Using Tech To Bolster Human Connections

by Margaret Nienaber

In a strange new world characterised by physical distance, we are rediscovering the value of real human connections – between colleagues, clients, communities, families and friends. Importantly, the pandemic has reaffirmed our belief that digital technology can help us to become more human and connected, not less.

Standard Bank Wealth has expedited its digital innovations amid the crisis, yet we have been equally focused on the need to be thoughtful, empathetic and kind in our interactions at a time when anxiety and uncertainty about the future is elevated.

To keep the communication lines open from the start of the national lockdown, we launched a COVID-19 chatbot on WhatsApp to address customers queries, and provide always-on support. Within two weeks, more than 100,000 conversations had been facilitated.

Further, the Standard Bank Financial Consultancy team designed a new virtual engagement and on-boarding platform in just one week. To maintain physical distance, clients can now e-sign documents, among other functionalities.

We also saw increased uptake in our My360 app, which provides a global, consolidated view of someone’s entire financial life across more than 20 000 global financial institutions from one touch point. Customers can track and access asset, liability and risk cover regardless of institution, geography or the insurer where accounts reside.

Clients and employees have adapted well to these new ways of working. We believe that going forward, we will employ a hybrid client service model. This means that we will need to be ready to service our clients based on their preference, whether that means in person, virtually, or both. We are also interacting with clients more often, with more teams being involved, and our meetings tend to be more casual in terms of tone and attire.

The shift to digital has also made it easier for clients to attend seminars and events. With many clients feeling uncertain about their financial wellbeing amidst the crisis, we have held weekly Financial Fitness Academy sessions and regular investment webinars.

Relevant, quality and timely information has been critical in the midst of COVID-19 upheaval. In this period of social distancing, clients have been consuming content differently, meaning that multi-channel engagement – via video calls, digital events and written communication – has been the order of the day.

Internally, we have noticed a significant increase in communication and collaboration across teams as we look for new ways to solve for client needs. As an example, we saw a truly integrated universal team in action when it took under six hours for our International, Wealth and Investment and Personal and Business Banking (PBB) teams to facilitate a R1 billion transaction.

Through this uncertain time, we have been actively encouraging our employees to upskill themselves through our various online learning platforms. The Wealth executive committee team has embraced the challenge, as have many financial planners and other employees.

Learning new skills is critical as we accelerate our digitisation agenda, which is largely premised on us understanding our clients better so that we can deepen our relationships with them. To that end, we have expanded our relationship with Salesforce and are increasingly using technologies such as machine learning to understand individual client needs so that we can serve them better.

Meanwhile, our initiatives aimed at bolstering human connections have complemented our various relief measures. For instance, in recognising that clients were using their vehicles less during the lockdown period, the bank provided 25% rebates on car insurance premiums between 27 March and the end of May 2020, and a 10% rebate for June 2020. We also provided a 10% discount on excess payments for home and car insurance claims, among other measures.

At the same time, we provided supply chain support by expediting payments to our insurance suppliers, such as plumbers and electricians.

Across all stakeholder groups, we have undoubtedly strengthened our relationships in these difficult times. We firmly believe that, despite the step change in digitisation, human connections will underpin the wealth management industry long into the future.

  • Margaret Nienaber is Standard Bank Group Wealth CE

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