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Rahul Singh, President, Financial Services, HCL Technologies.

Chances are there was an advert in the newspaper this morning about the launch of a new mobile-based digital payment service by yet another bank. No morning, it seems, can pass without at least one such ad, a promotional post on social media or a television commercial. Can you blame anyone if they begin to equate digital with mobile services? But digital is much more than mobile. Traditional bankers are becoming wise to the larger digital trend and are busy looking around their offices identifying everything that can “Go Digital”. Of course ledgers and customer data can go digital, all transactions will go digital, and planning and reporting are joining the digital party.

Loans, mortgage, insurance, wealth management, risk assessment and collections are all going digital, resulting in enormous efficiencies and cost savings.  But did you notice that the natural focus in the “Go Digital” inventory was on paper-intensive processes traditionally managed by human hands? That is the flaw. It represents one of the more formidable challenges financial services must address. The industry needs to adjust its perceptions of what constitutes digital and how to go about implementing it to transform business models, customer acquisition and experience, products, operating models and partner collaboration.

Let me explain using an example from a recent engagement HCL embarked upon. A financial services organization serving the armed forces felt the need to capture Voice of Customer (VoC) more efficiently and then make sense of it quickly. We were asked to help the organization create new social listening capabilities that gathered data from multiple sources (email, online, call center, surveys, blogs and, yes, mobile).

We ended up with 35 text analytics engines for internal systems and 119 external sources spewing enormous amounts of structured and unstructured data that needed to be integrated and analyzed. The results helped draw an accurate picture of customer sentiment across key customer KPIs. We also put a new collaboration process in place to help marketing and product managers orchestrate timely action on the data. Doubtless, this is a nice story. But the real happy ending is here: CSAT increased to 98%, operational costs fell by 20%, the ability to upsell and cross-sell improved 5%, and each line of business was able to enjoy automated self-service reporting.

Building your digital muscles

Financial services need to go beyond the commonly-held notions of digital. Moving from the physical to the digital to deliver current services at a fraction of existing costs is good. But embracing new and emerging technologies that were previously unheard of to orchestrate, unify and enhance experience across the value chain is even better.

The real power of digital becomes apparent when we apply it to design, engineering and infrastructure. What we end up with is operating models and processes that are agile, smarter, optimized and experience centric.

Easier said than done

Admittedly, this is easier said than done. There are business challenges to contend with. An Australian bank that discovered the prohibitive cost of digital and which could not create engaging content for customers, did the simple thing: it used us to re-platform its online customer-facing assets, automate marketing content for targeted campaigns and shift publishing to content authors along with the integration of social channels, interactive tools and real time content delivery across digital touch points.  The transformation has been extraordinary. Operating costs have gone down by 40%, time to market has gone down by 60%, dependency on call centers has been reduced by 30% and CSAT has shot through the roof.

Moving to digital is not always simple. Organizations are being forced to rip and replace entire structures in the process. There is operational and financial uncertainty that is involved. In addition, organizations must bring digital thinking, management and leadership to helm these programs. And, often, digital skills and capabilities may not exist within the organization. A positive outcome can only be reached if businesses ignore all pre-conceived notions of what comprises digital, allowing themselves to evolve fast and fail cheap. Nothing can be more important that this in an ever evolving digital world that is throwing curved balls at the industry with metronomic regularity.