May 27 2021

Knowledge 2021: How Streamlined Operations Can Boost Financial Services

After a year of digital transformation, financial institutions can better serve their customers and employees.

Financial institutions are trusted with the most personal aspects of their customers’ lives. They’re trusted to be able to make payments on time, issue loans in tough times and protect customers’ livelihoods.

That job became more critical — and more complex — when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Customers were limited in their ability to go to banks in person, while many had their finances dramatically impacted. At the same time, organizations were moving their own workforces remote. 

“The last year was certainly a big catalyst for digital transformation in the financial services industry,” said Lauren Robbins, assistant vice president for financial services at ServiceNow.

In an industry keynote at ServiceNow’s all-virtual Knowledge 2021 conference, Robbins said that the past year has been a turning point for financial institutions, who have had to rethink what customer service and engagement is.

“Think about how quickly the financial institutions had to pivot to release these digital offerings for customers,” she said.

As organizations shifted to new products and services in digital channels, many also took the opportunity to adopt new tools to modernize their internal processes.

Serving Customers in the Digital Landscape

When it comes to serving customers, financial institutions have a lot of responsibility. In terms of payments alone, organizations are involved in bill payment, debit card transactions, credit card payments and person-to-person transactions. Their customers rely on that dependability to run their businesses and personal finances. 

“But what happens when something goes wrong?” said Tammi Shapiro, head of product for financial services at ServiceNow. “What if you need to dispute a transaction, or you accidentally sent money to the wrong person?”

Shapiro said that this is where organizations need to fall back on strong service.

“As a customer, you want a really easy way to report this issue to your financial institution and you want clear expectations on what happens next,” she said. “If you don’t get that, it can be really frustrating.”

A delay in this process often comes from fragmented and siloed back-end processes, Shapiro said. Because so many different teams are involved, many organizations find it more cost-effective to eat the cost of the transaction than to fix the problem. 

Back-end congestion is a common problem for organizations still using legacy systems, and Robbins said that’s the problem New Zealand-based Kiwibank wanted to address.

“Where they really focused was on that back end, where the bottleneck was, where a lot of manual work was happening to serve its customers with spreadsheets and email,” she said. 

When Kiwibank adopted the Now Platform in a four-day deployment, it was able to digitize a lot of these processes, saving 2 million working minutes with the first 15 processes they implemented.

“Just think about that in the context of the customer,” Robbins said. “Those response times are everything when you’re trying to manage through a pandemic.”

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Serving Employees in the New Way of Working

Serving customers is at the core of any business, but that’s no longer the only group that businesses serve.

“We’re seeing a shift in focus to the employee experience,” Robbins said, citing a PwC report that showed 69 percent of financial institutions expect employees to be remote at least once a week moving forward.

She added that bringing those workflows onto a digital platform can be the catalyst for distributed work in the sector.

“Workflow is the enabler,” Robbins said. “Think about a complex financial institution and the barriers they have to getting that speed and agility that the fintech challengers have. It’s loosely connected systems, it’s operational silos — those things stitched together by email and spreadsheets.”

Shapiro said that the unique challenges facing financial institutions are what drove ServiceNow to develop Financial Services Operations, a product specifically for the industry.

“We started with a financial services data model, and everything that we’re building is built on top of that, specifically targeted for financial services,” she said.

That meant including applications for different departments, such as payments and lending; highly visible reporting on performance; and integrated shared services for different teams, like document management and credit assessment.

“You’re able to take these building blocks and really configure them to fit the needs of your financial institution,” Shapiro said.

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