Modern banking is about learning to think like a client


Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously said consumers don’t know what they want until you show them. The iPhone introduced them to a level of communications experience that revolutionised the world, and has been broadly copied since then.

The banking world appears to be on the cusp of a similar leap in client experience.

Nedbank CIB conducted extensive Voice of the Client (VoC) surveys to understand what kind of banking experience their juristic clients wanted, and made detailed studies of clients’ online footprints to see where they seemed to spend most of their time, and where they appeared to be having trouble.

It then enlisted more than 100 companies to be part of a ‘client panel’ as a way to more directly gauge their response to futuristic ideas – such as what the bank of the future should look like.

Ideas emerging from this panel were then routed to an incubation team for development and eventual implementation.

It was revelatory, but not altogether surprising, says Samantha Majoni, executive in charge of client experience at Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (NCIB).

“They appreciated the benefits of having a digital platform, but wanted something more intuitive to use that was centred around the problems they were trying to solve, rather than being shoehorned into a product that was designed in a silo, without an appreciation of the client experience. They want less technical jargon and something that slices through the silos that inevitably build up in a banking environment.

“They wanted a simplified user experience, but they do not want to lose the human interface.”

Solving this problem required a coordinated effort involving multiple departments within the bank, spearheaded by a client experience unit.

“It required a change in culture, where we put the client at the centre of every decision and innovation we make,” says Majoni.

That may sound obvious – every business is built around servicing its clients, but some are vastly better at doing it than others, and that’s the key determinant of their success.

Few would argue that modern banking has become a miasma of confounding products and services.

“We had to start thinking like a client, in everything we do,” says Majoni.

“If you look at the fact that millions of people with smartphones have started using money apps of different types, with apparent ease, we started to ask why this couldn’t be done in the business-to-business [B2B] space.”

Business banking is inherently more complex than retail banking, but is nevertheless ripe for disruption.

Take legal documents, for example. These are dense, technical documents that require deciphering by highly trained lawyers. Nedbank has simplified its documents, removed excessive use of jargon and acronyms so that an ordinary reader can understand them, and enabled electronic signatures to reduce time spent circulating and scanning hard copies, with the scope for error and inefficiency that portends.

“The idea of simplified legal documents and electronic signatures has been a wonderful innovation. There’s a lot of signing of documents that clients, senior executives and chief financial officers have to do. Board members are busy people. Digital signatures are such an enabler and time saver. There’s been some resistance from legal teams in companies, but once the benefits become apparent, this becomes more acceptable.”

Then there’s the fact that line staff in every company have different requirements from their bank. A CFO has entirely different needs to a payments or a debtors’ clerk. Treasurers and financial managers will look at different financial metrics and will value certain financial information more than others.

A treasurer typically places a high premium on cash in the bank and speed of invoice payment, while a financial manager may place greater emphasis on supplier relationships, so may emphasise settling supplier accounts more than other units – all of them operating within the accounts division in a company.

“We had to build solutions for each of these functions within a company, to solve the different needs within that company,” says Majoni, adding that this is more complex than in the case of a retail client, who generally has simpler needs.

“From a banking perspective, we have to tie this all together internally because everyone has a role to play in making sure the client has a great experience.

“The person sitting in the bank’s legal unit, drafting terms of contract, has to be represented on the CX (customer experience) forum, alongside people from investment banking, property finance, and other departments that have something to do with the client experience.

“In the CX forum, we expose everything we do as a bank to the client experience test. The different units then take these ideas back to their different areas. What this has done is got everyone thinking like a client.”

From these VoC initiatives, three priority areas were identified:

  • Improved accessibility (known as ‘Warm Digital’);
  • Improved client service experience; and
  • Reduced paperwork.

This is just the start of a journey, and a conversation with clients, that will redefine the way the bank interacts with its clients, says Majoni.

Brought to you by Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (NCIB).

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