6. What trends are reshaping financial institutions?
What factors will influence financial institutions in the coming years? The latest reports suggest there will be a continued focus on regulatory and compliance issues (especially after the recent financial crisis), as well as on operational efficiency and technological advances.
Banks will continue to tackle customer engagement and technology initiatives over the next few years. According to a report by Aite Group, a Boston-based firm that forecasts U.S. banking trends, technology continues to empower consumers to control their banking and commerce experiences. Financial institutions have become better at using data and data analytics to help them better understand their customers’ needs and behaviors, which may provide them the competitive advantage they seek in the retail banking industry.18
Financial technology (or “fintech” services) will continue to disrupt the banking industry and provide opportunities for banks and other institutions to work closely with fintech companies that can help them innovate and streamline their business practices. According to recent research by Goldman Sachs, fintech startups have the potential to take away billions of dollars in business from traditional investment and lending institutions. Some of the services offered by fintech firms include payment transaction processing, mobile and web payment services for e-commerce firms, peer-to-peer lending, and integrated financial software programs.19
Mobile financial apps will continue to be a strategic advantage that separates traditional banking approaches from innovative companies that can offer their clients a connected, digital experience when it comes to their money and investments. Consumers will expect personalization of bank products and services as part of their routine interaction with financial institutions. Otherwise, they will look elsewhere for a competitive platform to meet all of their financial and banking needs.20
Although most banks continue to offer local branch offices, the next few years will see branch banking become less prevalent as online and mobile services become more popular. Most banking institutions already offer apps that allow customers to move money between accounts or deposit a check via their smartphones, which happens almost instantaneously, rather than get in a car, drive to the bank, and deposit the check in person. In addition, online payment platforms such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Shopify, Stripe, and others continue to make personal and business transactions seamless. In this 24/7 world, consumers expect their banking and financial transactions to happen quickly and efficiently.21
Chatbots Help Banks Connect with Customers
Computer software using artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate conversation with humans, chatbots have become an integral part of the banking industry’s push to connect with customers while keeping operations and costs in line. They can be an effective tool in what banks call “conversational commerce”—interacting with customers via messaging and digital platforms.
Typically banks engage their customers through various channels, including human channels (in-person transactions or service calls with a live agent) and digital channels (websites, mobile apps, e-mail, and online ads). Although customers may have a favorite way to interact with their bank, these channels can cost banks a substantial amount of money, and financial institutions are constantly looking for ways to reduce costs while maintaining quality customer service.
It is not surprising that in-person transactions are the most expensive service provided by banks; however, not every transaction with a customer requires human intervention. As technology continues to evolve, more banks have figured out they can leverage their services to fit the everyday activities of their tech-savvy customers by using chatbots as the next step in customer service.
For example, as mentioned in the opening feature in this module, Bank of America recently introduced Erica, a voice- and text-enabled chatbot that helps customers make smarter banking decisions. Erica sends customers notifications, points out areas where they can save money, updates credit ratings, and can help facilitate bill payments within the bank’s mobile app.
Capital One, another player in the U.S. banking industry, launched Eno, a text-enabled chatbot that helps customers manage their money via smartphone. Customers can ask Eno questions about account balances, credit history, recent transactions, payment history, etc. via text messaging. Eno is the second virtual assistant created by Capital One; it already launched its own Amazon Alexa feature, which allows customers to ask about checking account balances and when upcoming bills are due and pay credit card bills in conversations with Alexa.
AI chatbots provide benefits to both banks and customers. Banks are using them to streamline operations, automate customer support, and provide a convenient and positive customer experience. Customers rely on this type of digital assistant to make their lives easier and keep them current on personal and business transactions without having to wait on hold for a person to respond to questions that can easily be answered by chatbots. A recent report by Gartner, an IT research firm, estimates that by the year 2020, consumers will manage 85 percent of their banking relationships via chatbots, saving customers time and banks millions of dollars. With more than 1.2 billion users of mobile banking worldwide, chatbots can be an effective tool to help banks become more efficient, more proactive in anticipating customer needs, and more sensitive to their bottom line.
Critical Thinking Questions
- Do you think chatbots will eventually replace customer service representatives at U.S. banks? Explain your reasoning.
- What are some advantages and disadvantages of using a digital assistant as part of your banking routine?
Sources: Yue Cathy Chang and Cindi Thompson, “Chatbots in Banking,” Silicon Valley Data Science, https://svds.com, accessed September 11, 2017; Maruti Techlabs, “Banking Chatbots,” https://chatbotmagazine.com, accessed September 11, 2017; “Number of Mobile Payment Users from 2009 to 2016, by Region (in Millions),” Statista,https://www.statista.com, accessed September 11, 2017; Blake Morgan, “5 Ways Chatbots Can Improve Customer Experience in Banking,” Forbes, http://www.forbes.com, August 6, 2017; Elizabeth Mills, “How 10 Big Banks Are Using Chatbots to Boost Their Business,” https://www.abe.ai, March 13, 2017.
- How will fintech services enhance the overall banking experience?
- What challenges do banks face when it comes to offering local branch services to customers?