‘Customer experience an integral part of Indian banking’

Mumbai (Maharashtra): Customer experience an integral part of Indian banking, observed doyens of the finance and banking at a panel discussion during the second day of FIBAC 2017, India’s largest banking sector conference organised here by FICCI and Indian Banks’ Association.

The panel, moderated by Pranay Mehrotra, Partner and Director, Boston Consulting Group, comprised Manju Agarwal, DMD (Digital Banking and National Banking), State Bank of India; Sudhakar Ramasubramanian, MD and CEO, Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank; Shanti Ekambaram, President, Consumer Banking, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd.; Rajeev Ahuja, Executive Director, RBL Bank; Shinjini Kumar, MD, Consumer Business Manager, Citi India; Pablo Suarez, VP and Global Leader, Financial Service Sector Centres of Competence and Digital Banking, IBM; and Nishant Singh, Founder and CEO, CRMNext.

“As a lever of comparative advantage, the customer journey is going to become more and more critical,” declared Mehrotra as he kick-started the discussion.

He explained that it can cut acquisition and switching costs dramatically, thus contributing to the bottom line.

Setting the context, Manju Agarwal observed that the environment is undergoing a huge change. This, in turn, will impact changes within organisations.

Quoting Jack Welsh, she said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

In current times, she said, the change on the outside is very rapid. Hence bankers must be agile and cater to those changes to stay relevant. And, she cautioned, bankers are not competing only with their peers. They are also competing with fintechs and ‘GAFAA’ (Google Apple Facebook Amazon Alibaba).

Rajeev Ahuja agreed that 2-3 years from now the world may not be talking digital.

“The conversation may be more human, with all its attendant pains and comforts. It is important to bring that back. RBL Bank works with various partners because their customers come from many sources. All of them may not be digitally savvy.”

Ramasubramanian felt that banks must have access to points where people are doing their transactions.

“The digital platform may be used by about 100-odd million people. There are 1.1 billion others “who today have cash and that cash can be moved via cash-to-merchant and merchant-to-digital transactions. The platform created should be able to do “everything from bus tickets to hotel e-commerce,” Ramasubramanian said.

“Banks are the easiest places to disrupt,” said Ekambaram, adding that “Kotak Mahindra Bank launched the 811 Scheme to bring down the cost of acquisition and make it easy for a customer to open a bank account”.

She complimented the government for providing the Aadhar infrastructure which made KYC (Know your customer) easy.

She also made it clear that the branch network cannot be taken away from the customer.

“The world is still phygital. With the multiplicity of channels now available, banks must deliver a superior experience in every one of them. This involves completely reinventing the back end, not only the front end.”

Shinjini had a different take on the value of the branch. She visualised a bank without a branch.

“Such a bank will have to relate to the customer in different ways. It sees itself as a service provider and stays relevant to the services needed by its customers. Regardless of the presence of a branch or a mobile phone, the bank’s services must match the customer’s sense of urgency. “Is the lack of a branch a handicap to service the customer? No,” she said.

Suarez, too, was of the opinion that technology is not the essence of the solution. “No matter how good the technology, customer experience is as good as the expectations of your clients.”

He advised that banks should understand the pace of change of segments of their customers.

Singh pointed that nobody can create a product that the competitor cannot copy. “What separates the winners from the also-rans?” It is the ability to provide frictionless customer experience. To create a good operating model, back end models are very important. Acquisition is the most visible outcome of that.

The audience listened with keen interest as the panellists debated about how enhanced customer experience can be provided with or without the digital platform. They interacted with the audience towards the end of the session. (ANI)