Digital-first customer experience in Financial Services: 5 tips for success

April 28, 2022 Nick Duke

Nick Duke is a Delivery Director at Sojourn Solutions with over 20 years experience in helping Financial Services companies improve their marketing performance. He has worked with such brands as JPMorgan, Legal & General, Aviva and Quilter. 


Modern marketing requires the capacity to access and leverage data in order to support the customer experience (CX) across multiple digital channels, whether it’s B2C or B2B. That’s certainly the case when it comes to B2B financial services, where I’ve spent most of my career.

For B2B marketers working within the financial services industry (FSI), the shift to digital has been led by customers, but driving a digital-first experience has been challenging. FSI organizations are often quite large, have extensive “legacy” IT infrastructures, and generally have complex decision-making processes due to compliance and security requirements.

Today’s financial services industry has a great opportunity to be more responsive to the evolving needs of their B2B and B2C customers, despite the challenges. But addressing customer needs requires bringing in data, the right technology tools, and the right expertise.

Let’s explore the challenges and opportunities.

Big changes in the Financial Services Industry

The last decade has witnessed big changes in financial services. We’ve seen a shift away from the traditional big banks (Barclay’s, etc.) running the industry, to the current scenario where individual and institutional customers are taking more responsibility for their finances – and using more tools to learn and conduct their transactions. Here are a few of the biggest trends impacting financial services:

1. Client empowerment. Traditionally, financial services customers (B2B or B2C) generally went along with whatever they were told, making investments based on recommendations. That's totally shifted now. People have a more “do-it-yourself” mentality as well as platforms to educate themselves and execute transactions. The idea of a financial services organization earning fees for giving a customer advice they might not use is antiquated: today’s client only wants to pay when they’ve received actual, measurable value. B2B customers are more empowered than ever before. 

2. Client/customer experience (CX) is a differentiator. Today’s customer doesn’t want her time wasted. Any finance-related message needs to be relevant. When customers seek service, they want it to be informed and responsive. Waiting times are not acceptable anymore, nor is a drawn out paper process to get anything done. If a B2B customer asks for a commercial loan or group pension scheme and the process takes 3 months, they’ll be shopping around pretty quickly.

3. Choices abound, with customer loyalty decreasing. With so many financial services options available for customers, and so many comparison websites, people no longer feel they have to stay with the same organization for 25 years. If a B2B or B2C client isn’t getting the service they want, they're willing and able to change.

Digital transformation of FSI: Use cases

FSI organizations have prioritized digital transformation and the adoption of digital engagement tools, such as CRMs and platforms that enable them to access and leverage data, for two reasons: (1) to better understand customer needs and (2) to better engage with customers (and coordinate internally) around those needs. 

Legacy systems can make these digital transformations particularly challenging, and the big financial services organizations aren't typically as agile as the newcomers (who can build infrastructure from the ground up). Metro, for example, was launched as a digital-first proposition and they’ve been particularly good at meeting customer expectations. Very rarely will you hear an established financial services organization say, “we're gonna throw out our legacy system and start from scratch.” They’re making incremental changes instead, and this is leaving them behind the competition.

Many banks are using data and data platforms to help them improve and personalize client engagement with their financial advisors. Organizations are using more channels and more content formats to build relationships, educate clients and personalize messaging through their marketing automation platforms/MAPS. People buy from people, and some financial services organizations are finding success in developing their proposition by positioning their internal experts as thought leaders via digital channels (like M&G’s Bond Vigilantes). So a bank’s head of investment might develop videos and webinars to become a widely-recognized market expert.

Integrating compliance and security into CX solutions

Aligning marketing with compliance and security requirements has been difficult for many financial services organizations. The real art for marketing teams is finding a creative CX solution that can also gain approval from compliance and security teams in a timely manner, because customers won’t wait. 

Moving data from one place to another can be complex enough, but it’s even tougher when you add compliance and security processes into the mix. Every financial services organization needs to grow their business in a regulated way, but compliance and security cannot become a “sales avoidance” function. 

5 tips for success via digital-first CX

1. Invest in talent and tools. The most important thing for financial services organizations is to invest in talented people and give them the tools they need to drive effective, personalized client engagement/CX. That means CRMs, MAPs, and data management/data governance capabilities.

2. Identify gaps and find opportunities. You have to figure out your gaps and opportunities to improve digital-first engagement. What talent and tools do you need? What agencies do you need to work with to help focus and drive your digital engagement? Know your landscape and make a plan before any build work begins.

3. Get your data in order. Start by getting your data and data management in order. You’ll have to unify your data and make it available to the right people at the right time so they can drive better, more personalized customer engagement across channels. 

4. Create an open and aligned working environment. You have to support change by bringing all stakeholders along with you. Work to develop alignment and break internal silos that inhibit collaboration. The most important thing is to make sure everyone is aligned with your key business objectives, which is your North Star.

5. Work with good external partners to drive your business objectives. You don't need to know everything about everything, and you don't always have the right skills internally to drive change. A good external partner enables you to put in place solutions that you probably wouldn’t have been able to drive on your own. Building those value-adding, enabling relationships is what we do best at Sojourn.

A final word

The clear direction for the future of financial services is digital – sharing data across channels, coordinating internally with data, and then reaching out to customers across channels with more relevant, personalized content and offers. Customers are increasingly accessing services and doing research through multiple channels. You need to go with them. 

If you're at a financial services organization challenged with creating a digital-first CX for your audience (specifically within the remit of your Marketing and/or Marketing Operations teams), we can help - reach out to us today to learn more. 

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