Flexible Tech Drives Digital Transformation in Banking and Insurance
Financial services are ripe for disruption and the institutions that adapt to meet the needs of technology hyper-adopters will leave the tech-laggards in the dust. This is why banking CIOs are putting digital transformation as the number #1 priority.
Embracing digital is simply a must. Nearly a quarter of US life insurance buyers are doing so online1, one fifth of auto insurance holders have used their insurer's mobile app in the past 12 months1, and 46% of banking consumers are now interacting via digital only, skipping physical channels altogether - a huge jump from the 27% of digital-only customers seen in 2012.
Going digital means orchestrating an intricate web of technology, culture, regulations, and customer expectations. I encourage you to read two great, complimentary reports by Forrester that explain the many moving pieces of digital transformation: Take An Iterative Approach To Digital Banking Strategy and The State Of Digital Insurance, 2018. In this post, I wanted to narrow the scope to technology in financial services, and how a flexible, modern tech ecosystem can fast-forward change.
“As our customers engage with us in our digital channels more and more frequently and their expectations to excellent UX and "the right content at the right time" is critical to succeed, we as marketers need more flexibility to experiment, develop and transform our digital channels without waiting for IT-release-cycles.” - Camilla Boel, Web Insights & Optimization Manager at Topdanmark
The legacy system in the room
Unless you are a digitally native startup, you can’t escape legacy systems in financial services. The stricter industry regulations and long history of processes (and culture) means that digital strategy can run into roadblocks that other industries, say ecommerce, don’t face.
This means that financial institutions are having to tackle digital with a new approach. Rip-and-replace strategies are expensive and long, and digital needs to happen now - not at the end of a 5 year replacement plan. This is why banks and insurers are seeking technologies that work alongside legacy systems to experiment with digital touchpoints quickly without upending every process and system.
“The trend is to decouple legacy backend systems and create flexible architectures.” says Mehmet Olmez, Managing Director at Accenture, “This allows the digital frontend to connect to the backend using APIs, while creating new and light-weight products and services on top.”
This type of API orchestration means that your teams can use modern tools to work quickly in areas such as marketing, customer service, and sales while ensuring that their work remains in-line with critical legacy systems without disrupting them. You can leverage the data you already have in new ways, such as connecting back office process and forms to provide better self-service. Thanks to API connections, these initiatives build on each other, are reusable across use cases, and keep the digital experience consistent for both customers and employees.
A digital experience platform is one way to do this. This type of platform has full content management capabilities to enable marketing and customer experience initiatives, with the API flexibility to share data among back-end systems. This powers a consistent, personal experience across both human and digital touchpoints. David Roe, CEO at Authentic sums this up:
“Legacy financial companies are learning that modernizing their technical infrastructure and digital customer experience is not dependent on a full rip-and-replace of legacy systems. Rather, existing systems should be re-packaged into a new user experience and design that is orchestrated through a central digital marketing platform and delivered via a front-end application. By using trending front-end frameworks, like React.js and Angular, to develop Single Page Applications, we are able to surface content from these legacy systems, as well as a content management system, to create a seamless and engaging experience across channels. In reusing the existing systems that effectively perform their intended functions – like account management, bill pay, etc. – legacy financial companies are lowering the barrier of entry into the digital space, simplifying the ‘digital conundrum,’ and are more quickly adopting tools that empower internal marketing teams.”
Speed via Iteration
The financial industry is changing fast, and designing a strict 5 year roadmap based on today’s predictions is going to lock you into initiatives that are obsolete in a few years. Choosing an API approach gives businesses the freedom to experiment with the flexible experience layer without disrupting legacy systems, to analyse, learn, and adjust - again and again.
Talking to friends in the financial industry who have been in the trenches of digital transformation, this need for fast adaptation came up in every conversation:
“Being successful requires a tinkerer mindset. This entails thinking big while starting small and experimenting. With the vast amount of touchpoints these days it is challenging to excel at each and every interaction. You have to claim your domain, be successful and replicate this success to other domains.“ - Mehmet Olmez, Managing Director at Accenture Interactive
“This tendency allows these organizations to invest in future-proof solutions that enable a differentiated experience, and establish an architecture that can evolve and grow with changing business needs.” - David Roe, CEO at Authentic
“Scoping, descoping and prioritizing has been key to continuously reach our goals step by step. It is easy to get too many ‘toys’ because you get excited about the opportunities it gives – the important thing is to see the effect it has for our customers and online users and how this benefits our goals.“ - Camilla Boel, Web Insights & Optimization Manager at Topdanmark
Embracing the experimental mindset means that you aren’t just being reactive, but are opening up new forms of pipeline and discovering the gaps and niches your business can fill. The speed at which the financial industry is changing means that new gaps are popping up left and right, with a whole slew of potential customers waiting for them to be filled. Some examples of success in this area include offering push notifications for fraud detection, a personal possession inventory list that allows consumers to customize coverage with a swipe, and providing coverage for uber drivers between fares.1
Account for different levels of adoption
For your own team, culture is a huge factor in digital success and it doesn’t change overnight. As stated in a recent Forrester report on digital banking strategy, “Culture is the hardest obstacle to identify and alter but is a crucial foundation for change.”2 Choosing the right tools, that simplify or optimize processes, is one way to foster a culture of digital enthusiasm. People get on board with convenience. For instance, I’ve heard from our customers that being able to manage content approvals via email, and not having to log into the platform every time, is a simplifier that has encouraged adoption.
Rolling out digital changes in phases gives people time to feel excited, not overwhelmed, about digital and can cause a snowball effect of cultural change. “For a marketer it is difficult not to get excited about how a new digital platform can help you be even more relevant to the individual website-user.” explains Boel when discussing her personal experience with digital tools, “Personalization- and split-testing-tools, however, also requires a mindset-change and new ways to produce content and that is something we’re working on to come more naturally in our daily work. Seeing the effect on website conversion-rates is something that really motivates, and makes you eager to try out more.”
A phased approach is also helpful in bringing digital to your customers. Sometimes this is for practical reasons, as some product lines and services are just easier to digitize. Other times it’s because you understand the needs of your customer, the same person who is happy to deposit a check through an app may want to talk to a real person if they need insurance information after a house fire.
Identify where your quick wins are and get the word out to your customers as soon as new services are available. A great way to do this is through offering real life training on new digital tools. It makes the transition to digital less daunting and can encourage adoption (one bank saw training move adoption from 22% to 81%)
Digital is a New Mindset
“You don't need a digital strategy; you need to digitize your business strategy.” Forrester states in a recent digital insurance report, “Don't just focus on digital customer experience. Look at where new sources of data emerging from social media, connected devices, or government departments can help you improve the buying and managing of insurance. Think about how you can leverage the data you already hold to unlock new sources of customer value or build new revenue streams. Your digital vision must encompass every aspect of how your firm does business.”1
Looking at digital as a company-wide way of thinking, and not as a grocery list of tactics, leads to a better experience for your team and your customers. “Successful financial service companies are providing a platform rather than focusing only on financial products and services.” says Roe, “This allows them to take an essential role in the digital ecosystem, and extend their services to marketing, branding, financial administration, leasing, insurance and complete new business propositions.”
The process to become digital is step-by-step and your path will change with the rapidly evolving financial landscape. You can’t predict the future, but you can start embracing an iterative, flexible approach to digital experience that lets you move quickly into any direction digital finance goes next.
Berdak O, Ensor B, Carney E, et al. Forrester Research. The State of Digital Insurance, 2018. 25 January 2018.
Wannemacher P, Ensor B, L’Hostis A, et al. Forrester Research. Take An Iterative Approach To Digital Banking Strategy. 26 January 2018.