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How banks can add the personal touch to digital communications

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Silvio Kutic

By Silvio Kutic, CEO, Infobip

The personal touch – the attention of individual bank tellers and financial advisors – has historically been, and still remains,the keyto how banks communicate with clients.

There’s no question that over the last two decades, clients have benefitted from a more automated experience including ATMs, telephone banking, and, most recently, mobile apps. This digital experience has created convenience, but there is research evidence to show consumer resistance to the idea of automation in their actual financial dealings – that human touch definitely is still of considerable value to bank customers.

So, customers now expect a modern, digital approach, but they still appreciate human interaction and personalisation when it comes to organisations charged with looking after their financial well-being. Research shows that three quarters of new accounts are opened in-person at a branch and in addition, customers that use in-person services at a branch are more satisfied with their overall banking experience than those who only use digital channels.

Thus, banks are very keen to retain their human touch, while also ensuring they aren’t missing out on the opportunity to reach their customers through more effective channels. They seek to find opportunities that bring the best of both worlds.

Chat apps have allowed a new era of banking communications that achieves this blend of technology and a personal touch. Both providing essential information that customers have opted in to receive and having a global presence where your customers are located using chat apps, such as the 180+ countries where WhatsApp is used,are two reasons an omni-channel approach is a sound strategy for large organisations looking to make personal connections, especially with younger demographics.

Banks need to consider how to properly make use of these platforms, helping to ensure they are reaching existing clients effectively through a trusted and understandable user experience, and also reaching new clients, looking for a more digital-first banking experience.

Customers come first 

With chat apps used as an increasingly popular channel for person-to-person communication,research into which chat app your customers are most likely to use, as well as how frequently they use it, is vital for long-term planning. Having a general understanding about customers’ lifestyle, spending preferences and emotions around brands can help make your outreach become more impactful.

Having established the right platform(s), sharing transactional banking information such as payment reminders and balance updates via messaging platforms easily makes the customer experience more convenient. It also helps integrate your institution into the consumer’s day-to-day life in a way that’s natural to them. Personalising the content and allowing the customer to opt-in to communications with your institution can further enhance the relationship and improve future engagement. The last thing you want is for a customer to block or ignore your communications, as it is might prove difficult to win their trust back.

Bespoke banking 

Understanding customer preferences and location is key when creating a tailor-made experience.With many banks operating across several countries, they must ensure they have a clear,concise message that’s consistent across all markets. Having a single omni-channel provider with deep knowledge about all of the locations where you operate ensures that messaging remains consistent and dialogue and format are optimised for use within these localities, especially important when it comes to answering inbound customer inquiries via chat apps.

It helps if your provider also has local contacts for any last-minute adjustments – or in the event of a local crisis – to provide the insight required to respond appropriately.

A best-in-class omni-channel provider naturally employs multiple communication apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp,matching market demand for these apps. That way, they can tailor your outreach in accordance with popular local preferences. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber are highly popular, but each has its strengths and weaknesses in different markets. It would be mistaken to imagine that what works in one particular market will be equally successful worldwide. Local market knowledge is vital for creating a bespoke experience.

Richer media

While transactional communications are an easy first step for banks to kick-off working with chat apps, many chat apps offer the opportunity for added engagement by allowing you to share media content, images and files.For example, omni-channel companies actively using the WhatsApp Business platform allow for financial institutions to take advantage of these broader capabilities via WhatsApp, thus creating additional options for banks. Exploring these messaging capabilities presents an opportunity for banks to elevate their communication, sending documents directly to customers, for example, and providing greater information security by providing a direct, encrypted channel for documents to be sent from banks to customers. Taking advantage of this will help your communication stand out from the competition and differentiate your customer experience.

Bringing together in-person and digital experience is crucial to the continued success of the banking industry. Banks need to engage customers through effective digital communication without forgetting that a personal touch is still key. Ultimately, they will need to talk to their customers on the platforms they use and provide those customers with the information they want, when they want it.

Banking

UK’s Co-op Bank cuts losses despite pandemic hit

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UK's Co-op Bank cuts losses despite pandemic hit 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Co-op Bank cut its annual losses in 2020 despite a 22 million pound hit from expected loan defaults due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bank on Thursday reported pretax losses of 103.7 million pounds, down from 152.1 million pounds the previous year.

Co-op Bank has been labouring to turn around its finances since its near-collapse and rescue by a group of U.S. hedge funds in 2017.

Talks between the bank’s backers and potential buyer investment firm Cerberus collapsed in December without agreement.

“We will have (takeover) interest coming into our shareholders… I think it’s a fact for this bank with the shareholders we have,” Co-op Bank chief executive Nick Slape said.

“I’m just focused on running the bank and getting us profitable. These are distractions that happen every now and again.”

The lender expects to return to “sustainable profitability” from 2021 onwards, despite underlying losses tripling to 64 million pounds last year as the pandemic crunched the lender’s income.

Slape said growth in mortgage lending to take advantage of a housebuying boom and lower costs would help the bank to achieve its target.

Co-op Bank cut around 350 jobs and closed 18 branches last year to reduce costs.

The bank’s core capital buffer – a key measure of financial resilience – was 19.2%.

The lender also said it would link part of executive pay to environmental and social targets from 2022 onwards.

(Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Jane Merriman)

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Banking

StanChart profit falls 57% as COVID-19 inflates bad loans

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StanChart profit falls 57% as COVID-19 inflates bad loans 2

By Alun John and Lawrence White

HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) – Standard Chartered PLC (StanChart) on Thursday posted a 57% fall in annual profit, missing analyst estimates, on higher credit impairments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

StanChart, which earns the bulk of its revenue in Asia, posted a pretax profit of $1.61 billion. That compared with $3.71 billion in 2019 and the $1.85 billion average of analyst forecasts compiled by the bank.

Credit impairments last year more than doubled compared with a year earlier to $2.3 billion because of the pandemic, the bank said, but noted the majority of these took place in the first half of the year.

The London-headquartered lender said it would return capital to investors via a 9 cents per share dividend and $254 million buyback, with the total payout being the maximum permitted under temporary ‘guardrails’ set by the Bank of England.

The central bank last year told Britain’s largest lenders to suspend dividend payments and share buybacks for 2020 to help them maintain capital buffers against an expected hit to loan books from the pandemic.

“Having now resumed it, we expect to be able to increase the full-year dividend per share over time as we execute our strategy and progress towards a 10% return on tangible equity,” Jose Vinals, Standard Chartered’s chairman, said in the exchange filing.

The bank said its return on tangible equity, a key profit metric, would climb from 3% to 7% by 2023.

It also said overall income in 2021 is likely to be similar to 2020’s because of the impact of global interest rate cuts.

(Reporting by Lawrence White and Alun John; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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Banking

Reasons Why You Should Be Opening an Offshore Savings Account Today

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Reasons Why You Should Be Opening an Offshore Savings Account Today 3

By Luigi Wewege, Senior Vice President, and Head of Private Banking of Belize based Caye International Bank

No one has to convince you that savings accounts are a bad idea. As a safe investment, this approach is hard to beat. It also has the benefit of allowing you to set aside funds for all sorts of purposes while you earn a little interest.

While this can be done with a domestic account, there are compelling reasons to consider opening an offshore savings account. How can you eventually use those funds, and why would it be better to house them in an offshore setting? Here are some ideas to consider.

1. Setting Aside Funding for a Short-Term Goal

You have a specific financial goal that you want to reach in five or ten years. It could be saving the money for a down payment on a home or possibly buying real estate. Any such goal requires dedicating a part of your income to reach it. Placing funds in an interest-bearing account in the interim is a good option. That’s where an offshore savings account comes in handy.

The temptation to withdraw money from an offshore account is less likely. While doing so would be easy, it’s not unusual for people to turn toward the balances in their domestic accounts before pulling money from offshore ones. The result is that you’re more likely to consistently make progress toward building the funds needed to reach your goals successfully.

2. Creating a Contingency Fund

No matter what your life circumstances happen to be, it’s a safe bet that you’ll need emergency funds at some point. Think of what it would mean to have six months to a year’s worth of cash to carry you over if your company went out of business or if you lost your job. Even if it took some time to find another full-time position, the money in a contingency fund allows you to maintain a reasonable standard of living while you’re in search of opportunities.

Using an offshore account to house your contingency fund works well because you are less likely to withdraw funds until the need is significant. By opting to set up recurring funds transfers from a domestic account to your offshore account, you can add to those emergency funds without having to give the process much thought. When the day comes when you need the money, it will be easy to transfer the funds back to a domestic account or use the debit card supplied by your offshore bank.

3. Building Assets for Retirement

As many people learned during the last recession, employer-provided pension funds may or may not be around by the time you retire. If the investments made with the retirement contributions tank, there goes all or at least most of the money you planned on using to live after leaving the workforce. Establishing your resources for retirement, and diversifying them, protect your financial future.

An offshore savings account can be one of those solutions. A time deposit account lets you build more reserves for retirement. Since the account is not tied to your employment status or to the investments used to shore up your pension fund, it will be there when you need it.

4. Growing an Education Fund for the Kids

Perhaps the plan is not so much about investing in your financial future. Education for your children may be what’s driving you right now. Knowing how much a college education costs these days, you realize that now is the time to start saving. Even if the kids can secure scholarships that cover much of the expense, there will still be costs that need attention.

An offshore savings account provides an excellent means of setting aside funds for education. Let the balances roll over from year to year and earn more interest. Take advantage of offshore accounts that provide higher rates of interest when the balances exceed specific amounts. This strategy will make funding college a lot simpler.

5. Building Reserves for Purchasing a Vacation Property

You’re reaching a point in your life when having a second property to use for vacations sounds appealing. Now is the time to start setting aside funds that will aid in the purchase. An offshore account can be the means of growing the balance a little faster. The result is that when you’re ready to buy that second property, there will be considerably less that needs financing.

This solution also makes the process of transferring funds for purchasing international real estate easier. For example, you decide to buy a vacation home in the same country where your offshore account is based. Your bank can make withdrawing the funds and remitting the money to the seller much simpler.

6. Protecting Some Assets Just in Case

You don’t have to work in a high-profile field to be sued. What would you do if things didn’t go your way? The court could order most of your domestic assets seized to settle the judgment. How would you get by then?

Here’s something that you may not know about the money in offshore accounts – domestic courts can’t order a seizure of the account balances. Even if a lawsuit means every asset you have at home is taken away, there is still the money in your offshore savings account to help you rebuild. It may also be the way that you keep a roof over your head and food on the table while you decide how to go about rebuilding.

7. Taking Advantage of Higher Interest Rates
If you compare the interest rates offered in many international settings with what you can command at home, the difference is immediately evident. It’s possible to open an offshore savings account with a relatively low balance and gradually add to the balance. Over time, you reach a balance level that allows you to earn some of the best rates found around the globe.

When the plan is to place money in an account to accrue interest for over many years, an offshore savings account is the way to go. Once the day arrives when you want to use those funds, the balance will be noticeably more than if you had invested the same proportion in a domestic account. Think of how good you’ll feel knowing that your money was able to grow simply because you chose the right offshore location for the account.

8. Enjoying Peace of Mind

At times, it seems increasingly difficult to find peace of mind in today’s tumultuous world. With money placed in an offshore savings account, it’s possible to secure a little bit of tranquility even when everything else is upside down.

By establishing an account in a politically stable country, offers excellent returns in the form of interest, and is protected from any domestic court action, you know there will be assets to draw on no matter what. That’s a good feeling.

Get Help Setting Up an Offshore Savings Account

These are just a few reasons why opening an offshore savings account is a smart financial move. There is no better time to start than now, and an excellent offshore location to choose is Belize.

Caye International Bank, located on Ambergris Caye island in Belize, Central America has helped thousands of people establish offshore financial accounts. We can help you, too, in determining which offshore accounts work best based on your goals. You’ll find that setting up an account is a lot simpler than you anticipated.

 

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