Banks aren’t Alone in their Omnichannel Unreadiness

Banks aren’t Alone in their Omnichannel Unreadiness

In December, Celent surveyed a panel of North American banks and credit unions to assess the current and likely future state of retail and business banking channel systems. The report is chock full of fascinating insights. Among them is a rather sobering self-assessment of banks' omnichannel delivery capability

A recent experience renting a car painfully demonstrated that banks aren’t the only ones that have a ways to go.

7:00 AM…

Me: Visited the company's website. Easily searched and located a car at a location very close to my home. Quickly booked the automobile and received an e-mail confirmation promptly. The web site displayed the location of all area locations and recommended this one based on its proximity to my known location. Reservation for 2:00 this afternoon. So far so good.

10:00 AM…

Enterprise called and left a voicemail indicating there were some “qualifying details” we would need to discuss prior to my 2:00 PM reservation.

10:30 AM…

I returned the call. The problem was that I reserved an intermediate size car and none were available – just large SUVs and 15-person passenger vans. That relevant information was not conveyed in my otherwise stellar digital experience with the brand.

  • Me: “What about other locations?” I asked.
  • Agent: “I can see what they have on the lot, but I don’t know the plans they have for them. Unfortunately, I can’t book for you. Feel free to call other locations yourself and see which ones may have an intermediate size car for you.”
  • Me: “You mean I have to dial for dollars around Greater Atlanta to find an intermediate size car? Your web site indicated availability and gave me a confirmation. What’s up?”
  • Agent: "Sorry, but that's a long story. Look, if you’re okay driving a large SUV, I can give it to you at an intermediate rate. Would that be okay?”
  • Me: “I think so. It’s not what I want, but I’ll take it.”
  • Agent: “Do you need a pick up also?”
  • Me: “Yes, please – just prior to 2:00 – thank you”

1:30 PM…

The phone rings again, it’s Enterprise. This time, it is the location calling, not the contact center.

  • Agent: “Sir, we have a problem with your rental reservation. We don’t have any intermediate size cars at this location.”
  • Me: “Yes, I know. I spoke with your colleague at 10:30 this morning. You agreed to rent me an SUV at an intermediate price and pick me up prior to 2:00.”
  • Agent: “Do you know who you spoke with?”
  • Me: “I’m sorry, no. I didn’t get his name”.
  • Agent: "Was it a man or a woman?"
  • Me: "It was a male colleague of yours, but I don't recall his name."
  • Agent: "Was he from this location?"
  • Me: "I don't know. By the way, why whould I care?"
  • Agent: "Well, I've been pretty much the only one working at this location all morning."
  • Me: "Thanks for sharing, but what does that have to do with my reservation?"
  • Agent: "I'm just trying to find out who you spoke with."
  • Me: "Why is that relevant? I have a reservation and we have an agreement – and it's almost 2:00."
  • Agent: "I dont think he was supposed to do that."
  • Me: "So, are you going to rent me a car, van, SUV or whatever for an intermediate rate or not?"
  • Agent: "Yes, sir, we'll do that.
  • Me: "Great – see you in a few minutes".

A few days later…

Atlanta traffic kept me from returning the rental during normal business hours. Handily, there are provisions for after-hours drop-off. The rental is processed the next business day and costomers receive a final receipt via e-mail.  That's the plan, anyway. It's been several days and no receipt. After calling the store, I was told the e-mail system has been down.

My bank looks very good about now.

Congratulations to All Celent Model Bank 2017 Award Winners!

Congratulations to All Celent Model Bank 2017 Award Winners!

Many of us at Celent just came back from a busy and exciting week in Boston. Undoubtedly, the highlight was attending Celent's Innovation and Insight Day on April 4th, where we celebrated achievements of the Model Bank and Model Insurer award winners.

The rain and clouds couldn't obscure spectacular views from the State Room overlooking the Boston harbour. And they certainly didn't dampen the mood of nearly 300 attendees representing banks, insurers and technology vendors from at least 15 countries around the world.

Craig Weber, Celent CEO, opened the day by presenting compelling evidence that financial services are more important than many celebrities. He was followed by an insightful presentation from Andy Rear, chief executive of Munich Re Digital Partners. The programme then split into parallel Banking, Insurance and Wealth and Asset Management tracks before reconvening again to close with a series of debates between Celent analysts on three topics: Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

During the Banking track we presented Model Bank awards, and discussed the winning initiatives and why they stood out from all others. As regular readers of this blog know, this year we introduced specific named awards with only a single winner for each award. I would like to offer my personal congratulations to all of our Model Bank 2017 winners:

Winner

Award

Alior Bank S.A., Poland

Emerging Technology for Consumers

Banco Original, Brazil

Consumer Digital Platform

Bank of America, USA

Risk Management

BMO Bank of Montreal, Canada

Process Automation

Capital One, USA

Emerging Technology for Businesses

CBW Bank, USA

Banking as a Platform

Citi, USA

Open Banking

Credit Suisse AG, Switzerland

Payments Replatforming

DenizBank, Turkey

Lending Product

Emirates NBD and ICICI Bank, India and UAE

Most Promising Proof-of-Concept

FGB, UAE

Corporate Banking Digital Platform

Idea Bank S.A., Poland

Small Business Digital Platform

India Post, India

Financial Inclusion

IndusInd Bank, India

Fraud Management and Cybersecurity

Millennium BCP, Portugal

Branch Transformation

Mizuho Financial Group, Japan

Consumer Banking Channel Innovation

National Australia Bank, Australia

Core Banking Transformation

OakNorth Bank, UK

Banking in the Cloud

Radius Bank, USA

Product Innovation

The Royal Bank of Scotland, UK

Employee Productivity

YES BANK, India

Payments Product

And of course, congratulations to Caixa Bank, our Model Bank of the Year 2017! The keynote presentation by Àngels Valls on how Caixa Bank has embraced digital was the highlight of the I&I Day for many of us in Banking – thank you! Finally, congratulations to Celent Model Insurer award recipients.

Each of the award winning initiatives is published as a case study and available to Celent research clients by following the links above. In addition, we also published an overall Model Bank 2017 report, which discusses how the Model Bank programme has changed over 10 years and reviews the content themes across all nominations in 2017.

We intend to run the Model Bank programme again later this year, so keep an eye on the announcements when the new submissions window opens. We have no doubt that you are all working on exciting things and hope that you will consider submitting your initiatives for 2018 awards. In the meantime, enjoy the case studies and let's celebrate the Model Bank winners of 2017!

Celent Model Bank 2017 Awards: The Payments Preview

Celent Model Bank 2017 Awards: The Payments Preview

This is the next instalment of our Model Banking preview blogs, and it’ll come as no surprise that I will focus on Payments.

Reading and evaluating the Model Bank entries is always fascinating. It’s also somewhat frustrating too at times – payments, covering so much territory, often ends up with the tricky task of comparing two very different projects, and trying to decide which is best. This year was no different, with the quality of entries high.

Until we announce all winners publicly on April 4 at our 2017 Innovation & Insight Day in Boston, we’re unable to say too much more – very frustrating! In addition to presenting the award to the winners, we will be discussing broader trends we’ve seen across all nominations and will share our perspectives why we chose those particular initiatives as winners. Unfortunately though, if you’ve not already registered, it’s too late. As with every year, it’s not only sold out, there is a growing wait list too!

So until April 4th, what can we take away from the Payment entries as a whole this year?

First, the entries this year reinforce how hard it is for any single bank to come up with a cutting edge product innovation in payments. As a result, we had a number of entries submitted jointly by multiple FIs describing their initiatives on blockchain, P2P infrastructures, and other collaborative efforts.

We also saw, particularly in the retail space, the adoption of innovations in one market, transposed from another. There were a number of these, particularly in wallets and P2P. Not bad, just not new and often with a very specific market context. For example, one technology had been in place in a different country for at least 5 years, yet the impact will be huge for the bank who submitted it, and is leading edge for their market.

This perhaps serves as a timely reminder that innovation isn’t always about cutting edge technology, but doing something different. Scanning other markets for what they do, and why, is a great source of new ideas, Given that these innovations are, by definition, tried, tested and live, it also has the benefit of being easier to adopt, from the likely business benefits to the actual technology used and lessons learnt.

The second theme is the continued payments back-office renovation story, particularly around the adoption of payment services hubs, which continue apace. Whilst we have defined what is or isn’t a hub, we have always been clear that no two hub projects are exactly the same, and the entries this year reinforce that.

A few things really stood out in particular about the entries. First, some clients still consider hubs to be mainly European, yet we had entries from right around the globe. Second, whilst the details may differ, common to all was the belief that the bank had to re-engineer payments, not just for the future, but to better respond to changes that were imminent. Given the change in the last 10 years, and the likely change in the next 10, perhaps the question for many banks is more about when than if they also undergo their own transformation.

Look out for the case studies being published on April 4th for more detail!

How to Woo a Bank

How to Woo a Bank

When it comes time to choose a business partner, banks will favor those who help them execute their third party risk management (TPRM) responsibilities over those who begrudgingly comply.

The risk to a bank of doing business with a third party is real; the consequences of a risk event are not only disruptive, but often result in long-term reputational damage that can seriously affect the bottom lines of both the bank and the third party. We have all seen the media coverage. Parties who can make TPRM easier for banks by being proactive, transparent, and helpful will distinguish themselves in an ever more competitive environment.

They must show that they are compliant with the bank’s risk management requirements throughout the RFP, due diligence, onboarding processes, and lifecycle of the engagement.  OCC1 TPRM regulations alone require the bank to evaluate 16 risk dimensions when engaging with a third party. And, if the relationship involves a high or critical risk activity, the bank will carry out a much more thorough due diligence; often including an on-site visit to inspect operational risk procedures in the case of a risk event.

Furthermore, there is now an expectation that the third party will willingly take a portion of the liability of such an event.

Banks are introducing a new level of discipline and quantification around the measurement of third part risk. With this knowledge, banks can determine third party indemnification provisions and allocation of liabilities at the contract stage. You will be at a disadvantage if you do not have a way to measure and verify the scope of a potential risk event that involves your products or services.

Celent is also beginning to witness the inclusion of provisions within contracts that require a third party to reimburse the bank for out-of-pocket costs relating to data security breaches that occurred due to the third party's negligence. As banks continue to push back on third party risk liabilities, third parties need to ensure they have in place insurance policies that can fund indemnification obligations.

My recent two research reports discuss the changing and expanding landscape for TPRM and explain why banks, regulators and third parties need to commit to their significant other in the management and responsibility of risk.

The Enduring Importance of Physical Engagement in Retail Financial Services

The Enduring Importance of Physical Engagement in Retail Financial Services

I take no issue with the growing importance being placed on digital in financial services. Indeed, it does not take extensive examination to see, in Wayne Gretzky’s words, “where the puck is going”. Digital needs to be a top technology priority among financial institutions – particularly in highly digitally-directed markets such as North America and Western Europe. But, that doesn’t mean physical engagement is unimportant. In my opinion, in-person (physical) engagement will be of lasting importance in financial services for at least three reasons:

1. Most consumers rely on brick and mortar for commerce and will continue to do so.

2. Most retail deposits still take place at the branch.

3. Most banks do not offer a decent digital customer acquisition mechanism

Most Consumers Rely on Brick and Mortar for Commerce

This week, comScore released its most recent measurement of digital commerce. It was truly exciting, with Q4 2016 m-commerce spending up 45% over 2015! But, even with that astonishing year-over-year growth, m-commerce constitutes just 21% of total e-commerce. And, with two decades of e-commerce, total digital commerce comprised just ten percent of total commerce in 2015. Plenty of consumers still like stores. * FRB Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2011 – 2016, Percent of smartphone users with bank accounts
** US Department of Commerce, Internet Retailer, Excludes fuel, auto, restaurants and bars
***comScore

Digital is not equally important across segments. Books and music, for example, are highly digital. Not so much for food and beverage. I’m being simplistic for brevity, but the data suggests that most commerce will remain tied to the store experience – at least in part – for the foreseeable future. I don’t think financial services will be an exception.

Most Retail Deposits Still Take Place at the Branch

Banks are keen to migrate low-value branch transactions to self-service channels, and there is perhaps no better low-hanging fruit than check deposits. Yet, with a decade of remote deposit capture utilization behind us, a January 2017 survey of US financial institutions (n=269) clearly shows that the majority of retail deposit dollar volume still takes place in the branch. Like it or not, the branch remains a key transaction point for many consumers and small businesses. Sure, the trend lines support digital transaction growth (thank goodness), but we have a long way to go – farther than the hype would suggest.

Most banks do not offer a digital account and loan origination mechanism

Even as banks would love to acquire more customers digitally, most aren’t well prepared to do so. Unlike most every other retailer on the planet, most banks initially invested in digital banking for transaction migration, not sales. That is changing, but not quickly. The mobile realm needs the most work. In a December 2016 survey of North American financial institutions, Celent found that large banks, those with assets of >US$50b, had made noteworthy progress in mobile customer acquisition capability since the previous survey two years ago. Smaller institutions lag considerably. For these reasons, branch channels are getting a make-over at a growing number of financial institutions, with the objective of improving channel efficiency and effectiveness – effectiveness with engagement, not just transactions. Celent is pleased to offer a Celent Model Bank award in 2017 for Branch Transformation. We’ll present the award on April 4 at our 2017 Innovation & Insight Day in Boston. In addition to presenting the award trophies to the winners, Celent analysts will be discussing broader trends we’ve seen across all nominations and will share our perspectives why we chose those particular initiatives as winners. Make sure you reserve your slot here while there are still spaces available!

Rethinking the Customer Experience: Themes from the 2017 Model Bank Submissions

Rethinking the Customer Experience: Themes from the 2017 Model Bank Submissions
This is the third article in a weekly series highlighting trends and themes from Celent’s Model Bank submission process. Dan Latimore and Zil Bareisis led off with two great pieces on the evolution of the Model Bank Awards.  Articles from this week on will explore some of the broader themes within each category. Customer experience initiatives are typically the most numerous.  While this makes the category more difficult to judge, it offers immense insight into what’s happening in the market. The standards of customer engagement are constantly changing, and banks are experimenting with new ways to drive increased satisfaction, higher revenue, and greater loyalty.  Three themes stand out this year. Digital banking subsidiaries: Many banks are finding that existing systems are too rigid to accommodate a truly digital experience.  A number of customer experience submissions this year focus on building out separate digital subsidiary brands within traditional institutions. Banks are typically going in two different directions.  The first is a digital subsidiary as an offshoot of the parent bank.  These brands are basically separate products that offer a digital-first experience to a certain demographic, but are closely tied to the main bank. Brands are similar and products/ services are frequently cross-sold. The second type is a completely separate brand ring-fenced under a different technology stack, operating under the umbrella of the parent organization but effectively a separate entity.  These banks may leverage the parent for product support, but are usually sandboxes for “testing” digital.  Submissions were a mix of the two approaches. Fintech partnerships: The shift from disruptive to collaborative relationships between financial services and Fintech startups feature prominently in this year’s award submissions.   They range from standard B2B vendor relationships to more advanced functional partnerships where portions of the Fintech’s offering is exposed within the traditional institutions digital UI.  Initiatives reflect the growing acceptance among the industry that banks can’t be all things to all people.  Institutions are acknowledging the valuable and complementary role Fintech can play in providing a modern, innovative customer experience. AI and bot technology: Bursting out of the gate in 2015/16, Banks have begun a mad dash towards AI and other bot technologies.  This is a broad spectrum of projects that include everything from simple bots to cognitive computing.  Submissions this year show institutions spreading their resources across many different applications.  Like any emerging technology, most institutions are in a “test and learn” phase.   These technologies are at varying levels of maturity, but the potential to revolutionize the customer experience through AI may be truly transformational, and Celent was pleased to see so many projects in this space. This is just a taste of what we’ll have in store at the 10th annual Innovation and Insight Day on April 4th in Boston. We’ll be diving much deeper into the various topics, revealing the winners of all the awards, and discussing how they combined serious innovation with tangible business benefits to stand out from so many strong contenders. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Introducing Celent Model Bank 2017 Awards

Introducing Celent Model Bank 2017 Awards
As my colleague Dan Latimore wrote in the article that began this series, 2017 was the best ever year so far for Celent Model Bank programme in terms of quantity, quality and diversity of nominations. As we went through the judging process, we felt a range of emotions – grateful and privileged to receive so many amazing stories, and daunted by the prospect of having to pick the most worthy award recipients. In the end, we are excited and confident about our selection of winners, yet we are sorry that we could not recognize so many others that clearly also deserve recognition.

Over its ten years of existence, Celent’s Model Bank programme has always changed and evolved. In the last few years we have been awarding multiple initiatives in a small number of categories – for example, last year we had four winners in Digital Banking Transformation, the busiest of seven categories. While all the awards within the category were equal, we knew that some institutions craved for more exclusive recognition. This year, we decided to take it a step further and to introduce specific named awards with only a single winner for each award.

After long deliberations, the judging panel decided to recognise 21 initiatives as winners of the following Model Bank 2017 awards:
  • Consumer Digital Platform – for delivering an outstanding digital experience for consumers. The award is open for traditional financial institutions, digital-first, and challenger banks.
  • Small Business Digital Platform – for delivering an outstanding digital experience for small businesses.
  • Corporate Banking Digital Platform – for delivering an outstanding digital experience for corporate clients.
  • Consumer Banking Channel Innovation – for the most creative use of consumer channels, or the most effective channel integration.
  • Branch Transformation – for the most compelling branch transformation initiative, including branch format innovations and creative use of live agents.
  • Product Innovation – for demonstrating the ability to launch multiple innovative products.
  • Open Banking – for the most impressive API strategy and results so far.
  • Payments Product – for launching the best consumer or business payments product.
  • Lending Product – for the most impressive consumer or business lending or collections initiative.
  • Fraud Management and Cybersecurity – for the most creative and effective approach to fraud management or cybersecurity.
  • Risk Management – for the most impressive initiative to improve enterprise risk management.
  • Process Automation – for the most effective deployment of technology to automate business processes or decision-making.
  • Employee Productivity – for improving employee training or collaboration, incentivising employees, or enabling mobile agents.
  • Payments Replatforming – for the most impressive project to improve payments back office, e.g. payment services hub implementation or cards replatforming.
  • Core Banking Transformation – for the most compelling initiative to transform a traditional core banking platform.
  • Banking in the Cloud – for innovative approaches to implement a banking platform, e.g. deploying in the cloud.
  • Banking as a Platform – for creating an ecosystem of partners via a banking platform that connects and enables third parties.
  • Emerging Technology for Consumers – for creative deployment of emerging technologies for consumers (e.g. AI, ML, API, biometrics, wearables, voice, blockchain, etc.)
  • Emerging Technology for Businesses – for creative deployment of emerging technologies for small business or corporate clients (e.g. AI, ML, API, biometrics, wearables, voice, blockchain, etc.)
  • Most Promising Proof-of-Concept – for the most promising experiment – pilot or proof-of-concept – with emerging technologies.
  • Financial Inclusion – for efforts to bring financial services to unbanked and under-banker communities.
And of course, we also kept our Model Bank of the Year award, first introduced in 2012, which recognises one financial institution that in any given year simply stands out from the crowd and uniformly impresses Celent judges.

For the time being, only the nominees will know if they won any of these awards, as we begin working with them to distill their achievements into a series of case studies. We will be announcing all winners publicly on April 4 at our 2017 Innovation & Insight Day in Boston. In addition to presenting the award trophies to the winners, Celent analysts will be discussing broader trends we’ve seen across all nominations and will share our perspectives why we chose those particular initiatives as winners. Make sure you reserve your slot here while there are still spaces available!

Model Bank 2017: Some First Impressions

Model Bank 2017: Some First Impressions
Growing up, a family Christmas tradition was that my mother would ritualistically proclaim, “That’s the most beautiful tree ever.” It seems that way with Celent’s Model Bank awards, too. In our tenth year we’ve just been through more than 150 submissions, and just like my mother, I can say that this was the best crop yet. The quantity emphatically broke records, and the quality was outstanding. Ongoing innovation in banking technology is clearly beginning to pay off, and we’ve been privileged to learn an immense amount from all of the financial institutions that took the time to tell us about their how they’ve been using technology and innovation to serve customers better, become more efficient, and mitigate risk.

Those who’ve followed the Model Bank Awards closely will note that our awards format has evolved to follow the market over the years. As the imperative to be more customer-centric has become more pressing, it has in turn begun to blur the lines between one of the oldest ways to divide banking: channels. And lines elsewhere begin to blur, too – for instance, should a mobile payments initiative be in mobile, or in payments, or in its own category? We’ve addressed this conundrum with five categories chosen to provide a broad cross-section of the banking landscape.
  • Customer Experience
  • Products
  • Operations and Risk
  • Legacy Transformation / IT Platform Innovations
  • Emerging Innovation
The entries were exceedingly diverse, and came from repeat submitters and new participants. EMEA led the pack quantitatively, with APAC and North America roughly the same, and the strongest showing yet from Latin America. We expected to see nominations around digital banking, branch and core transformation, and payments, to name a few, and we weren’t disappointed. We were also pleasantly surprised to see intriguing initiatives involving employee productivity, cross-selling, AI, Biometrics, and Blockchain.

Inevitably some will be disappointed; there were so many worthy initiatives that the judging was the most difficult by far. It’s certain, though, that Celent analysts will have a full plate for the next two months as we reach out to our Model Banks and complete the work of distilling their rich stories into pithy case studies that illustrate the incredible innovations banks are undertaking today.

As for what you can expect between now and April 4 in Boston, look for a series of articles from the Celent analyst team highlighting some of the many insights that we’ve gleaned along the way. We’d recommend that you check back in; as we notify the winners and begin to develop our case studies, we’ll keep you posted with a series of articles like this one that detail some of the insights.

And while space is filling up fast, there’s still time to register for 2017 Innovation & Insight Day, April 4, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. Find out more about last year’s event here.

Banking Third Party Risk Management Requirements are a Big and Expensive Ask

Banking Third Party Risk Management Requirements are a Big and Expensive Ask

Celent, through its work with Oliver Wyman, estimates the cost to US financial institutions of undertaking due diligence and assessment of new third party engagements to be ~ $750 million per year. Institutions are paying three times as much as their third party to complete on this exercise. The average cost to an institution to carry out due diligence and an assessment of a new critical third party engagement is $15,000 and takes the institution approximately 16 weeks to complete.

The top ten US banks average between 20,000 and 50,000 third party relationships. Of course, not all of these relationships are active or need extensive monitoring. But the slew of banking regulatory requirements for third party risk management is proving to be complex, all-consuming and expensive for both institutions and the third parties involved. In a nutshell, institutions are liable for risk events of their third and extended parties and ecosystems. The FDIC expresses best the sentiment of worldwide regulators:

“A bank’s use of third parties does not relinquish responsibility… but holds it to the same extent as if the activity were handled within the institution." www.fdic.gov

If an institution doesn’t tighten its third party risk management, it is significantly increasing the odds of a third party data breach or other risk event and will suffer the reputational and financial fallout.

In the first report of a two-part series, just published by Celent, “A Banker’s guide to Third Party Risk Management: Part One Strategic, Complex and Liable”, I show how institutions can take advantage of their established risk management practices such as the Three Lines of Defense governance model, and operational risk management processes to identify, monitor and manage the lifecycle of critical and high-risk third party engagements across functions and levels. It describes the components required for a best-practice program and shows examples of two strong operating risk models being used by the industry that incorporates third party risk management into the enterprisewide risk management program.

Unfortunately, there are few institutions that have successfully implemented strategic third party risk management programs. Most institutions fall between stage 1 and 2 of the four stages of Celent’s Third Party Risk Management Maturity Curve. But continuing to operate without a strategic third party risk management practice will leave your institution in the hands of cyber fate and the regulators.

Chat Bots: Savior or Disintermediator?

Chat Bots: Savior or Disintermediator?

AI is becoming increasingly interesting to bankers.  Last year I wrote a blog about “Assistant as an App”, looking at how concierge apps like MaiKai and Penny are offering up AI-driven financial management services.  My colleague Dan Latimore also recently posted a blog on  AI and its impact.

The emergence of chat bots within popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Kik, and WeChat similarly has the potential to shift how customers interact with financial institutions. Chat bots offer incredible scale at a pretty cheap price, making adoption potentially explosive. Facebook messenger, for example, has almost one billion active users per month. WhatsApp (soon to launch chat bots) has about the same.  These apps offer some extremely high engagement, and with app downloads decreasing, users are spending more time on fewer apps. According to Tech Crunch, 80% of the time spent on a mobile device is typically split between 3 to 5 apps

Chat bots give the bank the ability to automatically appear in almost all of the most used apps in the world.  The opportunity with digital assistants is immense, and given the nature of bank transactions, it’s not hard to imagine chat bots becoming a widely used engagement method.  Most of banking is heavily rules-based, so the processes are often standard.  Frequent banking requests are pretty straightforward (e.g. ‘send this person X amount of money’ or ‘transfer x amount from savings to checking’).  Bank-owned chat bots are also more built for purpose than some of the multi-purpose third-party products on the market, making the functional scope targetted. While chat bots are still very early days, it won't be long before these kinds of interactions are accessible and the norm. Bank of America already has one; many others have plans or pilots.

This video (skip to 7:30) shows what an advanced chat bot might be able to accomplish. The image below from the Chat Bot Magazine is another conceptual banking use case.  The possibilities are compelling. 

 

 

 

 

But while the opportunity with digital assistants is enormous, banks must be aware of how this affects their current ongoing digital strategy. For example, if chat bots overcome the hype and become a long lasting method for accessing financial services, then what effect will that have on traditional banking apps?  Will chat bots make it foolish to invest large sums of money in dedicated mobile apps? 

For all the promise this technology brings, banks need to be aware that this could be a step towards front-end disintermediation. The threat of tech companies (or other large retailers) stepping in to grab banking licenses and compete directly with incumbents was short lived.  The more realistic scenario was always relegating core banking functions to a utility on the backend of a slickly designed user interface created by a fintech startup.  The incumbents lose the engagement, even if they are facilitating the transactions.

Are chat bots a step towards front-end disintermediation, or are they an extension of the bank’s main app?  If you believe that chat bots are a stepping stone (or companion product) towards a world where the best UI is no UI, and where AI evolves to the point of offering significant functional value, then banks could be at risk.

This isn’t a call to hysteria by any means, nor am I calling chat bots wolves in sheep’s clothing, but banks need to be aware of the potential impact. As voice or message-based interactions become the norm, they will have an effect on a bank’s dedicated mobile app.  In this environment, the mobile app will need to evolve to become something different; non-transactional.

Chatbots will only further fragment the customer journey, requiring an even clearer understanding of how consumers are choosing to handle their finances and make transactions. Banks need to start thinking about how chat bots and AI fit into a long-term digital channels strategy, one that doesn’t handcuff the institution into a no-win proposition of competitive disadvantage versus wilful disruption.