Digital transformation: reinventing retail banking (1)

The retail banking market is being completely reconfigured . New players are entering the market and new expectations are awaited. Hence, retail banks need to change the way they operate in order to adapt to this transforming market, and maintain their ability to grow. Digital transformation is at the core of this challenge, let us see why, how, and where all this will lead.This is the first instalment in a series of blog posts in which I will be tackling digital transformation in the banking sector. In this piece I will emphasise the importance of the fine-tuning of the banking customer experience and business model changes. The aspects linked to the back-office, the impact on jobs, and the internal processes will serve as subjects for future posts.

The impact of digital on banks and their clients

With regards to the banking sector, digital is considered a path of natural evolution rather than a path of revolution. This is due to the fact that information systems have already played a strategic role in the dematerialisation of banking processes for a long time. Nevertheless, retail banks must enrol in this large digital transformation process, to readjust to the new characteristics of the market. Such changes are happening in four areas:

  • Customer experience optimisation
  • Shift in operational processes
  • Change in internal processes
  • Reshaping of business models

The current model of retail banking is based on a physical network of branches offering a complete panel of banking services. This model is outdated because both of its cost and the lack of customer satisfaction it produces. Although the resizing retail networks could help reduce operating costs, this would not be sufficient for financial institutions to better comply with new market conditions.

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Consumers’ new expectations
Let’s start with the indirect impact of digital. Connected daily on at least one social network platform from a mobile phone, consumers have new expectations; more interaction and a seamless relationship to start with, as well as an easier, simpler access to bank services, not to mention ease of use. Consumers are increasingly reaching higher levels of digital integration from a personal point of view, and this leads to more demands which banks, just like other brands, need to address.

Branches opening hours are often incompatible with their clients’ working hours. Access to banking services and to personal requests via a financial advisor are perceived as unbelievably and unnecessarily complex by consumers in this day and age.  In the 1990s, banks did design new ways of addressing such requirements: call centres offered an opportunity of expanding working hours. However, in a world where everything is accessible 24/7, this is no longer sufficient in the eyes of today’s customers of the banking sector