‘Customers now expect an ‘omnidigital’ experience’

‘Customers now expect an ‘omnidigital’ experience’

Kalpana Maniar, President and Group CIO, Edelweiss Financial Services Ltd, discusses the way ahead for the financial industry, from a strategic and tactical perspective.

Customers expect to engage smartly and seamlessly with business whether it is through offline or online channels. With this in mind, Kalpana Maniar, President and Group CIO, Edelweiss Financial Services Ltd, is helping her organisation elevate customer experience to the next level while optimising business processes and technology to achieve agility and increased efficiencies. In this exclusive interview she she talks about the challenges the financial industry will face in the years to come and how IT can help overcome them from a strategic as well as a tactical perspective.

What’s your outlook for the financial services sector in 2019? What new opportunities do you see for Edelweiss and what will be the challenges?
India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. It has a healthy rate of savings with a demographic dividend that can contribute to an increase in economic growth. Financial services such as banking, credit, insurance, mutual funds and brokerage services are set to witness tremendous growth over the next decade.

Edelweiss is a well-diversified financial services conglomerate and, therefore, it is expected that it will ride all the opportunities available in this India growth story.

Though the financial services sector has been an aggressive early-adopter of new technologies, currently it is one of the industries that has been most impacted by digital disruption. Established financial services players are being impacted by fintechs and technology companies that are attacking some of the most profitable elements of the value chain. This can pose challenges as well as opportunities to incumbent players.

In order to ride this transformation wave financial institutions need to increase internal efforts to innovate as well as collaborate/partner with fintechs and new players. Edelweiss is investing in technologies that can help transform customer experience and provide differentiated product and service offerings.

You have been an early adopter of data analytics and mobility. How has this helped you deliver greater customer value?
It is now an imperative for businesses to maintain laser-sharp focus on their customers’ preferences, both stated and unstated. We have used mobility effectively to engage customers and the sales team to drive business across different form factors. We have an online ecosystem for customers to trade on stock markets across devices. Our app also features powerful charting tools, stock market news with sentiment analysis and current and upcoming events. We also use mobility for instant credit checks for retail credit business.

A large part of the customer experience can be shaped by ‘customer intelligence’. We are creating and continuously enhancing capabilities to translate data into actionable insight through analytics. We use data effectively across lifecycles of customer journey to measure effectiveness of customer boarding interventions, cross sell strategy using predictive models, behaviour insights to help drive persistency of active customers, real time monitoring of customer engagement and predicting customers likely to churn. We believe that use of analytics along with AI/ML can deliver immense business value by improving customer experience, retention and loyalty.

Our objective is to now focus on customer analytics providing personalisation at scale with an ability to fine-tune the marketing mix for every customer or persona in real-time.

Most enterprises in the BFSI sector are looking to deliver an omnichannel experience. What has been your experience in implementing this?
The need to provide seamless, similar and consistent interaction between customers and the institution across multiple offline and online channels is getting more and more important. The customer expectation is an ‘omnidigital’ experience. Financial institutions need to create a variety of digital relationship platforms that offer convenience, accessibility and innovative ways to access and consume products/services.

To meet with the changing needs of our private wealth customers we provide the option to either trade through a mobile app or web or a thick client or call and trade. This multi-channel strategy has resulted in business growth and customer NPS score going up. However, omnichannel customer experience is a continuous journey. Besides investment in technology platforms it required re-orienting and training the workforce to provide the necessary human touch to customer experience. Use of data analytics and AI can enhance the onmichannel customer experience as data can be leveraged to get insights into customer behaviour and accordingly personalise offerings.

The uptake of cloud has been relatively slow in the financial services industry. What in your view are the barriers to cloud adoption?
The foremost reason for this has been the concern on security and compliance. Financial services is a highly regulated industry and the need to protect sensitive data has so far tilted investments into on-premise technologies. Captive data centres have helped satisfy data sovereignty concerns while providing lower latency and higher speeds.

There have been apprehensions on heat of regulatory scrutiny in the event of a data breach. In a recent study it was found that nearly 44 per cent of financial services breaches in 2018 were caused by malware infection in one of their cloud apps. Also, traditionally financial services companies have been in favour of CapEx IT expense model and this poses as a mind block since cloud is primarily an OpEx IT expense model.

Over the last two years the public cloud services market in India has seen phenomenal growth. Financial services companies have increasingly adopted the Hybrid Cloud strategy. The cloud security framework is starting to fall in place. Global majors have opened data centers in India to handle data localisation issue.

Starting with the use of cloud for non-core uses such as HR, development and testing, financial services companies have moved onto having CRM on public cloud. At Edelweiss, a few business teams are using Salesforce and our General Insurance business runs its core ERP on the cloud.
India is slated to be the second largest and fastest-growing cloud services market in Asia Pacific and the cloud adoption figure is expected to reach $4.1 billion by 2020. Organisations will need to outline a clear cloud strategy that supports the overall corporate strategy and includes legacy application portfolio modernisation strategy.

What sort of innovations are you looking to drive across products, processes and channels moving forward?
We are looking at using Big Data, Analytics and AI to enhance customer experience and engagement, smarten the process of risk management, regulatory compliance and hiring of resources. We work with an ecosystem of fintech partners to accelerate innovation.