5 digital banking optimizations to consider – and 4 tips to move forward

As the banking industry becomes increasingly digital, consider these expert tips to position your organization for success
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In my experience, no two firms define digital banking the same way – in fact, definitions can even vary by team. That’s because every organization has its own unique culture and specific “why.”

But they also share common interests. For example, all banks want to meet their customers’ needs – and even delight them. They want to make a profit (banking is a business, after all). Many want to help people live better and more efficiently. They want to attract top talent and be known as a place where people are proud to work.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, your strategy must evolve to keep up while also meeting these goals. But where do you go from here, and how do you get there?

We asked our former bankers for advice, and here are their suggestions:

1. Reassess your technical debt

Some debt may be helpful to leverage. Other debt may be slowing your teams and preventing them from achieving their full potential. Ask your team members for input and assess it openly and honestly. Doing this may require a culture shift to ensure that everyone feels safe sharing their opinion. Find out what they think they could accomplish without the existing debt.

[ Also read Future-proof your IT organization by focusing on these 5 priorities. ]

2. Lean into an open and tech-focused culture

Technology should be viewed as a strategic business-enhancing area, not a sunk cost. That mindset limits what your technologists can bring to the table because their views and ideas are often minimized. Open your organization to hearing everyone’s ideas, from your interns on up. Otherwise, you’ll have a limited perspective. Unless all of your customers are exactly like you, narrowing your view means you will miss major revenue opportunities.

“Often, the cost of technology isn’t viewed as a strategic benefit, but that investment creates the opportunity to create revenue-driven offerings that also can increase customer loyalty. That allows for both short-term and long-term gains.” -Cynthia Devaraj, Financial Services Solutions Architect, Red Hat

3. Create an API framework

This allows you to work more efficiently with partners and creates a better experience for your employees, who have fewer systems to deal with, less copying and pasting, and less room for error. You’ll also gain a better customer experience.

“Create an end-to-end customer experience, no matter where they are and what platform they’re on. It must be a seamless, omnichannel experience. That speaks to the whole power of API.” -Kaleem Azhar, Financial Services Hybrid Cloud Specialist, Red Hat

4. Assess and focus on your strengths

Your customers don’t need you to be everything, but they need you to be great at doing what they need. Determining what is most important to them, and how you can be most impactful using your specific strengths while still making your revenue targets will enable you to focus and reduce the surrounding noise.

5. Understand your customers' key challenges

Are they concerned about fees? Is inflation making them unable to meet financial demands? Are they worried about college funds? Do they want to purchase a second home? And more importantly, can you provide answers or advice for these challenges?

You may even be able to do this without requiring in-person interaction. Focus first on the areas that best impact your target customers and skip the ones that don’t need your focus right now. Separate the must-haves from nice-to-haves.

“Digital banking allows firms to focus on their customers’ needs and create truly personalized next best action offerings.” -Anthony Golia, Financial Services Chief Architect, Red Hat

Digital banking brings to life the 'next best action' in ways never before possible, but success depends on your ability to optimize today.

Digital banking brings to life the “next best action” in ways never before possible, but success depends on your ability to optimize today.

Moving forward: 4 tips

1. Get honest feedback

How often have you thought “If I could change this, I could do so much more”?

You’re not alone. Get honest feedback. Invite individual contributors to coffee – outside the office. Be curious and open to their thoughts. Ask questions with no judgment. There is an excellent MasterClass by Chris Voss that can help you learn how to have these discussions.

2. Ask 'why' often – then ask again

Why is this important? Why do we believe this? Remember that data isn’t always king. Listen to your team’s gut reactions too.

3. Do a prioritization exercise

Include all employees and find where people align. When they don’t align, dig deeper. Not everything needs to be updated. Ask “If we do this, what are we not going to do?”

4. Share with your vendors

Reach out – describe your challenge or goal and the constraints you face, then stop talking. Ask what they would do, and not just from a deep technical level. You see only inside your firm, but your vendors see across multiple firms – and even industries. They can bring ideas that address people, processes, and technology.

[ Want insights on talent and innovation from former financial services IT leaders? Read this series and get the Ebook: Meet the Bankers. ]

Emily Curley
Emily Curley is the director of financial services programs at Red Hat. Emily has spent over 10 years helping launch cloud technologies, building the Red Hat Developer program, and growing the financial services vertical. Emily is known for creating innovative programs, pushing the status quo, and piloting new ideas to benefit customers and stakeholders.