While the Covid-19 pandemic plunged the majority of the global financial services industry into disarray, a number of well-prepared banks had the digital infrastructure required to not only keep their heads above water, but to accelerate the reimagining of their workplace.
“Banks have been considered the economy’s first responders to the pandemic,” says Jon Farmer, director of financial services industry marketing for Microsoft 365. “And those with a modern infrastructure have undoubtedly been best positioned for success.”
It’s something that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was quick to praise when he took to the mic at the recent Sibos event, which took place digitally. “This pandemic has clearly caused massive constraints and challenges, and business have had to dig deep to respond, recover and reimagine core parts of their business – all in parallel,” he said. “Digital tech has become one of the most malleable resources to help continue operations – frankly I’m stunned with the level of economic productivity that’s been maintained.”
These thoughts have been echoed by Microsoft’s senior leaders. “Very few banks had a global pandemic in their contingency plan,” says Chad Hamblin, Microsoft director for the worldwide financial services industry. “Just to keep the lights on, banks have had to empower their employees to work from home almost overnight – and enable them to continue to deliver an experience that their customers have come to expect. What’s miraculous is many banks have been able to achieve that by leveraging the power of technology. It’s stressed a lot of infrastructure, yes – but it has also expedited the transformation that many banks have been wanting to achieve for years.”
Dutch bank ABN AMRO is a case in point. As one of the earliest pioneers of virtual client service models, it already had the infrastructure in place to enable geographically independent service, anywhere and anytime. This has only improved since the arrival of the pandemic – with bank branches closed, suddenly a large group of customers discovered the value of the bank’s video banking solution, and many became converts. “Covid-19 accelerated the use of video banking across all our business lines,” said Frank Verkerk, chief digital officer at ABN AMRO, in a recent Microsoft case study. “Requests from advisors to use Microsoft video technology increased, and we onboarded other products and businesses. Now, we have 3,000 advisors using the solution.”
As a result, in the second quarter of 2020, 96 per cent of ABN AMRO’s interactions with customers took place virtually – an increase in video banking sessions of 32 per cent. The bank believes that this success of digital channels, including video banking, has driven customer loyalty and competitive advantage. In fact, despite the lockdown, 59 per cent of its customers felt they could do their banking anytime, anywhere.
“ABN AMRO has an ambition to be one of the best remote banks in the world,” said Verkerk. “As we add more and more Teams meeting functionality to our video-enabled banking, we’re on the right track to achieve that goal.”
And ABM AMRO is just one of many success stories. At the start of the pandemic, German financial services firm Aareal Bank realised it needed a level of digital collaboration and communication beyond the scope of its existing solutions. As a result, it decided to implement Microsoft Teams. In just two weeks it stabilised communication and allowed meetings to run smoothly, no matter where employees were working.
“Thanks to Microsoft Teams, we were ideally placed to communicate and connect with each other and with our customers during the coronavirus lockdown,” said Daniel Höfelmann, the bank’s director or innovation management.
And while Microsoft Teams has played pivotal role in helping financial services organisations through the pandemic, the solution is expected to bring far more than short-term change.
Indeed, research suggests that up to 80 per cent of financial services employees’ time is spent on repetitive, manual tasks. With Microsoft Teams, financial services employees can accelerate their individual and group productivity to improve customer experiences, resolve business challenges and drive efficiencies across common business processes.
“Microsoft Teams facilitates a new world of productivity – and it does this in a way that other collaboration tools can’t,” explains Hamblin. “It provides a holistic and unified set of productivity, collaboration and real-time communication capabilities. If you look at alternative offerings, they are all point solutions. In an industry like financial services, a holistic suite of technology solutions will enable not only a more productive and efficient workforce, but it will facilitate a consistent experience for customers too.”
And that’s without mention of the security and compliance benefits that come with Microsoft’s offering. “You don’t see many of the other big collaboration platforms being used in financial services because of the sensitive nature of the work that is being done,” says Farmer. “Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams provide strong enterprise security for the financial services industry including capabilities to help protect sensitive information, meet regulatory compliance obligations and prevent information exchanges that could lead to organisational conflicts of interest.”
It’s for these reasons that Farmer believes Microsoft technologies will be instrumental to a profound transformation of the financial services industry in the months and years to come.
“Microsoft technology will continue to break down physical barriers,” he says. “It will facilitate a workplace not defined by physical conventions – one that flows seamlessly wherever the employee is working, whether that be in the car, at home or in a branch. While the number of branches will dramatically reduce, seamless communication and seamless productivity enabled by tools like Teams and Microsoft Office enables employees to not only work far more effectively, but more flexibly too.”
And it’s this focus on flexibility that brings us back to Nadella’s key messaging at Sibos.
“I think we will come out of this with a lot of understanding of what truly drives productivity,” he said. “Not just in the narrow sense, but inclusive even of our well-being. We’re definitely not going to go back to the way the world was before, but we’re also not going to remain the way it is today.
“We’re going to probably take the best of the two worlds and blend them appropriately. The key word for me is flexibility. One thing that we have learned from any dogma in any form is everybody needs to be in the workplace or everybody needs to be remote… We will need to have more flexibility in some of [our] digital tools, for sure.” And Microsoft will undoubtedly give us that.
We asked a selection of key Microsoft partners about the key productivity tools equipping financial services staff to deliver continuing customer satisfaction in times of crisis. Below are extracts from their responses, which you can read in full from page 90 of the digital edition of the Winter 2020 issue of The Record.
Wim Geukens, managing director at VeriPark Europe, says: “VeriPark's branch automation solution, integrated with Microsoft Teams, has provided the necessary infrastructure to make sure employees are equipped with everything they need in a remote work environment.”
Alyssa Putzer, marketing communications specialist at Metafile Information Systems, says: “Combining the power of a Microsoft Dynamics ERP and a paperless automation solution are the perfect ingredients to streamlining the accounts payable process from procurement to payment.”
Patrick Hanley, head of strategic alliances at Dynamic Signal, says: “Through the Microsoft 365 suite and Dynamic Signal, leaders of any financial organisation are able to reach their employees, agents, tellers, financial advisors and other key staff.”
Garth Landers, director of product marketing and archiving at Mimecast, says: “Mimecast’s Supervision solution enables financial services organisations to address their supervisory compliance requirements.”
Jorgen Solberg, CEO at Decisions, says: “Microsoft Teams and Office 365 provide users with a comprehensive set of tools for collaboration, efficiency and productivity, with access to applications like Decisions that extend their capabilities to address direct challenges like remote meetings.”
Peter Barrett, group manager and global marketing lead for financial services at Avanade, says: “With our help, we’ve seen customers use Microsoft Teams to boost employee productivity through virtual customer meetings and remote compliance training.”
Aristide Toundzi, customer digital technology, financial services at EY, says: “With the Covid-19 crisis, financial services industry employees had to quickly adapt to new ways of collaborating and serving customers.”
Jan-Willem Weggemans, senior client partner and alliances lead at Publicis Sapient, says: “Publicis Sapient uses a set of accelerators to help our clients define and deliver improved customer experiences, enhance colleague journeys and integrate these tools with their core systems while realising in-year payback when deploying Microsoft solutions.”
Natalie Myshkina, head of banking, insurance and broader financial services strategic development for Adobe Document Cloud, says: “Adobe recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a global survey and identified that digitising document processes are a top priority for financial services firms – with 68 per cent considering them essential – making is a business necessity for years to come.”
Katrin Henkel, president at ASC Americas, says: “ASC Recording Insights is the only existing native app integrated in Teams that captures and stores all communication in Microsoft Azure, allowing financial service companies of any size to comply with legal requirements, to work efficiently on a stable platform and also ensuring high customer support quality even when working remotely.”
Suhail Nimji, vice president of Strategic Partnerships at Theta Lake, says: “Theta Lake provides deep supervision and risk detection features for Microsoft Teams, allowing organisations to align their privacy, retention, and supervision requirements, empowering work-from-anywhere collaboration.”
Lee Garf, general manager for compliance at NICE, says: “It is critical for financial service organisations to use tools that enable high customer satisfaction while also maintaining compliance with financial regulations.”
Anders Løkke, senior director of strategic alliances at Pexip, says: “As businesses of all kinds face the threats of economic instability and uncertain times, it is more important than ever to meet the customers where they are, which is currently at home.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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