Exploring Evolving Customer Experience Trends In Financial Services

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Ken Arakelian, SVP and Chief Product Officer at ENACOMM shares a few thoughts on the key customer experience measures and trends that financial institutions need to highlight and focus on in this quick QnA with MarTech Series:

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Ken, we’d love to hear about your journey through the years in tech, what are you most looking forward to (or planning!) at your new role at ENACOMM?

My career has been centered around creating and optimizing great customer experiences.  I’ve been immersed in the tools, technologies, people, data, and processes through my work in and around customer contact centers in finance, telecom, insurance, utilities, etc, and I’ve built a diverse set of skills through experiences in many different roles in companies big and small.  I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate and manage support, development, architecture, and product management teams. In my most recent position at Nuance, I ran the Innovation Lab and coordinated internal teams, customers, and partners to build cutting-edge prototypes that explored new ways to solve problems and drive investment based on real-world data.

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I’m honored to join ENACOMM as the Chief Product Officer, because I love the founder Michael Boukadakis’s vision of serving the financial institutions that are in the best position to reach people in the communities where they work and live. I’m humbled by the people at ENACOMM and excited to join an incredible group of smart and passionate doers. ENACOMM has created products that customers love, and my role will be to help us focus and raise our investments in new products. I’m most excited about the opportunity in front of ENACOMM to bring industry-leading products to more customers.

We’d love to hear about the biggest ways (that you’ve been observing) in which newer fintech startups and established fintech innovators have been changing the game for B2B firms and financial institutions with their innovative CX and data measures?

When asked about how competition in the fintech landscape is changing, Jamie Dimon said, “Absolutely we should be scared s—less about that.” Mr. Dimon is seeing what many people are—the very nature of money is changing with the rise of cryptocurrencies, the democratization of data, and the integration of business processes toward better customer experience, among other seismic shifts. We’re seeing fintech payment offerings change the way people think about and use money. Innovative companies like MOCA are creating new ways for customers to make payments with an offering that is both more secure and easier to use than traditional credit cards. We’re seeing an explosion of digitized financial data in both the consumer and commercial world. Mortgage rates, credit scores, interest rates, transaction histories are all readily available for the consumer or smart AI to use to make better decisions. Finally, the integration of all this data to give customers a full picture and intelligent recommendations is moving to the forefront. ENACOMM’s Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA), for example, gets smarter every day with all this new data and is already being used by forward-looking companies.

Despite the rapid evolutions in fintech today – what are some key areas that you feel still need a lot more focus and development to enable better financial services and processes?

Customer experience (CX) is number one. It’s the battleground today, and it is hard to do right. We’ve gone from “tell me in my terms” (e.g., press 1 for billing, press 2 for loans) to “tell me in your words” (e.g., “How can I help you?” with a response in natural language), largely pushed forward by increasingly popular smart speaker experience. Today, people rank their financial experience not against other banking apps but against the best apps and websites that they deal with. ENACOMM is seeing this heightened understanding about the importance of customer experience through the growth in sales of our Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) product.

Frictionless authentication and privacy are also a big focus. It’s a double-edged sword; if it’s hard for your customers to authenticate OR if they don’t feel you’re protecting them, they’ll go elsewhere. ENACOMM recognizes the importance of this balance and is elevating convenience and security in tandem. Our Fraud Control Module and ENACOMM Voice Authentication (EVA) make it seamless for customers to authenticate and get what they want done. This process can be as simple as using one’s voice as a password in the IVR.

Core banking systems are another key area we’re sure to continue seeing evolve. Small FIs and fintechs are taking share from incumbents, because they’re able to create new and exciting offerings faster. How is this possible? Platform agility.

ENACOMM’s digital gateway allows banks to protect their investments—especially in customer experience—by offering an abstraction layer for the various banking cores. As FIs’ needs grow and change, our gateway allows them to seamlessly switch or combine core offerings to meet their needs.

In what ways have you seen emerging technologies influence the roadmap of financial services over the last few years; how do you see this trend shape up in the next decade?

We all know that AI is now steadily solving real-world problems, so I’ll highlight a few other areas to keep an eye on.

The rise of the platform is reshaping the way FIs buy and fintechs offer their services. We’re seeing less siloed investments with heavy integration costs (e.g., buy the best point solution and hire a team to integrate) and more connected and networked offers that work together. FIs are able to invest in a VPA and expect that it connects with various bank cores out of the box. The more these FIs use a fintech platform, the more they get out of it. There’s an expectation that the platform will be pre-integrated with other platforms (even competitors).

Cloud has created a new “age of the architect,” where ideas can be prototypes and tried and complex solutions are rapidly decreasing in cost and time to build. The rise of cloud and the accelerated digitization of customer experience—think transcripts of every customer banking conversation—have created a perfect storm to allow fintechs and FIs to leap ahead of traditional banks. I think this is probably the “oh sh*t” in Mr. Dimon’s mind when he thinks about competition. The barrier between great ideas and products is falling. JP Chase may have 10-100X the money and resources of smaller companies, but the cloud and availability of data make it easier to create a new offering.

The need for big teams, buying servers, finding data, and integrating backend is dissolving. Big, slow incumbents are rightly scared.

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We’d love to hear your thoughts on the global fintech startup marketplace- can you talk about some global startups that you feel are set to turn into fintech unicorns in the new future?

Put Affirm, Lemonade, Apiture, Corelation, Finastra, and MOCA on your radar. They’re all doing big things that are transforming financial services.

In terms of a breakthrough technology, I love how the democratization of data and focus on customer experience are making the next wave of digital assistants intelligent enough to offer good financial advice. This has been a tough nut to crack, because there’s no quicker way to lose a customer than by offering blunt and generic recommendations (“Do you want to sign up for YouTube Premium?” NO—for the millionth time). One way to think about how hard this is: What does your significant other want for dinner tonight? Who knows!? I’m not even sure what I want for dinner…

Companies like TrueBill are creating useful AI to help consumers manage subscription costs, and it works. We’re going to see more and more useful personalized virtual personal assistants like this in the financial services space soon.

As global fintech trends change and the market shifts due to business environments (and also Covid-19), what are your comments on the state of customer experience in fintech in 2021 and beyond?

Government regulations will continue to shift to support digital-first banking, and we’ll see increasing investment in digital customer experience. We’ll also eventually see a return to brick-and-mortar, but many companies will take this time to rethink what that experience is and how it melds with the digital customer experience.

Big and small FIs are adapting to a changing landscape. Having branch offices in every state is less of an asset, with personalized video conferencing and frictionless digital customer services taking its place.

We’d love to hear about upcoming plans and innovations in loop from ENACOMM?

ENACOMM’s omnichannel platform allows our customers to create frictionless customer experiences and enables financial services companies to add new functionality as they grow.  We’re also taking advantage of the latest trend in democratized data, cloud agility, intelligent AI, and intelligent authentication to free our customers to focus on their core businesses.  ​

Before we wrap up, a few biggest learnings and tips you’d like to share with fintech product innovators and leaders?

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution, and the rest will follow,” said Uri Levine, founder of Waze. As a product leader, I keep a running list of the biggest problems that need to be solved—and not necessarily the technologies or companies needed to solve them. The focus on the problem is what gives you the best chance to solve it. Immerse yourself in the problem and fall in love with the nuances of it. Learn all you can about the attempts to solve the problem and what worked and what failed.

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For us at ENACOMM, this means partnering with our customers and their users to identify and solve their problems. This can take the form of listening to phone calls to see where customers are getting frustrated or going out and trying the new payment technologies that are powered by ENCOMM’s platform. After you deeply understand a problem, you can start to think about how to solve it. This mindset will keep you from buying a hammer and looking for nails. 

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