September 02, 2010

The customer is changing. And so is their relationship with the bank. And if the bank can't adapt, the consequences could be dire.

So says "Banking on the Future: New Era of Engagement Banking," an interactive white paper published this week by SapientNitro, a division of business and IT consulting company Sapient, in partnership with software provider Geezeo and Brett King, author of "Bank 2.0."

Rather than the traditional model of the branch as a sales center and follow a prescriptive model of building potentially disparate channels in which customers can access service outside of the branch setting, the paper states, it's time to move to an "engagement banking" model - one in which the bank more actively engages the customer through more interaction, with attention mobile, social, personalized digital marketing and automated services that help the customer feel they are at the center of their banking experience.

Why? Because universally consumers have come to expect more from their retail experience, particularly through online interaction.

"The customer is moving through the world in a totally different way now," says Alex Sion, VP of digital strategy with Sapient. "It’s no longer just the millennial generation; it’s everybody now. Virtually every age demographic is really consuming information and products in different ways."

As introduction, the report, available at sapient.com/engagementbanking/, explains how the gap between customers' retail banking needs and the experience banks provide is widening, gives an overview of the history of branch banking, discusses the shift in customer expectations and how to begin changing to fit customer expectations.

"We all firmly believe that this new multichannel online experience is really going to usher in a new era," Sion said.

For Sion much of the impetus for the white paper was to give the new experience a name and open up the discussion on how to redefine banking with consumers in mind.

We really wanted to start the discussion and not have the final word," Sion said. "We know this is an emerging conversation. We don’t pretend to have the answer. It’s just about getting the smartest people we can in the room together and moving forward."

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