As businesses across the globe continue to grapple with the disruptions brought about by the pandemic, omnichannel banking represents the optimal means of financial service delivery, particularly in markets with significantly varying demographics.
This is the position of the Commercial Lead for North and West Africa at Engagement Banking Platform (EBP), Backbase, Aymen Daoud.
Omni-channel banking allows for the entire lifecycle of customers – from onboarding, through account opening to day-to-day activities to be initiated and completed on a unified platform. This allows customers to access services via mobile telephony, websites, call centers, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), chatbots, kiosks, and walk-in branches.
According to Mr. Daoud, offering the same set of services – digital and offline – in a seamless and consistent manner will define the future of banking. He added that the unique and diverse composition of many countries on the continent have them well-positioned to take advantage of this.
The digital-first approach is gaining traction on the continent, in no small part due to mobile phone penetration, which according to GSMA, stood at approximately 45% in 2019 and is expected to reach 50% by 2025, with some 614 million unique subscribers.
Despite these developments and the rapid rate of digitalisation over the past 18 months, Mr. Daoud expressed concern that a sizeable number of banks are yet to make the leap from multiple channels to omnichannel—that is, making movement between channels seamless, and using digitisation to enable cross-channel sales and marketing, resulting in a missed opportunity to improve sales productivity.
“Post pandemic, we will have banking customers who have acquired the taste to spend less time in queues, which means that banks would have to acquire, engage and support new, as well as existing customers in digital and efficient ways in order to compensate for the reduction in sales acquired from their branches,” he said in an interview with the B&FT.
The engagement banking expert, however, added that he expects a perpetual place for human interactions in financial service delivery as digital-first does not equate digital-only.
Inasmuch as digital banking has become the default for many customers, there will still be a number of persons who value the personal touch. And even some who favor digital solutions prefer face-to-face engagements for complex financial products.
“As the customer experience evolves rapidly, aided by digitalisation, banks must not neglect the crucial human element of the omnichannel delivery. To optimise sales, they must create a harmonised omnichannel offering by employing a balance of human and digital touchpoints. Banks must find the right mix of digital and personal interactions to suit their customers,” he explained.
To buy or build
As banks juggle with the option of building their in-house solutions versus taking advantage of platforms on the market, Mr. Daoud argued that the advantage of customisation and control, presented by building a platform from scratch is quickly eroded by cons including a longer time-to-market, access to right skillset and potential security breaches.
He added that the increasing mutual trust between banks and fintech firms as well as a growing body of evidence point to employing customisable market-ready platforms as the more ethically and economically prudent choice, as they provide speed and flexibility.
“Partnering provides banks with speed, which is very crucial in the digital-first world and was demonstrated when the pandemic first struck. In addition to that, it affords them the flexibility to extend those features to meet regulatory demands and also flexibility to create an accelerated build and add unique features to suit their customers.”