Financial Institutions (FIs) enter 2021 facing significant changes and opportunities in businesses ranging from commercial to retail to wealth. Factors including extreme economic pressures on clients, fast-moving stimulus initiatives, remote work, and social distancing are leading many FIs to reimage how they manage client relationships throughout the lifecycle. Those who can quickly evolve tools and processes to attract and maintain relationships in a virtual vacuum are driving market-shifting growth.

The early advantage has gone to FIs who were already investing in digitizing end-to-end relationship management from account opening to onboarding to identifying risk and opportunity in ongoing engagement patterns. They were able to build on a foundation of more seamless and integrated digital experiences, while accelerating investment.

But not all banks are prepared to deliver in key areas, including understanding and drawing intelligence from client data distributed across a growing number of channels. A recent survey we conducted with Financial Brand found that while nearly 75% of respondents highlighted the importance of timely client engagement and personalized advice, fewer than half of those same FIs feel they are succeeding in delivering that experience. When comparing smaller FIs to their larger competitors, this ‘engagement gap’ broadens. This gap is important because customer data and how it’s used can hold the key to steady growth and loyal customer relationships.

Taking a closer look at traditional customer relationship management (CRM) systems, they often lack the timely and complete view of client relationships required to identify and respond proactively to today’s quickly changing behaviors and needs. A client’s banking activity increasingly spans multiple channels including contact centers and online banking, which can be difficult for existing CRMs to consolidate. Failure to integrate with marketing automation systems and investment platforms can also result in lower conversion rates and missed opportunities to deepen bank-wide relationships. In fact, our survey revealed that the most common challenge faced by financial institutions is not having a real-time, comprehensive view of individual customers.

Awareness of these limitations is nothing new. Banks have been facing them for years and plotting a path to intelligent engagement in response. But coming out of 2020, an increasing number of banks are actively re-evaluating customer relationship strategies and moving up project timelines. Banks that ignore evolving customer expectations and rely on “business as usual” in 2021 will struggle to remain relevant and competitive, particularly in a banking world where there’s a lot of competition for ownership of the customer experience.

That’s where investing in an equally intelligent relationship management approach can help. Employing machine learning and AI technologies to quickly identify and understand the implications of rapidly changing client behaviors can bring relationships to new levels and help level the playing field between large and small financial institutions.

It’s critical for banks to not only have full visibility into a customer’s activity, but to be able to efficiently share that information across the entire organization. Replacing cumbersome, labor intensive processes and embracing technology to capture and manage your customer’s data allows for bank-wide collaboration and a seamless experience for the customer.

Intelligent relationship management is crucial to paint the full picture of a customer’s banking activities and provide personalized, next-level products and services. Today’s banking customers across retail, commercial, and wealth expect their financial partner to handle the needs they are aware of, uncover opportunities they’re not aware of and provide guidance for better financial management. That’s how to win in 2021.

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Posted by Marc Salinas

With 20 years’ experience in customer relationship and product management, Marc Salinas brings experience and real-world insights to his role at Bottomline Technologies. His responsibilities include Digital Banking IQ Banking Relationship Management and Insights, key components of Bottomline’s intelligent engagement solution for banking and wealth management.