Putting the client first in finserv: CX as a competitive edge

Cory Haynes Blog Author

By Cory Haynes

0 min read

Putting Client First Finserv Cx Competitive Edge

This post was first published in BanklessTimes.

Cory Hanes, vice-president, financial services and insurance strategy, discusses the challenges being faced by the finserv industry and shares his view on how to successfully move forward.

The financial services industry is at an inflection point with client experience (CX).

While companies are in an arms race investing in technologies to drive stronger client engagement, there is a Sisyphean struggle to integrate data and systems to deliver a truly connected experience. Adding more technology without connecting the client experience is like Sisyphus rolling the stone up the hill then having to roll it back down again, as clients adopt the new tech, but are left off in no-man’s land due to disconnected experiences. Yes, clients like new and cool tech, but just getting what they need is still at an all-time premium, even if it means walking into a branch.

In a recent survey, when consumers were asked why they chose to engage with their banking provider in person vs. digitally, more than half of all mobile banking users (54 per cent) said it was their preference. One third of mobile bankers said they were more comfortable interacting with a banker in person, and it also seemed easier. Only one in five mobile banking users (21 per cent) said they felt like they were forced into a branch because their bank or credit union didn’t offer the capability to do what they wanted digitally.

So what to do? Focus first on the experience. Then layer in the technology. Long before digital platforms, financial institutions like banks and credit unions understood the importance of earning clients. They won business based on relationships. Relationships are about knowing your clients and continuing to anticipate needs based on their growth and changes. Technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation can enhance and scale these relationships, as the physical limitations of being in a branch, same town, same country (dare I say “same planet”) disappear. Thinking tech first and client second is a trap that ensures incumbent banks and fintechs alike. Big banks build slick mobile apps without connecting the branch and client service reps. Fintech disruptors, build an exclusively digital experience and forget their customers may actually need to talk to a real person, especially if they are purchasing the home of their dreams or reconciling a missed “0” in error on their retirement statement.

Creating a memorable digital experience is an integral part of keeping clients loyal, but it’s also about how banks respond to their clients’ requests from a holistic CX standpoint. A bad client experience can cost a company its clients forever. To avoid this, organizations need to rethink their approach to client experience and double down on contact center operations.


The CX stakes are rising.

According to another study, 57 per cent of clients recognize companies are making an effort to prioritize CX, and 71 per cent of clients said they are more loyal to brands that invest in strengthening their CX. In short, financial service institutions cannot afford to underinvest in client experience.

Banks, fintechs, credit card companies and everything in between are rallying around CX as an organizational priority, yet despite this effort, many find it highly challenging to deliver the experiences clients expect. Why? The answer is multifold.

First, there is an overall sense of confusion around financial services and who owns CX and the client journey, resulting in clients being bounced from department to department to get resolution. There are also the organizational silos between departments within financial institutions that create redundancies for clients and open up myriad opportunities for failure to grow the business. Not to mention, various departments may have siloed CX initiatives that could mature at different rates.

But the most important hurdle for finserv institutions to tackle is built into their legacy core tech stacks. Conflicts or incompatibility between cloud and legacy on-premises systems can cause significant issues for businesses. Systems that cannot support necessary integrations, automation and AI cannot support a competitive client experience and, therefore, cannot empower the institution’s contact center to act as a profit center.


The tech imperative: Empowering agents to power the profit center.

There is a growing desire in financial services — from fintech disruptors to legacy institutions and everyone in between — for client service agent responsibilities to extend beyond traditional problem resolution. It begins with a fundamental change in perception of the role the contact center should play within an organization. Industry leaders realize the potential for the contact center to act as a profit center — to grow the business through bolstering client loyalty, upselling, and solving complex problems with empathy, in addition to solving routine client issues.

Due to the rise of digital banking, financial institutions of every size are now in a race to add AI to their digital platforms. AI-driven conversations are transforming the way finserv institutions interact with their clients.

As bots continue to become more conversational and engaging, they free up human agents’ time to deal with more complex issues or even business growth opportunities. In fact, 89 per cent of CX professionals view increasing agent upselling and cross-selling as critical, as well as retraining and upskilling contact center talent.

However, for any of this to work, organizations need to break free from outdated, siloed legacy systems that stymie the realization of a profitable and empathetic omnichannel client experience. Just over half (51 per cent) of financial services and insurance institutions still have siloed engagement channels. This is leaving revenue on the table.

Cloud contact centers break down those silos by creating an engagement layer between core systems, resulting in a seamless experience for clients and agents alike. Yet, only 16 per cent of financial service and insurance organizations have moved fully to the cloud. This means cloud is still a major competitive differentiator for finserv players. There is a powerful opportunity to embrace the cloud and elevate the purpose of contact centers, from traditional operational cost centers to revenue-producing assets that instill trust and drive client loyalty. Moreover, cloud contact centers help organizations collect and analyze rich client data, which can be used to improve their operations and predict future trends.

Legacy systems and data silos preclude many financial services organizations from achieving the outcomes that cloud contact centers enable. These gaps prevent CX employees and call center agents from creating an engaging experience which can trigger negative client sentiment that leads to attrition. From AI-enabled automation for agility and scale, to empowering agents to act as revenue-drivers, to embracing data and analytics for stronger client intelligence and retention strategies, the potential for contact centers as business accelerants is significant.

If banks and fintech do not learn to build client first experiences, they will see market share begin to erode, as large tech companies and large consumer brands who are built to deliver great experiences every day, begin to deliver bank-like services. For example, Shopify offers treasury cash management services for small businesses that sell through their ecommerce platform. Square rolled out business banking solutions, after seeing great success during the Payment Protection Program with government-backed emergency loans for SMBs during the pandemic. Google provides checking and saving accounts via Google Pay. Tesla and Apple now offer branded insurance for their products. Walmart offers buy now, pay later financing for its customers online and in-person. Even Starbucks is in on the action with over $2 billion in assets from Starbucks app users who allow their cash to earn interest, leaving Starbucks with $141 million in net-interest income on that frappuccino money. All of these companies focus on providing a great client experience first. In doing that, their customers willingly come along for the ride and happily adopt their next product or service, even when it’s something nontraditional like banking or insurance.

The Cx Revolution In Financial Services And Insurance

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The CX revolution in financial services and insurance

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Cory Haynes Blog Author

Cory Haynes

Cory leads the Talkdesk financial services strategy team focused on thought leadership and market solutions for banking, insurance, payments and wealth management. Before Talkdesk, Cory led the digital transformation and robo-advisor initiative for TIAA's global asset management and advisory business. He also led BNPP strategy team for global commercial and retail lending digital transformation. Cory still holds his FINRA Series 7, 66 licenses.