All banks will say they are on a digital transformation journey, and that is no doubt true. All are looking at ways to automate routine functions and provide a smoother client experience.
What makes Nedbank Corporate and Investment Bank’s (NCIB’s) digital transformation journey different is that it asked clients to come along for the ride.
It set up a panel and invited clients to test drive its latest innovations and tear them apart if necessary.
It was a brave move, but the outcome was better than anything anyone expected: a much deeper understanding of what worked for clients, and finding out who within the client organisations interacted most with the bank.
That was an eye-opener, says Jonathan Haenen, chief digital officer at NCIB. “What makes our digital transformation different is how we are doing it, with the help of clients, building an incredibly robust digital platform with no breakages and little or no down time. We’re building products from a client’s perspective.”
An important perspective from the client panel is that the clients’ CFO and treasurer are not the people who log onto the bank account.
There’s a team in the finance department for that task. Managing and monitoring the bank account is one of dozens of activities the finance staff are tasked with completing daily.
What the bank learned from clients was that they wanted speed and easy access – nothing too fancy, but something robust and simple to operate.
Creating a smooth client experience involved automating functions such as credit applications and reducing the approval times from days to minutes. This was blended with self-service, allowing clients to perform certain functions such as opening an account and uploading ‘Know Your Customer’ and ‘Anti-Money Laundering’ documents, without having to pick up a phone.
These may be simple requests, but they require a tremendous amount of work in the background.
Previous generations of technological innovation have not been entirely successful. For example, the AI-driven chatbot phase where clients were led to believe they were talking to a real person online. They would ask a question and be referred to a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page, which was often more infuriating than waiting on the phone for 15 minutes to speak to a (human) relationship manager.
“We started our digital transformation with a focus on improving our product and our client experience. We don’t think digital transformation is only about cloud, robotics, automation, blockchains, and so on. These are enabling technologies and of course part of our strategy. However, if they don’t result in better products then we’ve missed the point again,” says Haenen.
“Rather than looking at digital solutions that solved a problem for the bank and saved us money, we put ourselves in the shoes of the client – and the outcome was very different from designing a system where the interests of the bank come first,” says Haenen.
One such digital innovation allows clients to access the bank’s forex rates alongside market rates provided by foreign exchange tools and services company Xe.com.
“This may seem like an obvious innovation but the key objective was to demonstrate that we are transparent in our pricing and allow clients to monitor our rates alongside Xe.com,” says Haenen.
“Digital transformation has been a hot topic for CEOs of corporates across the globe for the last decade. Investment banks, like many business-to-business [B2B] professional services, have lagged because they favour in-person, highly customised client engagement. This, however, is missing the point.
“Our philosophy is that a digital transformation is, at the heart, about building better products and experiences for our clients,” says Haenen.
“All banks have been forced to look at manual practices and digitise them, minimising the number of human hands involved, every step of the way.
“Our clients are businesses, mainly large organisations. The question we set out to ask was how do we digitise for them? This gave rise to the ‘warm digital’ concept, which involved creating a digital process without your clients feeling they are being handed over to an algorithm.”
Better client experience is the goal
The current system in use, NedTreasury, is being phased out along with other platforms, to be replaced by an entirely new channel called Nedbank Business Hub. Clients are being migrated to the new system, which offers a fresher-looking, easier to use platform that simplifies interactions with the bank.
While digital transformation should result in internal efficiencies, which is an advantage to the bank, the reality is that more efficient, automated internal processes almost inevitably result in improved ease of doing business for clients. “You can always go too far, though,” says Haenen.
“Client experience is an important part of product. In doing this transformation, we also make things more efficient within Nedbank, with fewer hands involved. It’s a virtuous circle.
“There’s a balance between business and tech that is vital here. Move too far to tech and everything’s on the cloud and blockchain, but your clients don’t notice. Move too far to business and everything is built with sticky-tape and falls apart at the first hiccup. You have to find the balance and I think that’s why we’re succeeding.”
Brought to you by Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (NCIB).
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