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Symposium on Customer Focus in Banking

The Faculty of Business joined forces with the ifs University College to organise and host a symposium entitled 'Customer Focus in Banking: How to Implement it?', held on 29 January 2014
13 February 2014

This symposium was organised by Dr Carolina Valiente, a Reader in LSBU's Dept of Accounting & Finance, and hosted by the ifs University College. The event was sponsored jointly by LSBU, the ifs University College and the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

The symposium focused on the importance of the banking system to the world economy. There were a number of high profile speakers, including:

  • Keynote Speaker: Lloyds Bank Retail, Managing Director, Owen Woodley
  • First Direct Chief Executive and Head of UK Contact Centres, HSBC, Mark Mullen
  • Secure Trust Bank CEO, Paul Lynam
  • Which? Policy Programme Director, Ashleye Gunn
  • Financial Ombudsman, Policy Director, Richard Goodman
  • Chairman: The Financial Services Club. Chris Skinner.

The speakers shared their perspective about the present, and particularly their vision about the future of retail banking. The panel considered how the banking crisis made evident a number of different issues that are on the discussion table in most countries:

  • regulation and supervision
  • ethics and customer experience
  • product design and marketing
  • the process of decision making and escalation within financial institutions
  • the process of handling claims and complaints within and outside the financial institutions
  • the issue of incentives and remuneration schemes for employees, management and executives.

All these issues were reflected on by the speakers in the midst of important challenges and trade-offs:

  1. The increasing use of technology and diminishing importance of branches versus the need for a "personal touch" and reliable bank-customer relationship.
  2. The need to move away from a sales-driven product approach versus the implementation complexity and cost of a consumer-needs- driven approach
  3. How to achieve banks' safety and social responsibility versus the need to maintain viable banking operations, innovative, efficient and in the end, profitable.

The presentations and discussion were not only stimulating but also informative with regards to what needs to be done to reshape the future of banking. Some of the important issues underlined in the debate were:

  • One crucial task for banks is to rebuild trust in their customers.
  • The task of rebuilding customers' confidence and also restoring confidence among banking staff will not be easy.
  • Banks are currently reviewing standards regarding recruitment, training, motivation, reward schemes, and the embracement of a new culture within the banking sector.
  • Products and services have to be understandable and easily comparable, they must link up directly with real needs, and they have to deliver good value in the short and long term.
  • The use of technology within the banks and as a channel with customers and the rest of the economy have to be secure, reliable and resilient. IT glitches and data insecurity, as well as inadequate attention to customers using these IT-based systems have to be prevented.
  • Whenever a fault occurs, it is more efficient dealing with these failings promptly and fairly within the organisation, rather than pushing customers to use external grievance mechanisms or arbitration.
  • At the same time, the banking business has to be viable and reasonably profitable within an uncertain economic, political and regulatory environment.
  • The first choice of different stakeholders is to target safety, consumer protection, increasing competition and efficiency.

The responsibility of "reinventing the banks" will definitely involve the enthusiastic design of a new "business model" and the eager execution of many of the strategies discussed in the Symposium. There was no doubt for the participants in the event that this enterprise is highly appealing to students, academics, bankers, supervisors, and all those who are involved with the changes in one way or another.