Prioritising A Customer-Centric Approach In Banking

  • Nanda Kumar, CEO, SunTec

  • 28.09.2020 02:01 pm

Please introduce us your company and products/solutions you are offering.

Nanda Kumar: The financial services industry is in a state of flux. Regulations are constantly evolving, customer loyalty is inconsistent, competition is non-traditional, and a global pandemic has fundamentally impacted the way consumers engage with banks and other providers. It’s now more important than everfor banks to adopt a customer-centric approach that spans both physical and digital realms.

Our award-winning SunTec products and Xelerate platform help organizations adopt a customer-first strategy, exponentially increase revenue and customer base, deliver exceptional customer experience, prevent revenue leakage and ensure compliance.

With SunTec, banks can gain deep insights into their end-customers’ financial behavior; create dynamic customer segments; rapidly design and launch hyper-personalized products, offers, product bundles, pricing, loyalty programs and monetization models for ecosystems and platforms. And we’re achieving this through our cloud-native, cloud-agnostic products that are delivered on-premise, on cloud or in a SaaS model.

What is unique about SunTec and how does it stand out among its competitors?

Nanda Kumar: Our work over the last three decades has earned us recognition as the world’s #1 relationship-based pricing and billing provider. More than 130 institutions and companies across banking, financial services, insurance, telecom and travel industries rely on SunTec to rapidly design and launch hyper-personalized solutions as well as billing for over 400 million end-customers.

Nearly all businesses now face new pressures heightened by the pandemic. We ask: how can they deliver better experiences to their customers during these unprecedented times?

Most banks began their digital transformation journey years ago, and have clear digital strategies – but, most of these strategies are limited to their customers’ last mile journey. But this isn’t just about world-class user interface (UI) or user experience (UX); it is about the overall experience customers have with the bank – better products, better services, better propositions. Habitually, banks think channels; customers don’t. Traditional banks think that their hands are tied because of their outdated core technology and business models. And that’s where we come in.

SunTec believes that banks need to carefully evaluate anything that impacts the customer directly and move it out of the core – in other words, “hollow out” the core. This involves moving some functionality over to systems that operate outside of the traditional layer of the core. This “digital core” — as we like to call it — is intelligent, prescriptive and forms the bridge between the current customer-facing capabilities and legacy core technology used by today’s banks.

SunTec products and Xelerate platform helps banks accelerate this journey towards transforming themselves to make them truly customer-centric. Our global clients look to SunTec to help them fast-track their digital transformation initiatives, overcome their inhibitions, and leverage technology to reinvent their existing business models and ultimately the service they deliver to their customers.

The fintech sector has experienced a great shake by the COVID-19 crisis that proved that banks are far from being truly digital. In your opinion, what problems are banks and other financial institutions now facing due to the pandemic?

Nanda Kumar: Just a year ago, we had predicted that it would take at least another decade for global banks to truly embrace digital transformation. A mere six months later, we were blindsided by one of the worst global pandemics in our lifetime. And like most businesses, banks and financial institutions were forced to juggle immediate priorities while also recalibrating for the future. They are now working hard to keep their distribution channels open while adhering to social distancing guidelines and are being challenged to perform functions that weren’t originally designed to be carried out remotely.

Branch banking has always played an important role in both attracting new customers and cementing relationships with existing ones. But COVID-19 has caused a sharp decline in branch traffic — a pattern that may linger for several months, or even years. At the same time, customers are increasingly enjoying the ease and convenience of a digital model that allows them to manage their finances in one place — from setting up automatic payments to making deposits and more — without having to queue in a bank. This has left banks to reimagine their physical and digital strategy and identify new ways to meet customer expectations while simultaneously rethinking their business models and revenue strategy.

If banks continue to solely operate in their current form without embracing both online and offline models, they risk becoming nothing more than a utility service. But if they can create an ecosystem by partnering with businesses that offer connecting services, they can build lasting relationships with their customers and deliver a new level of measurable value. Banks are particularly well-placed to orchestrate this for the ultimate benefit of their customers and are in a unique position to promote social and economic success for their customers – be it a mortgage to a family or a loan to an expanding business.

In order to adapt to new circumstances and pass the “Digital Stress” test, what strategy should banks implement? 

Nanda Kumar: Banks need to embrace and accelerate their digital transformation and customer-centricity strategies to survive and thrive during these unprecedented times. Several banks did recognize that this was a necessity prior to the pandemic, but COVID-19 and the corresponding market volatility have created a new sense of urgency, and an understanding that we cannot simply revert to an outdated “normal.” While several banks have tried to accommodate customers in the short-term with incentives such as deferred interest, waived or overdraft fees or credit card and mortgage assistance, these measures won’t drive growth, profitability or most importantly, customer loyalty.

Banks must reimagine how they can extend their value proposition beyond core offerings to navigate today’s increasing market pressure and changing customer sentiments. That means they must deliver more hyper-personalized services, enhanced transparency and holistic capabilities to add measurable value across each step of the customer journey and offer a new level of customer engagement and fresh kinds of physical and digital banking services. That can only happen if banks rethink their holistic technology, foster strong partner networks and understand the true meaning of digital transformation. If banks can embrace this new way of thinking that enables them to reevaluate their holistic systems, processes, data and people, they will be able to deliver an unmatched level of personalized services.

Why should banks give priority to customer-centric approach and how can they enable it?

Nanda Kumar: Customer loyalty is fragile, and customer retention and trust are critical to any digital transformation initiative – and any banks’ overall success. This gives banks a unique opportunity to provide value-based engagement and hyper-personalized services to empower their customers, help meet their short and long-term needs, and build and retain their loyalty and trust. For instance, if a customer reaches out to their bank for a mortgage, what stops that bank from helping that customer own that house, instead of just selling its mortgage business?

Banks needs to be cognizant of their customers’ changing preferences. As they adjust to the post-pandemic world, banks shouldn’t sideline the value of face-to-face service. In-branch banking will continue to play a pivotal role for many consumers and will remain an important vehicle for banks to attract new customers, retain existing ones — and engage more deeply with them. We see bank-branches becoming experience centers like Apple Stores, offering a place for customers to explore products and services, and to solve more complicated banking problems.

Customers want to have access to this type of physical experience centers while also being able to perform their banking functions and transactions digitally, whether it be mobile, app or web-based. With both the physical and digital realm, customers want to know that they will have an enhanced level of security, comfort and confidence, especially when it comes to financial issues that can be complicated, highly sensitive or both.

To prioritize their customer-centric efforts, banks must simplify complex operations and infrastructure, embrace intelligent technology and partners to create the right service bundles for their customers, and understand how to leverage customer data to offer service-first models. They can start with a fairly low-risk method that allows them to utilize their existing infrastructure rather than overhauling their entire system and adopt a digital core. That will allow them to hollow out customer engagement functions from the core system and manage it as a horizontal cross-enterprise layer. Banks should then be able to rapidly design and launch new products and bundles, innovative pricing models and reward customers based on their positive financial behavior. With platform-as-a-service gaining traction, organizations also need to enable monetization models that can support the same to ensure that they are the primary choice of their customers for all transactions.

As the banking experience evolves from product-based to customer-based, banks must identify new ways to design and deliver hyper-personalized services that customers expect. This is especially true for younger audiences including millennials and GenZ, who’ve grown up in the digital age, and expect a seamless digital journey. By making smart use of customer data to uncover the context behind banking transactions, banks can understand their customers’ ultimate goals and add value to every interaction, presenting offers and opportunities in real-time that are catered to different audiences and ultimately deliver a superior, world-class customer experience.

What’s the role of SunTec in addressing the impact of COVID-19?

Nanda Kumar: We are in unprecedented times, and banks must quickly adapt to changing goalposts, shifting customer needs and requirements, and continued disruption. The market volatility resulting from the pandemic has taught us that the only thing the banking industry can be certain of in this environment is more uncertainty.

We are working closely with our clients to help them place empathy and agility at the heart of all their customer engagements. There’s never been a more important time to humanize the banking experience. One might wonder how banks can anticipate what their customers need… but banks are very much in a position to leverage their customer information to offer service-first models built on trust and loyalty. Our technology is helping banks embrace customer-data to add real value to the communities they serve, while ensuring transparency for both customers and potential regulatory requirements.

The current pandemic has motivated banks to rapidly adopt SaaS and cloud solutions to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. SunTec has partnered with AWS, IBM Financial Services Cloud and Microsoft Azure to help banks adopt our cloud-native and cloud-agnostic products to help design and launch products, offers, reward programs rapidly to meet the evolving needs of their customers.

Clearly, pressure ismounting. Banks must recast their strategies, roadmaps and budgets so they can respond to today’s challenges, prepare for future business disruptions and ensure they retain existing customers while appealing to new targets.Now is the time for them to modernize their legacy technology systems, enable end-to-end agility and focus on flexibility, scale, and speed to accelerate their digital transformation and excel in a competitive and turbulent landscape. And SunTec is helping our global banking clients achieve these goals.

What upcoming news do you have at SunTec that you can share with our readers? What’s next for SunTec?

Nanda Kumar: In spite of the pandemic, we have seendemand for our SaaS and cloud products among banks across geographies. One of the world’s largest investment banking enterprises based in the US has adopted our cloud applications to enable customer-centric pricing, power-up deal management and revenue growth.

We are in the process of launching SaaS applications around preferential interest rates, risk-based pricing, offers and benefits management that will not only help banks meet the fast-changing economic conditions, but will also help them design and launch products and offers that meet the new needs of customers.

We are also in the process of integrating with leading cloud applications that are primarily used by front-line sales and relationship managers so that they can instantly get a clear picture of their respective customers’ product portfolio, negotiated pricing arrangements, projected revenues, performance against the commitments assured by a customer, eligible offers as well as enquiries on invoices, fees, new products, offers – and a lot more simply to enrich their ability to enable better real-time customer experience.

 

Nanda Kamur is a technology evangelist with over 26 years in the industry, Nanda Kumar (NK) has shaped the wave of customer-centric software platforms and solutions for pricing and billing, particularly in transaction-intensive verticals. He pioneered the concept of relationship-based pricing -an idea industry analysts and thought leaders now acknowledge as the key to balanced pricing dynamics. NK has made SunTec one of the global leaders in revenue management and business assurance space in the financial and telecom industries. Under the guidance of NK, SunTec has forayed into areas such as offer management, loyalty and relationship-based pricing. Under his leadership, the company has won several awards and is considered as a leader in enterprise products. He has delivered numerous talks across global forums such as SIBOS, 3G Mobile Forum, Indian Banking Summit, Gartner Summits etc. He is also a widely read writer who has written for many technology-oriented newsletters and blogs. NK holds a master’s degree in management and physics.

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