When financial services companies wrote their business plans for 2020, it’s a safe bet that no one penciled in closing all physical locations, cutting revenue dramatically and converting nearly all employees to work remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic is an event without precedent in the modern world and there have been many remarkable responses to the crisis. As Winston Churchill said, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Now is clearly a time to find optimism and help us come out of a global pandemic stronger and more resilient than before.
Three observations: remote working, customer service and tech steps up
While it’s too early-on to fully understand the changes arising from the pandemic, a move to remote working, the increased importance of customer service online, and the development of new tech to address complicated and unforeseen problems are all important developments to date. Tech companies like Google are stepping up to the plate to address pervasive challenges:
It’s a good bet that the acronym of the year for 2020 is going to be “WFH”. While the trend toward flexible, “work-from-home” arrangements was already growing, the wholesale shift from office to home as a result of COVID-19 was swift and virtually complete. For the financial services industry, in particular, this shift to remote work came as a stark change that, in many cases, presented access and security issues.
Flexible collaboration tools like Google Docs and powerful meeting applications like Google Meet have been essential to not only enabling the shift to remote work but also increasing productivity at the same time. Challenges remain with security and firming up processes and protocols for WFH, but there has been a surprisingly low number of negative instances. This can be credited to the strength and flexibility of technology.
The pandemic introduced a potential “lose/lose/lose” situation for financial services enterprises. In addition to many customers being unaccustomed to online services, resources were often stretched to their breaking points under a deluge of demand and, at the same time, workers were thrust into new and unproven working environments.
One way that firms have responded is by increasing their capacity through tools such as Google Contact Center AI (CCAI). With CCAI, capacity can be expanded and service continually improved as the technology assists human agents in both the preliminary steps as well as during the direct interaction with the customer. What’s more, service and performance can be continually enhanced as AI “learns” along the way.
The swift and pervasive spread of COVID-19 caught everyone off guard and led to many unforeseen consequences. In fact, even steps that were taken in order to address the economic crisis presented hurdles for the industry to support.
One case, in particular, was the introduction of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Designed by the U.S. Congress to support the payrolls of small and medium enterprises, the PPP has been challenged by the sheer number of applications as well as the need to dramatically expand the network for managing the program and distributing funds. In response and to provide needed technology solutions, Google stepped forward with the PPP Lending AI Solution.
The PPP Lending AI Solution consists of three components that can be used separately or in combination: the Loan Processing Portal, Document AI PPP Parser API and Loan Analytics. The portal provides a web-based application for managing PPP requests, the parser API facilitates the creation of loan documentation, and analytics can be used to improve the evaluation process from origination to risk calculation. Taken together, and along with similar efforts elsewhere, they provide a needed lifeline at a time when the Small Business Administration (SBA) and individual lenders are struggling to keep up.
Accelerating trends toward the future and more
In a recent survey of banking customers in Europe, McKinsey & Co. found that online banking rose between 7% and 19% during the pandemic and one in five customers in Spain and Britain used online banking for the very first time. McKinsey estimates that similar gains would have taken two years or more to be realized. The shift caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been fast and pervasive and there is no reason to believe that behaviors will shift back as the pandemic eases. Fortunately, the trends are toward increased efficiency, usability and expanded capabilities. From that optimistic perspective, COVID-19 can be seen as a positive force for change.
If you need assistance addressing your business needs around remote work, customer service, or financial solutions, Maven Wave can help. As the three-time North American Google Services Partner of the Year, we have deep expertise in all of these areas. Contact us now to set up a time to discuss how we can partner on a solution.
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