‘Workflow’s calling is to rejoin the fragmented parts of an FI’: ServiceNow’s Lauren Robbins

  • ServiceNow works with hundreds of financial services firms to create digital workflows in IT.
  • During the pandemic, the software company has seen more clients improve HR and customer service experiences, as well.

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‘Workflow’s calling is to rejoin the fragmented parts of an FI’: ServiceNow’s Lauren Robbins

This past year was an external shock to financial customers and employees of FIs. As branches shut and employees turned to working from home, workflows were disrupted and redesigned. Enter ServiceNow, a software company that serves digital workflows for enterprises.

My guest on today’s podcast is Lauren Robbins, general manager of the firm’s financial services business. Her firm has hundreds of FIs as clients and she joins me to talk about how institutions’ expectations have changed during the pandemic. Lauren describes how financial institutions are working to ensure higher levels of customer and employee service in this newly distributed form of work.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

ServiceNow’s roots

ServiceNow is a cloud based software platform. And the heart of what we do is digital workflow and really easy integration. Our purpose is to make the world of work work better for people. So we’re solving for the problem of what stops work from flowing in an organization. That could be things that are held up by manual activities like email and spreadsheets, and we connect it all together with workflow and bring in all the systems that are important to help our customers do that as well.

In the financial services industry

Many financial institutions know ServiceNow by where we got started: as a workflow platform. Our founder had this great idea of, hey, I want to create a platform that makes it really easy to route work anywhere throughout an enterprise. And he was told by early investors, look, you got to make that real for us. And so he made it real in an area that he knew about, which was within IT service management.

So that’s where many of our customers come from — we have over 900 customers in financial services using us on the platform. And that’s where many started their journey. But what they realized is the problems they were solving for, in managing IT incidents, problems, service requests, changes — they also exist in areas like employee onboarding and HR, where employees also need to make requests. And they’ve also realized that, wow, those same problems can cause bottlenecks and delayed cycle times within line of business operations.

Think about trying to open up a mortgage or open up a new deposit or checking account. Those processes can take 30 days. Now, we’re seeing fintechs that are offering those experiences in minutes. So we think about how we can improve those processes, drive more automation, so we can deliver better employee and customer experiences.

Expectations through the pandemic

We’re seeing our customers responding to a couple things that are happening because of this macro climate and the events we’ve seen in 2020. They’re responding to the fact that they’ve needed to scale in a way that they haven’t before, because of all the limitations on all the in person channels. So right now, they’re addressing this mad dash to digital adoption, and to really bolstering those digital channels. And so the implication for them is how they ensure that their IT processes are equipped to be able to keep up with that pace of innovation that’s now required.

They’re also realizing that in order to support their customers the way they need to be supported, it doesn’t just stop at that engagement layer. They actually need to really fundamentally look at the underlying operating model, and how their operations come together to be able to support their customers end to end. We’re seeing a reimagination of that — they’re looking to get more flexibility and more scale, they’re looking to get more speed and efficiency. They’re looking to get better control from a risk and a resilience perspective into how those operations work.

We think there’s really no better calling for workflow and really what ServiceNow does to better join up all the different fragmented parts of a financial institution that are stopping them from serving customers the way they need to today.


Focus on employees

For an industry where work from home was much more the exception than the rule, it’s now definitely becoming more and more of a standard. It’s completely highlighted and really accelerated the need for digital transformation that the industry has been addressing, but maybe not as fast as they possibly could. Because if you think about the worst case scenario for manual processes and things that are paper based, it really is in a distributed work environment.

So we’re seeing now more than ever that the employee experience has become a lot more top of mind for financial institutions. It may have begun as a mode of survival, but now it’s also a way to attract talent into the industry where maybe they couldn’t as powerfully before. We’re seeing a lot of investment on just employing and supporting the wellbeing and the wellness of the employee base.

One customer we work with, as they were trying to address the onset of COVID, was getting calls into their HR call center that were keeping their employees on hold for three hours. They couldn’t get easy answers. And you know, it was just something as simple as putting in a virtual agent that could just address very simple questions of how do I get set up with my remote access? What do I need to know about everything we need to do to operate safely as a business? They were able to deflect over 20% of that call center volume just by having a virtual agent for the employees.


We’re seeing a couple of things emerge here, a couple of themes. One is the spillover of agile methodologies, which were adopted as a rapid way to deploy solutions. That’s not going away. But firms are putting them more into how their business prioritizes, how they’re getting faster time to market, and delivering those specific initiatives. We’re seeing continued focus on the customer journey and really understanding what the pain and the friction are, and where we want to be very specific about pinpointing those investments.

The other thing that we’ve been really focused on is getting our customers faster time to market. One of the big problems with customers in financial services is that they’re sitting on a lot of legacy fragmented technology. And it’s only been exacerbated because of M&A, which has proliferated legacy tech. That tends to be a really big bottleneck for what really gets in the way for how our customers can deliver digital solutions. With us, you don’t need to rip and replace or take out that technology. We offer the capability to rationalize what’s needed to deliver the process, what sort of apps you don’t need, and then you can stitch together and connect all those systems that are tied to those customer journeys that are points of friction.

Customer satisfaction

We always refer to the Domino’s Pizza tracker, right? It’s all about giving that customer transparency. And it’s more important now than ever, because customers are in dire need of financial support and help from their banks. What’s happening is that the banks are getting totally inundated by all of these different inquiries and all of this need to support customers.

So, there’s a need for that end to end transparency back to the customer. When they call into the call center and they need to track their requests, they can do that in real time. Things don’t go into a black box, and we saw some of that happen with the onset of the PPP program. I think what hasn’t changed is trust. So much of building trust is the assurance that financial services, the critical services, the assistance that’s needed for customers, small business, and individuals during this time is going to be there and it’s transparently there.

Learning from consumer and tech

I think the GAFA effect is in full force: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. I think they have set the standard for what a high grade consumer experience can and should be. And I think that’s why we’re seeing a lot of really good partnerships start to emerge with some of those big techs that are offering financial services themselves. The one that immediately comes to mind is the work that Goldman Sachs is doing with Apple to expand the financial services experience embedded into buying Apple products.

2021 priorities

What’s very much top of mind is partnering with our customers on their own unique and respective journeys, for how they see themselves leading through this crisis and being in that position of competitive differentiation. Some FIs may need to start from look, I really need to get the core of our IT operations up and running. And I really need to drive more efficiency and productivity in how we’re delivering innovation back to the business.

Others could say, look, we’re preparing for this new world of remote work and we need to better connect our employees as a distributed workforce back to our company. One of the things that ServiceNow has in our platform is the ability to embed risk, compliance, and control into workflows. In this new world of COVID, we’re seeing very different types of risks emerging that our customers are trying to think about how to manage more efficiently and effectively across their lines of defense.

Lastly, it could be that a firm really needs to invest in how they’re serving their customers, not just with the engagement and lead gen channels, but also how they come together from front to back office to really build trust into the future.

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