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Technology may be key, but people make the difference

I alluded to a bank being like a human body, with technology its
lifeblood.  However, if technology is the blood of the bank, then you
need a healthy heart, brain and soul to make that blood flow.  That is
why the bank’s management team and staff make the difference here, as
technology is only as good as the people who use it. 

in fact, can often hinder rather than help processes.  For example, the
pensions helpline that pensioners cannot use.  The never ending voice
response systems that tie you in endless loops and circles.  The
convoluted internet sites that mean you have to use the local domain
name for transactions in local currencies.

There are too many
examples to refer to, where technologies have been badly deployed or
where ill thought out implementations were made due to a bank being
seduced by compelling vendor sales pitches.

Here’s a couple of examples, just to show what I mean by poorly deployed technologies.

bank rolls out a web service based upon the idea that people keep their
money in different jam jars.  They roll out a retail banking website
with lengthy security procedures – mother’s maiden name, cat’s name,
what was your first school, enter your customer number, our internet
security code, your pin number and so on – and add into this the idea
that you have to name your accounts by “jar names”. 

A holiday jam jar, a school fees jam jar, a tax jam jar and so on.  Everything is called jars.  It just didn’t work.  Jam jars for a start are probably only used by a minority of people to store money (does anyone keep their money in a jam jar?) and
the process was probably one that made sense internally, amongst the
tech team, but from a consumer’s viewpoint, it was horrible.

Another example is the extra terminal
you have to carry around now for internet payments, the Xiring
terminal.  I don’t know anyone who finds that intuitive or natural.

Another is the bank that determines to change core systems, only to find their customers can no longer receive debit cards for months because the system is tied up.

Another is the bank that you call up who say their call centre staff cannot make any decisions, you have to call the branch manager for a decision and, oh yes, by the way, the branch is closed.

How many more do you want?

of these show signs of banks where there is poor alignment of business
and technology, poor thinking about process and technology, and ill
conceived deployment of organisation and technology. 

are weak brains and hearts in the banking body, and the technology
brain can even kill the cultural heart in some cases.  For example,
going into a branch and finding staff who are now forced to say, “Would
you like a mortgage with that cheque deposit sir”, shows a management
brain that has not trained the heart to culturally adapt.

you would rather have is the heart beating in line with the brain
connected by technology lifeblood that fits with intuitive human style.

Maybe this is why First Direct and Smile came out tops in the BBC Watchdog
survey the other day.  Both of these seem to understand call centre and
internet processes that fit with their retail customer’s lifestyles.
In fact, in the case of First Direct, they have a story of legend which
goes something like this:

A female customer is out for the
evening with friends when her handbag is stolen.  She uses her friend’s
mobile to call First Direct and is clearly distressed.  So the first
question the First Direct call centre operator asks is not, “What’s
your account number?” but “Are you alright?” 

This is a human
reaction and it demonstrates itself through First Direct’s cultural
heart.  This is because First Direct does not force their staff to work
from scripts as automatons.  They act first as a human heart, that’s
their culture, supported by a technology lifeblood that has been
deployed by an intelligent brain. 

That’s the bank body working in a co-ordinated way.

enough, on the other hand, First Direct’s ATM network is voted one of
the best in Britain by their customers whilst HSBC’s is voted one of
the worst.  That’s strange because it is the same ATM network. 

What this really shows is that customers perceive their banks based upon what is called, in social terminologies, the halo effect.
One bad trait of a bank can shadow everything about that bank.  So if
the customer thinks it is great to deal with you on the telephone, then
everything about you is great.  Conversely, if they think something is
awful, then everything about you is awful.

This is a lesson
worth remembering, and the banks that have really intelligent executive
team brains that understand the importance of their technology
lifeblood and can implement it to create hugely successful cultural
hearts, will beat the socks off everyone around them.

because it ain’t easy to do folks.  And that’s why I normally rant
about bad banking practices rather than praising good ones.

Hey, hey. 

an industry where technology is obsolete the day you buy it, is the
lifeblood of the organisation and is fundamental to customer
relationships, maybe the future bank CEO will also be the CIO? 

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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