The digitalisation of banking has been happening for a long while now. Opening an account online, chatting with bank employees instead of visiting a bank counter, or digitalisation of back-office processes in banks have all become the new norm. For most entrepreneurs, having a banking app on their phone is already a must-have. This is the reality that surrounds us, and while we can say that certain things were moved to online channels due to the pandemic, these processes had been already under way, and the pandemic only accelerated what was inevitable.
What we are seeing now, however, is a change in the approach to digitalisation. In the old approach, the user interacted separately with each vendor or service provider. Now there is a strong trend toward client-centricity and creating entire ecosystems around it.
One platform to bind them
So-called ecosystems, or the aggregates, have become particularly popular with business customers, as they are in constant need of many services from multiple providers to run their basic business operations on a daily basis. These include providers such as leasing, factoring, insurance and debt collection companies, various types of authorities, as well as accountants, and IT companies. The latter are the ones offering solutions such as online shops, tools for digital document workflow and exchange, digital signatures, analyses, and many more. There’s a clear problem to this — it’s all fragmented.
Any product or service that the customers need in running their businesses, which is not offered within the banking platform, is a potential cause of losing such customers, because they are forced to look for it in other places.
Enter the aggregate solution. The idea behind the digital ecosystem is to create an environment around a single, core banking platform, so that customers can be offered value-added services (VAS) in the most user-friendly and effective way possible. This provides leverage to heighten customer satisfaction level and at the same time reducing a potential risk of losing said client to a different service.
The importance of user experience
One thing not to be overlooked is the UX. The importance of user experience has been broadly stressed over the past few years among sales and business development managers in the financial industry. Nowadays, when the digital remote form of customer service has become primary, and often the only choice, it is important that it is simple, convenient, professional and secure at the same time.
The crucial thing is a customisation of the targeted offer, as it has become a visible trend in the whole UX concept. Users always want to have something to say about how their tool works, i.e. which services they want to switch on and off at any given moment, or simply to compose their own desktops with customisable widgets.
Along with customised tools, customers now expect tailored offerings. This means the way the offers are presented and sold to the clients is changing. They want to feel taken care of. Thanks to business intelligence tools based on AI it’s made possible in the remote channels. Creating ecosystems gives banks an access to unique customer data that was previously unavailable to them. Deep data analysis of customer behaviour and habits allows them to anticipate and manage their customers’ needs and expectations. In turn for the data, customers can get tailor-made offerings.
“As a result, customers are happy to use such extensive and comprehensive solution, which in turn allows the banks to keep existing customer base and acquire new clients,” says Monika Olszówka, Business Development Manager at Comarch.
The solutions must be comprehensive and fulfil basic tasks of providing financial services, while at the same time being intuitive, easy to use, and, most importantly, turning them into loyal consumers. The trend is to build solutions with a wide range of so-called digital banking engagement platforms. According to a Forrester report, Now Tech: Digital Banking Engagement Platforms, Q1 2021, comprehensive solutions should at a minimum provide:
• core banking products in an omnichannel manner, i.e. web, mobile or H2H (human to human);
• include analytical tools to continuously measure the effectiveness of the business and analyse the behaviour of platform users (customers, but also customer service employees on the banks' side);
• provide the possibility of free contact tuned to preferences, e.g. e-mail, chat, video chat; and
• support active sales by handling various campaigns aimed at individual users.
API is the way to go
Taking the next step in digital transformation and wishing to build digital ecosystems for customer service, financial institutions are faced with choosing the technology that will meet all current requirements and ensure continuous development. The need for complexity and diversity of solutions must assume the ability of multiple tool providers to work together and integrate them in a seamless manner.
The issue here is of course that the solutions often differ on a technological level. In addition, an increasingly clear trend is the desire to independently develop applications through their own IT resources using the principle of buy and build, which further puts the requirement for openness of applications.
The solution is to choose a platform based on microservices architecture technologies, which at its core assumes that the system is distributed. It is built from many small, independent applications communicated with each other through APIs responsible for providing narrow services used by each other. Each microservice is a separate entity performing its tasks without directly affecting another.
A microservices-based architecture therefore allows the integration of multiple solutions from multiple vendors into one efficient system. What's more, each microservice can be developed separately, by a separate team or vendor, in an independent manner. The pace of its development or a possible interruption in its operation, resulting for example from a technological upgrade or error, will not affect the operation of the entire system, which is particularly important in banking transaction systems.
Observing these trends and challenges facing financial institutions, Comarch, which supplies technology to financial institutions around the world, created Comarch Open Platform. The solution addresses all the aspects mentioned above — it is the basis for creating the entire digital ecosystem. Thanks to its open API, it allows integration with external applications. At the same time care has been taken to provide a refined UX.
Making banks future-proof
Banking is currently undergoing an accelerated, pandemic-driven transformation, which aims to move customer service completely online. In response to customer expectations, banks must become real partners in their customers' day-to-day businesses. Thanks to new technology, banks are able to use the data that have been otherwise unattainable, to provide their customers with value that they cannot access on their own. It’s a partnership that has never been possible on that scale before.
“Proactive banks in the Middle East plan to use the new paradigm and the upcoming regulatory reforms to strengthen their positions by providing not only the open banking capabilities but taking the concept to the next level with the provision of open finance and open data,” explains Olszówka.
“In the current macroeconomic outlook with a growing risk of stagnation, many banks across the globe are in search of new revenue streams. Creating customer-oriented ecosystems that are utilising open platforms based on microservices and open APIs is one of the most exciting and future-proof ways to secure the business growth, increase the customer loyalty, and monetize the existing partnerships,” she says.
This forced acceleration of digitalisation is certainly an opportunity for banks to make changes to their business models and respond to the changing environment. It has to be stressed, however, that these changes are to be carried out in a quick manner. Otherwise this ship will sail and you don’t want to be left abandoned.
The writer is the Product Manager at Comarch Open Platform
For more information on Comarch Open Platform, click here