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By Larry Augustin, SugarCRM CEO

It was only a matter of time.

BANKS MUSTN'T LOSE THEIR HUMAN TOUCH AS TECHNOLOGY GETS EVER-SMARTERThe most modern of art forms, 'the selfie', has now encroached on another area of our life, this time as a method by which we can login to our bank accounts.

The announcement by Atom, a digital-only lender to use pictures of faces to give access to bank accounts, is a sign that the way we interact with financial services is fundamentally changing. Not only this, but these types of digital developments are only set to cause upheaval amongst the traditional high-street banks by appealing to the essential millennial market.

The UK bank Nationwide has gone even further, with the recent announcement that they are building a prototype feature within their mobile banking app which recognises and stores information on how the user engages with their phone, with plans to build this into security authorisations. This new level of sophistication in mobile banking technology heralds a move to an increasingly empowered consumer fully in control of their everyday financial transactions – without a need to talk to or visit their bank.

A report by tech companyTemenos highlightedthat 64% of financial services personnel think retail banking will be fully automated by 2020.This high number certainly raises an important question: with consistent advancements in digital technologies making interaction with an actual bank employeeincreasingly obsolete, is the customer experience being lost?

It's only right that banks have had to keep pace with the technological advancements of the past decade to ensure they are offering their customers modern, seamless methods of handling their money. With the Temenos survey also reportingthat nearly a third of 36-46 year olds (again a high figure) would switch banks simply on the strength of a mobile app, this suggests that digitally-savvy customers are a discerning audience with high expectations.

The strength of digital innovation is when mundane, repeatable tasks are moved to the self-service methods where humans don't add value. But money matters are complex and personal. A mobile app will never be able to discuss with a customer at length the best options for their finances; this is where the human element and individual approach of an in-branch appointment is needed to make it a real, personal experience.

At the heart of banks' customer experience strategies should always be the question: what will give the customer the best experience? Is a digital solution always the best way? It is of course right that businesses are investing in digital technology to make their customer experience as streamlined as possible. But, businesses in their rush to take advantage of all-things-digital, need to not lose sight of the value of human connections.

Whether the customers are engaging with their bank through a mobile app or in-branch, it is crucial that the bank's employees have access to customer information at their fingertips. We have adapted to the instantaneous nature of mobile banking where transfers from one account to another can be completed in seconds. With this behaviour now embedded, customers will no longer patiently accept being 'on hold' to a call centre for 10 minutes while the operator tries to make sense of their accounts through a myriad of systems and screens. Technology can help by building a 360-degree view of the customer across all touchpoints with the company, enabling bank employees to respond to queries in a timely and informed manner.

The digital revolution has led to positive developments in the banking industry, not least empowering the customer to manage areas of their finances in a quick, seamless way while also allowing banks to save costs on administration. It's looking more and more likely that the future success and longevity of banks will depend on both their ability to keep pace with revolutions in technology, and by providing the personal, tailored service which only human interactions can offer.

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