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JF Sullivan, VP and CMO, Xura

JF Sullivan

Early April saw the launch of Atom Bank, the first truly mobile-only bank, heralding the dawn of a new age of banking for a “digital-first” generation.

Designed to appeal to consumers whose mobile devices are used in every aspect of their lives and, who rarely, if ever, visit the big banks’ high-street branches, Atom Bank’s app includes innovative features such as allowing access via biometric identification, using face and voice recognition instead of passwords.

Understandably, given the nature of its business, the financial sector is continually faced with challenges in protecting its customers’ data, and it’s critical that it remains one step ahead of modern cybercriminals who are constantly manipulating networks and access points to gain access to customers’ bank details.

According to recent research from Deloitte, ‘trust is the major banks’ biggest asset’. For many years, trust was a key thing that a bank’s customers wanted from them; trust that their savings would be safe, for example, and that they would share accurate information and provide support when needed. In today’s digital world, however, there is a diminishing confidence in how data is protected. As a result of this, banks are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to maintain and build consumer trust.

With HSBC, Nationwide and First Direct all recently announcing the introduction of voice and fingerprint recognition authentication for their online and telephone banking customers, biometric technology is undeniably a hot topic. Using biometrics instead of or with traditional passwords or codes when connecting to mobile apps such as Atom Bank’s, which contain confidential data, not only increases the strength of authentication needed, but also improves their ease of use.

Convenience is key

But additional security isn’t everything. More than half of global banking customers express a real desire for combined social, personalised and “human” interactions to be integrated into a bank’s online services and mobile apps, according to research from KPMG.

As the social media phenomena continues to expand and the increasing sharing economy grows in momentum by the day, creating genuinely trusted customer relationships will continue to be a bigger challenge for all businesses, particularly those in the financial sector. Banks will be forced to re-think and undergo a process of evolution in the way they deal with their customers.

Convenience is probably the next most important aspect for banks to consider. Customers are interested in replicating the experience they’ve become accustomed to through using messaging services like WhatsApp and FaceTime. Taking advantage of recent advances in rich communication technology, such as WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication), will provide banks with a relatively straightforward way of providing more customer-centric user experiences.

According to Dean Bubley, lead analyst at Disruptive Analysis, “banking, insurance and related sectors have been at the forefront of commercial WebRTC adoption already, and this trend looks to broaden and deepen further.

“While self-service and messaging/notification channels will continue to evolve, so too will voice and video – and WebRTC is probably the single most important innovation to allow that to occur.”

WebRTC technology enables real-time, next-generation customer interactions, such as VoIP calling, video chat, instant messaging, encrypted file- and screen- sharing, presence and recording – all at the touch of a button. Not only will features such as these improve the functionality of the service but they will add a much sought-after human element. When combined with sophisticated security features such as the biometric authentication technology employed by Atom Bank, they will enable customers to engage with the appropriate bank personnel immediately without the need to visit a physical branch.

Context is everything

Real-time communications has put user context at the core of the offering.  This means, for example, that when a customer clicks to communicate with their bank or financial services provider, and when they are already authenticated, their chat, video or voice call can be routed, in the first instance, to a member of staff in the customer’s branch who may know that customer’s circumstances. If that staff member is unavailable, the call may then be diverted to a bank’s agent in a call centre. In such cases, when the session comes through,  the agent will be able to access the customers transaction history or pull relevant contextual information from the user’s mobile app or web screen.  Any issues can then be quickly resolved and customers won’t be required to repeat any information.

Putting the customer – and their data – first and in touch with the most appropriate member of banking staff will translate to a more personalised service which, in turn, will result in faster call resolution, greater peace of mind and trust. In trun, the bank enjoys substantial cost savings, while the enjoyable customer experience goes towards increasing loyalty.

More apps, services and devices are available than ever before for connecting and communicating with customers, so it’s crucial that banks and financial institutions embrace the current digital revolution in which increased convenience and a more personal experience will build longer-lasting loyalty, trust and customer retention.

The integration of rich communication technology such as WebRTC with sophisticated biometric authentication techniques will enable intelligent, secure and personalised two-way dialogue across any device, supporting banks and financial businesses in their drive to improve the way they interact with their customers, while saving both time and money at the same time.

With analysts estimating that over six billion devices will be WebRTC-capable by 2019, it will be interesting to see how this technology can be used to personalise the customer experience of Atom, and the banks that will inevitably follow its lead, and how the market will react to this.

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