In my years as Marketing and Product Director for Barclays Business I spent a lot of time getting to know our small business (SMB) customers, understanding the challenges they faced and exploring the solutions that could help. One of the most consistent messages I heard, whether listening in on calls or meeting face to face, was surprise at our inability to provide useful insights and guidance to help them run their business better. Surely, with our size, market share and centuries of experience, we had the tools to help them avoid mistakes, maximize profitability, and so on. And more than that, we had the data to deliver real insight.
And certainly I understood why they might think that: banks do hold a great deal of data. However at that time our systems meant that we struggled to generate anything other than generic insights and getting to something that we could benchmark the data against was difficult. Even without these barriers, there was then the question of finding a cost effective way of delivering this information to the customer.
Fortunately, much has changed since then.
- In many cases communication with customers has moved away from face-to-face encounters and telephony to digital. The increasing prevalence of things like mobile banking apps are helping to build relationships that are direct, targeted and easier to maintain. By taking their cue from services like Facebook or LinkedIn, banks can now get to the nub of day-to-day support that was never possible through people or print.
- As well as the huge digitization projects that banks have undertaken there’s also been a significant move towards improving data. The so-called ‘Big Data’ transformation is making it possible to aggregate and interrogate data, helping to drive insights and enhance the customer experience.
- SMB customers are increasingly using online tools like accountancy software packages to help with the running of their business. These sources of reliable data about customer behaviour are gradually being recognized as valuable added services by banks.
Big data delivers
With each of these developments, banks are now far better equipped to meet the demands and expectations of their SMB customers. One such organisation that’s taken the initiative and stepped into this space is Deutsche Bank, working in partnership with BCSG.
They’ve aggregated big data for SMBs to enable better decision making in cash flow management, sales and cost management / performance, business planning and forecasting, and international trade. And they’ve made these services free to all their SMB customers. My experience tells me that these are exactly the kind of insights that banks have long been expected to provide. It’s exciting that they’re now able to do so. But there’s a lot more to come.
What the future holds
I suspect that soon we’ll see banking data used more deeply. We’re already beginning to see transactional data being aggregated and analysed, then delivered to retailers to give them insight into how their basket size compares to competitors. And SMBs can now review business plan targets by mapping them against trading performance in their bank account, for example.
Developments like these represent a significant move towards banks becoming trusted partners and true supporters of small businesses. Deutsche Bank’s new platform is certainly more than a step in the right direction.
For more on how you can use data to improve the digital banking experience for small businesses, visit our resources section