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Digital 12 March 2021

How customers will shape banking in 2021

Phillip Moepya - Group Head - Experience Design at Standard Bank Group

Customer behaviour is set to dramatically impact banking  and shape how financial organisations service their customers, following on from the trend which was accelerated in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conversations around banking in 2020 were dominated by the big migration to digital. This year there will be a need for deeper exploration of that migration, as financial services organisations expand their roles in the digital world. They will broaden offerings and invest in important partnerships as customer needs evolve and consumers become more digitally savvy irrespective of age, economic or socio-economic circumstances.

Banks will not only diversify their online product offerings but also develop ecosystems as consumers become more deliberate in their banking choices.

Expect to see the number of people choosing to do their banking remotely continue to increase and, as a result, for financial institutions to improve their offerings, diversify their products and improve their digital security.

Inherently people are much more cautious of being in open spaces with other people and would like to do things remotely. With the advent of working from home banking has to a large extent moved to digital platforms with more and more customers shifting from wanting to be in a brick-and-mortar bank, to wanting to be online.

The types of transactions happening online is also shifting. Last year we saw more engagement with features on apps that might not have been the case in the past. Previously digital banking was limited to customers checking balances or buying airtime but what we are finding is that customers are now more likely to want to explore, learn, and investigate using online platforms.

In 2020 customers spent more time researching insurance and home loans online and this is shaping how we offer those products now.

Expect to see financial institutions expand their offerings to meet this increased curiosity and for banks to be more intentional in creating end-to end digital journeys for customers.

In June Standard Bank Insurance, through our Direct Life Insurance Services division, launched our online life insurance purchasing capability. Consumers can purchase Life Cover, Salary Protection, Disability Cover, and Serious Illness Cover by answering just a few simple questions on the Standard Bank Insurance website. The online, seven-step underwriting process only takes about 15 minutes to complete. It is an extension of Direct Life’s phone offering which is delivered through its proprietary underwriting tool.

However, the trend which will shape banking this here is a shift to a platform business approach where ecosystems and partnerships will create seamless environments where customers can not just bank digitally but also perform other tasks from a single platform.  

We know that in China as an example, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has launched its ICBC stack a collection of over 500 features that allows customers to engage with the bank from the safety and comfort of their homes. The stack is an aggregation app that allows you to do almost anything, from opening an account to originating insurance and getting a home loan all on a single platform.

At Standard Bank we are accelerating our journey to being a platform business. We want to become a marketplace and ecosystem-based business - one that connects clients to a host of products and services across a common platform, facilitating client to client engagement, while also offering our products and services where required.

This extends beyond just personal banking to business banking where we witnessed last year was increasing number of businesses inquiring about online offerings from the bank, and in the banking sector.  Businesses have unique banking requirements and are starting to go online and find solutions.

Our DIY e-commerce, offering SimplyBlu is an example of how quickly online business offerings can evolve. It allows you to infuse online shopping and secure payment online, into your business and with the mobile app you can monitor your payments, issue e-invoices and keep a finger on the pulse of your online store while you’re on-the-go.

As important as customer behaviour is in shaping financial services banks also have an important role to play in shaping the way that customers interact with them. In 2021 banks must take a proactive role in encouraging desired behaviour that is in the interest of the customer. We, for example, have been quite deliberate in encouraging the use of USSD in some of our markets. So, for example after a customer visits a branch, they get an SMS  telling them that how they can bank using USSD without having to visit the branch.

This happens on multiple platforms and is helping to drive adoption.  The goal to is reach a meeting point where we create the best possible personalised experience for the customer by responding to behaviour as well as shaping it where appropriate.

We want to be deliberate as a bank about it getting people on channels that they feel most comfortable with and then implementing compliance laddering, migrating customers to the next level of the banking experience until they are comfortable banking on the app where the experience is much richer, and we can engage with them more easily.

Finally, in 2021 banks will continue to expand their role in educating consumers when it comes to money matters.  Increasingly customers are asking banks to be more involved in, in educating them on the savings and investing their money. As we interview customers, one of the recurring themes has been customers looking for better money management advice from the banking sector in both the offline and online space. Much of this could be linked to increased uncertainty and job losses which has led to consumers being more stringent with their money, but as 2021 unfolds expect to see financial institutions spending more time educating their customers.