In the midst of media reports of job cuts and business closures, the Bank of America has just announced the hiring of 1700 new employees into critical support roles. As more and more people are instructed to stay at home, it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of seamless and continuous engagements with financial services customers. However, financial firms are also faced with the same issues as any other business: They must find a way to continue business with a growing remote workforce. In my second blog on the effects of COVID-19 on banking, I want to look at how banks are adapting and ask whether we’re seeing a new model for the future of the industry emerging.
The need to social distance ourselves was always going to result in a situation where main street services – unless completely essential – would have to be temporarily suspended, now potentially for 10-12 weeks, as announced by the US Treasury Secretary.
We’re beginning to see this happening in banking as the likes of JPMorgan Chase and PNC Bank close branches for the foreseeable future. Customers are taking up digital and mobile banking services in order to support reduced branch closures and staffing. Consumers are also being encouraged to shift towards electronic and contactless payments in order to minimize and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread through banknotes.
Maintaining customer care
Although the trend is towards digital banking, people will still attempt to connect through the channels that they’re most comfortable with. Bank of America’s recruitment drive is a signal that there is about to be huge pressure on the contact center of almost every financial institution. Many firms will need to increase the capacity of their contact centers rapidly. As more branches are closing and more employees are working remotely, the contact center is assuming a more pivotal role in addressing customer requests.
While some organizations are introducing remote working for some elements of their customer care, the contact center is one of the areas of business that is primarily on-premise. It’s likely that we’ll witness a greater degree of call automation and chatbots enabling increased call volumes to be handled. Where new recruits and contingency staff are required, the ability to rapidly and securely onboard them to the contact center systems is vital.
Information security and cyber resilience
It’s a sad indictment that some people are using COVID-19 to launch cyber attacks and perpetrate cyber fraud. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a marked increase in COVID-19 focused phishing attacks so much so that the US federal government has stepped up its efforts to combat it.
The European Central Bank recently issued a warning to banks about the heightened potential for cybercrime and fraud, as many users are opting to stay at home and use remote banking services during the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, hackers are looking to take advantage of newly established remote connections between workers and the office. It provides another opportunity to ‘back door’ into corporate systems.
It’s also essential that financial firms re-assess their cybersecurity arrangements in the face of an increasingly remote and dispersed workforce. For organizations with potentially millions of connections into their corporate networks every day, banks should focus on cyber resilience. It’s not just about keeping malicious actors out, it’s about recovering quickly from attacks to minimize damage and exposure while ensuring the continuity of service.
Remote working in a regulated world
Beyond cybersecurity, there are a number of issues that increase the challenge for organizations as they transition more of their staff to remote working. London-based fund manager Schroders had already begun the move to home working before the COVID-19 outbreak but, for most, remote working has been peripheral. Now, staff need remote access to the mission-critical systems they need to do their job. Financial firms need to work out how they can provide secure connectivity to sensitive data from wherever the person is and on whichever device they’re using.
This leads to massive questions around information governance. Companies such as Morgan Stanley have set up trading systems at remote sites or even the trader’s home. However, most organizations will find it a challenge to simply deploy the latest communications and collaboration tools. Remote workers will be operating in a new environment and abiding by more lax regulations but such are the times, as we cope with these unprecedented events.
A model for the future?
None of the issues outlined above are insurmountable. The technology and tools are available to make things happen. Organizations just have to move fast and think differently to adapt to the new operating environment and meet the increased and varied demands of customers, governments and regulators.
It does raise a more fundamental question. The coronavirus pandemic will pass and what will the industry look like then? We’ve talked about digital transformation and how industries have been slow to evolve. Now, this transformation is essential and we’ll very quickly see new digital business processes across all financial services sectors.
Will bank branches re-open if customers become comfortable with the convenience and flexibility of accessing financial services from their preferred device in the comfort of their homes? Will bankers travel to meetings and conferences when digital conference facilities are cheap and instant? Will companies want to spend millions in real estate when many of their employees can work productively remotely?
These are questions that none of us know the answers to yet but one thing that is clear is the shift to digital banking and payments. And, if financial firms are successful in delivering services to their customers stuck indoors, it’s difficult not to believe that this will become the model for future business.
To find out more about the services that OpenText™ can deliver to the financial services industry, visit our website. You can read OpenText’s commitment to customers and partners during COVID-19 here.