In conversation with George Collier
The changing face of customer service

Client onboarding: Human beings, holistic views and truthful engagement. iMeta Technologies George Collier on the changing face of customer service.

In the past year, the world has pivoted to working, living and consuming from home. So, it’s no surprise that both customer demands and expectations have deepened. It’s not just about who can provide the swiftest delivery anymore, it’s about who has a clear, confident and consistent way of dealing with their customer base. As the digital landscape grows wider, Sean Vickers of Aurora SDE speaks to George Collier, Sales Director of iMeta Technologies Ltd to discuss iMeta’s place in the industry, the evolution of automation and what customer experience really looks like in 2021.

 Sean Vickers: So, what do you do for iMeta?

George Collier: I am a Sales Director, responsible for sales, setting strategies, messaging and our go to market plan.

SV: Describe what iMeta does and the service you provide?

GC: iMeta provides what generally falls into the category of Client Lifecycle Management platforms. We compete with the likes of BPM tools which are what banks have traditionally tried to deploy in this space. Where we’re different, is we consider client onboarding outside of simply workflow and orchestrating humans. We think it’s really about gathering the correct data; going through the correct processes and the correct docs. Our focus is fundamentally: how do we make sure we are giving the right data or how do our clients make sure they are getting the right data from their clients? How do we make that onboarding journey as seamless as possible?

 SV: So, on the face of it data and the seamless onboarding journey, in your mind, are linked?

 GC: Yes, absolutely. If you can use a combination of data management capabilities, an intelligent rules engine and APIs of third party sources, you can really make that onboarding process more efficient and straight-through process (STP) a large number of the clients that meet your risk criteria. You can have your people focus on the outliers, such as high-risk cases or where EDD is required, however, most banks have implemented workflow tools which inherently require people to hit keyboards. Subsequently, they are never going to be seamless, they are always going to be human intensive.

SV: It sounds like you’re using people where they are needed rather than across the whole process?

 GC: That’s exactly right.

 “We’re using human beings for their expert analysis; their forensic skills to drill down into problem areas, not just to input loads and loads of data.”

SV: And why has this come about? Why does iMeta need to exist? What happened?

 GC: There’s a couple of reasons. Back in 2008, banks realised they don’t have a really firm handle on who they were doing business with. If you look back to the American mortgage commercials back in the late 00s, they deliberately didn’t care who they were lending money to. So, that changed. Regulation kicked in. I think most banks have got that side of things mainly under control now. You’re not seeing the large fines as much as you did back in the last decade but what we’re seeing now is that we’re all used to different client experiences. We’re all used to going on the internet, finding something online and having it delivered the next day, or being able to immediately download something.

 “We don’t want to wait weeks to have a bank account opened. It’s not in our psyche anymore. It’s certainly not in the younger generations’ psyche. I see there is more of a move towards automation now. Over the next few years, we’ll see banks move away from manual processes, move away from their periodic manual reviews and look to automate as much as possible and look to make the client journey as seamless and enjoyable as possible.”

 SV: It sounds like what you’re saying is that in this digital age we all operate in everyday, whether it’s shopping at your local supermarket or buying something online, it is impacting how banks operate because there’s expectations, there’s a need that wasn’t there a decade ago.

 GC: Yeah. 100%.

 SV: Where do you think that goes to if you were to follow that story through? Do you have any ideas? What does it look like?

 GC: One of the things is that it’s more difficult for banks to differentiate from their competition by product at the moment because products are all pretty similar. Whether it’s a retail product or whether you’re an investment bank trading, the products aren’t massively differentiating. So, how do you differentiate from your competition? How do you make your services more appealing to your client base? I really think it’s by offering a much slicker service and much better user experience.

 SV: This leads me, quite interestingly, to where we’re at which is: why is customer experience so urgent and so prevalent in the industry right now? We’ve probably seen a decade where regulations have actually been the driver. People have acquired systems, integrated systems, spent a lot of money because it was a regulatory need. In some ways, it feels like that’s changed. Do you agree or disagree?

 GC: I do. I think on the whole, most things are under control. There are a few who we still speak to who do have regulatory issues that they need to address, but they tend to be the smaller players. I think the focus will move more towards the customer. How do you give them the best experience you can do?

 SV: There’s also the thought around the ecosystem around these regulations. There are so many organisations that offer client services or outsourcing of the problem. Ten years ago, no one knew how to deal with it and everything was a brand new problem in the regulatory space. But let’s talk about customer experience. Is it a fixed or idea or a floating idea? Will it continue to evolve? Is it about time or quality? Is time the factor or is it convenience?

 GC: It’s both. If you think about how you interact online, it should be fairly similar to how you interact as a person. It’s not just getting stuff immediately, it’s how enjoyable that experience is as well. How do you make that as enjoyable as having a face-to-face conversation? In the same way that you’re personable to people – if you have a good banking experience, you’re going to warm to that. You’re going to want to keep having that same experience again. You have to get away from the product and the purely commercial side of it and really think about the interaction.

 “Over the last year or so, all we’ve done is interact with computers and so you want that to be as enjoyable as possible.”

 SV: Let’s explore that a bit further. We’ve talked about how iMeta are the data led, data driven engine behind a lot of the things that you do. Let’s talk about how that can drive optimal customer experience? So, I’ve got all this amazing data. Based on what we’ve just said about time, convenience, quality – what can we do with it? Because data is data. How do you take what is central to iMeta and apply it to these customer experiences? What does that look like for you?

 GC: On the CLM side of things (the onboarding, the KYC), it’s about getting data directly from the client and third party systems to enrich it. Banks tend to be quite fragmented traditionally. I was talking to a bank last week, a large US bank, and their operations are very fragmented. They have a client onboarding team, a KYC team, a screening team, and that’s just in the onboarding/KYC spectrum. Then they have a transaction monitoring team which has its own fragmentations as well. So, you can use technology, data, and transference of data, to pull all of that together. This creates one team which does the onboarding, the screening, the corporate unpacking and that’s all done in a technical environment which is all joined up. But you can also link into transaction monitoring tools which tend to be quite separate.

This gives banks the ability to ask themselves: What have we achieved that over the last year of working with that client? Is their anticipated relationship what we thought it would be? And if it isn’t, do we want to carry on? You can use data and KPI to commit to many different systems, which will give you not just ‘who is that client?’ and ‘what is that client?’, but what is the business relationship with that client and how are you working with them? And once you can join those up, it enables you to look at how you can be communicating other offerings better to your client.  It’s about pulling the data together to give a more holistic view for the customer and look at what services you are offering them.

 SV: So, there are some elements around you knitting together information to make the client feel understood. From my experience, if you’re talking to a client and they say ‘I’ve sent you these things before’, you’ve got to have something on record. Because of the way data works now, It’s just assumed by the client that banks know everything or the bank can talk with a level of assurance that everything they have is correct. In the past, you had to get past all these things, so data was seen as the blocker. ‘We don’t hold that information on you, can you give it to us’ – all those things are blockers. So, if I’m hearing correctly, iMeta is helping move some of those things out of the way?

 GC: Yes. The other thing we help with in terms of real tangible benefits for our clients is the ability to STP onboarding where it meets key risk criteria. We’ve enabled our clients to multiply revenues by four to twenty times. They can onboard people so much quicker than they used to be able to using traditional systems. So, we deliver real, tangible business benefits for our clients. We can provide a solution which solves the problem we set out to solve, effectively turbo charging the business, which is a really gratifying thing to see when helping our clients.

 SV: So, are you talking there George about the speed with which the client is onboarded so they can start generating revenue?

 GC: Yes.

 SV: Why are you different to other players in the market?

 GC: We have workflow which is a byproduct of the onboarding process. So, that’s the way we use it. If things don’t go straight through, you need an escalation process. Whereas pretty much all of our competitors default to workflow as a starting point. It’s a perfectly valid way to start things but if we remember how it worked to onboard someone twenty years ago; you sent a bit of paper, you filled out some questions, you then sent it on to different team members and then you’d onboard them, stamp it, put it in a filing cabinet and take it out again to review it. Most of our competitors have just replicated that paper-based process with tech. They have replaced paper and filing cabinets with keyboards and hard drives but it’s still pretty much the same process. So, although the data is captured electronically rather than physically, it doesn’t really give you the same process gains because it’s the wrong starting point.

 SV: Customer experience is a bit of a buzzword. It can mean many things. What are some of the common issues with customer experience today? Where do people fall over with this term?

 GC: I think whether you call it customer experience or customer service, it’s always been around. We are human beings and we like interactions. It’s just a different terminology now. In the same way FinTech means something different now compared to twenty years ago, but it’s still around. I think customer experience is always going to be important as long as people interact with each other.

SV: Today, we have a top end of business: Funds, asset managers and at the bottom end of business you have retail purpose – you’ve got you and I. Can we learn from other industries or other parts of the banking or financial services industries about how this works better? Because often we speak about the top end, but often the bottom end really is all about the internet. When you think about FinTech’s, these are all players that really have taken a product and realised that the angle isn’t the product, it’s the experience. Can we learn from that?

 GC: I think we can learn from that. If you look at some of those banks, yes, they have got the slick customer experience in place but they’d missed the last part of the regulation. So, they’ve been pulled up on that heavily lately. I think you have to do both. You need the right process and operating model. You need the right tool set which is going to give you the ability to offer great customer service, but still pull through your regulatory obligations. I know the focus isn’t as much on regulations as it was ten years ago, but you’ve still got to do it. You need to be mindful that you are putting a processing platform in place which satisfies both of those outcomes.

iMeta Technologies specialises in:

  • Reducing client onboarding times from days to minutes
  • Taking you from idea implementation to live results in two months
  • Increasing client onboarding capacity by 20X
  • Seamless client experience and improved employee satisfaction
  • Successful implementations across wholesale and investment banking, corporate banking, wealth and retail