Five Insights into the Top 25 Bank Search Terms


customer-6-20-19.pngBanks can use customers’ search queries to create a more efficient, optimized user experience.

Most marketers rely on search engine optimization to drive traffic to their website, missing a crucial opportunity to optimize searching on the site itself. But on-site search optimization is a critical component of search and self-service for customers, and is a way that banks can create a better experience for users.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, focuses on attracting new visitors to a website. On-site search optimization addresses the existing and returning traffic base—a bank’s current customers and prospects. This approach helps them find helpful and relevant content once they are on the site, which is as important as getting them to the website or mobile application in the first place.

A growing percentage of customers use digital channels to interact with banks and require intuitive search and easy-to-find support information. Banks will benefit from delivering superior on-site search functionality with actionable support answers on their websites and mobile apps.

Transforming a bank’s website, mobile or online banking applications into a true digital support center involves more than a simple search bar. Search terms and activity can be used to inform the support content strategy, while monitoring customers search queries ensures a bank is providing the most sought-after answers across its digital and mobile channels. This continuous process directly impacts an institution’s customer experience, service levels and operational efficiency.

The top 25 search terms across banking websites in 2019 included:

1. Routing Number 10. Direct Deposit 19. Mobile Deposit
2. Overdraft Protection 11. Rates 20. Login
3. Order Checks 12. Address Change 21. ACH
4. Skip Payment 13. Loan Rates 22. Stop Payment
5. Online Banking 14. Debit Card 23. ATM
6. Wire Transfers 15. Check Card 24. Mortgage
7. Credit Card 16. IRA 25. Bill Pay
8. Open Account 17. CD Rates  
9. Account Number 18. Hours  

Customers’ search patterns in a bank’s digital and mobile channels differ the terms used in a search engine platform such as Google or Bing, according to data from SilverCloud. Searches on banking websites and apps average 1.4 words per search, compared to four on search engine platforms. On Google, people search for “the best checking account for me;” on a banking website, they use broader terms like “online banking.”

Two factors drive this search behavior. First, banking consumers are already on the desired site, so they use more narrow search terms. Second, financial terminology can be confusing and unfamiliar. As a result, customers who lack knowledge of specific banking terms tend to use broader search terms to home in on exactly what they need.

There are five takeaways for banks that are interested in how top search terms can help them grow more efficiently:

Banks need to deliver a better customer experience. Having a strong on-site search engine allows customers to service themselves in a way that is easy, fast and efficient.

Strong search could reduce call center volume. Having robust content, frequently asked questions and support answers allows customers to get answers without needing to contact call center agents.

Provide support as mobile adoption increases. Customers will have more questions as banks introduce more self-service options, like online account opening, mobile deposit and online bill pay. Banks should anticipate this and have support answers in place to facilitate faster adoption.

Create opportunity and invite action through search. Banks can drive deeper customer engagement into various product offerings by writing actionable support answers. For example, the answer for a search query for “routing number” could include information about what customers can do with a routing number, like set up direct deposit or bill pay. This approach can increase the likelihood they take such actions.

Banks can do more with less. The more that customers use self-service digital and mobile channels and find information that addresses their queries, the fewer employees a bank needs to staff customer service centers. Institutions may find they can grow without adding a commensurate number of employees.

Banks should review their digital channels to ensure they are providing support content that addresses the ways customers seek information. Content around general search terms needs to be robust. Executives will need to keep in mind that most search terms require 10 or more custom answers to address the transactional, informational and navigational forms of customer intent.

Mining for Gold in Bank Data


data-5-9-19.pngCommunity banks are drowning in customer data.

Every debit card swipe, every ACH and every online bill pay produces data that provides insight into their customers’ relationship with the institution, as well as their lifestyle and potential needs. Banks should prioritize using their proliferation of customer data to open up new service and revenue opportunities. The potential to identify untapped opportunities is enormous.

The amount of data generated by the digitization of services and customer interactions has grown exponentially in recent years. By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every person on the planet, according to a 2017 McKinsey & Co. report. This figure is only expected to increase: By 2021, half of adults worldwide will use a smartphone, tablet, PC or smartwatch to access financial services. The mindboggling amount of data comes at a time when companies must “fundamentally rethink how the analysis of data can create value for themselves and their customers,” according to a Harvard Business Review article by Thomas Davenport, a professor at Babson College and a fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Amazon is often cited as the model for capitalizing on data to increase sales and improve consumers’ experience. The company tracks each customer interaction—from site searches and purchases, from Alexa commands to song or movie downloads—to develop a holistic view of that consumer’s preferences and buying habits. For instance, if a consumer purchases prenatal vitamins from Amazon, she will soon see pop-up ads for other pregnancy and baby-related items. Amazon will also send her offers and reminders to repurchase the vitamins at the exact time they run out.

Banks should try to emulate Amazon’s ability to highly personalize a consumer’s experience. Organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and more than 25 percent in gross margin, according to Gallup. And personalization based on customer data can deliver 5 to 8 times the return on investment on marketing expenses and increase sales by 10 percent or more, according to McKinsey.

But in order for banks to use the data produced by their internal systems, they need to create a structure and plan around it. Institutions need to direct information to one location, figure out how to analyze it and—most importantly—develop an actionable plan. This is a challenge because many banks partner with a myriad of vendors to provide the different consumer services such as debit and credit card processing, online banking and bill pay vendors. To consumers, these disparate systems may appear to work together reasonably well; behind the scenes, they may not communicate with each other.

This is an overwhelming imperative for many community banks. Fifty-seven percent of financial institutions say their biggest impediment to capitalizing on their data is that it is siloed and not pooled for the benefit of the entire organization, according to a July 2016 report from The Financial Brand. Other impediments include the time it takes to analyze large data sets and a lack of skilled data analysts.

But banks can remove these impediments with an “intelligent” data management technology platform that aggregates information from unlimited sources and makes it available enterprise-wide, from frontline staff to marketing to management. Platforms analyze data from sources like the core processor, online banking and lending systems, as well as peer and demographic data, and develop automated revenue- and service-enhancing strategies that capitalize on the findings.

The results are better, automated and even instantaneous decisions that generate greater sales opportunities and improve customer experience.

Banks can use the data to generate personalized, targeted marketing and communications campaigns that are triggered by an increase or decrease in customer transactional activity. Reduced activity can indicate an account might leave the institution; proactive communication can reengage the customer and retain the account.

This data can improve cross-selling objectives, generate sales opportunities and track onboarding activities to facilitate the customer’s experience. The data could identify customers who use payday or other non-bank lenders, and generate omni-channel offers for in-house products. It could also flag follow-up communications on products or services that consumers expressed interest in, but did not open.

Centralizing institutional data into one platform also creates efficiencies by automating manual processes like new account onboarding, loan origination and underwriting—even customer complaint resolution. It can also introduce additional customer services provided by third-party vendors by requiring them to integrate with only one data source, instead of many.

Banks need to leverage their customer data in order to create highly personalized and meaningful offers that improve engagement and overall performance. With the assistance of a comprehensive data management platform, community banks can overcome the hurdles of unlocking the value of their data and achieve Amazon-like success.

The Secret To Marketing To Gen Z and Millennials


millennials-3-26-19.pngIt’s a constant surprise to see how much opportunity still exists within a customer base for increasing revenue via timely and effective cross-selling. Growing revenue by meeting a greater share of an existing customer’s needs is almost always more cost-efficient than seeking out new customers.

We also see many questions about how best to attract and relate to younger consumers among the millennials and Generation Z.

Fortunately, a well-executed digital marketing strategy can be beneficial in expanding your service to existing customers and attracting new business from among the millennials and Gen Z.

Content Marketing
It all starts with a story. While “content marketing” is a common buzzword, the concept is as old as writing itself: good stories get people’s attention. Content marketing is nothing more than informative and entertaining solutions to your customers’ challenges.

Developing an outstanding content marketing program requires deep understanding of the consumer buying cycle. Referred to as the “buyer journey,” this roadmap of consumer behavior outlines the prominent questions and issues at each stage of the buying cycle.

For example, according to a Harris Poll conducted for the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 71 percent of millennial workers are saving for retirement and 39 percent of millennials are saving more than 10 percent of their salary. Imagine your bank is selling this group IRA’s and want them to come in for a financial planning session.

It would seem like a perfect fit. But not so fast.

A Charles Schwab study showed that millennials hold 25 percent of their portfolios in cash due to worry about the stock market and investing. Bank marketers have an opportunity to educate potential customers on ways to make those savings grow rather than just promoting the “end point” IRA product.

Savvy marketers prepare a range of content for each stage in the cycle and for each channel of their marketing efforts. Blog posts, social media content, video and podcasts work together to place your bank at the forefront of the consumer’s mind through the process.

Paid Online Advertising Combined With Machine Learning
The world of paid online advertising has expanded dramatically in the last two decades. Commonly referred to as “pay-per-click” or “PPC” advertising, there are tools that allow bank marketers to target specific consumer and business populations with uncanny accuracy. This combined with advances in machine learning technology allows banks to deploy efficient campaigns that deliver targeted content and offers when they are most likely to capture attention.

Paid advertising is measurable in ways traditional advertising is not. PPC advertising allows bank marketers to run campaigns on the basis of Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) nearly in real time. Budgets can be increased or decreased if lead costs are favorable. Offers and creative can be tested on the fly using financial results.

User Experience Design
Many articles gloss over the significance of user experience design in favor of touting the virtues of “online banking.” Marketers ignore this facet of customer acquisition and retention at their peril.

The user experience, or UX, does not need to be pretty in order to be effective.

For banks, UX is important in reducing the friction of any financial transaction where consumers spend most of their time online. Rather than simply think of “having online banking,” bank marketers need to measure the rate of sign-up abandonment, transaction cancellation, and other indicators that a bank’s online tools are difficult to use.

Banks that lack the brand strength of large national or regional players and rely on high-quality customer service need to be relentless in making their online banking options easy to use. Asking customers to download three different apps and carry multiple logins is a far cry from the face recognition and one-button interface offered by some of the nation’s largest banks.

Tying it All Together
The need for financial services is lifelong. Consumers pass through a variety of financial stages throughout their lives. Each of these stages contains its own, unique buyer journey.

Surveys and regular email and social media communication can help current customers find answers to their questions at the right time. Intelligent remarketing that drives paid advertising can help your results appear in their web searches and expand their understanding of the full range of services you offer. Thoughtful UX can enable customers to discover new products that solve problems when they first encounter them.

All of these benefits apply to your prospective clients. Being able to precisely target consumers when they are searching for answers means you can capture their attention earlier in the buying cycle.

Frictionless and “invisible” UX allows you to bring those new customers into your product and service ecosystem with the ease that younger consumers expect.

Does Your Digital Strategy Include the “Last Mile?”


strategy-3-20-19.pngThe “last mile” is a ubiquitous term that originated in the telecommunications industry to represent the final leg of delivering service to a customer. Most of the time it referred to installing copper wire that connected the local telephone exchange to individual landlines.

More recently, the term represents what can be the final and most challenging part of a consumer interaction. Generally, it’s the point at which a broad consumer service interacts with an individual customer to deliver a personalized experience.

In banking, this is most often in the form of digital documents created to meet the exact specifications and compliance requirements of an individual transaction that allow a loan or deposit to be booked.

The last mile concept is changing the way financial institutions approach their digital strategy. Previously, many banks focused on digital services to a broad customer base that allowed end users to access account information, pay bills and transfer funds. Lesser in the strategy was the ability to originate a loan or deposit transaction through a digital channel, and even less likely to be contemplated was the customer experience while documenting and booking these types of transactions.

Often, what would begin as a digital experience through a mobile device, tablet or PC would quickly revert to a less accessible process that concluded with a customer coming to a branch to manually sign an agreement.

Banks today are recognizing that a shift in their digital strategy is required. Increasingly, institutions are reshaping their digital presence to focus on the “last mile” – the hardest part of the customer journey that requires an individualized experience. Building a foundation focused on this critical customer touchpoint requires banks to deploy technology that documents, in a fully compliant manner, consumer and commercial loan and deposit transactions while at the same time supporting a fully digital customer experience.

In seeking fintech partners that can support this digital strategy shift, institutions are identifying essential attributes and capabilities to enable effective execution:

  • Integrated Capabilities: Disparate systems require data to be imported and exported to avoid data conflict. A single system of record, integrated with digital document capabilities and a two-way data flow, supports data integrity while eliminating the need to access separate solutions.
  • In-house Compliance Expertise: Documenting transactions in a compliant manner is essential. State and federal mandates change frequently. In-house compliance expertise supported by unique research capabilities ensures the documented words are accurate and up to date.
  • Electronic Closing Enabled: The ability to leverage technology from origination to customer signature without deploying manual workarounds or static forms.
  • Reinvestment in Technology: Digital capabilities continue to evolve. Gone are the days of generic templates and static documents. A partner that’s focused on both current and future capabilities ensures an institution isn’t left behind the times.

As your bank begins to formulate a digital strategy or if you’re revising your existing strategy, ask yourself if you’ve contemplated the “last mile.” If not, focus on this part of the customer interaction first to deliver a comprehensive, compliant, and digitally enabled experience.

Bridging The Gap Between Retail & Business Banking



Speed, ease of use and convenience define the customer experience today for both retail and commercial clients. In this video, First Data’s Christian Ofner and Eric Smith explain what retail and commercial customers expect from banks today—and you might be surprised to find they have similar needs. They also share how banks should enhance the experience.

  • Strengthening the Retail Experience
  • Enhancing Commercial Clients’ Experience
  • Technologies Banks Should Consider
  • Evaluating Your Bank’s Digital Strategy

Strengthening Customer Engagement



Fintech companies are laser-focused on improving consumer engagement—but there is room for traditional banks to gain ground, according to Craig McLaughlin, president and CEO of Extractable. In this video, he shares three ways banks can strategically approach improving the customer experience at their own institutions.

  • The One Trait That Sets Fintechs Apart
  • Improving the Customer Experience
  • Understanding Digital Strategy

The Formula for Building Customer Trust


customer-11-9-18.pngDue to several recent data breaches and incidents of internal fraud at some of the world’s most recognizable financial brands, millions of consumers are impacted, loyalty is eroding, and risk is added to the bottom line. For banking leaders charged with driving the growth and managing that risk to their organizations, trust is a key to supporting both growth and financial performance.

A recent Carnegie Mellon study of customers of large banks showed those with fraudulent activity on their accounts were more likely to leave in the next six months. Following a series of internal scandals, a leading bank reported a 77 percent increase in unplanned operational expenses, a direct impact on performance.

These numbers tell a story of heightened risk in banking, but they also illuminate the critical role trust can play. Following risk incidents, every financial institution is impacted. The hard reality is trust and confidence in banks remain low across the industry, and have yet to recover to pre-financial crisis levels. In fact, 2018 Gallup polling data indicates only 30 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in banks, down from 41 percent before the crisis (2007). Risk is engrained in the banking industry’s DNA, and while recovery depends largely on a robust and adaptive risk management function, restoring trust with customers touches every area of the organization.

Banking leaders have an opportunity to rebuild trust by mobilizing their functional teams around Experience Design, or the entire experience a customer has with the bank. The benefits of taking an experience-led approach correlate directly to building trust in financial services. In fact, in the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, (1) user experience, (2) ease of human interaction, and (3) use of the latest technology were the top factors building trust in financial services—and all of these elements require the careful orchestration of human and digital touchpoints that Experience Design enables.

Banking services can no longer stand alone as customer decisions are being made around every interaction with the organization. There’s an opportunity for banks to differentiate and build trust by uncovering the gaps in their current experience engagement model, and designing experiences that align to customers’ needs and expectations.

To put Experience Design into action, banks must deeply understand their customers’ needs and preferences. Banks must identify the unifying experience they want to achieve through techniques such as Accelerated Service Design, which focuses on human needs and processes, as well as its systems and employees.

To trust a financial institution with deeply personal activities such as saving for retirement or managing credit and mortgages, customers need to feel the bank has their best interests at heart. Digital alone isn’t the answer to the trust challenge. Customers still value face-to-face interactions; one recent study by Celent found 93 percent of customers “still prefer at least some interactions” at a physical branch. In fact, according to the 2018 J.D. Power U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, digital-only and physical branch-only customers reported the lowest levels of satisfaction. What’s most important is developing an approach that intentionally weaves together human and digital touchpoints in a way that is authentic, smart and relevant.

As banking leaders shape a larger strategic vision around recovery from risk incidents, they should design consumer touchpoints with the Human Experience dimensions—relevance, ease, orchestration, and empathy—at heart. Those dimensions can be brought to life with a focus on embedding the following principles:

Human-centered: Organizations must center experiences and offerings on the human needs of their customers. This includes the services delivered, the processes used to deliver them, and the alignment of the organization and leadership behind that vision.

Co-created: Bank leadership must work with employees to build the internal foundation for a better experience. When trust is at a culture’s core, it permeates throughout the organization, and is felt by customers across all touchpoints.

Holistic: Experience must be viewed from an end-to-end perspective, similar to those provided by Airbnb and Uber. These companies orchestrate digital and physical experiences that seamlessly integrate with a customer’s lifestyle. In turn, these customers value the organization for the things it enables them to do, not the product or service provided. Examine how every touchpoint is influencing the customer experience, and how to better meet customer demand with a more seamless experience.

Iterative: Experience Design is not a “one and done” effort. Customer needs and preferences are always changing, and they are not making one-time transactions. Banks need to be a trusted partner to their customers throughout their relationship.

An experience-focused approach builds trust, and in turn, customer loyalty that drives the bottom line. By taking a comprehensive view of the customer experience, banks can build the trust that’s critical to sustainable risk incident recovery.

Your Digital Transformation Is Not Just About Technology


technology-9-3-18.pngFor an increasing number of consumers, the primary means of interacting with their financial institution is the mobile banking app on their smartphone. This number will continue to grow, as will the number of ways they want to use digital devices to interact with their financial institutions. Though oft-criticized for their risk-averse natures, especially when it comes to new technology, banks understand and are responding.

The success of their initiatives will depend on how well each can navigate the complexity associated with effectively closing the digital gap. Establishing competitive parity in the digital race requires more than simply selecting a new digital banking platform to replace the legacy, disparate system. Banks must navigate the digital challenge holistically. To achieve the goals desired, digital transformation must encompass many aspects of an institution’s operations.

Shift the Org Chart From Vertical to Horizontal
Technology is an important part of any digital transformation, but too often banks rush to make a choice in this area before considering basic elements in their own operations that play a profound role in in its success or failure. For example, the organizational charts of most banks is built on a vertical, “line of business” model. Technology, however, especially that which inspires a digital transformation, is horizontal in its role and impact.

This difference between how a bank is structured organizationally and how digital technology should be used within an institution means bank’s leadership must have a horizontal mindset about technology. The manner in which a midsized regional bank addressed this challenge is a good example. The bank converted a digital banking team of four, working in the retail side of the business, into a department of more than 30 that included each person who has or will directly contribute to the digital strategy of the bank. To ensure communication and ideas flowed as freely as possible, the bank housed all the people on this digital team in the same area of their headquarters using an open-office concept.

Adjust Budgeting From Project-Based to Forward-Based
Another area to consider during the early stages of any digital transformation is an institution’s budgeting process. Many banks use a project-based budgeting process where the senior executive responsible for a project works with others to build a business case, project plan, and budget that goes through several approvals before reaching the board of directors. Given the material levels of investment of many projects within a bank’s operation, this vetting process seems justified.

However, because the project-based model is optimized to minimize risk, progress can be painfully slow and take a very long time. It is therefore ill-suited for any organization that wants to maintain parity in the digital marketplace where the only things that change faster than technology are the expectations of the customer. To respond to this rate of change, banks must be able to move quickly. In the case of one bank, this was achieved by implementing a “forward-based” budgeting model that designated a specific investment level for digital at the start of the year. The digital leadership of the bank was given the authority to use this money marked for digital in whatever way deemed necessary for the institution to respond to evolving customer demands and technological innovation.

This Isn’t Your Grandparents’ Technology
When an institution does turn its focus to determining what third-party solutions and services will best support its digital aspirations, there are non-negotiable qualities from vendors that should be part of the evaluation process. These qualities are not typically on the list of “must-haves,” and can typically decrease both cost and complexity.

In the case of three regional banks going through a digital transformation, the non-negotiable item was control. Each felt it was essential that the vendors with which they would build their digital future delivered a product that gave the banks control over their own digital future at the solution level. In other words, does the solution allow a bank to make changes at a branch level, only be exposed to customers in that branch’s area, without needing the assistance of the vendor? This is important as many banks have had limited ability because the solutions required vendor intervention for even the smallest change.

Digital transformation is about more than choosing the right replacement for legacy, disparate, online and mobile banking systems. It should touch every aspect of an institution. This is an undertaking not for the faint of heart. Many institutions will insist they are different and can win without changing the way they operate. Unfortunately, such evaluations are why the billions of dollars of investments made collectively by financial institutions will not delay how quickly they become irrelevant to the customers.

Innovation Spotlight: Howard Bank


innovation-10-3-17.pngScully-Mary-Ann.pngMary Ann Scully, CEO and chairman
As a lifelong banker with over 30 years of varied executive experiences, Mary Ann Scully headed the organizing team for Howard Bank of Baltimore, Maryland, and currently serves as a board member of the Baltimore Federal Reserve and a community advisory board member for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Under her leadership, Howard Bank recently announced its fifth acquisition in five years, which will make it a $2.1 billion asset institution. It has maintained a commitment to high touch service throughout each integration.

When you started at Howard Bank, what did you want to do differently with innovation?
We have always viewed our differentiation as high touch expertise and advice. Therefore, we tried not to be leading edge from an innovation perspective. However, we also recognized that to attract small and medium-sized businesses that we should not and would not ask our customers to make a choice between competitive products and delivery available at larger banks and our high touch advice. So we have always had to be competitive and with a more sophisticated customer base, the bar was set higher.

Over the years, how has your digitization strategy changed?
We opened the doors in 2004 with online banking, online check images, hand scan safe deposit boxes—not your typical start-up community bank mix. Over time, we have become more and more committed to being leading edge in the utilization of information to inform our decisions, optimize our processes and advise our customers. Our recent project with [commercial lending platform] nCino is an example of this commitment. Our commitment to a new universal banker branch model is another.

You were once quoted as saying, “Thriving is different than survival and relevance is more than profitability.” What does it take for a bank to thrive AND stay relevant in this competitive environment?
It requires, first, great clarity of strategy: “What do you want to do, how and when, for whom?” And that requires being able to articulate the more painful, “What do you not want to do or whom are you not targeting?” The second requirement is a long-term vision because relevance requires constant investment in the business—in people and technology. It also requires access to capital, both financial and human, to facilitate those investments.

Finally, it requires flexibility because the world changes at a faster rate than ever before and it is important to be able to reallocate resources to what our customers feel is relevant for them. Our high growth trajectory requires a mindset throughout the organization that acknowledges the need for change. For example, we have attracted five teams from other banks in five years. We’ve done five acquisitions in five years, the most recent and largest just announced in August. We’ve accomplished seven capital raises in 13 years, the most recent and largest in January of this year.

After being involved in several M&A deals, what lessons have you learned about integrating technology platforms to ensure business continuity?
First, we always remember to view integration from a customer’s perspective. There is always disruption involved in a merger, some sense of “I did not ask for this,” and flowery promises do not alleviate the skepticism even when an in-market merger is perceived by a community as being positive. So we plan, plan and plan to ensure that customers never lose functionality and if possible, gain something in the process. This means being willing internally to change the “host” systems as well as the acquired bank systems. It means viewing integrations as an opportunity, not a necessary evil, to take the best of both and occasionally the best-of-breed, not just as a way to save costs and slam things together but as a way to enhance the combined systems. We have a cross-functional team who has worked together on each transaction, some who started on the acquired side who are now sitting as an acquirer and their experience and perspective are invaluable. That team always has representatives from each bank for each function. Conversions are not for amateurs or the faint of heart so constant communication between providers and users is also important for successful platform integration.

Digital Innovation: From the Boardroom to Execution


innovation-8-28-17.pngThe pace of innovation is increasing exponentially. For traditional financial services firms, partnerships with new technology companies are now essential for driving digital change and staying competitive in today’s environment. The move toward a distributed economy and digital transformation is manifesting differently in jurisdictions around the world. The United States and Europe are driving early idea creation, while companies located in the Asia-Pacific region and the United Arab Emirates are gaining strong momentum boosted by a pro-innovation regulatory environment.

Now more than ever, the right investments made in technology and innovation have serious and material implications to the long-term success and viability of a business. Missing opportunities to capitalize on new technology to enhance capabilities, products and services could result in lost market share, reduced ability to participate in upside gains of new business models, inability to capture the customers of the future, and in the worst case, extinction altogether. Institutions that are able to re-imagine their business, maximize investments in technology and evolve their business effectively to harness the current innovation cycle will determine the next generation’s winners and losers.

Typically, firms have approached digital innovation or large-scale technology change projects facing their organization with a “build versus buy” philosophy. Today, with the emergence of innovative fintech companies, which are more nimble and faster to market than legacy financial institutions, the transformation decision has now expanded to encompass: build, buy, invest or invent. Each option must be evaluated in the larger context of the ultimate business strategy and desired outcome. Navigating through the options, complexity and uncertainty to ensure optimal choices are made is no easy feat. Further complicating matters are budgetary constraints, board members who don’t understand how technology can enable the business objectives and turnover of executive leadership driving the multi-year transformation.

Similarly, business change projects have primarily focused on three elements within the organization: people, processes and tools. For digitalization in today’s environment, this approach needs to ensure an agile, actively managed and risk-aware approach around six key elements:

  1. Strategic alignment
  2. People
  3. Processes
  4. Technology
  5. Customer experience
  6. Partnerships

All of these aspects need to align to drive business value and outcomes, which should be orchestrated meticulously for a digital transformation project to succeed. Few companies are integrating and delivering all six aspects well across the dimensions for their digital transformation and innovation projects. Consequently such projects often fail or the desired outcomes aren’t realized due to the high interdependence of the elements working in unison. This results in delays and large investments where the business is realizing value far below expectations, which leads to a loss of board advocacy and support from the business. This in turn leads to reduced future investment that only puts the organization at even more risk. In contrast, successful companies are able to work across those six dimensions seamlessly in a manner that is more efficient, risk sensitive, compliant with regulations, well controlled and enabled by leading technology and data to emerge as the digital leaders of the future.

Technology is the future and the ability to enhance and unlock new capabilities through digital channels can drive tremendous value for industries. Being able to discern value-add investments in innovation that complement the business and preserve the value through the transformation process versus just chasing new shiny objects will be increasingly important to do well. Furthermore, the ability to effectively measure against value drivers such as revenue growth, simplification, speed-to-market and competitive positioning will help to validate return on investment. In reviewing the upside potential, it is also important to be aware of risks and consequences if digital transformation programs are not implemented effectively.

With proper planning and execution, organizations can drive business outcomes, realize benefits and better mitigate risk through digital investments by understanding and implementing digital transformation programs effectively around these six elements.