Building Societies Don’t Have to Take a Backseat to Fintechs
“Building societies will never be able to keep up with startups and online-only banks," is a common platitude you may have heard thrown around. With the right investments, however, building societies can remain competitive yet.
Andrew Beatty, Head of Global Next Generation Banking at FIS, shares his thoughts on the inevitable evolution of building societies with Finance Monthly.
Building societies have grown with the communities they service. They have been in an area for decades and sometimes centuries, giving them a strong sense of place and knowledge of the needs of the communities they serve. This has been vital to their durability, and this knowledge is very much still valued by customers.
But it’s not enough in today’s digital world. Consumers demands are increasing. Personal, tailored services, such as what customers receive through Amazon and Netflix, in conjunction with seamless digital experience offering spread across all channels the likes of which we see from Google and Facebook is now expected from banks.
Building societies need to evolve, but they need to do it in the right way. Building societies needn’t rip everything up and start again in the pursuit of reinvention. When e-readers were invented, authors didn’t stop writing; a Nobel prize winner retains that distinction in hardback or Kindle. Instead, building societies need to adjust their businesses to maintain relevance.
While every building society is different, but here are four investments no society can afford to ignore.
Worldpay research shows that 73% of consumer banking interactions are now digital, a figure that has only been rising during lockdown. Providing customers with a frictionless, on-demand experience across multiple channels is imperative. Focus on getting the right mix of personalisation, agility and operational and financial efficiency.
Building societies have grown with the communities they service.
Platforms that are built to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning give building societies the ability to deliver the kind of personalisation that reinforces their established brand image. Systems that are built to accommodate open application programming interfaces, or APIs, and that use mass enablement for new product features and service rollouts will make adding new innovations later both cost-efficient and operationally feasible.
In banking, trust and security are synonymous, and investing in or partnering with companies that have invested in the cloud is an important strategic decision.
When executed properly, a private cloud infrastructure delivers greater resiliency, enables faster software enhancements and ensures data security. Other benefits include significant decreases in infrastructure issues, improved online response times, enhanced batch processing times and the ability to swiftly respond to disasters and disruptions.
It used to be that only the largest financial institutions could afford good data. But now the ability to access, filter and focus on real-time data is within reach for building societies as well.
In addition to adding even greater personalisation to digital and mobile banking tools, building societies can make further use of data to drive cost efficiencies, growth initiatives and service improvement efforts, as they deliver that differentiated customer experience they were built on. For building societies workers who fear they can’t harness an influx of data: don’t let the flood of information incite “analysis paralysis.” Start with a focus on your key goals. Then, ramp up other functionalities as you gain more confidence and skill. Data is a tool for creating an even better bank.
To quote Spider-Man, “with great power comes great responsibility”. This rings as true as ever for building societies who, with increasingly stringent regulatory compliance burdens on their plates, need to make sure all the benefits incurred with increased data are analysed and harvested both legally and ethically.
It also demands that building societies put in safeguards as part of their fiduciary duty. Do your due diligence and make sure whatever method you choose, be that technological or hiring additional staff members, accounts for the ever-shifting regulatory environment and can ensure adaptability.
On your marks
Building societies need not despair at their technological deficiencies. After all, it’s far easier for a building society to catch up on five years of technical innovation than it is for a neobank to catch up on fifty years of hard-earned customer loyalty. Get in the driver’s seat, set the GPS for transformation, and start your digital journey.