Digital and people skills essential for banks to deal with disruption

This article is more than 12 months old

Forty per cent of millennials would consider banking without a branch in the future.

And bank tellers may well become the telegraph operators of the 21st century in 100 years.

So say tech watchers from consulting firm Accenture and mobile banking app creator Moven, respectively.

Moven's founder Brett King had told CNBC two years ago that the banking sector will experience more disruption in the next 10 years than in the previous 300.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is positioning itself for this disruption with a big push towards fintech.

In the regulator's tie-up with the Bank of Thailand, people in Singapore and Thailand will be able to send money to each other using just mobile phone numbers when the service is ready.

The move, MAS said last month, is one of several that Singapore is taking to further its Smart Nation agenda.

How should Singapore banks ready their organisation and employees to capitalise on the national push?

Consider these five ways.

Think high tech and high touch

It is unlikely that retail banking will be completely faceless in the future. That is, run on only a digital network of websites, apps, call centres and ATMs, and so on.

Even though more than 80 per cent of global consumers use digital banking channels, some 60 per cent - across ages and income levels - still want and need a human touch in their banking transactions.

So, retail banking will remain personal to a large extent, but banks must learn how to mesh the personal touch with digital know-how.

Sync multi-channel

Today, customers interact with their banks over the mobile phone and online - not just at the counter.

But they want seamlessness whichever channel they choose.

Arming your frontline staff with a tablet will be ineffective if that person is clueless on how to use an app or is lost about where a service sits online and cannot direct the customer there quickly.

Also, divisions must communicate. So, before the marketing division broadcasts a deal via a text message to approved customers, the customer service staff must be briefed.

Teach digital nuts and bolts

One of the banking clients of our office abroad recently issued a tablet to every branch employee, with instructions to go forth and show customers - especially older ones - how simple it was to access the bank's website. When managers checked three months later, 40 per cent of the tablets had not even been activated.

So, the bank created a programme to engage and train staff in the nuts and bolts of e-banking. Digital ambassadors are now the norm at the branches - but it took a deliberate initiative.

Beef up line managers' soft skills

Managers at each progressive level have greater visibility about what is happening within and outside the bank, and are in a good position to guide employees on the key areas they should focus on.

Line managers should have robust career conversations with their employees. Understanding their aspirations helps managers to identify potential roles and play to employees' strengths.

Leaders must also ensure that employees have the necessary attitudes - not just technical knowhow.

Plan for cross-platform high flyers

Identify the high potentials and future leaders. Through a combination of assessments, coaching and individual development, leaders can accelerate employee time to value, improve talent mobility and enhance organisational performance.

The moves cannot be over-emphasised for increasing the bottom-line and future-proofing your business for changes ahead.

This article was contributed by Right Management (, the global career experts within United States-listed HR consulting firm, ManpowerGroup.