Wincor Nixdorf: Experience meets vision: a new route for the branch
The explosion in online and mobile banking services has forced banks to re-evaluate the relevance of their branch networks. Traditional teller service is becoming a thing of the past but some customers still want face-to-face interaction and need a local presence. Paul Fisher, UK managing director of world-leading IT solutions provider Wincor Nixdorf, explains how next-generation self-service devices are automating transactions and pushing branch transformation.
Digital banking has changed the industry in a multitude of ways but some of the differences between today's banking experience and that of ten years ago are more visible than others.
The place where the most obvious change has occurred is in the branch, where next-generation self-service devices are automating everything from loan applications to paying in cheques. The notion of counter service in a bank is anathema to the younger generation and is a fading memory for older bank customers.
Banks once questioned whether they needed a branch network at all, given the growing preference among customers for digital services. The conclusion they reached was that they did not need branches in the traditional sense, but instead to imagine their presence on the high street in a very different way.
"Traditionally, banks would build something and you would come in the door and use it," says Paul Fisher, UK managing director of Wincor Nixdorf.
"Now, banks must reinvent the branch to provide more consultative services because it is no longer a centre for transactional services. Service staff are now there to advise and consult.
"We provide assisted service counters that connect to a multitude of platforms to free up staff in the branch and help banks provide more diverse and complex products. Customers want more choice."
The branch may have been reinvented but there is still some way to go to offer more services. Banks have done a great job in recent times but customers' expectations in the retail sector and in retail banking are rising.
They want convenience and choice and banks can learn a lot from retailers, including the important lesson that customers can easily take their business elsewhere. Banks are therefore capturing digital technology and integrating it with the branch.
Headquartered in Germany, Wincor Nixdorf is one of the world's leading providers of IT solutions and services to financial institutions and the retail industry, and its main focus is business process optimisation in branch operations. It principally develops and installs self-service transaction systems such as ATMs and works closely with key clients to push innovation in process automation.
The company's smart ATMs have helped some big names in the banking sector to reinvent how branches fit into the multichannel service environment and to redefine the value of people within those branches.
"There is still a place for human interaction," Fisher observes. "It is all about choice. Younger customers are more likely to interact digitally but all age groups are using digital services. Banks will convert transactions to automated systems because that is the efficient way to handle them and in general a better mix of services has evolved."
Partners in innovation
Wincor Nixdorf has helped a large multinational bank with its branch transformation process, focusing on fitting branches with next-generation assisted service counters that allow customers to quickly process transactions, assisted by branch staff. This bank has already equipped more than 100 branches with more than 350 assisted service counters and the rollout is still ongoing.
"In the past three years, we have gone from concept to rollout of assisted service counters so that this bank can offer customers the convenience and speed of multiple functions in one device," says Fisher. "It is poor service if you have to queue at a counter for transactions like paying a bill. The technology is not the difficult bit and the bank is the real innovator for taking the step to deliver services in a new way in order to meet customers' expectations.
"In three years with our client, we have together created a game-changer and now we are seeing other organisations emulating some of the changes we have made. The relationship represents a true partnership over a long period to support their business in an ever-changing market.
"It is all about trust and engagement between them and us. In the future, we will see similar types of multifunction devices and combinations of technology as banks seek to give customers more choice about how they perform transactions."
Wincor Nixdorf has shown its commitment to continued innovation in the ATM space with regular additions to functionality. Last year, for instance, it developed part of its PC/E platform, which includes an array of solutions targeting key transactional processes, to enable customers to locate the nearest ATM and withdraw cash from it using their mobile phones.
Flexibility and agility are key priorities in the company's approach because banks constantly need to improve and add services to keep up with the expectations of their customers.
"Our assisted service counters solution can be tweaked, modified and improved in line with branch processes," Fisher remarks. "Technology must always enable better customer service. The UK has 66,000 ATMs and is a very mature market, as is much of Europe. Cash will continue to play a huge part in the UK transaction market because people feel secure with it, so it will remain an important element of what ATMs do."
But the one thing about branch transformation that all banks are acutely aware of is that it is not just about implementing new technology. Everything has to fit with the customer experience banks want to deliver. Devices need to be more resilient and available, as well as providing new services, because there is a critical dependence on technology.
"Banks must, therefore, be aware of the footfall in a branch and know the times when there might be more demands on the technology," Fisher explains. "The human factors, including knowledge about how people use the branch, are essential considerations."
Keep pace with change
While many technology providers are keen to point out how poorly banks are doing in achieving their aims in technology programmes in areas such as branch transformation of core systems replacement - in order to highlight the need for their own systems - Fisher praises the work many banks have done so far.
"No banks have fallen into elephant traps, though there are still challenges such as the adoption of new customers in terms of how to take the first step with them and make it easier for them to use the new technology," he says. "They need to invest in training and education, and we support banks and their branches in doing that.
"In terms of big issues like legacy transformation, banks are in a good place at the moment. The world moves on, of course, and new platforms come out, but that is the world of IT.
"New systems offer more flexibility and our PC/E platform, for instance, allows banks to connect new devices as they choose. No bank will buy a lock-in platform these days and multivendor capability is critical. Banks want choice just as their customers do. So, banks are in a good place to make changes to their IT platforms," he adds.
Wincor's PC/E platform provides a broad range of functionality to facilitate programmes for branch transformation. PC/E Self-Service, for instance, is a state-of-the-art, multivendor software solution that enables the integration self-service capability in a multichannel architecture. The net-centric solution includes software components for specific services such as account queries and cash dispensing.
"Some banks still need to invest heavily in new systems, but most have made some progress over the past seven years," says Fisher. "The big challenge is the speed at which they need to affect change. They need flexible partners like us that can help them with the evolution of their systems architecture. Banks are not in a bad way and they are not stupid, but they need to work with technology companies that understand the value of partnerships."