Fintech’s Customer Connection: Changing the Banking Experience

Eleni Coldrey

Eleni Coldrey, Equinix EMEA’s innovation in financial services lead talks to HSBC UK’s Head of Digital Innovation for UK & Europe about fintech’s innovative future, the role of the regulators and a need for a culture driven by a desire to improve the customer experience at every opportunity.

Diana Biggs (@DianacBiggs), has been named in both City AM’s top 25 fintech influencers and Innovate Finance’s Women in Fintech Power List and is a recognized expert in emerging technologies, financial services and inclusive growth.

What impact is technology having on banking today?

Technology today is evolving at break-neck speed with innovations that are improving the entire banking experience. The challenge is for us to embrace the right technology and solutions that genuinely improve the lives of our customers.

This evolution is becoming embedded in the sector. Despite its reputation as one of the more traditional industries, we’re starting to see a culture develop that’s built around evolution, iteration and tech-driven change. This is impacting every element of banking. It’s driving the introduction of brand new services while enhancing the ways we currently serve customers.

What’s driving these changes?

Everything comes down to the customer and their experience. Banking is part of day to day life and technology today should be making engaging with it easy, convenient and enjoyable. This means delivering a banking experience that’s comparable to that of other activities like shopping and chatting with friends. Pratically, this means a consistent experience however customers may choose to engage with the bank on whichever touchpoint is most convenient for them. Today’s customer expects their bank to come to them, so it’s up to us as an industry to deliver against that demand. Of course there will always be the need to speak to a person but it’s our job to make sure that no matter how people want to engage with their bank, they can do so in a connected way.

Simply put, money is so close to people, so engrained into everyday life that banking needs to fit seamlessly into the day-to-day. Tech is making this possible in completely new ways while making the old ways of doing things much more flexible and convenient.

Are banks and financial institutions equipped to deliver these experiences?

When we are in a position to deliver the types of services our customers want from a development point of view, it then becomes all about the ability to deliver that experience from a technology perspective to a huge audience. For banks used to working with legacy IT systems, interconnecting services, data and the end-user experience is a key hurdle that will need to be overcome.

Wider industry changes such as open banking and PSD2 are also necessitating a more collaborative approach to fintech development. If banks want to remain the go-to place for people’s everyday money matters, getting the right technology in place to enable these capabilities is essential. Keeping up with the deployment of new digitally-based institutions, propositions and products from a technology and infrastructure perspective is essential to ongoing success in the sector. This need is compounded by the proliferation of APIs resulting from the open banking initiative and financial institutions will certainly need to be relooking at the design of their IT infrastructure as they prepare to provide, and enable, a new era of connected products and services.

What are the challenges we need to overcome as an industry?

The financial services industry is in the trusted position of holding some of the most sensitive customer data that exists. As such, we’re not able to take the same liberties with data as other businesses are in the name of progress.

And a lot of the innovation we’re talking about here is driven by data. Delivering a personalised, joined up customer experience couldn’t be achieved without the volume of data available today. As open banking makes this information accessible to third party financial service providers, (if the customer agrees of course) the currency of data shouldn’t be underestimated.

But any company, bank or not, should never forget that customer data belongs to the customer. It really is as simple as that. Companies will only ever be the custodians of a customer’s information and it’s our job to use this data to make their lives better and easier but ultimately, to keep it secure at all times. Working closely with the regulators is crucial to achieving this balance.

Speaking of the regulators, with so much regulatory change taking place at the moment, how is that evolution impacting the rate of innovation?

We’re incredibly lucky in the UK and across Europe to be working with regulators who are as committed to innovation as we are in the industry. Understandably, there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the sector around the applications technology is enabling us to deliver but it’s essential that we’re grounded in our approach and that we’re testing these capabilities, learning where they can have the biggest impact and introducing them seamlessly into our customer’s lives in a safe and secure way. The regulators are just as eager and there’s a very open and highly engaging dialogue around emerging technologies that’s ongoing. It’s this refreshing approach that will ensure the industry continues to welcome, and deliver, innovation.

We surveyed more than 100 financial services experts to learn how they’re handling key competitive issues and opportunities while preparing for the future. In a new report, published by Finextra and sponsored by Equinix, find out how the right interconnection strategy can help you embrace retail banking’s new digital frontier: Interconnection and Data at the Edge: A New Frontier of Competitive Advantage in Financial Services.

About Diana Biggs:

Diana Biggs is Head of Digital Innovation for HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management, UK & Europe, where she leads on business model innovation, focused on areas including open banking, digital identity, fintech partnerships and robo-advisory.

Diana, recently named as one of the top 25 fintech influencers in the UK by City AM and one of Innovate Finance’s Women in Fintech 2016 Power List, is an Advisor for University College London’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies and a 2016/2017 Fellow with Anthemis Group. She serves as a mentor for accelerator and angel groups with a focus on empowering women in technology and the use of emerging technologies for social good, including Katapult, Angel Academe and Gaza Sky Geeks.

Previously, Biggs was Founder of blockchain startup Proof of Purpose, Vice President of Growth and Partnerships for, and Chief Strategy Officer for e-commerce platform Soko. Earlier in her career, Biggs spent five years as a Management Consultant with Oliver Wyman Financial Services advising financial institutions across Europe, Africa, Asia and North America on growth and strategy.