By: 12 June 2020

Firms’ rush to digital can benefit customers and enhance margins, so let’s get this done right, writes Embark Group's Matthew Rankine

Lockdown has fired starting pistol in sprint to financial services digitisation

One of the consequences of lockdown has been financial services firms bumping digitisation to the top of their to-do lists, bringing multiple benefits to their businesses and customers.

Many banks, wealth managers and financial advisers prioritise digitisation and automation but plans are often put on hold by short-term priorities. Now we are seeing a clear shift in resources by firms.

There are a number of positives from this, not all of them anticipated. As well as a marked improvement in customer communication, firms have also been able to protect their income streams.

While many financial services businesses are seeing a slowdown in activity, spending time on digitisation is helping them enhance their margins. Companies are telling us digitisation is their primary focus, and streamlining processes is a great way to maintain profitability.

Lockdown has fired starting pistol in sprint to financial services digitisation 3

Matthew Rankine is corporate sales director at Embark Group. He works with intermediaries, banks and wealth managers to help outsource wrappers, trade execution and custody services, and has been an executive director in the pensions industry for several years

Reducing friction

Having an extensive application programming interface (API) layer, with straight-through processing (STP) at its centre, is absolutely crucial in the drive to digitisation.

A strong API foundation helps businesses reduce friction in their processes once they receive a customer’s instruction, with no re-keying of data and no paper.

In today’s world, it’s not just about integrating with your partner, but having the capability to integrate with all services in a value chain so you can offer a full STP solution.

With Embark’s platform, for example, whether it’s opening a wrapper account, buying into models or funds, moving from one account to another, or requesting money out, this is all done via APIs.

This means partners can provide a fully digital offering to their clients. At no point is a customer passed over to another provider or paper application form, and this approach also means partners can control their messaging and user experience, which is key, as they know their customers best.

We never have conversations with our partners about building in a manual process for a particular instruction, or finding a manual workaround.

It only takes a few of these and suddenly it’s a strain on resources. If you have too many things operating on spreadsheets, too many bespoke processes, it can create mistakes and it can kill a business.

Customer engagement

The rush to digitisation will not only improve the customer experience but broaden the public’s engagement with their personal finances—important as the country deals with the effects of lockdown.

Everything should lead back to customer outcomes and we will come out of this situation with better outcomes for customers, particularly on communication. As things become slicker for the end user it will increase engagement in financial services and give people a better understanding of their finances, which will be a positive outcome of this crisis.