In a world of roboadvisors, mobile payment apps, and automated processes, do people still matter in banking?

I believe the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

In fact, as agile, online “fintechs” continue to challenge retail banks, I see people as more of an advantage than ever. After all, those online-only disruptors can’t match banks for the level of personalized expertise and advice they can offer on a wide range of products and services.

But in order to make their people a true differentiator — in the branch and beyond — banks need to use them correctly. That means being more digitized, not less. Moreover, banks need to transform fast, given the pace of industry disruption.

The key is finding that sweet spot where digital and humans meet, and everyone — customers and employees — benefits.

This is supported by a new Cisco study, “A Roadmap to Digital Value in Retail Banking.” It shows how digital technologies in retail banking are driving $405 billion in Digital Value at Stake between 2015 and 2017.

In 2015, however, financial services organizations captured only 29 percent of that value. How can banks realize their share of that value, before their competitors — new and old — grab it first?

Our study focused on a number of key digital use cases that drive more than 90 percent of the total value opportunity. By assessing and implementing the use cases that best align with their desired business outcomes — after first ensuring a solid foundation of cybersecurity — each bank can begin to follow its own path to new value.

What are the most important use cases? For retail banks, they are sales and services transformation, next-generation workers, and video advice — all of which depend on, you guessed it, people.

For people to drive innovation and better customer interactions, however, they need to be empowered. That requires workforce transformation, supported by real-time data insights, collaboration tools, video, and other technologies. In addition, automated processes must free bank employees from the kinds of manual, time-consuming tasks that sap their energy and creativity.

Let’s look at a few banks that excel in empowering their people:

  • Raiffeisen Bank is a leader in the Eastern European market. In recent years, it transformed its customer-facing activities and call center with new collaboration tools, unified communications, and automation. As a result, customer-facing teams are more efficient: self-service options have eliminated 15,000 incoming calls a month, while 80 percent of calls are now answered within 20 seconds.
  • Australia’s Westpac needed a solution to connect its far-flung branches with its expert advisors. In particular, the bank wanted to offer financial advice tailored to the needs of small businesses. In 2015, the bank rolled out video-conferencing solutions in 25 branches, and plans to expand the technologies elsewhere. By connecting small-business owners with experts in other branches, the bank can now serve more customers with more timely advice than ever before.
  • State Bank of India was concerned with reaching its increasingly young and digitally savvy customer base. The bank created SBIInTouch, a new type of digital-banking branch, mostly located in urban areas. The small branches include digital kiosks that feature interactive screens and video. Remote experts can connect “face-to-face” with more customers than ever to share advice on managing their portfolios and selecting the products that best meet their needs.

Automation? I’m all in favor of it. Digitization? It’s transforming the world in amazing ways.

But at the end of the day, the real question is “how are they benefiting people?” Smart banks will ensure that their customers and employees are getting the most out of new technologies.

That will enable them to thrive in complex, challenging environments and drive their own disruption — as their people innovate and interact in exciting new ways.

By integrating the digital and physical worlds, I see banks creating a value prop that the fintechs can’t match. The key is placing people at the center.



Chris White

Senior Vice President

IoT Global Sales