Fairytales and the future: the digital battle for customers

Jane Grace

Jane Grace BlueNotes contributing editor

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Businesses use digital technology to provide a faster and more-convenient service for their customers.  And if they don’t, there is a whole breed of competitor who will do it for them.

Banking is no different. As Head of Digital & Transformation at ANZ New Zealand, Liz Maguire is at the forefront of these developments. We sat down to chat with her about this new breed, starting with unicorns.

Grace: If the financial industry is a fairytale, banks can sometimes be portrayed like big, sluggish ogres and fintechs like nimble flying unicorns who will slay the ogres by the end of next week. Will banks still be around next week?

Maguire: Yes, of course we will! ANZ has two million customers here in New Zealand so we’re not going anywhere at least.

The whole fintech industry is often positioned in quite a negative light for banks but this ignores a couple of really key facts.

Firstly, banks have a huge track record of digital transformation already. It has been banks that, collectively over the past 20 years, have led the way in encouraging digital migration.

This is why consumers are now so comfortable in dealing with their finances online - and why, for example, around 80 per cent of our transactions at ANZ New Zealand are done using our digital channels. In fact, we had one of the first banking apps in the world.

Secondly, many fintechs don’t exist to disrupt. They’re enablers whose business model is to help banks be better at a particular aspect of what they do. I see enormous opportunity in this.

Banks have huge assets in their customer bases, the depth of products and services they offer, and the trust they’ve built up over years.

Fintech companies can innovate quickly and nimbly in certain areas to help banks make the most of these assets. There is no reason why we can’t coexist and make an even better experience for customers – this is something I find really exciting.

Grace: But what about fintech ‘challengers’, whose model is to disrupt banks rather than collaborate with them. Does this worry you?

Maguire: My basic tenet is disruption comes from dissatisfaction so the onus is really on the banks to do whatever it takes to ensure great experiences for our customers.

This means adapting with speed and agility to the changing environment and continuing to improve the way we serve our large and established customer bases. But this is the same in any industry – you have to adapt and move with the times.

Grace: You mentioned agility. I’m hearing a lot about this lately. All this talk of agility and transformation conjures up images of lithe, lycra-clad cartoon characters for me. What does it mean for you?

Maguire: Our developers don’t tend to wear a lot of lycra at work but there are lots of super powers among them.

An agile approach is essentially about delivering value fast. It involves cross-functional teams working on projects in an iterative way – one which gives them the flexibility to respond to the inevitable unpredictability involved in development work. 

Different companies use different terminology. ANZ has been using an agile approach to digital development in New Zealand for several years now. Our teams are in self-organising groups called ‘scrums’ and work in two week development cycles called ‘sprints’.

But terminology aside, I think the real magic of agility is a cultural one across your whole organisation, when everyone is focussed on delivering quality experiences quickly for our customers.

Grace: Back to cartoons, how do you think George Jetson does his banking?

Maguire: You’re really showing your age there. And mine too. I’m surprised there was never an episode of The Jetsons covering banking. Surely it would have been a hit with the kids!

I imagine George’s banking experience will involve more cognitive computing, natural language interfaces (customer service ‘bots’) and emerging interfaces (such as wearables) – all things ANZ is working on now.

George might be using technology we haven’t even dreamt of today but fundamentally, he’ll will still have the choice about how, where and when he does his banking.

He’ll be provided with a much more personalised service, which will involve getting a greater level of insight about how he (and his wife Jane) can manage their money.

Jane Grace is a contributing editor at BlueNotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.
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