Cisco’s Financial Services Industry Marketing team is pleased to welcome a monthly contribution from industry professionals sharing their insights and observations on key trends in the Financial Services industry. The opinions expressed in these posts are those of our welcomed guests and may not reflect the opinions of Cisco.

Jerry Silva, Principal  at PG Silva Consulting, is a 25 year industry veteran in retail banking business and technology, and advises institutions on technology strategy as well as contributing thought leadership to a number of industry conferences and publications like the Financial Times, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal.

Time for Banks to Join Us in Our Daily Lives

I’ve been in the market for a new pair of earbuds. Due to the big storm that hit Boston a few weeks ago, my earbuds were lost during the hectic scurry to fly home before the blizzard hit. Once I was safe at home, I visited a few “big box” retailer online sites to check out the latest technology. Using the stores’ customer review sections, I found a suitable pair that seemed to fit my needs, then I checked prices and searched for physical locations near me that had them in stock. My local store didn’t have them, but another location five miles away did have a few. After a quick sales chat with a store representative, I bought them through the web site, drove to the store, and picked them up at the customer service counter saving me the wait at the cashier.

Most of you will recognize this series of micro-experiences as a typical, and more importantly, single event in our e-commerce lives. The experience was seamless to me; A single journey – using transparent channels – to acquire a new set of earbuds. I was able to get the “Three C’s” I needed to complete the transaction; Credibility from other consumers on the quality and reliability of several models, Convenience of homework and shopping from anywhere (using my smartphone at one point), and Choice having the earbuds shipped to me if I wanted, or in my case, picked up at a physical location.

This post is about Banking, so you know where I’m headed with this…

Banking today still feels disjointed when it comes to interacting with the different lines of business and different channels provided “for our convenience.” Different products often require different experts, with different phone numbers, or use different branches, to acquire or get service for them. Channels are the same way. Granted, our use of banking services typically lies at one of the two extremes between micro-transactions (e.g. a simple ATM withdrawal) and longer events like account opening. But there are opportunities in between. For example, as a small business owner I would like the option of having the ATM, where I often visit, alert me when one of my clients has sent payment.

Surely all of the ingredients are there, Credibility – the bank has unmatched information about my finances. And I’m sure they have other small business owners from whom I could learn through their expertise.  Convenience – between branches, call centers, ATMs, Web, and mobile channels banks offer more ways to connect than other industries can claim. Choice – again, with the number of products, channels, and most importantly, expert people, the bank has an incredible asset base to draw from to offer seamless customer experiences that fit with the way their customers live.

But connecting the dots has proved challenging for most banks. Part of this stems from the disconnected technology that exists around all of these products, channels, and people. Clearly what is needed is the ability to disassociate the customer experience from the underlying technology (and from siloed organizations as well, but that’s the subject of another post). What banks are lacking is the ability needed to implement fresh and compelling customer experiences in a quick, low cost way, gather feedback about their use, thrown away what doesn’t work (again, without losing significant money and time), and improve on the ideas that work well  – the very definition of agility.

It’s simple, right?  Well, no. But what is reasonable is for banks to get on board with the idea of creating simple, seamless customer experiences with one or two specific products or initiatives and create an infrastructure that allows them to experiment without major cost implications normally associated with rolling out new products and services, and without significant costs if the initiatives fail. For example, how about creating a Savings Program that comes with online financial tutorials, access to a financial planning expert through chat or video, an online “slider” tool like that lets me play with different savings scenarios, and ATM-based updates on savings goals progress?

Based on the success of the omnichannel experience that the retail industry deployed, I’d say that consumers are more than ready to bring banking into their lives in a deeper way than it is now. Retail banks have all of the elements to make that a reality, and benefit both themselves and the customers. It’s time to bring them together in a way that makes sense for today’s customers.

Oh, I also have a cool phone app that tells me how long the wait is at my favorite theme park rides – wouldn’t it be great to know how long the wait is to talk to a refinancing expert at my local branch before I drive there?


Al Slamecka

Global Financial Services BDM

Cisco Industry Solutions Group