Hong Kong financial services need to be more creative

Image by Natee Meepian | Bigstockphoto

Financial services customers want more. New figures from research firm Forrester have found that half of consumers wish their financial service institution (FSI) was more proactive about giving them advice, and more than half (52%) wanted their financial provider to alert them to issues that might impact their financial health.

Historically, FSIs were viewed as performing one or more of three roles: Facilitator – managing transactions; Enabler – providing loans and mortgages; and Advisor – helping customers navigate the complex web of pensions, investments, trusts, and more.

Today’s FSI is viewed differently

Today, an FSI, whether it’s a bank, insurer or asset management company, is viewed much more as a partner in the consumer’s lifelong financial health. Expectations are that FSIs will be on hand to help the customer take proactive steps to manage changes in their personal circumstances and broader lifestyle changes and pressures.

These new consumer expectations are placing significant demands on organisations whose business models were not originally set up for a more interactive relationship with their customers. According to ‘2023 Digital Trends – FSI in Focus’, an Econsultancy report commissioned by Adobe, only 16% of FSI marketing and customer experience (CX) professionals already have a single and consistent view of the customer, and 46% of FSI organisations are being hindered by the poor quality of data, more than doubled last year. These findings indicate the disconnection between customer expectations and the capability to deliver customer-satisfying experiences.

Hong Kong FSIs would be well advised to stop for a moment

Hong Kong FSIs would be well advised to stop for a moment, take stock of their situation, get creative, and chart the course ahead for long-term growth in the digital economy. They’ll need to imagine creative ways to inspire their teams, boost efficiency, and improve the workstream by aligning their people, processes, and technology.

The following three pillars lie at the heart of any successful progress in the area: Innovation – adding more value to customers; Employee Experience (EX) – building a stimulating work environment; and Process – creating a future-proof, agile FSI.

By evaluating a business in this way, it’s possible to identify the current challenges and understand whether increased automation and improved workflow solutions might help overcome friction in the delivery process and meet customer expectations across all channels.

1. Innovation

In terms of Innovation, business professionals agree they must generate more value-added and holistic customer ‘lifestyle-type’ experiences to avoid becoming transaction portals. According to the same Digital Trends report, to achieve this, topping the list of priorities is the launch of new digital and mobile offerings (57%). The launch of new digital and mobile offerings branches out into more than just the standard banking apps, such as Revolut’s or SWIPE’s under-18 accounts. Besides, 53% of FSI marketers indicated that their organisation will prioritise enhancing self-service functionality for their customers and employees in 2023.

In addition, newer offerings like Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) have a strong youth appeal while this could be one sector where operators should consider increasing the financial health advice element. It demonstrates just how keen younger consumers are on more flexible, responsive banking products. Australia has led the way in BNPL, with 42% of its users having had an account for three or more years.

New product and service development must come with customer insight at its heart. Many FSIs have difficulties marshalling large volumes of data at their fingertips, but it’s a powerful tool once harnessed.

The report says that most FSI marketing and CX executives still consider digital behaviour (73%) and transactional data (57%) important when transforming the customer experience in 2023. But this risks missing the ‘nuggets of gold’ from other, less structured sources. Only about half of the respondents (49%) think about using data such as the voice of the customer, and only 22% consider social data to be transformative.

2. Employee experience

The need for real-time content personalisation is making new demands of FSI organisations, and they need to have effective workflows in place so employees can be connected and provide the best experience to their customers. The report found that around a third (31%) of respondents have access to user-friendly applications that integrate with other tools. However, most FSIs fall short in the last mile as they struggle with execution.

Only a little more than a quarter (28%) can deliver content by excelling at deploying assets quickly, automating execution, using data to personalise content, and tracking insights. The figure drops to 22% when we look at the number of FSIs that excel at producing and streamlining content that eliminates rework, duplication of effort, and administrative minutia.

3. Process

Integration for a single view FSI is now a truly omnichannel experience for every consumer. Some may prefer to lean more heavily on physical branch networks; others may crave a purely digital or even mobile-only experience. But the certainty is that every customer interacts across multiple channels at some point in their journey. And if you’re asking the customer to interact across those channels, the experience must connect and make sense. This can be a challenge for FSI organisations on several levels. Traditional businesses might have to ‘stitch together’ siloed departments and channels. Digital-first companies fare somewhat better but are not immune to the march of progress and the emergence of new social platforms or messaging technologies, for example.

Implementing technology, be it a CRM system, content and workflow automation, or data centre, has clear benefits for organisational efficiency and improved customer experience. But, without a unifying platform, these disparate solutions can become part of the problem as they join departments and teams in silos.

A unifying platform makes large-scale personalisation possible by streamlining customer data collection, management, and use across existing and potential future applications. It combines insights and workflows from multiple channels, including the call centre, email, social media, mobile, web, and video, and allows teams to collaborate more effectively. Notably, 44% of the FSI sector leaders have a cloud-based CX platform, compared to just 31% of mainstream performers.

Digital transformation of financial service firms in Hong Kong

For financial service firms in Hong Kong, much of the emphasis in recent years has been on the ‘digital’ aspect of digital transformation. However, as digital tools to manage finances are now considered a given, customers are asking FSI organisations to consider how they might go further – such as improving their financial health.

From the company perspective, the need for better customer insights and deeper engagement naturally strains legacy resources and processes. Institutions must explore how to improve the foundational elements, such as data quality and technology integration and make the most of the emerging technologies, including AI, machine learning (ML) and even generative AI that will transform the financial services experience. Lastly, with employees being the core asset of the industry, enabling them with the right technology and flow is essential for them to go beyond the repetitive work and focus on innovation — which is the best for the company.

Hong Kong financial services FSI

By Tony Ng, Managing Director of Greater China, Adobe

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