Rhoda Rivera is divisional manager, banking & financial services at Ambition Hong Kong
Demand for tech talent is changing as banks look to fine-tune their customers’ digital journeys
In order to keep up with the demands of consumers’ changing behaviours, banking and financial institutions have had to constantly update the way they reach out to their audience through different mediums. Whether it be through computers, smartphones or other digital devices, the target is to ensure that they offer the best customer journey and experience to increasingly geographically mobile and tech-savvy users. Delivering the ideal customer experience has thus become strategically important in terms of their competitive advantage.
While digital banking has constantly evolved – with products and transactions becoming more straightforward, particularly in retail banking – we have also seen banks in recent years slowly release applications which allow access to more complex products and services.
The ‘perfect’ digital journey
With any digital innovation, there are key principles on what make a customer experience ‘perfect’. It needs to be personalised to reflect what the user wants and needs. It has to be seamless and straightforward, allowing quick access to different products and services. It must be accessible on any device, anywhere and anytime, with easy-to-understand language that enables users to navigate confidently during their digital journey. The content needs to be simple, but interesting enough to keep customers and business partners engaged.
Security also plays an important part, though this continues to be a challenge in digital banking. In the past, it was the individual customer’s responsibility to protect themselves from fraud. Now, more and more regulators are putting pressure on banks to be more accountable and to increase protection to safeguard their customers.
Hacking is a common security breach, with banks around the world reacting by focusing on providing more comprehensive security measures. An example is limiting employee access to customer data or putting additional approvals in place to get hold of sensitive customer information. On the consumer side, online activities are now often followed by text-message alerts to personal mobile phones, confirming transactions and giving notice of potential fraudulent activities.
The most recent trend in digital banking is the increasing partnership between financial institutions and “fintech” (financial technology) firms. For banks, fintech firms represent innovation, agility and technological expertise. Banks, meanwhile, are seen by their fintech partners as regulated and reputable, with large customer bases and vast amounts of data. An example of such collaboration is Bank of America Merrill Lynch last year working with Microsoft in advancing its trade finance transaction processes.
In the past, it was not uncommon to see banks set up roadblocks along their consumers’ journeys, making the buying process more challenging. Nowadays, consumers are more sophisticated and demand easy access to everything they want and need, from online and mobile banking apps to digital documents. At the same time, they want instantaneous advice based on their behaviours. With more information now available, consumers can be unforgiving when their financial partners don’t know who they are or fail to reward them for their loyalty.
The chase for digital talent
Unlike what followed from the automation of internal banking processes, where roles become redundant, digitisation means a demand for more advanced skills. Candidates with e-commerce backgrounds are highly sought-after as they are considered to have a good skill base, whether their experience be within project management, data analytics, customer relationship management, digital marketing, or even social media.
We have also seen newly created roles in the past few years stemming from existing functions but specialising in digital products, platforms and content – such as chief digital officer, head of innovation and digital product manager. Requirements include not only technical expertise but also skills sets including analysis (particularly of big data), the ability to influence both internal stakeholders and external vendors, and highly sophisticated communication skills. The latter is important in being able to both discuss complex technical matters with experts and relay messages in layman’s terms to other non-technical functions.
With banks also strengthening their cybersecurity measures and compliance with regulations that target financial crime – particular cyber-related fraud cases – candidates in this area are also prime targets for hirers.
However, functions related to digital banking tend to have high turnovers and candidates are likely to stay in one role for only two to three years. Candidates in this space generally have a project mindset and find business-as-usual work tedious in the long run. To ensure stability in their digital banking teams, firms need to be constantly developing. Creativity and new concepts must be welcome, with the business always looking to engage in other digital projects.
As long as technology keeps advancing, the demand for skills will continue to evolve. As they say, the only thing that is constant is change.