EXCLUSIVE: ‘Touch & Go!” – Fabio Caliceti and Lorenzo Villa, Credem Bank and Adelina Rusu, Temenos in ‘The Paytech Magazine’
Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance and Italy is where the ‘old’ modern bank began – the world’s longest-surviving bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, can trace its roots to 1472. Now, the country is very much part of the new banking renaissance with banks embracing digital to replace or at least compliment their bricks and mortar branches. Credem is one such incumbent that is undergoing a technological and cultural transformation, its recent journey shaped by the seismic event that dominated our lives for two years – COVID-19.Lombardy was the first place outside China to be hit hard by coronavirus, leading to Italy imposing the world’s first national lockdown on March 9, 2020.
It was at this moment that the bank’s teams began collaboration with Swiss software provider Temenos on the mobile app that is now the centrepiece of its omnichannel offer. By January 2021 – nine months later – it was finished and ready to replace Credem’s existing app, which had proved difficult to update with new features. For the bank’s head of digital channels and business unit Fabio Caliceti, the new Touchpoint app became like the customer’s TV ‘remote control’, allowing them to tune into Credem’s accounts and services at the touch of a button.
“It’s an app that takes us towards a new service model, an evolving ecosystem service model that really enables new ways of customer engagement,” he says. “At Credem, our business model continues to be based on strong human relationships, but the mix between digital and human is key. This app is now the remote control of our business.”
Talking to Caliceti, alongside colleague Lorenzo Villa, Credem’s IT leader of digital channels, it’s obvious the bank has undergone a cultural transformation alongside the switch to digital technology. The customer-centric approach to modernisation is obvious. But so, too, is the realisation that it’s not just financial products that win customers for banks, but also a slick front end that makes time spent on banking tasks satisfying – even enjoyable – for the user.
Credem was founded in 1910 in the city of Reggio Emilia where its HQ remains today, and as one of Italy’s 10 biggest banks, it offers a traditional comprehensive mix of retail, business and corporate banking, plus wealth management services. Its IT team has faced the legacy issues common to all big banking incumbents and the partnership with Temenos was its solution to break free of them by deploying into the Cloud and fully embracing the possibilities presented by open banking.
“If banks treat people as individuals, that will translate into the loyalty and trust that everyone craves”
Caliceti says: “If you look at banking business models today, often the products being offered are similar, or even the same. So, we need to ensure our digital channels are as effective and efficient as possible so customers engage with them.”Villa, with his closer focus on IT delivery, points out that the bank’s new rivals, such as fintechs and spin-off speedboat banks, have posed the ‘biggest challenges due to their different nature and histories’.
He says: “We are a bank with more than 100 years of history and our competitors have changed in the last 10 years. A young company doesn’t have legacy systems so there’s usually less technology limitation, and there can be a difference in regulatory constraints, too, since some of these competitors are not financial institutions.“It’s possible that they have less banking experience and competencies than incumbents, but, on the flip side, they typically have strength with regards to the digital experience. Another important aspect is these new 9competitors are typically leaner. That means they can be faster at making decisions, and faster at producing an outcome.”
“We have to be conscious of the gaps that exist between the incumbents and new companies and fill those gaps. This means moving to Cloud and container technology as much as possible “
“We had to improve technical capabilities to guarantee a higher speed in software development and deployment,” says Villa.“We have to be conscious of the gaps that exist between the incumbents and new companies and fill those gaps. This means moving to Cloud and container technology because when it’s possible, it’s better. Infrastructure is crucial because we have to guarantee an elevated level of service – every day people use non-financial services that are always up and running. Sometimes I ask my colleagues to tell me the last time the Google home page wasn’t up, or had a problem, and no one is aware of such a day.”
Villa says one of the key goals when the new project began was the ability to integrate with third parties. Another was to retain control of the technology ‘so we understand exactly what has been developed in our app – we have to be able to manage directly the lines of code’.
The experience of COVID-19 lockdowns also underlined the need for increased delivery capacity, so services could be launched and evolved as necessary.He adds: “Increasing capacity is crucial, it’s not just the ability to have more people using an application, but it also allows you to trial services with a subset of customers.”Alongside the technical transformation Credem has undertaken, the bank has recognised that psychology is at play when winning hearts and minds.
Adelina Rusu, Temenos head of solutions in marketing for digital banking, says harnessing customer data allows a bank to treat them as an individual. An example of it delivering on that vision is a partnership with Italian insurtech Neosurance, announced in September. It uses analysis of purchasing data to identify pet owners among the banks’ customers and introduces them to Neosurance’s pet policies.
“The mix between digital and human is key. This app is now the remote control of our business “
Rusu says: “Beyond the numbers, banking and financial decisions are eminently emotional decisions, and money is essentially a means to achieve a personal or professional goal. Emotion plays a huge role in deciding where we bank and how we bank. If banks recognise this, and treat people as individuals, that will translate into the loyalty and trust that everyone craves.
“To achieve this, a bank first needs to meet customers where they are, and that’s why an omnichannel approach is crucial these days. Second, use analytics and artificial intelligence to make services personal and insightful. And third, look at adjacent services from third parties that can be offered on your platform.“Data in particular is a way to strengthen customer relationships. There is a now a plethora of data available on the end user. But we must not stop at providing the bank with deeper insights. We should share insights with the customer to help them with their financial goals.”
Caliceti adds that people aren’t just seeking banking products, but a financial partner, or ‘life coach’.
“That’s definitely a key driver when people are choosing a bank. So, offering a great customer experience is one of the most important goals, if you want to succeed in banking now. If we as a bank can follow a customer-centric culture and provide excellence in service, customers will become the first ambassadors of the brand.
“For a business, that is the most fantastic achievement, where your customers perform that role.”
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