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Financial Services Consulting: Keeping the Lid On

By Grant Shippey

Financial services have always been an industry with a
personal touch. There was even a time when bank tellers knew
their customers by name. This human element, in many
instances, has now given way to electronic transactions, with
ATMs and online banking replacing face-to-face contact.

Today, although many people still visit their local branch,
they also like options – tellers, call centres, ATMs … and
now the Internet.

As Internet penetration increases and customers are proving
more willing to manage their financial relationships online,
online financial services are becoming a way to solidify and
expand customer relationships. Done right, the addition of
the Internet as a delivery channel is not only beneficial to
companies, but also to customers, allowing them to explore a
financial institution’s products and services on their own

Your customers want it

The competitive marketplace in which financial institutions
operate today is forcing many of them to revamp their
processes and streamline their business strategies. And with
the move to the Internet, integration is becoming a key
element for their success.

Indeed, the biggest challenge facing financial institutions
lies in effectively integrating their web offering into their
broader marketing, products, delivery, and customer service

Luckily, many institutions realise that their services work
best when blended as seamlessly as possible with other facets
of their business to deliver a complete customer experience,
and that failure to execute an online strategy quickly and
effectively will put a large and lucrative segment of their
customers at risk of moving to other organisations that
can deliver these services.

For these institutions, finding the technology to launch
financial services online successfully isn’t hard – there are
dozens of vendors that offer good solutions at affordable

However, finding a consultancy that is able to help an
organisation strategise the best way forward, and that fully
understands its business and the industry it operates in, is
a different story.

Banking on consultants

It makes sense that companies considering an online strategy
would hire a specialist consultancy to suggest how to
differentiate the company’s products, and identify potential
competition online.

But financial institutions often go pale at the high cost of
these agencies. And some even question whether specialist
agencies should be hired (as they have more than likely been
employed by the opposition at one stage).

The truth is that, due to the complexities of modern banking,
no financial institution possesses enough in-house talent to
solve every problem or improve every aspect of its operations
– especially when going online.

And sooner or later, even those organisations that are
resistant to employing consultants have to call upon an
agency’s services. To refrain would be to risk holding up the
organisation by outdated practices and inefficient

It’s in your best interest…

Given that banking is a commodity business, any superior
technique or strategy employed by an organisation quickly
becomes public knowledge. Thus, anyone in the industry can
copy anyone else because ultimately every idea becomes a
commodity, whether it’s good loan pricing or a slick credit
card project.

That is why outside guidance is often essential for improving
performance and staying abreast of industry trends.

Financial institutions might not agree, but consultants can
guard an organisation’s secrets and competitive advantages
whilst working for another client in the same sector.

In fact, the major value of employing consultants is the
broad perspective they bring to a job. Because they work with
so many different clients, consultants are well steeped in an
industry’s “best practices”.

In addition, an outside agency’s grasp of organisational
structures and technology usage – knowledge gained at other
financial institutions – is often invaluable to clients. So,
quite simply, the benefits of employing a niche agency
outweigh the (perceived) costs, both explicit and implicit.

Once financial institutions start realising this, they will
be awarded with the knowledge and expertise that will enable
them to better their service offerings, as well as develop
better relationships with their customers.

So, ignore consultants at your peril.

Grant Shippey is CEO of Amorphous New Media, a digital
design that specialises in creating and “concepting” systems
that offer business, market leadership in the digital age.
For more information contact him on (011) 380-6500 or

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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