Insight & Analysis

Why should treasury be interested in self-service banking?

Published: Jul 2017

Banks are increasingly turning their attention to the opportunities and benefits of a self-service model, from a reduction in paper to greater transparency and enhanced decision making.

Simply put, self-service means that people can carry out activities themselves, without the need for human interaction. The rise of online banking platforms and mobile apps has provided greater opportunities for people to withdraw cash, check their account balances and send transactions without ever having to set foot in a bricks-and-mortar branch. Notable developments include the arrival of chatbots, which can perform tasks such as initiating transactions and providing financial advice.

As consumers begin to benefit from these developments, a number of factors are combining to make self-service a higher priority in the corporate banking arena too, from cross-border expansion to the maturity of technology and the rise of apps and APIs.

So what does self-service actually include? “Some things are obvious, like how can I click into a transaction and see the details,” says Francyn Stuckey, Head of Payments & Cash Management at ANZ. “In other cases, it’s about asking whether things are really intuitive to customers, not just to the bank. It’s also important to ask how many clicks it takes to get through a process and whether people stop before getting the information they wanted.”

Meanwhile, Manoj Dugar, Head of Core Cash Management Product, Asia Pacific, Treasury Services at J.P. Morgan, says that he sees three types of self-service model emerging:

  • Robust real-time decision-making support through analytics and decision-making tools.
  • Superior front-end platform for information flow and visibility of transaction.
  • The development of search and investigation modules to digitise query resolution.

Barriers to adoption

While self-service banking may have much to offer corporate clients, there are also some factors which may hinder development and uptake. David Blair, an independent treasury consultant based in Singapore, says that cross-branch consistency is one issue: “To enable meaningful self-service for multinational corporations requires a consistent back end across bank branches, which is not common in today’s banks.”

At the same time, regulatory considerations may hinder development in this area. “From a regulatory perspective, some markets like China, Thailand and Malaysia still require physical documents for certain transactions, creating challenges for self-service banking which by definition should allow users to perform banking transactions whenever they like,” says J.P. Morgan’s Dugar. “Also, certain general banking services like direct debit transaction and account opening still require wet signatures.”

The way forward

As this area develops, Stuckey points out that it is important to make sure that self-service is actually serving the customer, and not just serving the bank. “I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive,” she adds. “If I’m running a treasury application, I want information when I need it – I don’t want to have to reach out to someone in another system. So it’s convenient for them that I can access the information, and it’s convenient for me.”

As such, the way in which banks display information to customers has evolved over time, with a growing focus on design based thinking. Stuckey notes that in the past, banks tended to create dashboards and fill up all the available space. “Now there is much more of a bite size mentality,” she comments. “I don’t need to see all the payment screen – I may want just the first line, which is balance trends, and I can click in as needed.”

While there are a number of obstacles to overcome, the benefits of self-service banking are considerable – and more is to come. Nevertheless, it is also important to be aware that self-service has its limits: the complexity of certain products and services means there will always come a point at which the need for human interaction becomes essential. As Stuckey points out, “If I’m doing a simple transaction I’m very happy with a chatbot, but if I’m doing something more complex I probably want to talk to a human.”

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