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How can building societies align digital transformation with their social purpose?

  • Contact: Anonymous
  • Created date: 09 June 2020

Originally published in BSA Society Matters magazine.
Article co-written by Katie Pender and Mark Gilliver, Target Group

SMSPRING2020.jpgBusinesses are rushing headlong into digital transformation, meaning that often the purpose behind the original decision - the all-important why  - is left behind.

Building societies’ core purpose is to deliver on the promise of reducing inequality and increase prosperity across communities, empowering everyone.

Beyond the efficiencies gained and costs saved, this is the true output of digital transformation - to build an inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable future.

This is why we’re thrilled to be part of the Building Societies Association’s Annual Conference in May this year, speaking on this very topic. We fully understand the importance of building societies’ member first approach, and how delicately this unique characteristic should be handled.

Creating services for everyone in society

Building societies are just that. A society. A community. They exist to help people to achieve, be financially stable, and work together for the greater good, for everyone in society. Regrettably, evidence suggests that many digital financial services are aimed at only the most financially and tech-savvy people in society. And it is here where the opportunity lies.

Building societies need to be sure not to leave any customers behind, neglecting those in their society who need help and support with their finances, and who may rely on human interaction and the personal touch.

Ethical banking, based on standards of morality and empathy, also makes good business sense. Attracting and retaining customers from all aspects of society can only support growth, and wellbeing for all.

While super-slick apps, chat bots and voice activated assistants, can bring efficiencies and productivity to some, they're not as accessible for the less financially and tech savvy in society. As well as the investment required for smart phones, digital assistants and internet access, there is also a barrier to such technology for those who are not aware it exists, and/or don't know how to access such tools. Not everyone is an early adopter.

Going back to basics on mortgages

TARGET.pngOur own digital transformation is revolutionising a decades-old process – mortgages. Since the 1930s there has been no true transformation in the market. A new digital feature here and there merely replicates an existing paper process online.

We’ve gone back to basics and asked ourselves the question - if we designed mortgages today, how would we do it?

What we’ve come up with is a mortgage process built from the viewpoint of the customer: your members. Underpinned by behavioural science and technology, The Mortgage Hub is contextualised to specific people and their individual situations.

To be truly aligned with your social purpose, any digital platform should be created from both existing and future customers’ needs, which might not be as expected.

Consumers of all ages still value the personal touch

The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Financial Lives survey discovered that 26% of the 18-24 age group visited a branch to check their account balance in the previous 12 months, an amount only surpassed by the over 65s.

To echo these results, our own research found that Millennials and Generation Z, are likely to seek the reassurance of advice at branches, particularly when setting up new products such as mortgages and investments.

We found that people of all ages still want to experience the security that a personal touch and one-to-one professional advice can provide. But they want it to be accessible at a time and place that suits them.

We’re still human after all.