COVID-19 is accelerating the digitalization of client engagement: Adapt to survive

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This is a sponsored article from Refinitiv.

Private bank CEOs and their relationship managers (RMs) are coming to terms with COVID-19 and the digital challenge it has laid down.

At the heart of this challenge is the elemental need for private banks and their RMs to attract, engage and retain clients without the luxury of high-touch, in-person client meetings. RMs without either the right technological tools to engage or the ability to interpret and use those tools for the benefit of their clients will flounder. Harness them properly and all will prosper.

Kevin Herbert, managing director and co-head for North Asia at HSBC Private Banking, made the point succinctly at a recent Asian Private Banker webinar: “We hope to travel again and conduct face-to-face meetings once things ‘normalise’ at some point in the future, but the pandemic has made it imperative that we continue to look at new ways to maintain a close engagement with our clients. This will largely be facilitated through the enlightened use of technology in providing a service to match their needs”

There’s a laundry list of issues to solve. The larger and more established private banks’ problems are compounded by a number of added complications.

First, they were all playing technological catch-up with a host of recently established and prodigiously-funded digital, challenger and neo-banks when the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Second, they all face additional cost constraints on their technology spends as a result of the pandemic’s crippling effects on the wider economy in general and their own profits in particular.

Third, the trend for clients reducing the number of private banks with which they do business is intensifying.

And fourth, perhaps most haunting, their efforts to build and provide technological solutions prior to the pandemic were regarded as mostly inadequate both by the banks themselves and, more cutting, their clients.

As Ronan Leonard, head of market development, wealth, for APAC at Refinitiv, puts it: “Looking at previous digital adoptions at many private banks, they were somewhat inconsistent and fragmented.”

The numbers bear him out. According to an April 2020 global survey of consumers by Kameleoon, 57% of respondents said they were disappointed by wealth management firms’ online response and lack of personalisation. Meanwhile, 67% of respondents said their current online experience will impact future purchases and 37% said they were spending more time online since the COVID-19 crisis.

Minority retort
Against this background, the benefits for the very few private banks with pockets deep enough and imaginations fertile enough to get digital transformation right are plain to see.

Says Evy Theunis, executive director and head of customer segment and customer science at industry leader DBS in Singapore, “When COVID-19 hit, you could say that was when the cumulative effect of our years-long investment in our digital capabilities paid off. We already had over 80% of our wealth clients registered on DBS iWealth and more than 70% of them were already actively using the platform. Our RMs were similarly equipped with a whole suite of tools, which meant we could keep clients’ investment conversations going virtually uninterrupted despite work-from-home disruptions and the kind of widespread market dislocations we saw in March.”

Data is the key
Perhaps the single biggest differentiator between success and failure in this digital arms race will be how banks handle data. That’s both in terms of acquiring and using client data to reduce some of today’s more clumsy segmentation approaches and improving the personalisation of products and services by delivering data critical to investment decisions more efficiently to end-clients via RMs.

As Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS in Singapore put it: “Data is the new air.” For those lacking or misusing it, the inference is clear – and ominous.

Help is at hand
Solving all of these problems at once seems to cry out for an unachievable panacea. But Refinitiv believes those seeking immediate support and relief can find it in its Refinitiv Workspace for Wealth Advisors. This is a highly customisable digital solution targeted at RMs that gives them greater control of their daily workflow and allows them to satisfy clients’ demands for increased personalisation and interactivity. It does so by providing an open platform housing a range of innovative applications that crucially integrate with banks’ proprietary systems and client information to forge a single point of focus for solutions that matter for individual clients.

Its House Views and Market Insights app is a case in point. Refinitiv’s Leonard explains the rationale behind its development: “The challenge when you’re trying to solve the information overload that most RMs experience today is to consolidate in-house customer data, real-time market data and investment research house views on a single platform. We need to filter noise from the mass of data they continuously receive and consolidate it into meaningful and actionable insights both for the RMs and their clients.”

House Views and Market Insights does just that. Capturing and managing all incoming data – from otherwise diverse and disconnected sources – to ensure that no potential snippet of valuable information is missed, the application aligns it in one centralised source. “Empowering RMs and investment advisors with the most intelligent data is the ultimate objective,” says Leonard, “We have removed a time-consuming and frankly unproductive administrative function from their workload and given them targeted insights, real-time actionable recommendations and a script to explain both via a streamlined dashboard. It means they can concentrate on what they are good at – advising clients – rather than having to sift through mountains of what is often irrelevant data before they even begin engagement.”

Bank COOs can take heed
Refinitiv has already collaborated with one of Asia’s largest banks to customise a House Views and Market Insights solution. Some 600 of the bank’s global RMs and advisors are now using it in a phased roll-out across the region. The end result is a secure content management solution which offers more control and oversight on the data that is shared and used by its RMs and advisors. Given the single source of data, the bank is now better able to oversee changes in data, monitor usage, analyse adoption for internal research and quickly customise how data is being viewed.

Enhanced productivity beckons as a result. As Leonard points out: “There’s no doubt it can improve individual RM productivity. RMs at large private banks might typically look after between 60-70 clients really well. If we can help them reduce a lot of the operational and administrative burden that falls upon them, we can enable them to engage with a much larger client base.” He adds that the automation of investment insights will allow them to reach a wider audience, potentially extending to the mass affluent market for banks with larger footprints.

Private bank COOs wrestling with decisions on how to increase the productivity and efficiency of their RMs in a cash-constrained post-COVID-10 era will doubtless be attracted to tailored workflow that the House Views and Market Insights solution provides. Offering a simplified advisor experience, which allows them to deliver actionable insights to their investors whether working at home or in the office, Refinitiv Workspace is a workflow solution both for and of its time.

To view Refinitiv’s latest webinar hosted with Asian Private Banker, click here.

To learn more about Refinitiv Wealth Management solutions, click here.

This is a sponsored article from Refinitiv.

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