The better the question
Can agile tech transform the customer experience overnight?
Faced with disruptive competitors, a company needed to focus strategically on the client experience and offer innovative services.
In 2016, a leading global wealth management company was facing the challenge of changing customer expectations. With technology rapidly evolving and FinTech companies disrupting the market by offering a wide range of new, user-friendly services, this wealth manager needed to transform the digital experience for its customers in order to remain competitive. Moreover, “industrializing” the customer relationship by empowering clients to manage and monitor their assets online would enable the wealth manager to reduce the amount it spent on advisory services.
Offering these new services and changing the way it operated would mean transforming the client’s architecture and technology stack – mastering new technologies, incorporating external solutions by partnering with FinTechs, and building new data capabilities.
With a proven track record delivering end-to-end integrated business and technology solutions, EY teams were engaged to help the client develop a suite of innovative customer-facing services. Their objective was to leverage a new technology platform, in order to not only retain its existing customers but also gain new ones.
The better the answer
Agile development and a customer-centric approach
EY focused on developing minimum viable products (MVPs) that could be tested with customers.
Given that this technology-enabled transformation project was ultimately all about the customer, the EY team decided to focus on the customer’s needs, employing a collaborative innovation approach based on design thinking.
They gathered a wide array of its technology consulting talent, from technology service designers and developers, to IT architects and those proficient in business strategy. The global EY team included highly trained specialists in Belgium, France, Hong Kong SAR, Italy, Luxembourg and Singapore.
The process began with more than 50 client interviews. These were followed by three-day Ideation Workshops held in four locations around the world, each involving 30 to 40 of the wealth manager’s internal stakeholders. These workshops covered trends analysis, discussion of best practice and the creation of client personas. As a result of the workshops, 75 potentially beneficial initiatives were identified. It was then decided to prioritize 15 of these, covering five key areas:
- Better customer data management
- A more personalized digital platform
- An advisory process that is embedded in the client’s life
- Sharing and network capabilities
- Fully service-driven
The next stage was the development of 10 minimum viable products (MVPs) in areas such as digital advisory and communications tools, as well as robo-advice and an aggregation service. Thierry Grouès, EY WAM Transformation Strategic Solutions Lead, explains: “An MVP isn’t a proof of concept, it’s a real thing that some customers can use. The idea was to launch something as quickly as possible in an agile way and as a starting point. Then, once you have that in the hands of the customers, that’s when you can increase the value proposition around it.” This involved developing a landing platform, both on the front end and technology side, where these new services could be housed.
The EY team faced several challenges as it worked to rapidly develop and launch these new digital services while simultaneously carrying out the transformation of the company’s internal operations and dealing with legacy technology systems.
The development of partnerships with several FinTech companies helped accelerate the development of new services. To maximize the long-term value generated from their client’s existing technology systems, the EY team worked with the client’s multiple technology vendors to consolidate their latest individual technology products into a single, consolidated, customer-centric technology platform. These components ranged from personalized customer alerts and newsfeeds, to digital onboarding, account aggregation and biometric validation. Concurrently, the team assessed how the client’s legacy systems needed to evolve to support these new services and be scalable over the coming years.
There were also cultural issues, as this agile methodology was a new way of working for the wealth management firm. EY Seren (an international design consultancy with substantial experience in digital business transformation) was part of this effort, and the EY team also worked with an external agency to help the client become accustomed to the collaborative, innovative approach required to implement the methodology.
Finally, Grouès says that managing the client’s expectations was important. “You can’t launch all of these different services overnight. It takes a lot of time and consultation, and after the implementation it can sometimes take two or three years to learn what does and doesn’t work, and to transform the client’s culture to make the most of the technology.”
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People transformation to complement the digital transformation
The focus has now shifted to transforming the wealth manager’s internal culture.
This technology-led transformation of the wealth management company’s customer-facing services has been an ongoing project. The first MVPs were launched the year after EY was engaged, and since then a series of services have been added to the customer platform. The IT transformation plan has been initiated and ran in parallel, with a strong focus on ensuring that the IT and business objectives were aligned. Mastering data, adding cloud layers, integrating external technologies and replatforming several core banking components have been at the center of this transformation.
Now a new phase of the transformation has begun and the client continues working closely with EY, focusing on improving operational efficiency and delivering long-term value. “We have started to reboot a new ambition for the next four years,” says Grouès. “This involves identifying new priorities, aligning everybody within these new priorities, adapting the organization to deliver in a different way, and continuously transforming the IT platform to bring it to the next level of scalability.”
This highlights the importance of undertaking a people transformation to complement a digital transformation; although not everyone in the wealth management firm can be an IT expert, business people need to be trained to think digitally and to work with IT specialists when necessary to deliver new digital services.
While this process is ongoing, the wealth management firm is already able to offer a wide range of new digital services that have improved the customer experience and enabled it to compete more effectively with the disruptors. The digital transformation EY initiated has helped it to build the business and technology foundations of a new service model that enables it to react in a more agile way to changing customer needs and expectations.
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