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Improved Composure

Sally Bou Jaoude, Account Director, Avaya tells MEA Finance that though banks have responded well to the requirements forced on them by the global pandemic, composable technologies that enhance the overall banking and working experience and bring more experimentation with emerging technologies, will be needed.

Sally Bou Jaoude, Account Director, Avaya

What is top of mind for regional banking leaders at the moment? 

In a word, ‘experience’ is top of mind for regional banking leaders.

Banks were quick to digitize over the last two years in their response to the pandemic. Now, armed with a new impetus, and new capabilities, local banks are in a better position to push the boundaries of customer and employee experiences.

Customers are more comfortable than ever with the convenience that online services deliver – indeed, they’re clamouring for even further digitization. As a result, banks see improving the quality of experiences through both the customer and employee journey as among their most important differentiators and creators of brand affinity.

The good news is that banks have realized that they cannot keep up with the demands of their customers and employees using legacy technologies, and many used the forced digitization of the pandemic to do away with monolithic, glass-ceiling apps. Now that they have the right technology platforms, they’re looking at how they can compose the experiences they need to address every step of the customer and employee journey.

As an example of this transformation away from monolithic apps, Emirates NBD last year partnered with Moro Hub and Avaya to create a cloud-based omnichannel platform. That platform exchanges legacy systems such as business phone systems, meeting services, and on-premises contact centre solutions with a fully integrated, end-to-end cloud communications platform that can really create a Total Experience. And we’re seeing other banks across the region adopt a similar approach.

What are the big developments of the past year?

Over the past year, the word ‘effortless’ has been key to ensure the success of every business plan, and strategy. For example, an explosion in app use brought on by local stay-in-place orders compressed five years of mobile banking growth into a single year. And on the employee side, hybrid working models have become an expectation – workers are much more demanding about how and where they work (and this trend isn’t limited to the banking industry).

This has created the need for composable technologies that can really address the Total Experience, which is the interconnection of customer, employee, user, and multi-experience. The idea is that, if you want to be truly customer centric, you need a cohesive customer experience (CX) strategy that gives employees the tools they need to wow every customer, on any device, at every step of their journey.

Sure, the world is returning to something resembling normal, but it’s got a different flavour now, and consumer and employee expectations are never going back to how they used to be. Any banks that haven’t prepared for this shift are going to have a difficult time competing when experiences are the currency against which they’re measured.

Which sectors or aspects of the regional financial markets will see the greatest advancements in technology this year?

We’re seeing some impressive innovations in the field of customer experience – from conversational AI for customer interactions to AI-powered analytics that provide employees with in-the-moment, contextual knowledge on live customer conversations. And regional banks are only just scratching the surface of the possibilities of AI when it comes to experiences.

Elsewhere, the fintech sector remains promising, but depending on the individual country, regulations are impacting the rate of uptake when it comes to innovations. In markets where open banking hasn’t yet taken off, banks are instead partnering with trusted technology providers to build out the capabilities that fintechs promise.

What are the big trends to watch out for 2022?

The most successful banks will realize that true customer-centricity interweaves customer experience, employee experience, multi-experience and user experience. The good news is that many of them have the right tools, and many have the right strategy. But the big trend we’ll see in 2022 will be banks working out how to bring those tools and strategies together to build a total experience.

On the CX side, an inability to satisfy customers’ needs in the moment will contribute to them switching brands, and with switching becoming more consumer-friendly in this region, that creates even more of an impetus to focus on effortless experiences.

And in the workspace, banks will assess what has worked and what hasn’t for their employees over the last two years. This may be the year when banks accept that working from the office may no longer be the ideal scenario, and instead think more about how work gets done, rather than where it gets done.

Finally, as a result of the composable platforms that banks have been building over the past year, expect to see much more experimentation with emerging technologies such as robotic process automation, voice and facial recognition, and conversational AI. Not all of these experiments will pan out, but the beauty of a composable platform is that it massively reduces the time (and cost) for new capabilities to be rolled out, reducing the risk for that experimentation.