Making Technological Innovation Work for People: Q&A with Head of Innovation Will Beeson (Video)

Innovation in Banking Technology and How to Make it Work for People

There’s a danger of forgetting about the end user and what they’re trying to do when it comes to technological innovation. That’s true for banking as much as for any other industry.

In this video interview CivilisedBank Head of Operations & Innovation Will Beeson  explains how the Bank aims to make banking technology work for people and customer relationships.

Keep updated about our progress towards launching CivilisedBank.

Here’s a transcript of the video " Making Technological Innovation Work for People: Q&A with Head of Innovation Will Beeson

Between the power and limitations of technology, where do you see it working for the people?

I think if we take a step back and take a look at this from CivilisedBank's perspective which is where I tend to focus on on a daily basis, it's SME relationship banking. To fully answer your question, we need to think about three distinct customer segments: retail, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and corporate.

I think for a lot of mass market retail needs online banking is a phenomenal development. Sure, call it a development, it's been around for the better part of 20 years. A lot of the propositions that the new kind of leading edge tech propositions offer, both by incumbent banks and by new startups, are focused on the retail segment, the mass market retail. It's generally online and mobile, it's great user experience which is phenomenal but it may not meet the needs of more complex customers like SME businesses.

So in addition to the customer experience on the frontend for online and on mobile use which we've discussed before which again is relevant for SME businesses the same as retail customers, having great technology goes far beyond that.

What it does is enable a Local Banker to deliver for the business a comprehensive banking advisory service that touches on not only current accounts and a bit of cash savings much of which is self-served, much of which is done online but really tailored lending products, products that impact the lifecycle of the business. So it's not just cash management, it's not just lending but it's also planning, helping businesses make informed decisions about how to grow, how to plan for the future.

How does this work, technology empowering bankers and customers?

Fundamentally there's one key technological advancement over what's currently being offered by incumbent banks that empowers CivilisedBank. And it's both on the self-service online / mobile delivery side as well as the Local Bankers visiting customers and delivering the Bank's proposition in person. And that's systems communicating effectively with each other. It's information that can be shared across different areas of the bank via efficient new and streamlined systems.

So those systems allow a single customer view. Bank staff and Local Bankers can view every piece of information about the customer, all the touch points with the bank, all the elements of a customer's relationship both on the savings side and on the cash management side, the current account side, payments, lending along with every interaction that the customer has with the bank via every channel. It's all visible to bank staff and Local Banker allowing that staff and Local Banker to be able to respond immediately, to question, to avoid repeating information - things that end up wasting time and quite frankly undermining what could otherwise be a great customer experience.

So without going into too much technical detail, our systems are built on the concept of straight-through-processing and there's no middleware in the system which is effectively a technique that incumbent banks use to enable antiquated backend systems to communicated with sometimes more modern frontend systems.

Our single system allows for information to be processed seamlessly. Information goes in one side, comes out the other side. There's no manual intervention, no risk of human error which speeds up the process but guarantees accuracy and minimises downtime.

It also means that any customer when they sign on, when they speak with the Local Banker, when they speak with a bank staff member will always have up-to-date real-time information about their financial position.

One of the most important aspects of CivilisedBank's technology, what it really enables in meaningful customer value is effectively untying or unbinding the Local Banker from the branch. So traditionally the relationship managers, bank staff needed to be based at branches in order to access systems. Customers nine times out of ten had to visit branches in order to get anything done. With our cloud based technology that tie to the branch is effectively broken. Local Bankers visit customers onsite, sit down with owner managers, sit down with company directors and not only understand how businesses are run, understand their financing needs but are able to - via an IT interface, call it what it is, a tablet - sit down with the financial director, manager of the company and run through scenarios. What would a lending facility look like if we structured it this way, would this meet your financing needs. If your financing needs are xyz, how can we create a solution for you. This is what the payment structure would look like: if you borrow this much for this time period this is what your monthly payment would be. Is that too much? We can scale it back. Let's look at how that would change the maturity profile of the facility. It's all happening in real-time, and that's both during onboarding and in loan application / credit origination but also during the lifecycle of the credit facility. 

So if the customer has a business issue and decides that they would prefer to extend the life of a loan by two years, they could sit down with the Local Banker and perform that same scenario analysis to understand what the impact would be on the business, on their financials, all in real time.

What about banking technology and people with personal banking needs?

We're looking to provide a phenomenal service to all of our customers. And on the retail side that's primarily through a fantastically intuitive and efficient technological frontend, both on desktop and on tablet and on mobile. And it's those same pillars that support the SME banking experience, the straight-through-processing, the efficient systems, the single customer view that enable Civilised to offer a great customer experience to retail savers.

So a retail saver calls up for a payment issue, to change instructions, with a query. That information doesn't need to be repeated endlessly to multiple staff members. It's all there in the single customer view. Every CivilisedBank employee who views that information will have access to previous conversations that the customer has had with the Bank and can effectively anticipate and can respond more quickly to any issue.

What made you personally decide to get involved with CivilisedBank?

First and foremost the mission, the vision. What we're looking to do but what we have the real, tangible opportunity to do. So many people sit around thinking about how they would love to have an impact on the world, they would love to do something to make the world a better place. The opportunity to be involved with CivilisedBank from ground zero not only allows me to continue some of my deeper intellectual and pursuits of passions: economics, how you fund a growing economies, how the real economy works, how small businesses, medium-sized businesses are structured and how they operate effectively. But also to really drive what I view as a fundamental grassroots for change. Not just across the UK but across the world. That's special being involved in.