The Customer Effect

Bankers, legacy structures and relevancy: The industry on what’s stopping banks from innovating

  • "In general, most banks were built in an industrial era and we're in the digital era."
  • "Banks need to look ahead and think about how the customer experience is changing."
Bankers, legacy structures and relevancy: The industry on what’s stopping banks from innovating

One of the biggest themes banks are touting these days is the importance of customer experience. Gone are the days of sales and transaction-centered banking.

That cultural shift is one of many legacy banks have made over the last decade and comes in large part from the realization that customer expectations have been raised by other industries — they want customized and even personalized service, they want it to be fast and they want it at their fingertips whenever and wherever they may be.

But the banks that exist today were born at a different time. For all the progress they’ve made in keeping up with their non-bank financial startups, they’re still regulated like old financial institutions and in many ways are stuck in their old ways. We asked attendees at the Tearsheet Money conference in New York Monday: What’s prohibiting banks from innovating to their fullest?

Dan Kimerling, head of API banking, Silicon Valley Bank
That they’re run by bankers. There are many things outside the control of bankers. For example, the policy prerogatives of various regulators are more focused on eliminating the down side than trying to incentivize the upside. There are also a number of internal things — how we think about what is risky versus not risky to how do we recruit, retain and develop talent. In general, most banks were built in an industrial era and we’re in the digital era. The realignment of organizations for this new world is slow and painful. This is not only true in financial services.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti, svp innovation design, U.S. Bank
Banks need to look ahead and think about how the customer experience is changing as the technology is evolving and finding ways to stay relevant in those scenarios. For example, let’s say in the future you have AI. What if it becomes a bot or something that’s in your phone or in your earpiece? With that tech, how do we use it in a way the customer finds relevant to the jobs they need to get done?

Jeffrey Brown, global banking and financial services consulting leader, Genpact
The biggest issue is that banks think about it way too much as a front end problem rather than a middle- and back-end delivery problem and that the next wave they’re going to have is because they’re going to release the value and the capabilities of the middle and back office. Being able to take the lending time down from 40 to seven [days] — that’s not a front end innovation that’s a back end innovation. But [the front end] is what the customer sees and likes.

Ronak Daya, product manager, Bond Street
It’s a combination of having existing systems in place that need to be migrated to the new way of thinking and embracing iterative development—that takes time. The middle office and the back office need to be modernized—that takes a while for banks to do. The way they operate right now, they’re constantly chasing. They start bringing in new technology and moving in that direction, but by the time they get there it’s changed.

Om Kundu, founder of InSpirAVE
Any large institution executing a known business model is an oil-tanker in the ocean, it’s set in its direction. Doing something that is fundamentally different is kind of like changing the direction of the oil tanker. The way banks have been set up with their legacy infrastructure, with the organization and the folks that work in them is akin to realigning that oil tanker. That’s part of it. That’s where partnering with fintechs comes into the picture — they’re fearless about making a new model come to life.

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