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Banks Must Solve Today’s Issues with One Eye on the Future

Stuart Chalmers



Stuart Chalmers, Head of Financial Services at Accenture Scotland discusses one of the fundamental challenges facing banks in a post-Covid world; consumer trust.

Banks have been quick to implement business continuity plans and put in place the means to address the immediate needs of their staff and customers during the Covid-19 crisis.

But as the situation continues to develop, the banking industry is facing the reality that there is no returning to how things were before. There is now no ‘business as usual’.

As we move forward, the decisions we make to solve today’s issues must therefore be done with an eye on the future.

And while we have a thriving tech scene and the industry expertise to tackle operational challenges, the issue of trust, and that banks have our individual interests at heart, is the fundamental building block for banks to build back better.

Banks are in a unique position to serve their customers and help communities survive the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. To fulfil this role, they need to show that they not only understand their customers’ difficulties but are also committed to supporting them through these critical times.

Confidence is low and clients will remember for a long time how they get treated in the next six to 12 months.

Over the past few months, we have seen banks and other financial institutions make some rapid – and at times astonishing – adjustments. Many banks set up the online capabilities to manage requests for mortgage holidays almost in real time. Equally, we have seen organisations put in place the capabilities to enable their entire contact centre workforce to operate from home.

At Accenture, we have also charted how the bank customer is changing. Their expectations of ‘service’ have risen along with their increased use of apps, contactless payment and virtual consultations.

Making their lives easier, using analytics to understand and anticipate their needs and reaching out to them proactively could be critical to reinforcing a trust-based relationship in the future.

Moreover, the trend for purpose-driven banking is accelerating and likely to be key to competitive advantage in the near and not just distant future. The sheer numbers of business clients who have taken out loans, and individual customers who have deferred mortgage payments have risen dramatically and before too long will have to be addressed.

Banks have become increasingly central to how people survive this crisis and will need to be able to respond and support with personalised advice in a way that is not only convenient and efficient but also still feels human and collaborative.

In an open letter to industry CEOs, Accenture’s global banking team offers thoughts on a checklist for customer service and advice provision. This seeks primarily to deal with what’s immediately in front of us.

At the heart of every suggestion, however, from standing up massive phone banks and prioritising in-person conversations to making arrangements for vulnerable customers and providing advisors with personalised scripts in order to react to all individual circumstances, is one theme: an awareness that banks must emerge trusted and relevant in the post-pandemic world.

In this new, or perhaps even ‘never normal’ world, knowing how to intimate to a customer that you understand their situation and knowing how and when to advise them will be increasingly business critical.


If today’s response is effective, it will help steer banks toward ways to help customers manage their money through automated interventions, personalised ‘nudges’ and micro-level targeting.

As remote and virtual interaction also become increasingly embedded in our social and business relationships, so banks will also be in a prime position to consider how they operate securely over these new communications channels and still maintain the ‘human touch’.

While this crisis has seen the rapid acceleration of automation, we cannot ease off on the investment in the people, skills and jobs that bring the human experience.

Banks obviously can’t be bystanders as this crisis develops. We all need to be active participants and do whatever is in our power to help consumers and businesses weather the storm.

While a challenging situation, this is also an opportunity for banks to show that they understand the anxieties of their customers and are committed to supporting them through the crisis.

The upside of these difficult circumstances is that they can be used to build stronger, enduring, trust-based relationships with customers.

Stuart Chalmers

Head of Financial Services, Accenture Scotland

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