Late last year, The Banker hosted a roundtable session at the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) annual meeting for treasurers and chief financial officers. At the roundtable*, 12 transaction bankers from top-tier banks reflected on the state of the industry and shared their thoughts on the topic of client experience. Their insights provide a valuable perspective, even today.
First and foremost, there was universal agreement that client experience is an increasingly important area in transaction banking. But what is client experience? What does it actually mean?
The participants defined client experience experience as something you do that changes or reinforces the perception of the bank to the client. Client experience begins the moment the relationship banker gets in front of the client, but the real difficulty is keeping the relationship all the way through the process, as there are many points along the way where it can break down. Even during the sales process, there can be a failure to address the clients’ needs. The answer is to put more emphasis on listening to clients—rather than simply selling, there should be greater engagement, listening (and understanding) to the client needs, and taking on more of an advisory role.
OK, so the sales process is successful. Great. Now onboarding a new client to a new product or solution becomes the next potential point of failure. Clients have long memories when things go wrong, but if the onboarding process is done right—without any “pain”—the client will love the bank forever.
One key aspect to improving client experience is to operate seamlessly across different channels, and banks need to keep up with the changing expectations of their clients when it comes to channel availability. Clients demand a consistent experience across all channels, across the various divisions of the bank and across all the markets where it operates. Clients are also users of technology in their personal lives. When managing their treasury systems, they now expect to have similar experiences to what their smartphones and tablets provide, because these have so profoundly changed the way we communicate and interact personally. And it won’t be long before Millennials or “Gen Y” are the clients of tomorrow, with vastly different and greater expectations of how technology should work for them.
For clients that operate globally, the way in which they want organize their treasury platform varies, either regionally or globally. In many cases, clients don’t want to organize themselves with a regional treasury platform and would rather decentralize their operations. Like banks, which have added on businesses through acquisition, clients have also been acquisitive. Building a regional treasury or global center may not actually suit them, and it is important for banks to listen to the client’s needs and be flexible enough to support different models.
Enhancing the client experience isn’t just something that banks need to see as important; it has to be at the heart of every interaction with every client. By effectively listening and responding to the client’s needs, banks can develop far stronger and more durable relationships which, as we all know, can really help the bottom line.
*This private roundtable was chaired by Jane Cooper, Transaction Banking Editor for The Banker.