A newer version of your browser is available. Older versions may limit your ability to access some of this site's functionality. Citizens Bank recommends upgrading your browser.
By Bruce Van Saun | Citizens Bank CEO
During a period of profound change in which so many traditional business models are being disrupted, banks require investment, detailed planning and coordination, and effective change management across the entire organization to maintain their relevance and prosper. To succeed in this rapidly transforming, data-first environment, banks must move decisively to restructure their foundations for the long-term.
The following is the first in a series from Citizens Financial Group Chairman and CEO Bruce Van Saun on how banks can tap the very best digital technologies and business models to offer customers exactly the products, solutions and advice they want — when, where and how they want them.
◆ ◆ ◆
No matter what industry you’re in, transformation is not easy. But if you’re in the business of customer service, change at a foundational level is now imperative to remain relevant going forward.
Customer behaviors have changed dramatically, and those changes are rapidly transforming the nature of competition. Customer expectations, informed by their experiences with “Big Tech” digital players such as Google and Amazon, are significantly higher. The “how” is now as important as the “what” when it comes to the way customers think. In fact, McKinsey likes to say that leading companies now understand themselves to be in the customer experience business.
In other areas of their lives, customers are experiencing the world in new and different ways. Think about the simple and intuitive experience offered by Apple; or the tailored advice and offers that Google is able to provide through Big Data; or the seamless hopping across channels — from physical stores like Whole Foods to mobile ordering — that Amazon customers now enjoy. The trick is to marry the new methods for delivering a great experience with sound ways of delivering value to the customer.
Most banks are aware of these changes, and are moving quickly to invest in digital capabilities and solutions that provide similar kinds of frictionless customer experiences that resonate. The good news is that while the user experience is now paramount, what consumers and businesses ultimately want when it comes to banking hasn’t changed in a material way.
Consumers want the confidence that they will have the financial means to live their lives and the tools to access their money when they need it. They want a bank that “gets me” and will be a trusted advisor on their life’s journey. They also now want these experiences to be personalized and frictionless.
Citizens has made moves along these lines. We were the first large regional bank to offer a fully integrated digital banking and wealth advisory offering. Called SpeciFi, we see this service as a great platform to make investing more accessible to a larger set of customers. We also recently launched a digital small business lending platform, in collaboration with Fundation, that enables small businesses to quickly and easily apply for loans and lines of credit online.
Most recently, we launched Citizens Access, a nationwide direct-to-consumer digital deposit platform that will offer attractive rates in an easy-to-use format. To get this off the ground, we relied heavily on the investments we’ve made in data and analytics to better understand and react to customer needs.
We believe these types of initiatives get us to market quickly and position us to further learn, innovate and grow. Most importantly, they are helping customers do the easy things easily while seeking to be the trusted advisor in the moments that matter.
We are also using data to empower front-end employees across all channels to act as trusted and knowledgeable financial advisors. When our branch employees sit down with customers to talk about their financial status, they increasingly have access to relevant, actionable, specific information that enables them to personalize the conversation and offer more informed advice and product offers. Rather than thinking about customer interaction as a series of touch points where we try to react to feedback in real-time, we are creating holistic, end-to-end experiences engineered from the customer point of view.
It’s not too late for banks to get ahead of customer expectations in a similar fashion. However, the window for banks to become digitally proficient is a narrow one, and it’s closing more quickly every day. Failure to take action puts banks at risk of traveling down a path of decline similar to that now being traveled by big box retailers and other slow movers.
Successful organizations know how to avoid decline by putting the customer at the center of everything they do. Like the ‘Big Tech’ digital natives, banks must be forward-leaning and anticipate what would constitute an even better experience. Amazon’s work around the possibility of providing one-hour delivery is an example of that.
That kind of transformation — the kind needed for banks to get back to playing offense — will not come easily. But it’s what our customers have come to expect, and no one ever said change — much less survival, amidst transformative disruption — was easy.
The zip code you entered is served by Citizens One, the brand name for Citizens Bank's lending business outside of our 11‑state branch footprint. Under the Citizens One brand we offer Auto Loans, Credit Cards, Mortgages, Personal Loans and Student Loans. To learn more, please visit: