The financial services sector has faced a wave of digital disruption in recent years. Long-standing institutions have been challenged by new entrants, which recognized customer services could be delivered differently to customers through the use of digital tools. Cynergy Bank is looking to ride this wave and has partnered with Google Cloud and Wipro to create a ‘human digital bank' for its business customers, entrepreneurs and family businesses.
The bank was originally owned by Cyprus Bank, which sold its operations to Cynergy Capital in 2018 to focus on the UK business market. Since then Cynergy Bank has been undergoing change to rethink how it can service its customers with digital tools, without losing that human touch.
Michael Rennie, Chief Operating Officer at Cynergy Bank, was speaking at this week's Google Cloud Next ‘21 conference, which you can register for here, where he spoke about the changing demands of the market - one that now requires speed and agility. Rennie said:
Our vision is to provide a truly personalized service that's delivered through face to face interaction and the latest technology. We are being bold.
Fundamentally it comes down to two aspects that are kind of interconnected. We wanted to be competitive - and to be competitive in the current landscape, you need to have speed and agility on your side. You need to be able to bring products and services to market at speed, but you also need to meet the on demand needs of customers. Everything is on demand these days and we need to be able to pivot accordingly and provide the services the way customers want them, and when they want them.
And by that I also mean in terms of our internal processes. There were a lot of inefficiencies that we had - our ability to serve the customers, lend them the money in the time period in which they want to do the deals, we just weren't there.
Those magic moments
Cynergy Bank is aiming to provide services that work on the timeframes of the customer, rather than on the timeframes of what the bank's internal processes allow. Key to this is ensuring that its relationship managers (RMs) mostly spend their time dealing with customers one-on-one, rather than spending most of their time managing internal systems at the bank.
Rennie described this as creating a ‘human digital bank'. He said:
The customers love our relationship managers, it's a huge selling point for our bank. So what we want to do is make sure that we retain that human face contact, retain the relationship managers having that interaction with customers, but digitizing all of the services behind that. So that the relationship manager spends their time with the customer and not trying to turn the handle internally.
From an approach perspective, we were very aspirational in terms of what we wanted to do. Our RMs spent 80% of their time turning the handle and 20% with customers. So we want to turn that on its head, spend 80% of time with customers, 20% ensuring things are working, which allows them to meet far more customers. So an RM that was handling 30 customers previously, could maybe now handle 100, 150, even 200 customers, and still give as great a service as they were giving previously.
With this in mind, Cynergy Bank has taken an approach where everything is designed around that human interact, with the customer at the heart of everything it does. He said:
The key challenge that I gave to the team was, we've got to make sure that the first principles of banking are still there - people need to be able to access money, they need to be able to move money, they need to be able to borrow money - but how we do that is up to us. That's where we used our partners and we reimagined the way customers could bank with us.
We defined a set of magic moments, as we call them, alongside the design team, with our partners, and those are kind of our key differentiators. We're working on those, making sure that the latest tech and other partners involved, actually bring those to life and offer them out to our customers.
We have a loosely coupled architecture, by design, so we can plug and play as we need to and we can also get best of breed in the market. And as new innovations are coming up, we can plug them into architecture as we go forward.
In terms of partners, Cynergy is working with Wipro, Google Cloud and a handful of FinTech firms. Rennie described Wipro as a strategic partner that not only delivers the technology, but also provides the solution and partners with the bank after its been implemented to develop it further. The partnership with Google Cloud was established because Rennie saw the vendor as being ambitious in the market and delivering interesting technology, which he said often has "nothing to do with banking, but can absolutely be used in the banking space".
Commenting on securing investment for the projects, Rennie added:
If we start with the business case and the budget. It's interesting, it wasn't an easy business case to put together, because it's not your classic payback period of typically 12 to 18 months, which most people expect on a lot of tech projects.
But the great thing for us is that our investors and our board bought into the vision. They understood where we wanted to go and it fitted with the strategy of the bank, in terms of the transformation. So from that perspective, it was easy, but obviously the task was then to find the right partners, make the numbers work as we went forward, etc.
We looked at it from two elements. One was unlocking the efficiencies internally to effectively help to pay for the business case. And the second part was obviously an injection of additional capital to get the project off the ground.
Rennie had some words of advice for others working in the financial sector, that may be thinking about their digital investments. Firstly, he said that the customer should be at the center of all decision making:
Ultimately that's what you're trying to do, serve the customer in the best way possible. Even when you're looking internally, it's all about the external customer. Keeping the customer at the centre of your decision making and your thoughts and your design is really important, because it focuses the mind in terms of: this may be great but if it's not really doing a great job for the customer, then it's not really worth consideration.
Secondly, financial service providers should keep an ongoing an open dialogue with regulators, as banks need to be able to pivot at any given moment when new regulations emerge. And finally, Rennie said:
One area which I think is critical, is making decisions, making them quickly, and moving on. You're going to have so many decisions that you need to make,, so the key is not necessarily to wait until you have the nth degree of knowledge, or you've considered every factor, sometimes you have to trust your instinct and go with it - because there's 101 other decisions coming behind that. But also use your partners in those decisions, take their counsel.