Digitalization is a disruptive trend for the banks as they have been operating in a highly conservative and traditional manner for a long time. Right from retail banking to top of the line customized client centric banking solutions popular in Switzerland, are proof to this. Be it a Jeffery Archer novel or a report on banking, one thing that comes across is sticking to time tested traditional practices. In such a scenario, digitalization of end to end banking services is akin to that of Sir Richard Branson’s style of business – rule breaking!

I wonder what would Sir Richard Branson do differently in banking?! He does run Virgin Money very differently from a normal bank. A casual visit to any of the Virgin Money branches in the UK will help one understand the difference. As a starter, the ambience is not that of a bank, there are no waiting lines at the teller. Phew! That is a huge difference. Beyond this, there is ample thought applied to the comfort of the customer. There is comfortable seating, wi-fi and even food. A Virgin Money branch can get mistaken for anything but for a bank, sometimes! There are all kinds of predictions about how this model will work going forward. However, there is no denying that it is banking in a very different way.

I wonder what more would Sir Richard Branson do to make banking as we know it totally different? This is the thought that pushes me to write this post. So dear readers, I am embarking on this bold move to put myself in the shoes of the inimitable Sir Branson and guess what he might do differently.  This post is no way a representation of his thoughts. It is just the guess work of an admirer of a daring entrepreneur like him.

The art of cutting ideas

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It is said that there are more than a 100 successful businesses run by Sir Richard Branson. What many people do not know is that there were much more that were scrapped when they were found not suitable for the market. Knowing when exactly to cut an idea is an art at which this gentleman has excelled. I am sure he would extend this to banking as well.

Digitalization is all about cutting slow redundant processes. Well that would be no brainer for most of the people. But what will be interesting to see is what Sir Branson would cut down from seemingly important processes. Say, he might say you don’t need to come to the branches to verify your enrollment with signature. The current mood of the BFSI market is that of digitalization of services. This is one thing that I am sure will percolate all practices of banking under his liege. And it will help him cut down many archaic ways and processes.

 

What will be even more interesting to see – the niche of digitalization side itself that he will choose. Maybe even some of digitalization ideas are archaic. For example, he might simply say – “no websites, it will be a mobile only bank”. Why not? All services will be available through mobile apps.

 

Put yourself in customer’s shoes when digitizing!

 

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It is often said that the thought process behind many of the ideas of Sir Richard Branson that are turned into successful businesses stem from listening. Personally, I believe in the power of listening. This needs to be brought into action in banking. One should be able to put one self in the shoes of the customer. This will help in gaining a complete understanding of the banking process, from the point of view of the customer. These learnings, when combined with listening to the customer can help improve the efficiency of all processes.

I think Sir Richard Branson will lay a lot of emphaisis on listening to customers on digital platforms. One way to take on this is to be act like a customer and go through the entire process of a transaction. Digitalization does make life easy irrespective of business. However not all age groups are equally educated about it. Setting up a intelligent system that can convey bottlenecks that consumers face to go digital will go a long way. This can also be backed by interactions at physical banking locations or through mobile interfacing.

Digitalization of customer feedback can go a long way in this direction. A strong Know Your Customer process clubbed with a fool proof plan to listen to the customers will help banks bridge gaps in the current processes. Customer voice can lead to innovation of personalization of services that might not always occur in the thought process of a banking head.

 

From CEO to the janitor at the branch – let everyone know how to service customers digitally

 

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A banking employee is the face of the bank for a customer. A well-equipped and informed employee will serve customers better. An obvious result will then be a happy and a repeat customer. This is the fundamental principle of business that applies to banking too. Sadly, not many banks get it. I am sure this is an aspect that will be given its due importance if Sir Richard Branson were to head the whole banking system.

There is no harm in empowering employees and treating them as your equals. Honestly, they are, as far as a banking transaction is concerned. Your customer interacts more with your employee than you. Your employee is the face of you for the customer.

Sir Branson will definitely have employees trained well to use various digital platforms to help customers – from CEO to the janitor in the branch. The employees should be efficient at acting on customer concerns, feedback or even appreciation through digital channels. Likewise, the employees should be adept at using digital channels to reach out to the management and decision makers too.

Equiping employees with digital tools to handle bulk of their everyday transactions will ease their time and effort from routine activities. They will be able to contribute better to the main goals of the bank.

To summarize, market, customers and employees are the three critical elements of a banking business. Digitalization of services & that enhance the interaction between these three elements will ensure success! If Sir Richard Branson was in charge of transforming your bank, he would certainly go bold with digitalization! And more likely than not you would be better off and less risk-prone in doing so.

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