How banks could make unified communications pay off

A Cisco-commissioned study from 2006 contains a valuable idea that could be adopted by almost any Canadian financial institution that wants to improve collaboration

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In the not-too-distant future my wife and I will be attempting the unthinkable: to purchase a reasonably-priced house somewhere in the Toronto area. As much as I’m looking forward to becoming a homeowner, however, I’m not looking forward to going through all the paperwork and hoop-jumping that’s typically involved in applying for a mortgage. I can only imagine how much harder this process is for businesses seeking commercial loans.

Ever since the economic meltdown of 2008, financial institutions have been under even greater scrutiny by governments and regulators to ensure they are as thorough as possible in lending money only to the most appropriate candidates. Despite the resources and expertise available to many banks, this has never been an easy task. I was reminded of this recently when I stumbled across a report that’s now almost seven years old, commissioned by Cisco and conducted by Forrester Research. Titled simply, “Unified Communication Industry Study,” it looks at the potential adoption of UC in a variety of markets including retail and health care, but it was the banking section that made the strongest argument for the technology. It outlines in great detail the myriad steps and stakeholders involved in approving a business loan, a set of procedures that likely haven’t changed in the time since the report was first published:

Loan reps must spend time during their day contacting loan officers and coordinating activities. These back and forth communications are subject to delay and ultimately affect the response time to customers. Many activities are still paper based, and loan reps must handle these documents non-electronically, which adds to processing time. Banks need to address the current workflow for loan processing and evaluate its effect on customer satisfaction, competitiveness, and employee productivity. Sixty-three percent of loan reps must go back and forth multiple times to the applicant for additional information for each loan resulting in lost productivity for processing new loans.

Of course, they have the phone. They have e-mail. They may even use instant messaging, but moving seamlessly across all these channels is not always easy if your network isn’t set up for it. The study goes onto suggest a surprising interest in another channel that only in the last two or three years seems fully mature:

The large majority of those surveyed agreed that video conferencing would enhance the collaboration between loan reps, loan officers, and customers. Video conveys real-time interactions and discussions among banking staff and customers and eliminates the current linear processes. . . . video offers strong potential for improving customer communications and creating a more intimate experience.

In 2006, videoconferencing was still relatively cumbersome, often involving dedicated rooms and complex equipment. Today, it’s something that can happen at the desktop or even mobile device level, all while users are still moving across other forms of communication. Perhaps now that UC is moving into the cloud with unified communications as a service (UCaaS) banks and other financial services firms will finally be able to seize this opportunity to work more cohesively as a team, making smarter lending decisions and perhaps changing customer perceptions about their speed and efficiency. Some benefits of collaboration may require a little more testing before they are accepted by CIOs, but surely this is one you can take to the bank.

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