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Money changing: how smart technology is disrupting banking

Banks are being forced to continuously innovate their digital services to meet customer demand

In recent years, smart technology has significantly changed banking and the way people bank. Customers have become increasingly tech-savvy as their expectations continue to change and grow.

The benchmarks for customers are now being set outside the sector, says Ken Murray, head of innovation at KBC Bank.

“Customers are interacting with a range of companies every day and getting great customer experiences and they judge us against this experience, not just their interaction with other banks. As a result, customers now expect banks to be always on, accessible and increasingly innovative,” he says.

For some time, banks have focused on digitising the existing processes – join the bank, take out a product, make changes or see your finances.


While the investment cycles are far from complete on these customer journeys, with many banks still only partially enabling digital self-service, focus has shifted through fintech disruption into value-added services including budget calculation, taking into account future committed or predicted spend; social finances, where we simply split restaurant bills among a group of friends; or ways of cutting out costs and delays from frequent activities such as sending or spending foreign currency, Owen Lewis, partner, management consulting, KPMG says.

“We still await the real impact of open banking and the extent to which banking as a platform becomes a reality but those focused on value-added services that make the experience of customers easy, protected and connected, whilst delivering internal efficiencies to remain competitive and resilient to further disruption will likely be most successful,” he adds.

KBC is bringing innovation to the market in response to growing customer demand for easy, secure and digitally-led solutions.

Its digital wallet, which now includes Wena Pay by Sony, together with a revamped mobile banking app, has helped drive digital engagement and strengthens KBC's position as leaders in retail banking. "Our banking app allows customers open a current account in a five-step process and we offer our customers a full suite of digital wallets including Apple Pay, Google Pay, Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay as well as the Wena Pay by Sony," says Ken Murray

Owen Lewis’s industry leaders and trends:

1. Fintechs have stolen a march on traditional banks. Revolut, to name the obvious disruptor in retail banking, is leading the new wave of digital banking convenience, but is yet to offer a broader service or live through a major financial tremor.

2. Recent changes in established banks that are focusing on driving agility and end-to-end accountability in their cultures are seeing significant progress.

3. The extent to which consumers place trust in brands, for example, do I trust Facebook, Amazon, Google or my bank and the ambition of these mega tech firms to transform banking is certainly an interesting space to watch.

This shift in behaviours transcends most if not all demographics, Lewis says. However, people will always want human interactions, for comfort, clarity and convenience, he adds.

“Some consumers are either sufficiently informed or take time to work through options and take advice to make informed purchases. Others are seeking support and hand-holding through an often complex process that has a real sense of significance, be it a home loan or a business investment. Having someone to speak to who is knowledgeable and can provide comfort will remain critical,” he says.

In terms of clarity, the explosion in innovation in financial services and instant access to an almost infinite array of products leaves many feeling confused and uncertain what direction to take. “Having someone to talk with can be important at these points in your life. The question then becomes, who do you talk with and what options might you then select. Competitive products, ease of on-boarding and trusted brands with useful features, perhaps sometimes quirky, can be the difference. Who would your friends or colleagues recommend,” says Lewis .

Convenience can drive the need for human contact: “Contact centres have an important role to play as customers engage with banks’ latest innovations. Having a clear focus on how customers get help when something goes wrong and supporting vulnerable customers or those with complex needs is vital. Sometimes, customers still need a way of pressing zero on the phone banking option to speak to a friendly well-informed customer ambassador. How that interaction is handled can, if done well, deepen trust and influence future behaviours,” he says.

At KBC, Murray says they allow customers choose how they want to deal with them through a variety of channels including online and mobile, its 24/7 contact centre, and its network of 16 physical hubs. While customers continue to adapt to digital innovation, there is still demand for human interaction in banking.

“Our physical hub network is an important part of KBC and we have found through research and experience that customers prefer face-to-face meetings with an adviser, particularly when looking for a more complex product such as a mortgage or investment. However, for daily banking needs, customers tend to prefer digital banking.