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Banking Conundrums: Customer Focus or Operational Performance?


Customer focus

Customer focus is an important value driver for many industries, but in banking, it is the cornerstone of the entire decision-making process. Modern studies on bank performance management have identified customer focus as the leading indicator for industry success both in past assessments and future predictions.

However, a bank cannot survive and thrive solely on handling customer complaints and nurturing high-quality client interactions. There has always been a rather persisting conflict upon the focus on customer intimacy versus operational excellence in the banking industry.

Maintaining an efficient network of personnel-operated branches while handling all customer demands with care might just be two mutually exclusive strategies. This was until IT integration and online development became the performance indicators that would significantly reduce discrepancies between operational efficiency and customer focus.

Self-service concepts like the ATM used for more than one purpose, online banking platforms, and high-tech use of payment facilities through tablets and smartphones are promising to provide customers with revolutionized banking experiences. As online banking applications are continuously being developed, it is believed that they will relieve the stress on the physical branch network. However, it is highly unlikely that any banker will promote such a thing as branchless banking, for the time being.

Automatized systems are currently incorporated into one modern multi-channel network where various interactions between the bank and its clients can be used interchangeably. While client satisfaction rendered its usual use as a key performance indicator, it has also become a drive for innovation. As client use of banking services and products incorporating new technologies becomes more knowledgeable, the gap between a bank’s operational performance and its customer-centric strategy slowly closes.

So is operational automation the guide to performance in the neo-banking industry? What about financial indicators? Do these performance indicators reflect past performances as insurance for future success? In an attempt to improve the measurement of banks’ performance, there is an increasing tendency to seek to measure not only actual but also potential performance.

In a situation of full competition, banks that do not devise the right cost-reduction strategies risk being pushed out of the market. Intertwining digitized channels with re-structured branch networks has proven to be the path to cost optimization in the banking industry. While this multi-channel approach is carefully monitored, handling client information has become more important than ever.


Customers, behaviours, and evolving trends

Selling a product, in banking, has become more of an art of collecting client information relevant to their spending, saving, and payment preference behavior. Therefore, as banks’ various operating channels blend into each other, clients feel more and more at ease with using them. Most large players in the banking industry face endless opportunities in online cross-selling and up-selling.

Evolving customer preferences promote a clear customer focus as a driver for future profitability and value creation. More complex transactions with the client need to be handled with care, and although taking the time to listen to a small client’s needs may seem costly and inefficient, intensively standardizing operational efficiency can make the relationship profitable. In addition, this enables the bank to identify changing consumer behavioral trends.

Most banks nowadays believe that face-to-face communication is not the only way to build customer relationships. Making the product offering easily available in a digitized form and fully integrating digital channels in the business model will – through an enhanced customer experience – contribute to a more intimate customer relationship. Customer analytics will help strike the balance between customer intimacy and operational performance.

Customer focus, as one of the most important value drivers in banking, can be reflected through # Customer satisfaction or % Net promoter score. However, what other key performance indicators (KPIs) should fit a bank’s strategy for modern times? One may argue that it would be those that allow management to quantify progress against defined strategies.

Therefore, in line with the multi-channel approach and the growing technological nature of banking, the level of IT integration is a KPI of great interest in the banking industry. This measure quantifies the extent to which the IT infrastructure leverages existing databases, connects to external services, and delivers new and improved customer experience.

Margin targets tend to be favored over volume targets which confirms the banks’ strategy of choosing profitability over market share in the credit function. # Loan-to-deposit ratio as an indicator of reshaping the business portfolio to fit assets and risk appetite seems to be central to the discussion regarding strengthening balance sheets and liquidity positions.

Other KPIs that can be used are $ Capital intensity, # Liquidity and $ Capital ratios, $ Profit before tax, # Clients, and # Large clients.

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