Interview: Digitisation of the Bank Branch

T.C. Seow

What can banks do to help win more customers—especially in the retail banking area?

In a phone interview, Dean Young, vice president, Product Management, Banking, at SunGard, shares some of his views about digitisation of the bank branch, and what banks should be doing to be ahead of the competition.

Dean Young
Photo: Dean Young.

Over the years, Young has amassed a wealth of experience in the field of retail banking. Having spearheaded the Bank Readiness Index (BRI) research project last year and driving a similar one this year, Young speaks of the changing landscape banks work in now, and where technological innovations are helping banks to realise greater customer experience and win new grounds.

The BRI survey focuses on the impact of the Internet, mobility and social networking on the consumer banking experience, as well as a bank's readiness to meet changing consumer needs.

Q: While "digitalisation of the branch" seems to be the way to go for banks to raise productivity and cut down on staff deployment, wouldn't this trend affect real human-to-human interaction that reputable banks were known for in the past?

Dean Young: That depends on the definition. One is the replacement of staff with devices like ATMs, does cut down on human-to-human interaction. Here, we're talking about aligning the branch with digital channels, mobile strategies, and so on. A lot of R&D dollars have gone into that. Customer experience over digital channels have got better but at the branch, that has stood still. How do you replicate the human touch? Good banks provide good personal service, and customer interaction is great.

SunGard's aim is to help banks align their digital capabilities with new experiences. There are multiple channels, streams of services via digital channels. For example, customers can start a dialogue online and that's followed up at the branch. That's great customer service. SunGard thinks of a bank as comprising three assets—capital, customers and staff. Banks are leveraging that third asset to make better usage out of their digital assets. More banks are going to a more sales style approach to deal with their customers, away from transaction-based type of branches—that's not necessarily to replace staff.

In many of our surveys with clients and prospects, bank staff (very informed niche segment of the banks) consistently has one feedback: bank staff is a little inadequate to respond to customers when they walk in. Customers seems to be more knowledgeable nowadays, and the bank staff doesn't have all the necessary information to face their customers and interact in a professional manner.

Digitisation is also about bringing the software [applications] up to scratch.

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