Digitization of Banks: A Shift from Back-end to Front-end Thinking

Digitization of Banks: A Shift from Back-end to Front-end Thinking


In the age of enterprise digitization and increasing competition within the banking industry–from established players to disruptive outsiders–banks are accelerating the modernization of their customer communications technologies. Key strategic goals often associated with this technology overhaul include customer experience improvement and operational efficiency as our 2016 customer communications technology enterprise research shows. Banking respondents of this research cite that improving customer experience is the number one business objective relative to invest in this technology, followed closely by improving the efficiency of front office employees.

Trying to implement these goals has proven to be a big challenge. Accumulated IT systems over the last generation created a legacy IT architecture—including siloed point solutions, custom integrations, and self-developed scripts—inhibiting innovation in this area for keeping up with new digital competition. That said, we are also seeing successful initiatives as this case of DZ BANK AG (DZB) in Europe.


DZB is the third largest bank in Germany and is headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The company is conducting a multi-year digitalization project within its corporate banking strategic business unit (SBU). InfoTrends had the opportunity to be briefed on this initiative. Call for Action The DZB journey started within the credit management department, where it wanted to improve the serviceability to its credit customers. After a careful assessment, it found opportunities to improve by customer service automation and to migrate front-end activities to digital workflows.
  • Credit agents advising customer needed to manually fill out credit request forms using Microsoft Word. This process was a very time-consuming and error prone activity for these agents because the required form information had to be collected from a subset of different IT systems (e.g., CRM and SAP).
  • Agents had to copy & paste form templates from a shared directory on a centralized file server. Any change requests to these templates were funneled through the IT department, which was responsible for implementing and maintaining the templates.
  • In total, the credit management department worked with 20 different highly domain-specific templates. Each template contained similar (at times identical) pieces of content, but were different in design and layout. Errors by choosing the wrong template were common.
Create the Vision Acknowledging that the key for success would be a seamless integration of its IT back-end and front-end systems, as well as optimizing operational processes, DZB created an internal Digitalization 2020 project. The first step of this project was the implementation of an enterprise-wide customer communications technology stack. This new technology stack should enable faster and less error prone processing of credit requests, efficiency improvement by digitizing and automating manual activities of credit agents while safeguarding specific rules in the credit-domain, as well as freeing up costly IT resources from maintaining templates by shifting responsibility of communications toward the credit department. Build the Foundation After a thorough yearlong RFI-process (which is not unusual for projects of this size), DZB decided to go forward with Assentis Technologies (Assentis), a CCM solution provider headquartered in Switzerland with subsidiaries in Austria, Germany, Singapore, and the United States. Assentis primarily supports the financial services and insurance industries, which helped it win this business. Its financial solutions portfolio, called SolPortfolio, provides dedicated communication-centric solutions for the financial services industry. It is a web-based solution built upon a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and through its integration layer (named ComFoundation) it provides vertical adapters for core banking systems at its customers such as Avaloq, Finnova, and Temenos, as well as ERP systems such as SAP. The Benefits Automatic population of the credit request form saves agents a significant amount of time and reduces the risk of errors in the manual process. Agents used to have to manually complete 90% of a form. Today it is the other way around; 90% of the template is automatically populated when an agent opens it, and only 10% needs to be handled manually. This automation also comes with a second benefit—agents need less training on the system as domain-specific rules are managed by the system. As a result, highly knowledgeable agents (which are scare in the market today) can be given more complex cases to work on, thus optimizing staff utilization. The solution provided by Assentis also introduced an approval workflow, which our research shows is an important capability for banks when making an investment in customer communications technology. This added an extra layer of security to the front-end process. Through role-based user management, credit requests are automatically submitted to and flagged for approval by a superior. Finally, DZB experienced a lift in its employee satisfaction as the manual population of credit request forms was not the most desired activity for credit agents. Time-consuming capture of information across multiple IT systems is now a thing of the past. InfoTrends’ Opinion With its digitization strategy, DZB is walking a path that many banks are following today. In fact, a whole new and fast growing technology industry is emerging from this: FinTech. According to research from Citi et al, investments in global FinTech companies grew by 58% to $19 billion between 2014 and 2015. CCM vendors also recognize the opportunity within financial services. But typically solutions are focused on outbound multi-channel communications that take traditional static statements to an interactive mobile-enabled customer engagement tool or that enable business users to take over control of customer correspondence. There are only a few CCM vendors that focus on supporting very domain-specific banking applications, such as the credit management case at DZB. Assentis is one of them, Smart Communications with its SmartDX solution for the capital market community is another. Expect to see more vendors come into this niche as the pressures for digitizing in the banking industry continues!   David Stabel Associate Director, Customer Communications Advisory Services @davidstabel InfoTrends, a Keypoint Intelligence division, newly launched customer communications service focusses on the customer communications market from a consumer preference perspective, business strategy and investment perspective to enterprise outsourcing services and the technologies that drive these communications. We will soon be launching our 2017 annual global research. For more information on how to gain access to the results, contact Deanna Flanick at deanna.flanick@keypointintelligence.com today!