Banking in the virus era
Business downtime is a painful toll of the epidemics. The paradox is that the latter can be a catalyst for change that will save businesses from downtime for a long time to come.
There is probably no economy branch that is not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks, like others, have to face unexpected problems that have surprised many financial market participants worldwide. Business customers of banks are already taking advantage of the anti-crisis offer - loans on preferential terms or short-term suspension of credit instalments.
Technology is doing fine
Banking is a technology-based industry. Vulnerable to viruses attacking computers, it remains unmoved in the face of the virus that is now targeting people. And while in the real world outlets are open for a shorter period of time or even closed, the traffic is increased in the virtual world.
The current situation favors transfering businesses online. We can already see a revival in e-commerce and more frequent use of tools enabling doing business in the B2C and B2B models. The examples are video conferences, chats or shared data repositories. In banking, one can expect a greater popularity of services which, although already existing on the market, have not yet become widespread. The most important ones include the use of:
- video chats to communicate with a bank advisor
- documents available in the cloud
- trusted signature to sign documents
Such services sound rather familiar to online banking users, but are not yet standard. The pandemic period is a time when we can gradually reach the point where it is natural to talk to a bank advisor in a chat room. Or sign a credit agreement, bylaws or other document that the bank will provide in the cloud. You should not expect a revolution overnight that would make many processes more efficient, but a question that has been repeated for years comes back:
Do branches still have a rationale?
COVID-19 has forced many organizations to switch to the home office mode. In banking, many employees have been sent to work remotely, and a large number of branches operate less frequently during the day or with fewer staff.
This definitely forces the search for alternative solutions in order to maintain the continuity and comprehensiveness of the offer. Can such a model of work be maintained permanently? There is no denying that banks have an interest in it as well, as remote work means lower costs for office maintenance, conferences or business trips.
Following this path, it is to be expected that the banks will still aggressively take the course for multi-channel customer service mainly through mobile and online banking. And greater independence of customers in the use of financial services brings with it the opportunity to cut costs related to the maintenance of branches or cash flow. In the latter case, banks encourage the use of electronic money, explaining that minimizing the use of cash reduces the risk of transmission of bacteria and viruses. In Poland, there are already initiatives such as increasing the limit to PLN 100 for contactless payments, and more and more shops are equipped with POS terminals. One has to remember that this is also a benefit for the banks. Because thanks to a higher share of e-payments, banks are able to better follow the KYC (know your customer) procedure, i.e. know their customers' behavior in order to personalize the offer for them based on accurate data.
COVID-19 - the engine of tech change?
We are very likely to be at a key moment of changing our customer experience habits. Banks should use this time wisely to expand their offerings, adapting them to the new realities and constraints faced by retail and business customers at the moment. The pandemic will sooner or later pass, but the ideas put into practice in these difficult times will survive. Perhaps they’re going to change our habits to such an extent that we will start to see the bank only through the prism of our smartphone screen.
Piotr Cholewa, Sales Director, Comarch