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By Andrew van der Hoven, Head Digital and eCommerce Consumer and High Net Worth at Standard Bank Group

Industries around the world are moving towards the personalisation of services.  Today, information is power, and big data collection allows organisations to personalise customer experiences.

Cloud-based software company Salesforce defines personalisation as “the act of tailoring an experience or communication based on information a company has learned about an individual”.

In a world filled with so much choice companies are left with very little other than to personalise their services based on customer behaviour. Tech companies have led the way in the personalisation race. Amazon, Google, and Facebook rely heavily on personalisation to engage with their audience and to monetise their offerings.

They present a growing risk to banks as they diversify into the financial services space.

Incumbent banks are also in a race to provide the best possible personalised experience for customers but must balance digital transformation and customer-centricity as they compete against each other and the tech giants seeking to expand their offerings.

Banks have at their fingertips enormous pools of data which, when coupled with their experience in relationship building and client management places, them in a strong position to catch up in the personalisation race.

According to a recent paper by Deloitte entitled The Future of Retail Banking: “hyper-personalisation is an imperative for banks, enabling them to respond to customers’ manifest and latent needs”.

Personalisation extends beyond marketing which has defined the conversation thus far. It is about more than just sales. Personalisation will put banks in the position to offer added services that supplement the end-to-end financial services value proposition.

And customers and clients expect this. A Salesforce survey revealed that 51% of consumers expect that banks will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they even make contact.

Clients and markets don’t stand still. If banks want to meet their evolving needs, we need to evolve, digitally and in our approach.

Migration to the cloud, and the technological capabilities that result, mean that banks can utilise data more efficiently than ever. The cloud allows for customisation at scale and limitless access to compute power means banks can offer a more personalised experience in the form of individualised, instantly available services, solutions, and opportunities when their customers/clients need them.

They can offer it almost immediately as well because they have access to real time data and insights.

What this means is that the banking at the interface, across the screens we use, will not only look but feel different for each one of us, it will be based on our preferences, and it will change as quickly as our needs change. In a lot of ways, the technology could end up replacing your personal banker – or at least replicate the experience of dealing with one across the various screens you use to bank.

At Standard Bank, we plan to achieve all of this by accelerating our digital infrastructure to benefit employees, customers, and clients. We are investing in building skills ranging from data science, machine learning and AI, to automation and experience design.

In the past, banks distinguished themselves by the relationships they created with their customers and clients. In a world defined by personalisation, banks must provide value and not just products and they can only achieve this by building deep, long term relationships with clients, to understand them completely, and fulfil their current needs and future ambitions.

This is where banks can set themselves apart when it comes to personalisation. Client-centricity has long been a cornerstone of banking and just because technology can create more personalised experiences it does not mean that relationships fall away. In fact, in a digital world human relationships and interaction will become even more important. Even as banks evolve, they must remain truly human while providing the services and solutions their clients need.

Personalisation also makes sense from a business point of view and is good for the bottom line. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that for every $100 billion in assets that a bank has, it can achieve as much as $300 million in revenue growth by personalising its customer interactions.

Personalisation is the greater sum of all its parts. It’s a personalised interface, it’s a 360 end-to-end offering, and it’s knowing and understanding each and every customer need based on their behaviour and data you have gathered on them as well as the relationships you have built with them over time.

Personalisation really is what it says on the tin. It’s a deep understanding of customers which manifests in the way you service them all driven by the technological advances which have been made. The financial services organisation which grasps and implements this approach first will be the one to win the race to a truly personalised business model and offering in the future.