was considered innovative for mobile-first banking a couple of years ago, no longer holds true for the current scenario. And technology hasn’t stopped evolving with only mobile either; there is a new breed of connected devices that has caught the customers’ fancy and these are the current crop of wearable technologies. From fitness trackers to fashion wearables – hyper-connected technology has captured the imagination of the digitally savvy segment. Take for example, the Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket that was launched in collaboration with Google and allows users to complete tasks with a simple touch.

The humble mobile phone of yore has gotten a more conversational facelift. Today people engage with virtual private assistants (VPAs) that smartphones offer, which are more interactive than applications. Innovative banks are tapping into these interactive interfaces and are creating delightful customer experiences – for example OCBC Bank has integrated Siri into its mobile app, so now you can ask Siri to make transfers and payment. VPAs can also enable banks to reach customers, who haven’t been traditionally digitally savvy, and offer relevant services through voice-banking. Or there are chat bots for your personal finance management – the latest being ‘Val’ a collaboration between Kasisto and Varo Money.

And the range of offerings/services that banks can provide with these increased mobile capabilities also keeps expanding every day. There are immersive experiences offered by banks with augmented reality – like Axis Bank with its ‘Near Me’ feature on its mobile app; or Royal Bank of Canada offering video banking on mobile.

Banks have realized that technology is an ever moving target and they’ll have to keep innovating to make sure that they are available wherever their customers move. Progressive banks have taken the lead in innovating for their digital customers, and provided “banking on things” as a solution – for example, Emirates NBD has a fitness app that is compatible with fitness trackers and smartwatches; this app tracks the activity level to translate fitness level into interest rates. UnitedHealth has teamed up with Qualcomm to monitor their customers’ fitness trackers and rewarding people who hit certain goals. These financial service institutions are showing how advances in technology can be used to increase share of wallet with new offerings along with established products.

To keep pace with the latest technology, in terms of service delivery, banks will need to invest in creating a robust omni-channel hub, which can enable service delivery on variety of new channels and devices seamlessly. We believe, the channels for customer engagement and services delivery will continue to evolve – today we are talking about banking on twitter, smart watches and bots; tomorrow we would be delivering banking on smart cars, smart walls, smart attire – the possibilities are endless. Additionally, banks do need to realize it’s not only about offering existing products on these new channels and form factors. It’s about reimagining products and process to take advantage of new capabilities these new devices bring to fore. These expanded range of device capabilities are an opportunity for banks to re-imagine their internal processes and offerings so that they are able to offer relevant and contextual services/products to the customers on the channels that they prefer.

The challenges for banks will continue to increase in the coming year as customers will not relinquish existing channels while adopting new ways of banking – people will continue to use brick & mortar branches, ATMs, and call centers in at least the medium term. In 2017 banks will have to re-imagine their customer journeys around all of their channels, whether old or new. Consumers are adopting new digital technologies more readily than before; this means that banks will have to innovate their omnichannel banking strategies at an immeasurable pace to even stand still.

Narasimha Nagaraju-Trends-17