HP Exstream: multichannel banking serving everyone – Simon Crewe and Ruben Looij

Over the last few decades, the relationship between banks and customers has changed almost beyond recognition. In the past, bank managers were notoriously forbidding characters - paragons of control that left customers unsure exactly who was serving who. Almost all interactions were done by paper or face-to-face; local branches were popular, and exchanges personable and direct.

Since then, change has been sweeping. Technological innovation has spawned a new generation of consumers eager to use the tools right across their economic lives. That's not to say that branch and paper communication is no longer important - plenty of people still like to visit branches and receive statements by mail - only that now they sit as one process in a truly diverse multichannel strategy.

"There are three different kinds of consumer in the banking industry," says Simon Crewe, sales manager for UK and Ireland at HP Exstream. "There are those that still prefer the old style; those that do everything over the internet and phone; and those much more interested in social networking. The needs and demands of customers have evolved dramatically, and banks must cater for all of them."

Need for banks to improve communication

On the back of the financial crisis, the UK Government has revealed its intention to break up the existing monopolies in the retail banking space. With the introduction of fresh competition, the government hopes to improve the service that consumers receive at a time when many feel disillusioned and disappointed with their current banking relationship. Welcome as it is, new competition is likely to amplify the need for banks to improve their communication channels.

"Technological innovation has spawned a new generation of consumers eager to use the tools right across their economic lives."

"It's going to become more important that they treat customers individually," Crewe says. "They'll need to personalise what they do and look closely at the different demographics. As more competitors enter the market, organisations will need to target the segments they are most interested in."

Retail banks are in a far better position to address the new consumer patterns than they were in the past, while many top market players are still surrounded by legacy systems that cannot cope with the pace of change. A lot of the major banks lack a single view of the customer and cannot provide consistency across their various product lines.

"While we've seen this move away from old-school transaction document composition, there is still a lot to be done," says Ruben Looij, group manager of General Western Europe and Middle East and Africa at HP Exstream. "We now have really integrated platforms that enable banks to create on-demand, interactive communications. But many banks remain stuck in the past and we are helping them to make the necessary change."

Organisational challenges

These days, it's not uncommon for an individual customer to be sent a marketing campaign or a flyer from a vendor whose product they are already using. That's because the data that banks hold is not joined up across their siloed applications.

"A lot of the major banks lack a single view of the customer and cannot provide consistency across their various product lines."

"Many of the banks I work with have separate applications for their retail, mortgage, asset and loan customers," says Crewe. "They don't have the single customer number that ties everything together. That's where the challenge lies - changing the underlying infrastructure. Unless you can address this as a core problem, you'll never have the ability to treat clients as people in a holistic way."

Some of the newer entrants in the retail space are starting to adopt that integrated style. Without the burden of old infrastructure, they don't face the same level of organisational challenge.

"It's a lot easier for them," says Looij. "They're in a much better position to attempt the kind of targeting and segmentation we're talking about. Smaller banks have shown considerable initiative in their customer communication, and that's inspiring ones to improve. We are helping them to adopt these practices and leverage their assets to turn them into a strong competitive advantage."

Big data: create meaning from the mess

As Crewe suggests, the problem with big data is infrastructural. Banks have the numbers they need to improve customer experiences, but lack the ability to leverage it. What matters is creating meaningful information out of the haze of disconnected information, and then using it to enhance loyalty and increase top-line value.

"New competition is likely to amplify the need for banks to improve their communication channels."

A case study with Meryl Lynch, one of HP's clients, illustrates this well. Instead of providing different statements for loans, mortgages and assets, the company now sends out a monthly brochure that is completely personalised and integrates all the information in a single document.

"It makes connections between the different pieces of information," says Looij. "And it creates much more value to the customer. They also provide the document on whatever channel the customer prefers - paper, email, text message or tablet. It's about empowering the customer to decide how he or she wants to have it and when. That's only possible if you connect and integrate all this on a single platform."

Having a true customer communication management platform is key, according to Looij.

"At HP, we help our customers to integrate with all these legacy systems and bring all the data to one platform," he says. "We acquired software firm Autonomy a year ago and this says a lot about HP's vision and strategy. Customer experience is one of the enterprise top priorities for the coming years. Offering a strong analytic solution and a customer communication platform is the winning combination for banks."

First integrate, then communicate

Unifying these legacy systems and installing the new platform is no easy task.

"It's an area where we have a clear competitive edge," says Looij. "We have standardised modules that connect our platform to almost any of the existing legacy systems. We can very quickly get data out of the existing systems. Once that integration is established, we can get to work on the actual communication.

"Beyond integration, it is all about making the right business decisions, involving stakeholders such as marketing, customer care services, to be successful, Customer communication must be an enterprise-wide, cross functional project."

"What matters is creating meaningful information out of the haze of disconnected information."

Over 700 companies use HP Exstream, the organisation's main customer communication management system, to remove their siloed infrastructure. That number includes some of the world's leading financial institutions and almost all of the top ten Fortune 500 financial services companies.

The HP Exstream software platform provides fully integrated capabilities for end-to-end document processing, including variable design, testing, real-time composition, advanced data and content integration, output to 22 formats, high-volume optimisation and workflow, assured delivery, and controlled editing of interactive documents.

"HP Exstream's intuitive and robust graphical design environment gives developers all the capabilities they need to design any kind of document, regardless of complexity, type or variability," explains Looij.

"Browser-based design collaboration with built-in approval workflow allows marketing and line-of-business users to remotely create variable messages that are integrated into documents at run time, ensuring relevant and current information is communicated in a timely manner."

Top-down support

Using technology to improve the bank-customer relationship is no longer a conversation solely between IT professionals. The strategic importance of customer experience demands full commitment from executives.

If they do that, the business benefits are clear: integrating data to create customer communications into a single platform is proven to improve loyalty and drive growth for an industry desperately feeling the pinch.

Unified communication systems can help improve customer loyalty and top-line revenue for banks.
Simon Crewe is sales manager for UK & Ireland at HP Exstream.
Ruben Looij is group manager of General Western Europe, Middle East and Africa, at HP Exstream.