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Pervasive digital interactions and innovative cloud services are redefining the value proposition for banks, as new entrants bring fresh ideas and customers expect ever more. Creating new customer value will allow banks to thrive in this increasingly digital and competitive market.

Enabling bankers to work more productively is about empowering them to create new value for the customer and maximize the customer’s value to the business. “By providing modern productivity solutions banks can build the necessary cultural foundations to speed up vision, break silos that exist within the organization and foster improved cross-functional collaboration with a clear focus on the customer,” says Josh Rice, general manager, modern workplace at Microsoft. “These modern workplace tools bring intelligence and automation capabilities that enhance bankers’ roles and empower them to better serve the customer.”

“Banking organizations realize that the customer experience is one of the few assets they have that it is difficult for competitors to imitate,” says Chad Hamblin, director, worldwide financial services industry at Microsoft. “The ingredients of financial services – such as rates, terms, conditions and products – can all be replicated by other institutions. With an ever-increasing choice of products and providers, the experience that bankers create for customers has become key to competitive differentiation.”

Empowering bankers to collaborate efficiently will reformulate customer value. “Banks are looking for ways to become more efficient, effective and innovative by empowering their people to work seamlessly together across product and department silos,” says Hamblin. “And they’re asking how they can provide more relevant products, services and experiences for their customers and for the business.”

Increasingly, banks are looking at how modern workspace tools, combined with advanced cloud computing intelligence, can provide bankers with a more holistic view of the customer and save time to focus on high-value activities. “Banking organizations are striving for better collaboration and productivity solutions that help them orchestrate products and services in an omnichannel capacity,” says Hamblin. “They’re looking at how they can fast-track their products and services in a way that’s timely and convenient to customers. For that to work, they also need to empower their bankers to make best use of the customer insight those touchpoints yield.”

Leading financial services organizations have already started this transformational journey. For example, AIA has put in place social networking and language translation capabilities, combined with secure, mobile access to data, to enable its employees to collaborate wherever they are. UK bank NatWest (part of the RBS Group) has created a consolidated view of all client touch points, freeing up employee time to focus on clients and using powerful analytics to gain customer insight

By harnessing these collaborative capabilities, banks are moving away from a traditional approach that was narrowly focused on specific products and past actions. Instead, they are achieving a forward-looking view that addresses a broader spectrum of customer needs. “Banks are looking at how analytics can empower their people to gain a personalized understanding of individual customers’ needs, and how they can derive data and trend insight from those sources,” says Hamblin. “Advanced analytics can enable banks to see which products and services are selling faster than others, identify customers who might be at risk, and take proactive action. Crucially, we’re starting to see banks looking at how they can better predict the future in terms of customer needs so they can offer the right product at the right time in the right way for each customer.”

As banking organizations empower staff with digital automation technologies, they’re also looking for ways to optimize their operations – and artificial intelligence is inspiring them to transform. “Moving forward, the transformation of banking organizations becomes very interesting as banks start to blend artificial intelligence with human-led channels,” says Hamblin. “For example, we’re starting to see new developments like Skype service bots that can answer customers’ basic questions, call in relevant offers based on the customer’s interest and then hand them over seamlessly to a live video banking agent once they have expressed an interest.” In the near future, banks will focus on sentiment analysis for voice, video and text, giving customers the ability to utter requests that the banker or an artificial intelligence bot can respond to. Banks will use sentiment and language analysis tools that can analyse customer communications, identify whether the customer is unhappy and use pre-built workflows to automate and send this issue to a banker who can address it on the spot.

“A Microsoft partner is working in Europe to enable bankers to take the powerful holographic capabilities of HoloLens to their customers to enrich their discussions of financial planning and portfolio management. Bankers will be able to immerse clients in these graphic representations and walk them through various financial scenarios, manipulating charts, spreadsheets, graphs and dashboards to illustrate the client’s current finances and their options for the future.

These capabilities make financial information, which is a challenge for many people, into a smart, living and breathing workshop that helps them better understand and make the appropriate investments. “These technologies will have a huge impact,” says Hamblin. “Banks that have the foundational aspects of real-time, cross group collaboration and improved banker productivity will unleash the full power of the team, enabling bank employees to deliver proactive and insightful customer service and completely transforming the banking business.”

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Read more on the Microsoft Banking & Capital Markets and Insurance blogs.