From Mobile to AI: How Digital Innovation is Driving Change in Financial Services

Sarah Berger


This fall, our team took to the road to examine the digital disruption that is happening in the financial services industry today. From Chicago to New York City, we sat down with the top executives across Fortune 500 banking, wealth management, insurance, and trading firms who are responsible for leading their organization’s digital transformation.

With Allyson Clarke, Principal Financial Services Analyst from Forrester, and Melissa Stevens, Chief Digital Officer at Fifth Third Bank, our Chief Strategy Officer, Kelly Manthey, lead a dynamic discussion on how digital innovation will play a key role in separating the disruptors from the disrupted over the next decade.

We covered a ton of ground, and below are the top five key takeaways from our discussions:


1. Millennials are people too

The great wealth transfer is underway. Around $30 trillion in assets is getting ready to move from Baby Boomers to Gen X and Millennial heirs. And with that wealth transfer comes different ways to manage money. As this new affluent generation takes over, financial services firms must prepare to meet their needs in both the physical and digital world.

“This is the generation that has more spending power than any generation right now on the face of the planet. We’re trying to really understand not banking, not financial services, not what our traditional products and services could do, but coming back to the roots in what do these human beings need, want, desire, and how do we actually find things that could help them?” - Melissa Stevens

“Many firms and many beliefs around Millennials are 'I just want to do everything myself and self-serve. I never want to deal with a human being.’ And that's wrong. When life starts to happen and something is of high value, emotional or complex, such as a mortgage, no matter what age you are, you want to interact with a human being.” - Alyson Clarke

2. Firms must transition from customer-driven to customer-led

Financial institutions are under attack from all sides. There’s increased competition from large, traditional players, new FinTech startups, and non-traditional players like Starbucks, Amazon and Uber will continue to look for ways to expand, likely at the expense of incumbents. So when it comes to standing out from the noise and remaining competitive, firms should look to transition from being customer-driven to customer-led.

“Customer-led is about understanding your customers and having empathy for what they're doing. That's where the real change comes from and then it's about thinking what technology's going to help you get there.” - Alyson Clarke

“Here's what it is to me, it's about being totally and completely empathetic with and for your customer at all moments. It's about communication, and transparency, and anticipation.” - Melissa Stevens

3. To change your DNA, you have to start with culture

The fear of being left behind, or missing out on the next big thing, has led many to focus on new technologies rather than addressing the underlying barriers that can stop any innovation dead in its tracks. While there are many obstacles to successful change, perhaps the biggest culprit is culture. Culture is the hardest obstacle to identify and alter, yet it’s the underpinning of transformation. To make any meaningful impact, firm's must alter their core DNA.

“Companies core DNA needs to change. Changing the culture and digitally transforming is a lot harder than building an app, but it’s necessary.” - Kelly Manthey

“Go outside your digital transformation, go outside of trying to be customer-obsessed. Start with, making sure your employees understand your roots and what you’re all about.” - Melissa Stevens

“A lot of the firms I talk to struggle with digital transformation, they're struggling to make headway. They're investing in technologies first and struggling to implement them or even to use them at scale. And it's because of the barriers and roadblocks. The biggest one is culture. This is the hardest to identify and the hardest to move, but it's really important that you start on that journey. It's going to continue to evolve all the time, but you have to start.” - Alyson Clarke

4. Customer experience is getting worse

Forrester’s latest CX Index report surveyed 10,000 brands across multiple different attributes and noted that customer experience across the board is going down. Why?

When taking a spotlight to the financial services segment, we see that many firms are trying to solve new problems and create new experiences the same way they've always been doing it. But with the rise of new digital experiences and the shift in customer expectations, firms must solve new problems and new experiences in new ways.

“Our competition is not each other. Our competition is the last best experience that any of our customers had. So that's the bar every single day.” - Melissa Stevens

“There's some complacency happening out there, and I think there's also an element of chasing the new shiny objects. And that's starting to take the strain. The problem is that customer expectations outside are rising which means more falling in relative terms when you ask the customer what they think of you. You haven't really changed but your customer’s expectations have.” - Alyson Clarke

5. Unlock customer loyalty through conversation

From chatbots to robotics to voice applications, activity around conversational experiences is heating up. While progressive organizations are diving in head first, others are running experiments and POCs, and the majority are doing nothing at all. When implementing conversational experiences, financial services firms need to first, get going, and second, focus less on the technology itself providing direct ROI and cost-saving benefits, and more on using it as a channel to connect with their customers.

“When I talk to financial services firms, sadly the first thing they ask about when trying new technology is 'How can we use this to cut costs? How can we reduce people in our call center?’ And I think that's a problem, a huge problem. There are some great use cases for conversational interfaces, and when we come back, and we think about customer experience, we must always look at the three E's: ease, effectiveness, and emotion.” - Alyson Clarke

“To me, what we're going to do is step back and think about the places where customers are. I believe there's a lot to be offered there. I believe that it's a lot more than just simple things like an integration with Alexa or Siri. While they're fantastic places to start, there's a lot more to unlock.” - Melissa Stevens


Thank you to our speakers and attendees for making our Financial Services Executive Lunch Series hugely successful and inspiring. 

Learn more about how we're helping financial services firms digitally transform.