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Interview: “We’re in a consumer industry first and a financial services industry second”

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by Appway
| 10/08/2018 12:00:00

At our recent thought leadership event in London, Sebastian Dovey, 2018 Wealth Management Thought Leader of the Year Winner, Bijna K Dasani, Head of Group Architecture and Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group, and Stephen Manly, Sales Director at Appway, elaborated on some of the digitalization challenges facing wealth managers. Below are excerpts from their conversation. The panel was moderated by Steve Dyson, Director at Investment and Wealth Management Consultants (IAWMC).

Bijna K. Dasani works in the Chief Operating Office of Lloyds Banking Group and is responsible for Group Architecture, Strategy, and Transformation. She has a robust track record of delivering strategic, innovative, and complex transformation successes across products, asset classes, and markets.

Sebastian Dovey, former co-CEO of Scorpio Partnership, is an established business leader, imaginative keynote speaker, and published author in wealth management. He is the 2018 Wealth Management Thought Leader of the Year Winner.

Stephen Manly is Appway’s UK Sales Director based in London. He has a solid background in the international information services industry, with a focus on regulatory compliance and business intelligence.

What does digital strategy mean to you?
Bijna K. Dasani: At Lloyds, we recognize that we live in a world of digital disruption in a way that’s never been experienced before. Many of our customers are no longer comparing us to other banks, but to the likes of Amazon, John Lewis, and Uber. They expect banking solutions that are intuitive, accessible, and that provide them with instant value. Therefore, our digital strategy is to continuously improve customer journeys.

Stephen Manly: The meaning of digital depends on what your ambitions are. For some, it’s to become more efficient and to reduce costs. For others, it’s a more complete vision which involves new business models that will help acquire and retain customers and access new market segments. While it’s relatively easy to make a business case on efficiency, re-engineering your business poses significant challenges. However, the speed of change makes more and more banks aim for agility rather than for efficiency only.

Sebastian Dovey: Any business that says digital is purely a mechanism to halt the decline of margins or to fight against the reduction of our fees is actually giving up. Wealth managers need to proactively embrace digital change and make it constructive for customers. We need to determine what parts of the customer experience they can add value to and possibly even charge higher prices for. Think of Amazon or contemporary music services, where most people spend more money today than they did five years ago.


Hans Peter Wolf, Appway CEO, speaking at our thought leadership event in London

What trends and challenges are you seeing around digital solutions?
B.K.D.: I see three main challenges. First and foremost, we need to understand the customer. We’ve seen branch closures across the country. At the same time, people want more human interaction; they want that component of emotional intelligence that helps them make decisions.

Data—the second challenge—is key to understanding the customer. Although we are subject to regulation that minimizes what we can do with data, we need to play with it to drive maximum results.

A third major challenge is the millennium cohort. By 2025, it will represent 75% of both our workforce and our customer base. This will not only be the most educated cohort, but also the one with the highest inheritance on record. When and how do we start engaging with them?

S.D.: It’s amazing how many banks have next-generation programs, yet are missing a digital offering to interact with millennials. Unless you offer them a best-of-breed product, you won’t be able to attract them—not as new customers or as a new generation of wealth managers.

S.M.: The duality of digital and physical channels creates another challenge. Most wealth managers agree that the future of customer interactions lies in a hybrid approach, where you’re using the best of digital while maintaining the personal contact with your customer—however, switching from one mode to another is still far from seamless.

How can data empower financial services to be more effective?
B.K.D.: One of the ways is to use data across brands to drive new revenue for existing products. Another way is to use our customer knowledge across brands to design an all-inclusive offering, as opposed to single product offerings only.

S.D.: You’re looking at the potential for pattern recognition, comparing customers’ behavior over time. In some ways, this is a codification of what wealth managers have done reiteratively and intuitively. It’s a fundamental skill that we have. Now we need to industrialize that skill, because the demands on our business are to achieve greater scale and revenue.

The UK wealth management sector is sometimes seen as somewhat behind the curve of innovation. What can we learn from other industries and geographies?
B.K.D.: We’re behind other markets because we’re a lot more thoughtful about the risk and the regulations involved. The US or even India are more exploratory when it comes to trying out new things, testing and learning from experiments. We recently introduced WhatsApp to one of our mortgage brands. With the help of an FCA-compliant WhatsApp capability, we reduced the end-to-end customer journey—from submitting a mortgage application to finding the funds in your account—from one month to three days. All data is exchanged in a secure environment and stored automatically, which cuts down on manual labor and processing time.

S.D.: We’re catching up! The flow of European venture capital into FinTech has grown by 120% last year, while it’s declined in Asia and stayed relatively flat in the Americas.

I agree, though, that we still need to acknowledge that we’re in a consumer industry first and a financial services industry second. Any consumer industry will put the customer first and the customer experience at the epicenter of every process.

A related point is that we should behave more like publishers. As service providers, our perceived value depends on what we communicate—about the markets we invest in, how we process information, and how we use it to our clients’ benefit.

B.K.D.: I see our reliance on spreadsheets being another obstacle. There are lots of issues when you don’t have traceability of data. The same goes for our core business systems. We ask consultants to fix our processes for us but we still rely on static data ourselves.

Do you see the wealth management industry being digitally disrupted by consumer technologies?
S.M.: Yes, I do. In retail (Amazon), hospitality (Airbnb), and transport (Uber), consumer-led brands have already disrupted the more regulated industries. Why would wealth management be any different?

Generally, consumer-led brands develop their services and achieve mass adoption in less regulated industries first. Then they learn to deal with regulation, not least because of their dominant market position. That seems like a perfect training ground before entering more regulated industries like wealth management.

S.D.: In China, we’ve already witnessed a significant flow of financial services customers moving toward Alibaba, a consumer-led brand. Alibaba now manages US$165 billion in financial assets, which makes it one of the largest private banks in the world.

Nevertheless, “digital disruption” is hardly the right way to describe what we’re experiencing. A lot of the innovation in consumer technologies has been constructive in that it has enabled a new digital way of life.

B.K.D.: The only reliable constant is change. Just like a phone is no longer a phone, a bank is no longer a bank. And the pace of change keeps accelerating. Self-service capabilities, for instance, are no longer a differentiator. We now expect preemptive service and want to feel that we’re being exclusively catered to, as we’ve become accustomed to this with companies such as Google and Amazon. We want Alexa to order our groceries and the L’Oréal app to tell us when we’ve had too much sun exposure.

What are some of the main barriers to a successful digital strategy?
B.K.D.: Our legacy systems are a major inhibitor. I’ve seen this over and again: You’ve found a suitable solution and you want to bring in that provider, but then your existing core systems aren’t ready to interface with it. By the time they are, your solution is outdated…

S.M.: …which raises the question of how agile and adaptive you can be when you rely on your legacy systems only. If you don’t have a common technology platform that you can simply plug into, then you’re lost from the very beginning.

S.D.: Often, it’s not only the technology that’s incompatible but also the people!

We all want technology but we’re a bit afraid of embracing it because it might have an impact on our role, and we’re unsure about how quickly our role will be affected. We want to be in a digital business, but this business is also our passion. It’s our work, blood, existence, and value.

Are you interested in joining our next thought leadership event? Contact Appway at or IAWMC at