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Tim Emens, EMEA Industry Director at Lexmark

Retail banking is at a crossroads. Increasing consumer use of new technology and the internet has raised customer expectations, reduced customer loyalty and brought new entrants to the market. These developments, combined with the consequences of the recent financial crises, have presented a significant threat to retail banks. However, they have also presented a substantial opportunity.

The proliferation of smart devices and the emergence of omni-channel engagement have changed customer expectations. Consumers today have 24/7 access to online services. They can use retail banking services at the touch of a button on a platform of their choosing (tablet, laptop, mobile phone), and use different channels like email, live chat and social media to gain access to services or receive support from an agent.

The rise in the use of such technologies is driving demand for a level of efficiency and convenience that was never previously available. According to Capgemini, these heightened expectations are represented by the drop in the “Customer Experience Index”, which shows that Generation Y customers have registered a lower satisfaction with their bank than any other generation.

This changing customer dynamic has also resulted in a decline in loyalty. Today, if a retail bank does not provide services fast enough, the customer will simply move on to a competitor that can. Capgemini’s World Retail Banking Report 2015 found that only 51% of central European banking customers are likely to stay with their banks in the next six months, dropping 3% since 2014.

Not only are retail banks under more pressure than ever to cater to customers’ changing demands, they must also compete with the new wave of financial technology (FinTech) players. These tech start-ups are disrupting the industry by offering a variety of alternative services from lending platforms like RateSetter to payment processors like Apple Pay. The FinTechs are a threat to be taken seriously by retail banks, with the FinTech sector reportedly worth £20bn in revenue to the UK economy.

Yet it’s not all doom and gloom for retail banks. The smart ones are stepping up to the challenge, raising service levels and offering the efficiency of an online experience, in person. By streamlining and automating services and processes in the branch,

retail banks can provide customers with the service they demand.

Take Lexmark’s Banking Solutions, for example. These solutions enable retail banks to improve and accelerate the processing of paper and electronic documents. By using content management tools to digitalise their services, retail banks are able to automate their workflows to ensure that tasks such as new account opening and loan automation, are completed efficiently and effectively, providing a significantly improved experience for the bank and its customers.

Other features, such as electronic capture processes and data extraction, improve daily operations between the branch and processing centres. In addition, these solutions can also be part of a Managed Print Services offering, which optimises the printing process and removes maintenance headaches.

Retail banks need to revolutionise the way they serve customers if they are to maintain a steady footing in an industry where the ground is constantly shifting. Solutions, like those provided by Lexmark, enable banks to attract and retain customers in an increasingly challenging and competitive environment. The winners in this industry will be the ones that adapt to customer demands the fastest.