Insight: Digital transformation is a marathon – not a sprint

OpenBankingExpo | ,

Open Banking Expo Digifest 2020 went live this week and so we thought we’d catch-up with Malin Lignell, Digitalisation and Innovation at Handelsbanken. 

This week I will be discussing PSD2 at Open Banking Expo with the headline “A European marathon – not a sprint.” That is also our take on digitalisation and digital transformation at large. Whether or not you are focusing your efforts on being the new one-point of entry for customers, or producing and distributing first class products and services on other platforms or positioning yourself as the trusted advisor that will keep things together for the customer – that journey started long ago and will continuously evolve step by step going forward.

Looking at possibilities and challenges at large along that journey, you need to go through steps of digitisation, just making the change from analog to digital. Then further into digitalising processes, developing new ways-of-working and allowing new ways for customers to consume your products and services. But the financial industry is entering into a new phase, where you not only move that which used to be non-digital into new channels for consumption, but also need to revisit and evolve the way your business model and your core values work in a digital context – in order to reach and scale digital transformation.

In banking, we on one hand have the advantage of many products and services being digital as they are, compared to e g other industries with hardware that first needs to be digitised, but we also still in general have many processes that are not. And as almost every customer journey has some financial touch point or financial consequence sooner or later, independent on where that journey starts, there are also dependencies to processes and infrastructure in our society, that are still not even digitised and certainly not digitalised. Transforming the financial industry or the way your bank embraces that journey is something that therefore needs to be made in a pace where opportunities and challenges are met in pace with other industries. At the same time, the most important thing to me – is that this transformational journey does not leave your customers alone and lost on the platform, but instead is made with attentiveness and empathy in pace with your customers. But then again, you also want to be innovative and find new ways to deliver value to your customers. To walk in pace with someone is not equal to following others, except your customers. But to walk in pace also means nudging and inspiring and solving needs that customers have, but which they may not have expressed clearly to you yet. The basic needs though, when asking a customer, independent of which solution you choose to solve these basically boils down three things: help me feel in control, support me in making the necessary decisions in time and make it possible for me to reach my own goals.

The pace and pre-conditions also of course varies a lot between different markets and that is one thing that also has become evidently clear during this pandemic, where markets that offer e g a broad access to internet, necessary hardware, and other infrastructure that customers need to actually be able to adapt to new circumstances are in place. The same thing applies for being able to use new technology and to take advantage of that full ecosystem of new services that slowly evolves around them. Even though the effort of changing habits is the one thing that we often find to be the most difficult thing for us (humans) when embracing change, with the pandemic, everyone got that necessary push to solve problems in new ways. A typical example being when physical meetings and some ways to solve issues at hand were no longer available or preferred. In other markets that adaption was not as easy as here in Sweden since e g infrastructural pre-conditions were not in place. If a bank (or society) rolls out ways to meet online or services that are accessible to you from everywhere, you have given customers a broader choice. But access and availability also requires customers to actually have the necessary keys e g the possibility to identify themselves in a secure and trusted way digitally.

Why this choice of reflection? The covid-19 pandemic meant that a customer’s need for access and support through digital meeting places rose almost overnight. And that also led to that customers, when possible, quickly adapted, changed their habits and adopted new ways of getting things done. So, when products and services are launched and customers are slow to adopt those you need to sincerely ask yourself – are you actually solving a real customer need and/or problem? Are you walking with your customers or are you aiming at something else? Understanding your customers’ needs and how to utilise your core values, your strength and from that choose where to focus your efforts to best meet and exceed your customer’s expectations. That is to me, the only way to navigate the unknown and complex era of “the new normal” and all that comes with it. No bank is better than its customers – and they will choose you as their partner if you are there to make their life easier and if you support their life goals as your first priority. It is actually, as simple as that.