By Adam Oldfield, Head of Sales & Account Management at Phoebus Software Limited

In the years running up to the pandemic, our financial services (FS) industry continued at pace, so we thought, creating a digital revolution. For some, this is a sprint to new-found lands, others have come kicking and screaming, often more as a result of necessity rather than desire.

Over the past year, a multitude of new bank entrants and innovative products have proliferated into the broader FS arena giving more consumer choice than ever.

But what we thought of as a sprint back then, was in fact a gentle meander compared to the unbelievable pace at which organisations are now seeking to digitise their capabilities following the impacts and pressures created by this pandemic. Processes, procedures and ways of working, living or accessing your financial products that were often taken for granted have been turned on their heads and some changed for ever.

Whilst for many these new impacts will be seen as a positive, for many they are not without their challenges and broader social impacts. There are several key drivers for embracing digital capabilities, one of which is customer experience. Retail brands such as Amazon continue setting the bar on how the customer journey and one click purchases could be, and these same customers expect similar slick personalised engagements with their financial institutions.

Whilst these slick digital processes are critical to the ever-evolving, tech-savvy consumer, it is by no means a one size fits all. The driver for less cash, which was accelerated by the increasing use of chip and pin transactions, has been directly impacted by the virus, with consumers been pushed to digital channels for operational efficiency. This was also accelerated as call centres struggled with banking staff forced to work from home.

However, this does not help the millions of consumers who do not have access to digital channels.  It also does not help the million plus individuals which are still classed as ‘Unbanked’ meaning those without access to basic banking capabilities. That is also before you start to consider the social impact of these digital services. For some in our FS customer base, their trip to the local branch, is not simply about accessing their financial products but is about social inclusion. Sometimes it is their only opportunity to engage with the broader community and have real human interaction.

Our role in financial services is in, not only recognising the different demographics of our customers for the future, but also those of today.

Providing a level of flexibility for both today and tomorrow’s customers should be central to those banks and building societies now considering how they tackle their own digital agenda and how they design their own IT ecosystem to support this. Just as important are the partners they work with as they need to be equally cognisant of the cultural, social and economic requirements they need to deliver for both you and also the end-customer.