In the world of banking and financial services, if someone mention the words “Know your Customer”, most people’s minds immediately focus on compliance, regulation and anti-money laundering processes.
This article is not going to focus on that type of regulatory requirement but rather explore the commercial imperative and reasoning why it is so important to go beyond the regulatory ‘KYC’ tick box and get to know your customer fully and deeply.
There are numerous sayings and buzz words that businesses use when considering their customers: “the customer is always right”, “customer delight”, “client focused behaviours”, “customer-centricity”, “the customer is king” and so on…
I have spent all my working life in some sort of front office role and so the importance of the customer has never been lost on me. In fact, I think most people operating at the top of their game in client facing roles have a trigger reflex, or sub-conscious reactive behaviour, when it comes to understanding and engaging with all types of clients and customers.
For me personally, in our business, I have found that the challenges of the last twelve months have brought the customer into an even sharper focus. The speed that the pandemic moved around the world and forced country after country into lockdown took everyone by surprise. Those no longer able to work were quickly trying to establish what spare liquidity they had and where to source additional funding, whilst those retired relying on pensions and savings watched the value of these evaporate over a very short period of time.
Naturally this led to extremely frantic and anxious times for customers of banks and financial services firms all over the world, and Capital’s customers were no different. One of our key strategic priorities set at the time was to “protect our clients”. Our front office team were on the front foot engaging with clients, explaining what the investment team were doing, answering questions, and implementing client instructions as quickly as possible.
We quickly learnt that, for the vast majority of clients, reassurance was the main thing they were looking for. We realised that it would be almost impossible to overcommunicate during the unprecedented times, and it was extremely important that Capital International Group was “seen” by clients and was not “absent”. So, in addition to direct phone and video calls with intermediaries and clients, we provided regular email updates, we increased the publication of online investment updates as well as ramping up our presence on all social media platforms.
Control of the Future
After a few months, the initial turmoil settled down a little and clients started to reassess their priorities. In lockdown, many had taken the time to think about their finances. They had started to rethink the their priorities in life; they had considered what the future might hold and had begun to plan for the changes they wanted to make. We also found that many were seeking to take greater control and to get a deeper understanding of the financial arrangements that would help shape their future. They may not have been totally quiet in their approach to financial matters previously, but now they were certainly keen to take a more active interest going forward.
It was through this proactive client engagement that we gained a deeper understanding of our clients and the things that were important to them.
At Capital, we are currently building up to the launch of our new digital corporate bank, a project that we have spent the last 4 years working towards. Gathering and implementing client feedback will form part of our product improvement programme where enhancements will be delivered on a regular basis in order to optimise the customer experience.
With the pandemic having brought the advantages of actively engaging with clients to the fore, we recognise that the new bank’s Client Engagement Team will benefit greatly from making deep interactions with clients. They will be tasked with capturing meaningful data and feedback to ensure that future developments to the banking platform are built around our customers needs and not just from our own good ideas.
Voice of the Customer
As the bank enters the final phases of its launch, we have formed a Voice of the Customer Forum, where our Client Engagement Team are able to share the views and feedback of our customers. This could be direct feedback; it may be data analysis to gauge how clients are using the system; or it could be queries received through email or various other communication channels.
All of these pieces of customer intelligence will then be discussed, assessed and prioritised by Forum members who are drawn from the front office, the back office, the IT Team, Business Analysts and our Marketing department.
The purpose of the Forum is to ensure that our proposition evolves with our customers at its very heart. The learnings from the Forum will of course also extend, where applicable, through to other areas of the Capital International Group.
All businesses are aware of how much they rely on customers and how important they are to the business’ success. Not all businesses however take the time to really understand their customers. There are businesses who engage with clients to get positive feedback, but shy away when it comes to asking the more difficult questions that might illicit a more challenging response. It is however only through this full engagement that spans the entire breadth of a customer’s experience, that a business is able to access the really meaningful and useful insights. The hard work of course doesn’t stop once the data and insight has been gathered from clients – this is just the starting point. The baton is passed on and the business must then act on these learnings in order to deliver a more engaging, value-added service.