06.17.2016
By Terry Flanagan

Assessing Digital Engagement

Financial-services firms have made great strides in digitally engaging with today’s mobile-powered generation, but there is a significant bifurcation among providers, and there’s room for improvement across the board.

Those were a few of the broad conclusions from Markets Media’s Digital Engagement in Finance webinar, which was held on Tuesday June 14. Participants were Jim Del Favero, chief product officer at Personal Capital; Tom Kimberly, general manager at Betterment Institutional; and Barry Smith, managing director of global capital markets at Equinix.

Digital is forcing business transformation across industries, including financial services, Smith noted. Technology is considered the chief external influence on all enterprises for the past three years, according to industry research; digital is driving the need to change at an unprecedented rate, yet enterprises are not architected for this unprecedented rate of change.

Smith continued that digital requires enterprises to implement three key technology capabilities: mobile, cloud and Internet of Things (IoT). Information-technology functions need to be re-architected for digital, and every firm needs to solve the four steps in the digital playbook: localizing the network, creating security guardrails, establishing data fabric, and interconnecting digital ecosystems locally.

Barry White, Equinix

Barry Smith, Equinix

Newer, technology-oriented financial services providers are digitally engaging customers reasonably well, but the larger, incumbent firms have some catching up to do. With regard to the former group, it’s unclear whether their business models or built to last, or whether they’re more likely to be takeover targets.

Digital engagement “comes down to being interconnected and it comes down to being agile,” Smith said. “Agility is about being able to respond quickly, whether for functionality, or for regulatory changes, or for competition.”

As for the future of digital engagement, Del Favero opined that reducing customer-experience friction,  such as limits on bank transfers and paperwork, is key. Digitally engaged firms “will let people interact with their money in the way they want to, using the systems they use on a regular basis.”

There will also be an increase in mobile usage and mobile features, ideally making for ubiquitous access across multiple channels.

Kimberly cited artificial intelligence and cognitive computing as key drivers of digital engagement going forward. “There will be the ability to probabilistically predict issues or concerns users may have, based on behavior patterns and exogenous factors  like what’s going on in the marketplace,” he said. “You will have an increasingly intelligent online experience and increasingly intelligent delivery of content and/or service.”

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