Banks are complex working environments with rigorous authorization and accounting processes. Additionally, banking staff support multiple lines of business ranging from saving and checking accounts, mortgages, professional banking, loans and insurance.  A major pain in their side is the ability to assess risk –  defaulting loans and bankruptcies (look at the mortgage problem that’s been in the news lately). Then add a layer of complex IT that has grown through M&A overtime and where IBM is typically the incumbent platform in the data centers and branches -you end up with a complex monolithic interconnected environment often full of duplication!

So where did I obtain my banking experience? My mother worked in banking for 30 years and each day I would hear about the problems with getting forms approved, learning new services, finding information, obtaining training and mentoring regarding business process and policy changes. Additionally, I serviced/ consulted in banking with IBM and other companies for 10+ years and was lucky to work in the business units, trading floors, data centers and branch offices.

So what are banks up to? They are trying to grow by entering new markets, providing new services, optimizing their retail locations (branches vs ATMs and in some cases closing to reduce costs). They have also diversified their business by offering a wide variety of new services such as insurance (M&A) and portfolio management. The key is building longer term relationships with people so that you can retain their business and cross sell/up sell to increase revenues. There is a lot of competition so customer service and multiple offerings are key to retaining clients.

From a mobile perspective, who doesn’t want perform banking using their iPhone, iPad or laptop. Banking moving from a place you go too something you do. For the consumer market the mobile presence is growing as more banks develop mobile applications that enable consumers to do their bank from a mobile device. From a bank staff perspective, why not do the same? Enable your staff to access key applications? Feasibility study aside, the case for desk bound staff using mobile doesn’t make much sense unless mobilize HR functions for travel, benefits and time entry to name a few. For mobile staff, the value of mobile applications is probably a better story because it could reduce travel expenses, improve customer responsiveness (Can obtain information or conduct transactions while with the client) and widen time zone coverage (not locked in office all day).

From a retail perspective, the branch is dying and very expensive – people just don’t go there much anymore. We use ATMs, Debit cards and emerging is the Smart Phone – more on this later. The Smart Phone is a banking channel that Banks must leverage not just to do online banking but to provide context relevant banking services. Specifically, provide banking and account advice at point of sale. Some examples:

  • If a client is buying groceries and their account is empty, advise them and suggest financial services that make sense – perhaps money is taken from line of credit with clients approval.
  • A retail purchase for furniture or a car, provide the client with financial advice such as loan options, whether they can afford payments.
  • Being able to open new accounts using a smartphone.

From an operations perspective, imagine working in an environment consisting of mixed corporate cultures, IT systems that confuse user experience and dont always provide information in a manner that enables them to efficiently service their clients. The final nail is the process, policy and solo’d team burden – nebulous at best and non-cooperative. In these sort of environment the simplest tasks can take months which greatly hinders the executives ability to align with business goals.

So how can SharePoint, Mobile and Social Technologies help banking? Here are some quick points:

  • Provide employees with quick access to applications, services, forms and contact information
  • Alerting of key information such as industry news, warnings, banking risks and other information to help staff in various centers
  • Speed up (and simplify) business processes such as document workflows and or tasks
  • Onboarding and succession planning – document roles, activities, network etc.
  • Planning, coordinating and managing Audits – communications, tasks, schedules, risks, decisions etc.
  • Simplified desktop and mobile experience – access to what they need based on their job function
  • Help reduce the complexity related to completing forms and the authorization/approval workflow process
  • Help employees with just-in-time online training, succession planning and mentoring
  • Online self services for clients and staff
  • Point of entry to key applications, information assets and work teams

These aforementioned points are related to efficiency gains, application simplicity and improved productivity – employees in theory will spend less time in front of a computer finding client and or job related information and more time servicing clients and being generally productive. As a new hire its difficult to learn and maneuver in a bank, onboarding is time consuming, complex and not well known. Even staff that have worked there a long time have trouble navigating all the systems, processes and policies that have been developed to protect assets, remain secure and compliant with auditors.

From an IT perspective how can SharePoint, Mobile and Social Technologies help? Here are some quick points:

  • Establish a platform for providing fine grained information delivery (business an user specific applications, communities and information)
  • Mobile access to business an user specific applications, communities and information and that is context relevant
  • Platform for creating composite applications quickly, leveraging existing assets and simplify user experience
  • Succession planning and onboarding (Think M&A, new hires and retirement)
  • Integrate other systems (Think M&A)
  • Social networking (Think M&A, new business and onboarding)
  • Providing workflow’s for forms (Banks have lots of forms that could be automated)
  • Search engine to find people, tools and documents

These points are related to deploying and leveraging a versatile asset that helps with executing on an IT shared services model for application and information delivery. It also enables the business by providing a solid platform to quickly deploy applications for specific job functions.

However the blog doesn’t address the silo’d nature of banks IT operations, techno-phobe end user culture, stripped down staffing, weak management teams and general inability to execute due to all these factors mentioned in this blog. The executives challenge will be removing barriers between departments, staff accordingly with fresh blood, retain grey hair expertise and fostering an agile/cooperative environment for speedy execution. Most banks Ive worked with are behind the eight ball when it comes to execution, much to slow and playing endless catch up with the business roadmap. Look to outsourcing and refreshing management teams (Fire them, they created the problem) and HR endorsed incentives/metrics to solve the problem.

In the end its about superior customer service, enabling staff to up sell/cross sell, improve employee on boarding and succession planning and reducing staffs time in front of a computer so they can invest more time servicing their clients and selling. Its also about creating an IT environment that has minimal complexity, meets compliance requirements and is agile (i.e. not locked into proprietary frameworks) and extendable (can integrate  acquisitions and or new offices).

Want to read more? Mobility webinar for SharePoint Pro,  Banking Director and Technology Reports.