Consumers Want FIs to Deliver Real-Time Financial Data

Serena Smith, chief client officer at i2c, told PYMNTS in a recent interview that although digital innovations in banking have come a long way in just a few short years, “There’s still a long way to go.”

Much in the way 9/11 forced financial services firms to pivot towards the electronic clearing of checks (through the Check 21 Act), she said, COVID-19 has pushed the entire industry toward another change.

Consumers had been using digital channels, “But those channels were not utilized at scale,” she told PYMNTS, “and COVID forced the market, and [financial institutions] not yet embracing digital technology, to implement solutions quickly.”

And now, as the pandemic recedes, and consumers have been grappling with macroeconomic challenges, volatile inflation and a rising tide of fraud, Smith told PYMNTS that banks and FinTechs must personalize and create new experiences that are useful right now.

For the providers, she cautioned, “adding digital products and services is just part of the story.”

One theme is pervasive across the industry, Smith said: All financial services providers need a mobile-first approach. Banking customers, she said, are relying on mobile channels more than ever to communicate with their banks — and financial institutions (FIs) have the opportunity to create personalized, relevant messages to be delivered at the right moment.

And financial services customers, she said, want insights into their financial health — and those insights delivered on demand, in real time. They want to avoid fees. And they want alerts delivered to their devices to keep up to date.

Simply put, she said, “The customer wants to feel like they are being taken care of.”

The Digital Roadmap 

Any digital, tech-driven road map toward customer-facing innovation — as expectations are ever-evolving — Smith said, needs to create those new experiences across various online and offline channels and ensure there is enhanced security and compliance in the mix. 

Banks need to implement artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to do all that and move beyond the limitations of legacy, in-house systems. A seamless omnichannel experience, she said, demands an integration of mobile, web, in-branch and social media settings to cement a consistent customer journey aided by AI-powered chatbots and instant responses from the FI.

Asked by PYMNTS what might be top of mind for FIs in an age where the U.S. has seen the launch of FedNow, and payments are skewing ever-faster, she said that “legacy risk models will not be as effective across these channels.”

To provide the most robust consumer experiences and the most robust defenses against fraudsters, Smith cautioned that data is critical. 

“Right now there is inconsistent consumer data,” she said, adding that information is often housed in different ways within an FI in different departments. Machine learning, which has all too often been focused on a single product or service, can help collect and analyze that data while detecting suspicious transactions and anomalous behaviors. Combined with AI and natural language processing, and with providers such as i2c helping FIs and issuers, she said, machine learning can create a meaningful “feedback loop” that helps signal where consumers are finding value in certain providers’ offerings — and where they are not.

With the right data at hand, she said, “FIs can look at everything in totality and make better decisions.” She gave an example where natural language processing models can transcribe customer interactions with call centers — and provide better service.

As she told PYMNTS of the FI client’s journey, “It’s no longer on the bank’s terms — it’s on the customer’s terms.”