Last updated October 25, 2022
2023 is the year to go fully digital. Sure, you probably have some processes you’ve moved online, but with clients and employees both expecting easy, fast ways to communicate and do business, you need to ensure you stay up to date on all the new technology and trends. This ensures your customers continue to see you as a thought leader in the financial services industry.
To that end, we talked to several of Formstack’s partners to discover how you can transform the way you do business going forward.
With digital capabilities comes clients who want to be able access accounts, policies, payments, updates, and more with ease. This means you need to have client portals in place so that they can review information when and where they want to.
Jessie Mead, Salesforce Architect at Cloud Journey Consulting Group, says you need “customer service in a portal, ways to manage and connect with relationship managers digitally rather than physically, and ways to open accounts and make transactions with no human interaction.”
Doug Mohr, Vice President of Industry Relations & Partnerships at Vertafore, agrees. “The big areas we see for improvement include electronic signature, electronic payment, and self-service portals that allow the policyholder to service their account without having to call or email their agent to access a document or make a change to their policy.”
Putting the customer in charge allows them to feel more in control of the process.
Paperwork has Passed its Prime
One of the easiest and fastest ways to put the customer first is by eliminating having them fill out the same paper forms over and over again. As Sean Andrews, Salesforce Solutions Architect at Vantage Point Consulting, puts it, “Any process that is still done via pen and paper should also be evaluated. Moving these to a digital platform can reduce data collection errors as well as data loss.”
Seamus Ruiz-Earle, CEO and Founder of Carabiner Group, agrees not only that paper processes need to go, but that leaving them in place will create more stress in your organization. “Paperwork remains one of the most universal friction points for the financial services organizations my team and I work with.” Decrease that friction by going digital and eliminating the headaches that come with lost or torn documents, illegible writing, mistyped data, or misfiled paperwork.
Additionally, going to online systems allows for faster, more accurate service and can even help break down any lingering data silos that might have taken up residence across your organization.
Touch Base with Technology
Take stock of your tech stack. Do you have enough systems? Not enough? Too many? Do they do what you need them to do? If not, it’s the best time to reevaluate because there are many innovative options out there.
Seamus recommends blueprinting what you want a technology-based solution to accomplish. “Describe and document what it is that you need; then go out to find the appropriate digitization toolset, not the other way around.” Truly analyze what systems you have and why you have them. Is there a single solution that could take the place of one or more systems? If so, it’s probably worth making the switch.
It’s also not a bad idea to see what your competitors are using. “Financial services should look at other industries to see what they're doing well and what people expect. Ultimately, they want to bank with someone that they like, can trust and feel betters their life,” says Michelle Brown, Vice President of Marketing at ZAG Interactive.
Do your options make it easier to work with you? Are you offering something competitors are not? Will you gain customers by switching or only be seen as copying them? Be sure you’re making the changes for the right reasons—and be sure you’re putting client needs first.
Moreover, once you pick the technology that is right for you, Doug advises piloting it with a few key customers. “Get their feedback and make the necessary improvements before doing a broader rollout with your clients. Use those early adopters to help sell the value to the rest of your client base through testimonials, videos, and social media. Your customer’s voice is a powerful weapon to get additional clients to use the technology you are rolling out.”
How do you compare? If you want to get ahead of your competition, you need to know where they stand first. Get a better understanding of how your financial institution compares to others by taking our Digital Maturity Assessment. You'll get segmented results that show how your org is winning and where you can make simple improvements to get ahead.
As you add new technology, one thing that Matthew Maingot, CEO of Brightmark, recommends keeping in mind is that older clientele may struggle with the transition to online. In order to keep them engaged—and to keep them as clients—it is imperative to ensure you offer impactful training solutions and opportunities for clients.
You cannot simply assume that providing them a login and password will allow them to navigate your client portal, their portfolio, policy updates, or other information. Creating documentation or processes that walk them through online systems will go a long way in easing the fears of older clients.
Matthew also reminds us that it may not just be older clients who need training. Employees also need sufficient training so they don’t fumble around while clients are in front of them or on the phone. Additionally, giving them guided access to programs may help eliminate some of the stigma around activity and client interaction logging taking longer when done digitally—and it may make them more comfortable making the switch to new digital systems as a whole.
The more familiar your clients and staff are with your technology, the better you’ll all be able to work together—so make training a priority.
Data is in the Driver’s Seat
It’s no longer location, location, location. It’s now data, data, data. Not only do you have to collect the right data, but you need to put it to work in a way that drives the bottom line. That starts with how you collect your data.
Eliot Bless, Vice President of Client Success & Partnerships at Highwing, Inc., admits “our clients have a deep need to collect data with their customers, structure that data, then distribute it within our insurance marketplace. These activities have historically been done verbally, via email, in person or on forms and spreadsheets—sometimes paper based. The experience to collect this data is disjointed, with individuals within their firms collecting data in different ways. For their customers, it's not always a single individual who has the data they are trying to collect, this may take several parties and multiple encounters to collect everything necessary.”
Streamlining data collection can simplify the way you do business, contact clients, and attract new ones. You don’t want to overwhelm clients with requests, so you need an easy, digital way for them to enter it and you to track it through. This way, everything is located in one system and not siloed across the organization, slowing requests down.
So once you collect that data, make sure you’re partnering with the right groups and software to put that information to use. “An efficient digital platform is one that stores as much of the data as possible in a single source of truth and integrates with the data from external platforms through automation. End users and clients alike want quick and straightforward access to data, which must be addressed in the digital world,” Sean says. Automation here is key, and it will make all the difference in how you receive and implement the insights you learn from your data.
With digitization comes the ability to reimagine how you communicate with clients. “A key example of this trend is the need for enhanced communication capabilities to better connect users, specifically multichannel chat and messaging services and informational/application data collection. It’s not only more efficient for the customer since many people are finding it more difficult to schedule time to wait and call customer service, but it’s also more efficient for these financial service companies because they can serve more customers at the same time,” say Kevin McAbee, Director of Technology at Green Irony, and Ron Reed, Director of Strategic Services at Green Irony.
Sean agrees. “In 2023 we foresee more and more clients enhancing their scheduling solutions. In light of the events of recent years, offering more flexible options for customer appointments has become more critical. Simplifying the scheduling process for internal users, while also opening access to client self-scheduling options gives companies a clear edge.”
Implementing these solutions can be an easy way to get a quick win with your clients. It shows that you’re thinking about their time and priorities and not just your own. It also gives them more ways to do business with you, which is never a bad thing.
Payment Options Expanded
“Payment capabilities will continue to make huge strides in 2023,” Kevin and Ron note. “There are many financial services that still take checks in-person or drop off cash. Companies will be able to focus on integrating to a more scalable payment system and reconcile that data to their core systems in the same way a broker functions. It will be all about using these enterprise platforms in conjunction with niche systems already in place to streamline not only receiving money, but paying out money as well.”
Put your focus on what methods you use and whether or not they cater to all of your clients—young and old. Ensure you have methods in place that work with your tech stack and your clients’ needs. That way, you won’t lose customers over a payment issue.
However, continue to think toward the future. What will payment options be in the future—and will you accept or work with all of them? Are you putting strategies and software in place today that aligns with those thoughts? Will you be ready to keep up with what the future has in store in this area? If not, start researching solutions today.
Invest in Artificial Intelligence
“Over the next 5 to 10 years, Artificial Intelligence will likely become more prevalent in customer facing services and a major component of predictive behaviors and analytics,” predicts John Pennycuff, Senior Vice President at OMNICOMMANDER. How you implement this technology and track and use this data will make all the difference moving forward and inform how you engage clients and do business for years to come.
Kevin and Ron agree. “Financial services will have a better understanding of AI, how it works, and how AI can be leveraged. Right now, AI is commonly mistaken as a conscious or intelligent being when in fact it’s machine learning trained against certain data sets for what the business or customer is looking for. Similar to how cloud was nuanced and now cloud is universally understood, AI will have transitioned to a similar state where companies can effectively utilize it for their benefit. AI will be the future, but the time to invest in it is now.”
Yajaira Rivera-Fernandez, Founder and Lead Consultant at ikanb consulting, LLC, couldn’t agree more. “Customer-facing chatbots are everywhere, but we’ll start seeing more machine learning insights leveraged internally, such as underwriting processes and sales enablement strategies.” Start researching the best solutions today so you are ready because AI is poised to dramatically alter the industry—and if you’re not prepared, you may fall behind in terms of what you can offer clients—and how quickly you can offer it.
Add Digital Currencies to the Mix
Another trend you cannot discount is that of digital currencies. While there are currently numerous predictions about how these will fare in the future, it’s best to be prepared now. “We’ll begin to see more incumbents increase adoption and innovation around digital currencies and blockchain technology. In ten years, insurance and financial advisors will probably be meeting clients in the metaverse,” says Yajaira.
If they haven’t already, these new forms of currency may drastically alter how—or even why—you do business the way you do. It’s best to start thinking now about how digital currency fits into your organizational landscape. Are you prepared to process them, handle them, trade them, or accept them as payment? Do you have the systems and software in place to make that a reality? If not, start preparing your organization for a future that may be more digital than any of us realize.
In the end, Seamus points out that “the winners are going to be those whose embrace technology, maximize the effect of their teams, and provide an incredible customer experience. Those who remain complacent will lose market share, struggle to retain internal talent, and ultimately lose clients to those who provide better service.”
Digitizing manual processes at your financial institution can have a major ROI. Discover how Sr. Corporate Banking Specialist Megan helped her credit union cut 26 days from membership processing thanks to digital workflows.