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Today’s world is no longer a nine-to-five environment. Instead, consumers expect to be able to interact with companies whenever and wherever they are, so it is vital businesses offer always-on services in order to meet these demands.

The banking sector is no different. But what do we mean when we say ‘always-on services’? Clearly, it starts with ensuring that consumers have constant access to their accounts, but there’s a lot of work that must be done to make this a reality. For starters, an effective always-on system needs to integrate different channels, so customers can get the same high-quality experience however they choose to interact.

A good always-on solution should also help simplify and standardize a bank’s offering, as well as setting it apart from competitors. However, these services also need to manage risk, meet the bank’s compliance obligations and improve its security

The drive towards strong always-on services

There are several factors that have contributed to the rise in importance of always-on services. Improvements in technology have led to a more digitized world, and in turn, this is affecting the expectations of customers.

Younger customers, and in particular the so-called ‘millennial’ generation’, have grown up in a time where 24/7 availability of personalized services is the norm. And in the coming years, as banks start to market their offerings towards ‘Generation Z’ – those currently in their teens and early 20s, they will have to recognise that these are consumers who have never known a world without social media and smartphones. As such, they will have even higher expectations.

As consumers are happy to get recommendations on companies from friends, family and social media, they are also much less loyal to companies, and will be more likely than in the past to take their business elsewhere if they think they can get a better deal. In the US, for example, one in three consumers would consider leaving their bank for a service with a better online or mobile experience.

At the same time, the political climate is putting banks under greater pressure due to new regulations and security demands, while overall industry trends such as a focus on digital payments and competition from non-bank players bring their own challenges. All this means that making always-on services a success is a huge challenge.

The implications for FIs

So what do financial institutions (FIs) need to do to meet these demands and make sure their always-on services are working to their full potential?

Firstly, they will need to be able to offer high availability across both physical and digital channels. Online, this means no downtime, while in branch and in the contact center, tools such as data analytics, mobile and social channels need to be effectively integrated in order to deliver the services users expect.

Other challenges that must be addressed include the effective sharing of key information, which means breaking down the internal and external silos that many FIs currently rely on. At the same time, they must be able to show their solutions meet security and compliance requirements.

This means, for instance, that ATM fleets need to be protected against both physical and logical attacks, while keeping up-to-date with the latest regulations needs to be a top priority.

Ultimately, an effective always-on solution can help set an FI apart from its competitors and provide a compelling, high-quality experience for consumers across all channels. But to do this, companies need the right technology supporting their operations and a single, integrated approach to meeting customer expectations.

Marsha Hanus is the Director of Development for NCR’s Financial Services Business at NCR and leads the market and business development of NCR’s services portfolio that serve financial institutions.   

Image credit: iStockphoto/Spaceliner

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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.

Brad Strothkamp

http://www.forrester.com/rb/analyst/brad_strothkamp