FinovateFall: The Future of Finance is Digital

Finance

2020 has forced us out of our comfort zones. The way we learn, the way we work together, the way we bank has transitioned to a digital format. It was only fitting that 2020’s FinovateFall trade show, held September 14-18, embraced the new norm with a 100% digital event. 

FinovateFall revamped their annual event over five days, allowing attendees to consume snackable sessions. Here is a recap of the key themes explored throughout the week.

The digital experience is no longer a “nice to have”

This year was an inflection point for banking. COVID 19 forced banks to move from in-branch to digital. As digital becomes the “new norm”, the need to meet customer expectations by providing a best-in-class digital experience moved from “nice to have” to “need to have.”

Customers want to be met where they are and on what platform they prefer. Driving and adapting consumer needs are paramount in designing an online experience. Banks are increasingly adopting a digital-first orientation. From their apps to interactions and even advertising, digital is the starting point. When it comes to improving the customer experience, Wesley Write of Varo Money uses digital as his feedback source through NPS scores and survey feedback data.

CEO of Citizens Bank, Bruce Van Saun shared his company’s strategy to meeting consumer needs in his fireside chat. Citizens takes a customer mindset by mapping out the customer journey to rethink and rebuild their online experience. They’ve seen success in building a more efficient and effective refinance process which has paid off in the current refinance boom.

Key Takeaways: As we move towards digital-first, embracing a customer-centric online experience will be a competitive edge. Digital has become the backbone of marketing, sales, soliciting feedback and communicating with customers.

The race to digital is a sprint *and* a marathon

As external customers move towards online banking and lending, the change is happening internally as well. Internal cultures shifted from the office to working at home. Branches had to quickly and securely move to online communication with their teams and their customers. This acceleration of digitization has opened doors for tech companies who are now seen as collaborative partners. With banks closing in-branch locations and becoming online only, we are seeing that digital banking is becoming mainstream. With this new mindset comes challenges as discussed in the panel: Future of Innovation In A Post-COVID-19 Reality. The panel discussed the two considerations in banking right now. 

On one hand, you have the traditional banks and credit unions who have already built trust through in-person relationships with customers, but now need to build their digital presence. And then on the other hand you have the neo players. They have the technology, yet still have to earn trust. 

The rise to the digital medium will not be temporary.  The pandemic has been an accelerator for innovation for both the neobanks and traditional branches. Both are looking to develop and institute innovation faster than ever and they are expecting this trend will persist beyond the pandemic response. “We are seeing the move from digital laggards to digital adopters.” Mayank Mishra, Managing Director, Global Head Digital Channels at Citi, said during a panel on Thursday. 

Key Takeaway: Trust is a huge factor. Traditional banks and credit unions are trying to maintain the hard-earned trust they’ve developed as they evolve from face-to-face to digital customer engagement. Neo banks are trying to earn trust outright in their digital-first world. Either way, growing trust through digital engagements is a critical concern.

In case you missed us at FinovateFall, check out the Glance demo: With the Glance Visual Engagement Platform, the banker or financial advisor can join the customer in the app, delivering a digital experience with the same human element as an in-branch meeting.

Building offline trust in an online world

Think about this time last year. You would have seen Greg Palmer hosting FinovateFall in-person in New York City. You’d watch our demo and stop by our booth in-person. After coming home from the show, you could stop into your local branch and talk to a banker or lender in person. This year is a whole new world. This new world involves taking those in-person experiences and moving them online.

Creating an online customer experience is the start. The next step is to think about customer demographics. What we are seeing is a demographic change as older generations are now adopting digital. With that switch from digital comes a shift in mentality. The key is to get from adoption to embracing online banking. 

Think about opening a new bank account or applying for a loan online. There is a lot of information that is needed on behalf of the banks. Banks need to replicate that experience of walking into a bank and speaking with someone face-to-face as best as they can in order to take consumers to completion.

For some institutions such as neobanks, the answer might be making the information a consumer is looking for easy to find or easier to comparison shop, whether it be through an app, AI, chat, video, or speaking with customer support. 

For the traditional banks and credit unions, they will have to work hard on building and earning the trust of a generation that favors the in-branch experience. Especially in times of uncertainty, building trust through the human connection and technology guidance will be factors for traditional banks and credit unions.

Key Takeaway: As financial institutions look both inward and outward at their business strategy, there needs to be a balance of fast innovation with the human element.

FinovateFall was rich in topics on the future digital experience for customers. As Greg Palmer said, “The new normal will be a different world.” And he’s right. The transition period is here. Banks need to understand the customer experience. They need to understand the pain points and build trust when delivering digital solutions. If you can understand these, you can create a digital experience that grows and scales long after this transition period. 

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