Shawbrook Bank ditches spreadsheets and Word for Zoho CRM

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett October 21, 2021 Audio mode
Covid pandemic prompted a rapid move to a more efficient, automated, consistent system.


Shawbrook Bank has always tried to maintain a customer-centric approach to its business. However, when the pandemic hit last year, its service channels weren’t able to meet the rapidly changing demands of its partner customers.

Founded in 2011, Shawbrook Bank has two core offerings: a personal loan, which it distributes via partners and direct-to-consumer, and its partner finance offering, whereby the bank underwrites customer home improvement loans for retailers including Ikea and Sharps Bedrooms.

It was the latter product that required a quick rethink from Shawbrook as the impact of Covid-19 spread. Sally Conway, Senior Marketing & Strategy Manager for Shawbrook Bank, explains:

When we look at our partners, how we work with them changed quite radically. A lot of them, being retailers, had to shut their doors. What we found with the pandemic was it was not necessarily looking at anything to do with onboarding. It was more servicing our customers and making sure that they were supported during this period, which was hugely uncertain for them in some financial circumstances.

The problem was, there was a lack of consistency and some inefficiency when it came to providing this critical partner support. Shawbrook realised it needed to accelerate its digital aspirations in order to pull together all the data it had from its partner division, to offer the bank one source of truth for the B2B side of its business. Conway recalls:

It definitely pushed us to look further and deeper into how we can support our customers. If you look at the partner side, it was so hugely stressful on the guys that couldn't actually operate. We needed to be as close to them as possible so we could understand what we can do as a business to support them for this period.

When you're used to doing certain things over years and years and years, it just feels like the normal thing to do. But actually it gave us a chance to take a step back and look at a better way that we keep communicating with our partners, how we can support them and potentially guide them through and offer them advice, what they should and shouldn’t be doing to operate in this regulated environment.

Changed priorities

Shawbrook Bank had been planning digital transformation projects for a number of years, and a customer service project was on the radar for 2020, but it was re-prioritized and pushed to the front in response to the pandemic. The main objective was to move away from storing partner information in spreadsheets and Word documents, with information here, there and everywhere, and no consistent way of recording data. Conway says:

We were looking to make the more manual processes or operations automatic where possible, but also streamline how we did things and how we communicated with our partners. What we really wanted was this one source of truth, not loads of different data points, but this one hub of information that allowed us to easily access information when we needed it and to make sure that it's accurate too.

The company opted for Zoho’s CRM platform and document management system to make its processes more efficient and ensure consistency of data. According to Conway, while other vendors offered good solutions, for what Shawbrook was specifically looking for in terms of the more B2B-focused element, Zoho was miles ahead:

Zoho just had the solution already for us, and was able to customize it to what we needed. And sometimes it just comes down to price as well. They were on the money where that was concerned too.

Building out

The bank carried out the RFP from late last year into 2021, and finally signed contracts with Zoho in May. It then spent a couple of months building the system and has been using it for the last couple of months.

A core part of the build was planning and mapping out the data streams and integrations. Shawbrook has a massive data warehouse housing all its data, but it sits on different tables and in different places. Pulling up a report meant tapping into several different data sources, which was usually a manual process.

Zoho helped the bank map out where it was going to take the data from and how to get it into the Zoho platform to access it more efficiently, and Shawbrook then went away and worked out how to make that happen, says Conway:

The pandemic and the changing needs of our customers and partners has meant that we needed to do things quicker. This project may have taken longer in normal time, but we managed to put it all together within the space of six to nine months.

We're just learning how to use the system but already we can see the benefits, because we do have more consistency across how salespeople use it, the reports and the outputs and just making things a bit more automated. It's a huge learning curve when you first start, but actually it's been quite smooth. It’s our sales team, our commercial team who have used it mostly, and they found that it's definitely added value to what they do in terms of the efficiency and consistency across the board.

It also helps the bank streamline how it communicates with partners and carries out lead generation, and on the operations side the Zoho technology offers more automation rather than being hugely manual and labor-driven.

Getting user buy-in for the technology has been crucial to its early signs of success. Conway notes that many of the sales team have been doing this job for most of their lives, they're in their late forties or early fifties, and the way they're used to doing things is spreadsheets, Word documents or paper:

It does take a little bit of time to change that mindset and train people up. But when they saw the benefits, they were all onboard with it. It's so important that you have the end users involved from day dot because a system that you could build that you think might work, might not actually be practical for the people who are using this. That’s why we wanted to involve them, because they were the ones that were going to be using it, and it needed to do what they needed it to do.

The Zoho implementation has paid dividends for Shawbrook regarding a recent review by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), looking into how authorized credit brokers actually operate. Conway explains:

They found some concerning things to do with some credit brokers, but we got really positive feedback from the FCA to say you've got really good, robust systems in place. The amount of oversight and things that we often do with our partners, Zoho allows us to pull it all together into one system, one source of truth so we can actually see across the board some level of consistency.

Now that Shawbrook has rolled out the Zoho technology for its partner offering, Conway’s number one priority going into 2022 is looking at the end customer and how the organization puts all of their data together.

We will be looking to use Zoho for our customer CRM for our end customer. Right now, what we have is just this massive data warehouse. It’s hard to pull data off of it, being highly manual. In terms of the end customer, our next step is to make sure we get all those ducks in a row, and pull together a highly functional and efficient platform that we can start to segment it and automate actions and and do retention in a much easier way than the way that we have been doing.

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