Skip to main content

Navigating the Next Normal: Mapping the Move to Digital Banking

Banks are in no rush to bring workers back. While some had early plans to restart in-office work, the Wall Street Journal notes that even as Manhattan rushed to restart its physical financial framework, few staff have made the move. Meanwhile, financial firms like JP Morgan are putting return to work strategies on hold indefinitely as pandemic priorities evolve. 

The result is a realization that to generate revenue, firms must embrace digital banking initiatives, with no remote work roadmap that exists. This transition means going beyond simply sending staff home. It means creating a financial framework that addresses key challenges, acknowledges current trends, and embraces the next, new normal of digital banking transformation. 

Digital Banking Challenges: The Stay-at-Home Shift

As noted by The Financial Brand, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the urgency for digital banking transformation. But it’s one thing to recognize the gap between current outcomes and new expectations — it’s something else to apply solutions at scale.

Here, it’s critical for banks to avoid the knee-jerk reactions that often come with operational urgency and instead start with a focus on what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to change. The old “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” adage applies here; spending on solutions that don’t solve specific problems will only widen the gap between pandemic problems and corporate performance.

To embrace the stay-at-home shift, banks must consider three key challenges:

  • CommunicationNearly 70 percent of professionals say that the current pandemic has been the most stressful time of their career. Not only are staff worried about potential health problems, but they’re also concerned with juggling jobs and families simultaneously with little assurance of security. As a result, communication is critical. For banks, this includes regular team check-ins and staff meetings but also one-on-one conversations that aren’t about performance or productivity but instead prioritize mental health.
  • CollaborationWhile new video conferencing tools have empowered virtual face-to-face communication, they don’t always deliver workflow collaboration. Teams now need technology that empowers them to work together on loan processing, credit applications, and investment analysis at scale.
  • CompletionThere are so many tasks that are left in limbo due to paper processes. A form could be sitting on someone’s desk or in their email inbox for weeks before processing takes place. As result, applications get stalled and consumers have to wait. Banks need workflow automation tools that ensure critical tasks aren’t waiting for completion.

Digital Banking Trends: Mid-Pandemic Priorities

As firms respond to evolving client, stakeholder, and even regulatory expectations, it’s critical for firms to realize where digital banking trends are headed and what that means for their bottom line. As noted by Finextra, this starts with the digital banking experience. Research from McKinsey shows that customers who are satisfied with their current digital experience are 2.5 times more likely to open new accounts with their existing bank. This makes digital experience the new banking battlefield. If firms can meet (or exceed) consumer expectations around ease-of-use and data security, they can set the pace of pandemic performance rather than falling behind.

Banks must also embrace moving away from service-based applications to those that actively drive engagement. While transactional apps — such as those that allow customers to check their bank balance or perform simple payments and transfers — are now par for the course, clients who don’t feel comfortable visiting branches in person are now looking for customized and personalized digital banking experiences. This includes everything from the ability to easily connect with financial advisors to comprehensive investing and saving advice based on both historical data and likely outcomes.

For financial firms, tackling new trends requires the right IT framework. This means building out existing infrastructure to support everything from increased informational throughput to in-depth data analysis. In a world where digital client satisfaction can make-or-break financial futures, pre-pandemic platforms simply aren’t enough.

Digital Banking Transformation: The Next, New Normal

With return-to-office plans in limbo, some banks are now taking the next logical step and offering permanent work-from-home options, but as noted by Forbes, there’s a problem. Most banks still aren’t doing enough to embrace digital transformation at scale. 

When asked, 79 percent of business leaders defined digital transformation as the “integration of digital technologies into all areas, fundamentally changing how to operate and deliver value, and a culture change that continually challenges the status quo and gets comfortable with failure.” But despite the widespread impact of current COVID concerns, many banks remain on a digital path that prioritizes incremental change, not complete transformation. Backed by legacy tools and aging apps, however, simply adding small services to existing stacks won’t be enough to support the next, new normal of stay-at-home staffing. 

To drive meaningful, substantive change across organizational operations, banks must prioritize three transformative functions:

  • Document Management Firms are suddenly dealing with a deluge of document formats and file types that must be handled by geographically disparate staff. Time spent searching for conversion, annotation, redaction, and editing tools is wastes time. Agile, adaptable document management tools that deliver end-to-end capabilities are now critical.
  • Solution SecurityBanks must comply with regulations that mandate consumer data security and process compliance. FinTech applications must provide secure ways for departments to collaborate on sensitive documents while also maintaining security and abiding by industry regulations. By integrating a document viewer inside the application itself, financial institutions are able to programmatically restrict downloading of sensitive documents.
  • Trackable CollaborationStaff need the ability to quickly locate and remedy process problems. This is especially critical as the volume of digital documents ramps up over time. Bank employees must be able to find, fix, and finish tasks efficiently. 

A New, Flexible Roadmap for Digital Banking

While there’s no perfect roadmap for digital banking transformation in the age of COVID-19, however, the first step is obvious. Embrace the realities of work-from-home. Many banks are distracted with incremental change and stuck in pre-pandemic thought processes, hoping the pandemic will end and things will go back to normal. As with every major world event, the world is going to be different after COVID. 

Banks must prepare for this change and  embrace true evolution. Banks must start by articulating the challenges of remote work, acknowledging the evolving expectations of mid-pandemic trends, and addressing the need for transformative technological change.