Banks are rolling out personalized customer experiences

For banks, offering a true digital experience to their customers is more than just having a website. Data silos must be broken, backends overhauled, and specialized software implemented.

Considering the high cost, it isn’t surprising that big regional or national banks have the lead in this arena. 17 percent of big regional or national banks reported implementing contextual, personalized insights and solutions to consumers, compared to only six percent of community banks and 2 percent of credit unions, according to Digital Banking Report’s  The Power of Personalization in Banking. More than 50 percent of each category reported having a basic level of digital prowess with plans to increase future investments in digital.

These efforts are paying off. Since 2012, customer satisfaction with big banks have grown steadily, ultimately surpassing satisfaction levels with midsize banks for the first time this year, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study.

Many banks still find it challenging to move forward with digitization projects, partly due to lack of funds and unfamiliarity with the technology.

“The banks are locked in on an ‘old model’ mindset,” said Pau Velando, general manager of Strands, a company that offers digital money management software to financial institutions. “They think more in terms of banking and less in terms of providing value added services to their customers.”

Strands’ solution enables banks to provide customers with personalized experiences. The company uses statistical and machine learning algorithms to predict customer behavior and recommend better complementary products and services when it matter most to a customer.

For example, by analyzing past behavior, the Strands platform can predict whether a customer might overdraft, and proactively suggest an increase in his credit limit or to take out a short term loan. The platform also integrates with third parties which leverage customer data to market non-financial products, like a car or consumer electronics, based on customer spending habits and financial health.

For banks that work with small businesses, the software can recommend actions with account payables or receivables to help better manage company resources.

There are several push-backs from banks on digitization investments. One is balancing an investment in new systems with the budget allocated to maintaining current legacy systems. “Banks spend huge amount of money maintaining legacy systems,” Velando says.

Another common objection banks have is how hard it is to predict a return on investment in such projects.

There are some estimates of ROI on digitization of banking services. McKinsey identified several areas of digitization that drive more profitability than others. These areas include product back office automation, digitization of document management, automation of credit decisions, and big data analytics applied to sales campaigns.

“The profit margins of banks with high levels of digital enablement in these areas were, on average, twice as high as the profit margins of other European banks,” said the McKinsey report.

In order to convert stubborn board members, Strands works with banking customers to craft a technological roadmap with a clear budget. Implementation, Velando says, can take anywhere between 6 months for younger and more agile banks to two or three years for larger banks with a variety of separately-built legacy systems.

Strands has worked with various financial institutions on digitization projects, including Deutsche Bank, where it built the financial firm’s FinanzPlaner. BBVA’s Mi Dia a Dia was also developed by the firm. In 2008, BBVA and Strands cooperated to launch the first European Personal Finance Manager, Tú Cuentas. The firm also counts Barclays, ING, and BNL as clients.

As banks ramp up their digital efforts, fully personalized banking is gradually unfolding.