The era of indulgent clients is over
That’s the punchline. You don’t even have to read the rest.
I can hardly believe I still have to write this, after so many years of digital transformation, billions spent in rebuilding, redesigning and attending endless design thinking workshops. We learnt the lingo. Client journeys and user centred design. We learnt it. We get it. Where it falls down is not a lack of understanding – and I speak here as a recovering banker (not there yet, I am still the banker in the room even though I no longer work in a bank) – it is a mad hope that we can get away without making this a home run. That this user stuff is just user experience (UX). Maybe a bit of orchestration. Definitely data. Inevitably pricing.
But let’s not go crazy. Accounting and reconciliation, clearing and settlement, loan origination and fund accounting, surely, can be exempt from play time.
No they can’t.
Because money moves in an unbroken cycle and unless the entire money cycle moves in tandem, it breaks and your user centric design goes out the window.
It’s not done if only the happy path works
You are smiling guiltily, I can see it.
Be it PSD2 compliance, forced feature parity with a start-up or fast scaling for a startup you know corners have been cut, as a user, when you are trying to do something (whatever that is) and you become painfully aware of the fact that whatever it is you are trying to do is not part of the vanilla experience. You know in a diffuse and inescapable manner: that you are in the dangerous back alleys of the service. That you have strayed from the well lit avenues of rigorous testing and seamless transitions.
You can’t always articulate it but there are tell tale signs this is happening.
Things slow right down.
You need to search in endless loops for things.
You have to get off the app and onto the website.
You have to talk to a human for a manual workaround.
System inadequacies baked in by design shortsightedness or an unwillingness to accept that your digital effort should include your entire world, as the money the client wants to ask you about is travelling through a complex cycle of interdependency that has always been opaque but it is now also moving in two different gears.
So how do we fix this?
Teach your bankers banking
I am not even joking.
Stop trying to teach the clients how your systems work, stop blaming the regulation. Stop insisting that internal policies represent an adequate answer to why something perfectly reasonable cannot be done.
You would not say “we cannot do this because we chose not to invest in our infrastructure adequately, due to internal feuding over budgets and compliance being behind on updating the corporate terms of reference on this”, therefore don’t say what passes for an acceptable permutation either.
If you catch yourself explaining an internal policy to the customer, you are doing it wrong.
If you catch yourself explaining how your systems work, how your internal access and sign off works in order to explain a delay, you are doing it wrong.
If you have to explain your process to the client, the process is not working.
If I can set up an international payment on the website but not the app, because you cut corners; if I can transfer one currency but not other, because you messed up your Swift codes; if your service level agreement (SLA) for international transfers is long enough for you to fund your credit lines in the most profitable way possible, but blind to the real time nature of the world you operate in, then I have news for you. The time when clients accepted this has come to an end. And yes these are true stories. My stories always are.
A client may not know what happens once they punch in their pin and make a payment.
They may not know what happens underneath their mortgage.
They may not know about nostro and vostro accounts, clearing houses and they almost definitely don’t know how that flows into loan syndication and secondary banking products.
But they increasingly know it is not their job to know. It is yours.
So teach your bankers banking.
Not just their tiny sliver of product specialisation. Not their tiny corner of the great big ocean. But the whole thing.
If we want to digitise our industry the obvious first question is: where does it all start?
And the service of course starts with the client and the job they need to get done. That’s the bit we learned.
So on to the next question.
Where does it end?
And the answer is not “where my department hands over to the next guy”.
The answer is, it doesn’t.
Because the money flows in a seamless cycle and that cycle needs to keep pace with itself.
So if credit cards and retail mortgages or high street ISAs and pensions are to be digitising, the processes that underpin them and the products that feed into them (stocks and shares and bonds and funds have some fascinating mathematics underneath them, accounting and book keeping, reporting and checking) need to be digitised too. As do the products that are fed by them (I know nobody loves repacks any more but they are still here so let’s talk about them). To do this properly, the people doing the thinking around digital transformation need to know what they are dealing with.
All of it.
Through the next department and beyond.
The corporate bankers need to understand bond issuance and the custodians need to understand bank assurance. This will be fun. Or not.
But it’s on us.
To fix it all the way down and all the way across so that the money flow keeps its pace digital experience we offer can be authentic and seamless.
This will be hard.
It will be expensive.
It will be challenging.
And it will entail bankers really understanding the entire banking ecosystem. How it fits together. Where we did things the best way we could at the time we put them in place and now we can do better with new technology, so actually we can entirely reimagine whole aspects of the industry. To do that we need to know what it is we are looking at.
That is daunting and hard and in no one’s job exact description.
No wonder we opt for making it the client’s challenge to understand and be patient. To accept and forgive.
I have news for you though.
Those pesky entitled millennials everyone loves to hate expect better.
As does the regulator.
We now need to properly fix it. And to fix it we need to understand it. Not the kind of indulgent understanding we expected from the client for so long. But truly understand how the banking system works, how money flows and why.
Work starts with the client’s job to be done.
And it ends when the very last penny has travelled through assets and instruments, ledgers and pockets, to end up where it started, ready to travel again. On digital rails. At pace. For all eventualities, not just the happy path.
And with no need for indulgence or forgiveness from clients.
Let’s do our job.
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption as chief of staff at 11:FS and CEO of 11:FS Foundry.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!