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Digital customer acquisition and onboarding a must-have for financial institutions in times of social distancing


I was in IKEA in Serbia recently, and from what I’ve seen – things have most certainly changed.

People are patiently waiting in lines and keeping their distance: IKEA, as expected, helps them with visual indicators and clear signs. This reminded me of a point from the last week’s Microsoft Business Applications Summit (as many know, MBAS was completely digital; this was the first digital two-day conference I attended and I’ve had a great time.) The highlight for me was a demo of IKEA creating a digital journey for their customers with Dynamics 365 and Power Platform (check it here, 34th minute).

These changes have got me thinking of the fact no one escapes from consequences of a world pandemic, and how banking sector will be no exception. What are the most important things we should have in mind when it comes to banks and the global spreading of Covid-19?

Financial institutions during and in post-corona times

First, banks will have to help the economy (mostly SMB) recover from its non-operating time. As the virus continues to spread around the world, businesses face job losses, slower sales and declining profits. This means bank customers are likely to start seeking financial relief, and most of the governments are asking banks to help them. For example, German government announced an emergency support package for households, small business and large corporations in the fourth week of March: €600 billion, around 18% of GDP.

Second, banks do have a large network of customers coming to the offices; especially in our region, people tend to do cater to any financial business they might have in person. Just like all other companies, banks will need to protect their employees and customers from the virus. Because of this, many of them are already encouraging remote working.

Last but not the least, customers will need to find a way to do transactions and deal with other financial activities without physical interaction. By switching to completely digitalized and remote customer transactions, banks can ensure that both regular and more complicated financial processes can be carried out with little to none problems.

Years of digital transformation turned to months

Tasks mentioned above are not easy, even for institutions that already had m-banking, e-banking, and communication with customers via different digital channels before the virus. Nevertheless, the pace of digital transformation we are witnessing is tremendous. As Satya Nadella would say, it is “two years of digital transformation in two months”.

We’ve seen this at Comtrade too, when we took part in #digitalsolidarity in Serbia, and in just two months created Volunteer and Lockdown permit application websites, as well as a page where people who are cured from Covid 19 can register to donate blood plasma. We were also a part of conducting more than 200.000 online self-assessment tests for elementary school graduates in Serbia. This is a lot work for such a short time period. Before this, online testing as an official part of education in the country was just an idea, similar to how my mother thought she was far from using digital technologies – but now she is using Skype and even sends Viber messages!

It all boils down to this: everyone is getting used to novelties. And it will be the same with banking: as the spread of the virus continues, alternatives to in-person banking and physical exchanges will be looking more and more attractive. Officials also support it: World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to use contactless payment and avoid handling banknotes as much as possible because the virus can continue to live on banknotes for days. The Bank of Korea has started to quarantine bills originating from local banks, keeping them for up to two weeks. The Chinese government requested lenders to disinfect physical notes, as well as to keep them locked for a while.

Let’s also not forget about the general post-lockdown recommendations in each country. For example, the recommendation from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advise individuals in Serbia to stay at least two meters away from one another. This might be impossible to do in banks, where there are usually long lines and close interactions with the employees.

What is the situation in the Adriatic region?

As you’ve probably noticed by now, our region is moving slowly when it comes to completely embracing digital banking processes. The majority of requests for new banking products have been redirected from online banking to physical locations. Also, we’ve been constantly asked to print, sign, and email papers, which complicates things and leaves us feeling bad for the trees.

This is why Comtrade chose Veripark, a Turkey-based company and one of Microsoft’s global independent software vendors (ISV) in the financial industry as a strategic partner in Adriatic region.

Veripark is creating digital banking solutions worldwide for almost 20 years. When I first met their representatives, I was wondering why digital banking is booming in Turkey, Asia and even Africa. Then I’ve visited Istanbul for some business meetings, and it was barely possible to commute in this city: I was struggling to travel from one part to another, and realized I would really hate if I had to go to the bank (or anywhere not in my way) after work.

(If you’re wondering, there is no traditional infrastructure – such as bank branches – in Africa, so it has to be digital. It is the same in Asia.)

What can be the next steps?

I’ll keep it short. First: check out this great article from Bohumil Hyanek of Veripark on how banks can support their customers remotely and digitally during a global crisis.

Second: yes, go digitally with Onboarding, KYC, CRM, Omnichannel technologies and processes – but make sure to use them with a human touch.

Third: explore possibilities, widen your knowledge and exchange experiences, as they can help you gain assets to go through the crisis with at least disruptions as possible. While you’re there, I would recommend not to miss Comtrade and Veripark presentation at the NT Conference 2020, the biggest Slovenian conference on technology and business!

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