How Financial Services Can Prepare for New Technologies


Adapting to today’s rapidly changing technology landscape can be challenging, especially if your business already has multiple systems and marketing technologies in use. When they don’t seem to naturally work in sync with one another, how do you choose the right type of technology to prepare for the future without disrupting what’s already in place?

We talked about the tech adoption struggles that Financial Services businesses face with Solutions Architect David Wendt, who has held various data-driven roles in the finance industry, both at agile firms and more corporate traditional organizations. 

What did you learn about implementing technology in a non-traditional business that can be applied to a corporate environment?

I enjoyed being in an agile organization model since this led to more transparency, focus and better teamwork. Firstly, our teams were multidisciplinary, with members from various departments, and secondly, these teams didn’t require approval from a traditional manager to take action. This autonomy increased our speed and agility; before, the process would have involved getting mandates and approval from the board, which can eat into valuable time which could be spent elsewhere.

Agile, autonomous teams in any organization can work smarter by creating a ‘build-measure-learn’ feedback loop within teams — something that is quite standard in non-traditional business environments. Another valuable tactic is to adopt a ‘fail-fast’ attitude: see what works and what doesn’t by putting it into practice as quickly as possible, and then adjust your course as necessary (instead of getting stuck in the preliminary planning and approval stages out of a fear of a misstep that defines many more traditional organizations).

What do you think are the major problems that big Financial Services organizations face today in terms of structuring for agility?

One of the biggest challenges that many large organizations face is adjusting to the new digital world while older systems are still in place and hindering progress. In the finance industry, many big organizations follow the policy of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ It's a valid point, if we consider that financial institutions are the lifeline of the modern economy and support millions of customers every day. However, this mindset, supported by the golden age before the credit crunch, led to many financial institutions not focusing enough on maintaining and renewing their data landscape for the future. Many still have yet to take the first step towards preparing for new technology — they question how to cope with unexpected costs and compete successfully against upcoming FinTechs.

These organizations face the problem of balancing two issues: continual adaptation for new technology for customer-centricity on one hand, and the decommissioning of old technology on the other. These two issues should receive equal attention, but in practice, many large companies pool most of their resources into their core business systems. With best-of-breed technologies, such as Relay42, built to facilitate communication between systems, they can be integrated with newer technologies without any disruption, and data can be activated quickly and seamlessly.

How have you seen Financial Services companies shape their business strategy to make better use of technology?

Because FinTechs are challenging banks to rethink their age-old roles, the role that financial institutions play is changing from siloed to customer-centric business models. This major transition has been a hurdle for institutions who have been firmly set in their conventional view of how they do business, and what their role is in serving their financial customers.

I believe these companies can organize to make better use of agile technology by creating interdisciplinary teams. I’ve seen companies with such siloed departments that department members didn’t even know what technology was currently being used. This can cause confusion and even redundancy in the technology implemented.

Fluid teams comprised of people from different departments allow you to create buy-in throughout teams and stakeholders. When departments can work with one another without the intermediate bottleneck of a manager, it facilitates productivity and clear communication of what technology is being used, and why.

This is also what ultimately will support this essential strategy shift towards customer-centricity: when teams can work together, autonomously, towards shared goals, and usie technology that supports these goals, ultimately customers will be served better, faster, and more efficiently.

How should Financial Services companies set themselves up for success with new marketing technologies?

First, you must decide if your focus is on customer acquisition or retention. Once your marketing strategy is determined, you have to break down the customer journey into phases, and then roll out each phase incrementally to show results.

How do you do this? By prioritizing quick wins and plotting long-term strategic focuses. Focusing on the simplest, least complex phases with the highest impact first can not only get you quick results, but it can also aid in getting your team used to the product. This can be especially helpful when you start to tackle more complex phases of the customer journey later. With a broader scope, organizations can approach their digital transformation from a cost perspective by initially only optimizing media spend based on customer intent or interest. By doing so, you also deliver a more relevant customer experience.

Besides adopting basic agile principles, what else can Financial Services companies do to help business departments align to meet their common goals around better serving customer needs? 

Financial Services companies touch people’s lives. Each individual customer can thus reasonably expect that his or her bank or insurance company delivers a meaningful interaction for them at every stage of their unique journey. For these companies to be relevant and create a differentiated customer experience, I believe that orchestrating lifetime-based journeys is the key. 

Personally, I started banking when my dad opened a checking account for me, and since then I’ve never moved from that particular bank. However, along the way, I acquired more bank accounts and other financial products such as a mortgage, car loan, travel insurance, and investment accounts — all from different banks. This was mostly because I have a reactive relationship with banks, meaning I interact with banks in reaction to changes in my life, from being a kid to being a proud father with three kids and a wife. Perhaps one day I’ll start my own business or take over my father’s steadily-growing company.

This journey is my journey. And yes, as is often said these days, companies don’t own the customer journey. They can’t. So when product teams are working on “parts” of my full journey, that’s when, as a brand, you have the opportunity to stitch together these Moments of Truth (MOTs) together for your customer — so you never miss a beat. You can be there at every next step for your customers by being relevant at the right time, with the right content and the offer that’s best for them. 

I am proud to say that Relay42’s Intelligent Journey Orchestration platform helps FinServ companies to master this craft of lifetime-based journeys, stitching together Moments of Truth over lifetimes of data so customers are never forgotten – and businesses can move from product-driven to customer-driven journeys once and for all.

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