Banking 2021: Rediscovery and leadership

Banking 2021: Rediscovery and leadership


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the onus on brands worldwide to jettison ineffective fragmented legacy processes for essential operations
  • Digital channel expansion and widespread onboarding will be crucial to smooth operations across the board
  • Simplifying existing frameworks and meeting the challenge of change will have a significant impact on every company’s standing in their respective sectors

I write this article under the assumption that we’ve all heard enough about the devastating impact of the pandemic in 2020 on lives and livelihoods worldwide, and that the banking and financial services industry found no immunity from the repercussions.

I also believe we all can agree that in 2021, financial companies and institutions will have to rediscover themselves and, in the process, lead the changes required to recover and thrive.

In this article, I address some of the challenges and trends that will impact the industry’s ability to do so in the coming year in several key areas: technology and infrastructure, customer engagement, AI-driven marketing, and talent development.

Investing in digital transformation: Initial roadblocks

At a fundamental level, social distancing measures necessitated by the pandemic brought brands that rely heavily on in-person interactions to a grinding halt for six to eight months. This put many digitally-challenged consumers (and their banks) in peril, consequently driving the industry’s more proactive players to rethink the fragmented, legacy processes and tools they’ve relied on for so long—like inefficient back-office work—to support their essential activities.

As everyone settled into the new normal, brands unprepared for the new reality scrambled to keep up with the surging digital traffic. Some had not implemented the digital channels required to execute this in place, rendering them incapable of communicating to their customers at the right place and time.

Some raced against time to implement the technology that could ensure quality service, managing through remote work. Yet others attempted to push products ill-suited for digital touch points.

Brands that realized the inefficiency of digital window dressing or half-measures were quick to recognize the urgent need to invest in scaling their technological infrastructures to match current capabilities. Such investments will continue throughout 2021, as enabling true digital transformation will always be a measured process.

Effective customer management

We will witness an increasing number of banking and financial brands implement intelligent platforms for customer engagement. This stems from the prevalent demand for at-scale personalization, as consumers expect more relevant offers, content, and journeys from all brands.

Banks and financial institutions will continue investing in digital channel expansion such as chatbots and digital assistants, as well as delivering richer mobile experiences. This will require upgrading their solutions to make predicting and proactively responding to the needs of customers in a frictionless manner possible.

In a broader sense, we will see a gradual shift towards the cloud, with a significant focus on weaving a rigorous security and compliance framework into the new technology.

Making AI-driven insights actionable

In a short timeframe, analytics and AI-driven marketing will become crucial as brands seek to analyze the effectiveness of their efforts based on diverse metrics. These brands will also need to continuously optimize how they engage individual customers at unprecedented scale and speed, based on those real-time, ever-evolving insights.

Marketers at banking and financial services brands will aggressively seek solutions that provide an actionable framework capable of fusing insights and impact.

Equipping leaders and teams to succeed

Those tasked with envisioning and leading change must recognize the imperative to bring about innate change. The new realities demand new talents and, by extension, a rapidly expanded scope of skills and training. I have seen more and more diverse functional departments giving employees more advanced training on, for instance, statistical inferences and analytics systems. Why?

Because they want their employees to master the skills required to operate the systems in place, measure relevant activities and outcomes more effectively, and support customers at a more individualized level.

Bringing all customers into digital transformation

We’ve all heard a lot lately about “banking the unbanked” and encouraging digital adoption among consumers. These conversations will continue in 2021, as the industry continues to struggle with the (at the time of writing) unanswered question, “How can brands address these interconnected challenges effectively and efficiently?”

After the COVID-19 outbreak, one of Resulticks’ clients in the banking sector noticed that many deposits had matured, particularly among the elderly. There were no clear instructions for these customers on what they ought to do online after deposit maturity. The bank then created a voice-based online channel to expedite the whole transaction process for senior citizen customers with a simple solution.

Meeting the challenge of change

A number of changes await the banking and financial services industry, from workload migration and cybersecurity to investments in foundational technology. Across cloud and SaaS solutions to reimagining the very idea of how to sustain customer engagement throughout the relationship lifecycle, all of these challenges and trends are parts of the shifting landscape.

How well brands can pivot and adapt will directly impact their leadership in the industry and their relevance to their customers.


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