The automation of finance

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The finance function is ripe for automation, according to Max Trifonovs, account manager at DQ&A. Awash with more data, the sector is getting ready to deliver personalised customer experiences and product recommendations.

Financial services is one industry that continues to conjure up images of old men in suits, interpersonal relationships. And it is industry that - much like insurance - has avoided the digital revolution at all costs. However, finance has done more than keep up with the newer, more spritely industries of advertising and ecommerce.

Many of finance’s core processes have been streamlined using automation. For example, a majority of transactions are now made via robotic process automation (RPA) to both speed up and reduce the cost of the process. Some investment services have been turned over to robo-advisors, such as the ones from Betterment, Wealthfront and Ellevest. These advisors help manage customer portfolios and maximise returns. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Are we using data to take care of our customers?

While automation has been widely adopted throughout the financial services, there has been significantly less experimentation with data. Following the rise of more app-based banking and a shift towards online, there are now huge amounts of customer data available for the financial services to understand their audience segments better, and to continue to streamline their processes and improve customer relationships. However, what we often see is data being used only to achieve short-term projects, rather than as part of an overall data-driven strategy.

One of the main reasons for this is that, as is often the case, this data often lives in silos and so is difficult to access or use to its full potential. Customers and prospects are usually targeted with blanket, standard product campaigns that are miles away from the sought-after ideal of one-to-one advertising. By breaking down these silos and better understanding customers, the financial services can develop personalised products designed to match individual customer behaviours. Especially at a time when many consumers are willing to exchange personal data for new, customised benefits.

Personalisation, the next innovation

Banks and other institutions are built on a legacy: a customer is often with these institutions for life. With this come years, even decades, of spending history, debts, saving, and other assets that someone might have accrued over a lifetime. All of these relationships that customers have with their financial services providers can reveal what products customers are using, their location, and even how long they’ve been with the bank or service. All of this can then be used to personalise the customer’s experience, in the same way that data can personalise the customer advertising journey.

One example here is the latest innovation from finance disruptor ClearScore, which is designed to help individuals gain a greater control of their financial lives. Using the wealth of historical data garnered over the digital revolution, this service will help consumers make some of the big financial decisions in an effort to allow individuals to take full control of their financial health. It recently unveiled OneScore – a service uses multiple datasets to give people a complete view of their financial wellbeing. Customers will be able to combine their historical credit report data with the rich data revealed by their current accounts to build a complete picture of not just their financial situation but also their behaviour.

We can see this coming to the forefront with the new generation of banks such as Starling and Monzo. Popular among millennials, these finance brands promise connected services - bundling many financial services such as pensions, mortgages and investment into one on-demand service, all available on your mobile. This is a simple shift, with consumers merely using what’s relevant to them, but remember: these are new platforms. There is little historical data to interpret. Yet. With more time, more transactions and more data there is no doubt that the personalised products promised by ClearScore will be more of a widespread reality.

Building trust with blockchain

There is, however, another stumbling block to a greater incorporation of data. It is no secret, nor any great surprise, that the financial services are one of the least trusted industries. Banking, investing, lending and insurance all appear to be very cloak and dagger, with business being conducted in back rooms. There is a perceived lack of transparency and security - and seemingly constant hacker attacks aimed at companies which hold consumer credit reports and personal information add to the anxiety. This is where blockchain technology can help.

Blockchain provides a fully transparent and accessible system of record, making regulation and auditing a lot more straightforward. On top of this, it allows its users to move and store all kinds of assets privately and peer-to-peer through sophisticated coding and collaboration. Even in its relatively early phases, blockchain has proved that it will play a crucial role in regaining consumer trust and allowing the financial services to grow their own customer-first solutions.

The financial services have been quick to adapt to automation because it has helped to streamline processes and reduce overall costs. And the new generation of banking is now embracing ‘data-led customer-first digital’ philosophy, already adopted by much of the retail and advertising sectors – an approach that will forever reshape the relationship between banking provider and the customer.

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network Finance Supplement. For more information on how to get involved, please contact tehmeena.latif@thedrum.com

Max Trifonovs, account manager, DQ&A, part of NMPi Digital

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