Finance sector opportunities

Organisations making up the financial sector have become voracious consumers of new comms technologies of all kinds – nothing else will cut the mustard.

Established players in financial services are striving to accelerate technological change within their organisations to improve the customer experience, reduce costs and manage compliance. Those that fail to transform are under threat from more agile start-up businesses better able to leverage new technology like machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, warned Ian Bevington (pictured), Marketing Manager at Oak Innovation.

“Gone are the days when banks could build customer loyalty through regular face-to-face contact,” he said. “With most interaction now online the rare opportunities to talk need to be exceptional. Quality management can help to develop call tactics, create scorecards, provide agent feedback and support continuous improvement across frontline teams. When managing business customers financial organisations are now looking towards video contact centres to build meaningful relationships with clients.”

In an online world where bad news travels fast, protecting reputation is critical, pointed out Bevington. “Technology has a vital role to play in keeping personal data safe, combating cybersecurity threats, ensuring adherence to policy and managing dispute resolution,” he added. “Call recording is key to proving who said what, clearing up misunderstandings and preventing a costly escalation.”

The widespread availability of cloud-based services is simplifying deployment, but bringing many more partners into scope. “For example, the integrated recording offered alongside some hosted telephony services may be unable to meet MiFID II requirements,” explained Bevington. “Consequently, we’re seeing strong demand for high availability SIP extension recording capable of storing calls in a tamper-proof environment for up to seven years. In this sector, resiliency and system health monitoring are essential to minimise outages.”

Fraud losses on UK issued payment cards totalled £610 million in 2016, the majority associated with Card Not Present (CNP) transitions. Improved online security has caused fraudsters to direct their attention to card payments over the phone. “Over the past year we have seen strong demand for payment services,” noted Bevington. “Operating out of a PCI DSS Level 1 certified data centre, the solution de-scopes the office environment from card data. Customers can choose from agent assisted, self-service and click to pay options.”

When managing business customers, financial organisations are now looking towards video contact centres to build meaningful relationships with clients

According to Brett Morris, CFO at Olive Communications, the trend is also towards more everyday high street services being replaced by digital banking and omni-channel contact centre solutions. “Retail banks are embracing the latest in UC technology rather than rely on traditional face-to-face or pure telephone banking services,” he said. “Financial institutions are also leveraging and scaling technology to facilitate transactional processing at a lower cost to serve.

“The implication of this, in tandem with GDPR compliance, is that security is at the forefront of every bank’s technology agenda. With cyber incidents reported by UK financial services firms increasing nearly 12-fold in 2018 on the previous year, protecting against cyber attacks is now a top priority for financial institutions.”
These organisations are moving away from internal technology solutions designed to manage, record and analyse transactional data, observed Morris, in favour of more externally facing interactive systems which offer a greater customer focus and add value. “These are designed to better serve the customer and protect against, for example, fraudulent behaviour using the latest in AI and machine-learning,” he added.  
“As a result, finance companies and banks are prioritising investment in the latest solutions that enable them to build and develop omni-channel customer-focused contact centre solutions that will transform the way they interact with today’s digital savvy customer. Whether that’s through AI-enabled webchat, email, social media, video or telephone call, modern day banks are acquiring solutions that give people the choice and flexibility they expect to contact their bank or financial adviser when and how it suits the customer.”
Financial institutions are therefore opting to migrate from on-premise communications platforms to more flexible cloud-based solutions that can easily be upscaled with new functionality as and when the business demands, observed Morris. He also noted that as tech solutions become more extensive and pervasive there are trade-offs to be made between the potentially fraudulent activity that customers could be exposed to and the ease of use that customers demand. “The management of these competing priorities typically comes at a cost, and in a highly competitive sector it is important to balance these challenges against one another so that the solution can remain flexible enough to adapt in line with customer needs and evolving technology, while limiting risk for the customers,” said Morris.

Finance companies and banks are prioritising investment in the latest solutions that enable them to build and develop omni-channel customer-focused contact centre solutions
To create more flexibility and optionality for banks and financial service providers, and at the same time maintain high levels of security, it is important to ensure that every access/entry point to the technology has proper authentication to identify those using it. “While the technology is obviously key, just as important is the intellectual property that sits behind the design and implementation of these solutions,” added Morris. “This comes with the experience of having implemented solutions as well as staying current with the latest trends and technology.”
Big data with machine learning and AI are key to future success in the financial sector, believes Morris, along with tools that enable customers to better manage their financial futures, such as budgeting and savings tools which are now starting to gain traction in the mass market. “We are also seeing an increase in automated credit card and personal loan application processing for retail customers and SMEs, but not yet for the enterprise sector,” added Morris.
Building trust as a service provider to financially focused organisations is key, and the way to do this is to work with them every step of the way through their digitalisation process, advises Morris. “Rather than rolling out a large scale digital transformation solution it is better to build a DX strategy incorporating a UC platform or a cloud omni-channel contact centre rolled out over time,” he said.  

“For example, start by moving the existing functionality of on-premise solutions to the cloud, then add components of omni-channel functionality in a well structured and pre-planned manner. This managed approach helps the customer to better understand the value the solution is bringing to the business and de-risks a big bang approach that can over-stretch company resources.”

Financial services organisations are starting to understand the value that analysing voice conversations can bring, with some key areas receiving particular attention from comms and AI vendors, according to Red Box CEO Richard Stevenson. “Specifically, they’re beginning to act on the benefits that insight brings to the customer experience,” he said. “They’re also able to adhere to regulation on a scale not previously available, which is imperative with the recent introduction, and potentially significant fines, of MiFID II and GDPR.”

Without resilient, high quality voice capture and accurate speech to text transcription services, data sets will not be AI-ready with machine learning and analytics tools hindered in their capacity to deliver, according to Stevenson. “We are seeing significant importance placed on data, AI and analysis,” he said. “But the quality and accessibility of voice data is key. Analysing voice conversations supports a true 360 degree view of the customer, extracting rich sentiment, intent and clear articulation of a customer’s views and wants.”

The requirement to record interactions for regulatory purposes has been a major driver in the past with financial organisations purchasing voice capture technology for compliance, dispute resolution and agent training in the main. “These use cases remain,” added Stevenson. “However, the transition from legacy to IP and cloud architectures, the rise of UC and cloud contact centre solutions and new compliance investment are driving technology purchasing decisions.”

Meeting compliance and regulation across every transaction has not been realistically available until the advent of machine learning and AI across voice conversations, noted Stevenson. “Organisations are now able to go beyond what the regulations stipulate, automating and targeting all transactions with great depth and accuracy,” he said. “This largely removes manual effort while increasing detection and reducing overall risk. There are also increased demands to perform this analysis in real-time, with surveillance software fast catching up to enable the requisite real-time action against the transcribed audio.”

Financial organisations are investing in automation and AI technology that processes huge volumes of transactions at scale and with acceptable accuracy. But while there is no shortage of AI and analytics tools on the market, finance sector ICT buyers are met with two key challenges, believes Stevenson. “Firstly, there are issues surrounding the quality of the voice data that fuels the AI and analytics tools they’re looking to implement,” he stated. “Secondly, ICT buyers are sometimes locked into one provider who adopts a monolithic approach, not allowing for flexibility when it comes to picking and choosing the right solutions for their respective needs.”

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