Digital banking for the post-pandemic reality

David Shi, President Enterprise Business Group, Huawei Middle East underlines the key role of information and communications technology (ICT) in enabling banks with the progression of their customers’ digitalization journeys and service experience

As with many other industries, the financial sector has had to adjust to rapid changes as a result of the spread of novel coronavirus. It is forecasted that COVID-19 will change user behavior forever, and that the increased use of digital banking will become an irreversible requirement, making banks move faster than ever to launch an advanced portfolio of online services. This will, for many banks, mean reconsidering their current information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure in order to support an evolving market environment. While cloud-oriented IT architecture will have seen banks through the pandemic, what they need to consider going forward is a hybrid cloud transformation that will provide the most robust, flexible, and scalable solution to meet whatever demands there may be in the near future.

Post COVID-19 demands

As a leader in digital technology, Huawei develops solutions that are designed to enable the progression of its customers’ digitalization journeys. This includes increasing automation processes, which is now more important than ever for banks. While for the most part banks in the Middle East have already begun to roll out digital strategies that have made them more accessible to their customers anywhere and at any time, the exact stage at which they are in their digital journeys varies considerably. The requirements of individual banks to make the transition to meet post-COVID-19 demands – and even to work as seamlessly as possible in the midst of the ongoing pandemic – will be dependent upon their current level of digitalization. The flexibility of Huawei’s solutions, combined with the company’s expertise, make it possible to build custom solutions for any bank, regardless of their current infrastructure.

In terms of internal operations, banks have experienced the same situation as many other workplaces during lockdowns, with employees having to work from home. For an unprepared environment this can prove massively disruptive. Banks deal with a high quantity of sensitive and secure data and providing access to this to off-site employees can prove risky. Developing a mobile working app will prove highly beneficial in this respect; not only can it provide secure access to sensitive information, it can enhance productivity and convenience for bank employees, while also supporting essential functions such as chat and teleconferencing with customers and colleagues. Establishing a solid and secure ICT infrastructure will ensure that operations can continue as close to normal as possible within the bank, which will boost overall productivity and contribute towards an improved customer experience.

Customer Experience

Customer experience is, at the end of the day, what it’s all about. While digitization can improve all aspects of the banking industry, it can perhaps be most beneficial when deployed in ways that will enhance interaction and engagement levels with customers, especially in terms of meeting their needs for more accessible online banking options. With the increasing roll-out of 5G and the influence of the growing Internet of Things (IoT), customers will come to demand more from all digital services, and banks will be expected to deliver more innovative services that take full advantage of the abilities of high-tech devices.

There are several ways in which digitalization initiatives can be deployed to enhance customer experience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a major consideration is the customer journey to branch. While lockdowns are mostly lifting throughout the region, people are still reluctant to make unnecessary journeys. Banks should therefore begin to make as many services accessible remotely and zero-touch as possible, considering customers’ preference for digital journey as opposed to the physical journey. Mobile apps are a popular route to achieve this, given the massive levels of smartphone penetration in the Middle East. Data-driven, up to date, and compliant channels are also a strong alternative for remote wealth management, with information securely accessible to customers and their account managers from wherever they may be.

Developing digital-first services will not only enhance current customer experience, it will also increase a bank’s appeal to potential customers who are looking to transition to more accessible and convenient banking alternatives. There is, therefore, the potential for digitization to enhance customer acquisition.

Additionally, digital platforms provide the opportunity for enhanced engagement. Social media platforms will only get you so far, when an app on a customer’s smartphone will provide a direct communications channel regardless of their presence and time spent on social platforms.

Achieving this transition requires a robust and agile hybrid cloud architecture, that combines flexible and quickly scalable data center capabilities, thereby enabling the business to expand with maximum convenience whenever required. A user-centric architecture will amplify business agility, enhancing communication, marketing and notifications for employees, customers and users alike.

As mentioned above, the exact requirements of a bank to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the post-pandemic reality will vary, depending upon how advanced their current digitization process is. Working with a leader in digital transformation, such as Huawei, will help to determine the best path forward to meet digitalization goals, customized to meet a bank’s unique requirements. As a leading provider of ICT solutions, Huawei is a trusted partner for banks around the world, capable of creating bespoke architecture to elevate the digital experience, at any stage of the digital journey.