In years past, a visit to the neighborhood bank branch often featured face-to-face meetings with a trusted advisor who would guide customers through their most challenging financial journeys — often over a cup of coffee. Today, many banks have ceded that privileged position of trusted advisor. While banks have made great strides in using technology to cut costs and streamline transactions, customer experience and engagement have suffered.

In a Cisco survey of 7,200 bank customers in 12 countries, 43 percent of customers said their primary bank does not understand their individual needs. As a result, many respondents feel that their choice is between bad financial advice or no advice all. Moreover, nearly one in four bank customers intend to choose another provider for their next financial product or service. Increasingly, that provider could be a non-bank such as Apple, PayPal, or a retailer. Four out of five customers would trust a non-bank to handle their banking needs.

Clearly, the perceived value that customers receive from banks is declining, along with their trust in banks to represent their interests. Banks are seen as commoditized — and replaceable — providers of transactions. Meanwhile, in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and some well-publicized banking scandals, banks’ “trusted advisor” status has suffered. Moreover, it is easier than ever to switch to a non-bank that customers believe has a better understanding of their needs.

These disruptive competitors succeed where banks fail: by engaging customers with convenient transactions and proactive services. Given these challenges, banks simply cannot continue to do things the same way. But how do banks close this “value gap” while regaining trust?

The good news for banks is that, through Internet of Everything (IoE) technologies, they have an opportunity to offer much more than streamlined transactions. Today, they can leverage video, mobility, and analytics to create relevant interactions with real-time advice — but at scale, reaching more customers than ever before, anytime and anywhere.

The Cisco survey tested five concepts that focus on ways to deliver better advice (virtual financial advice, virtual mortgage advice, automated investment advice) and more valuable mobile services (branch recognition, mobile payments). Globally, 75 percent of all respondents would move their money for one or more of the five concepts.

Together with adopting the IoE-enabled concepts that we tested, banks can consider these steps to re-establish trust and value through IoE:

Digitize Business Processes to Leapfrog Competitors. To provide relevant, contextual advice and experiences, banks will need to further digitize their business processes as they converge physical and virtual worlds. With fully digitized business processes, banks can minimize their competitors’ advantages while maximizing the value of their own expertise, human capital, and broad range of products and services. To do this, banks need to take an IoE approach — combining people, process, data, and things into holistic solutions.

Focus on Digital Behavior, Not Demographics. By focusing on digital behavior (which, more and more, transcends age), banks can better implement IoE-enabled concepts that resonate with each customer. Segmenting by age is an outmoded strategy and could alienate valuable sets of customers.

Make Calculated Innovation Bets, Starting with Emerging Markets. In emerging markets, respondents are twice as likely as customers in developed markets to move their money for the five IoE-enabled concepts that we tested. Banks based in emerging markets should consider rolling out the IoE concepts discussed here to meet strong customer demand. Global banks, meanwhile, should introduce these concepts in emerging markets before moving on to developed markets.

Turn Data into Actionable Insights. Banks have historically used analytics from the inside-out; they now must go from the outside-in, focusing on customer behaviors to drive new solution offerings. Banks that analyze this data to better understand their customers, and then create more convenient and contextual experiences based on these insights, will win the battle for relevance and customer engagement.

Make Security a Competitive Differentiator. Banks that approach security in innovative ways will gain the confidence of their customers — and win in the IoE economy. As our survey revealed, customers are very open to next-generation security solutions such as biometrics. Banks can invest in these kinds of innovative approaches to security as they adopt new concepts for providing advice and mobile services.

These steps also represent great financial opportunities for banks. According to our economic analysis, by implementing just the five tested concepts, banks can realize bottom-line profit increases ranging from 5.3 percent in Germany to 15.2 percent in China (based on a bank with $10 billion in annual revenue in the United States, or $5 billion in the other countries studied). This is the first step for banks in capturing a much wider opportunity: Cisco estimates $1.3 trillion in IoE-related Value at Stake for the financial services industry from 2013 to 2022.

Banks no longer need to cede their once privileged position of trusted advisor. Through IoE, banks can be the new disruptors driving profits and connecting with customers in ever more relevant ways.


Joseph M. Bradley

Global Vice President

Digital & IoT Advanced Services