Conister Bank is making more business available at the touch of the button with a digitisation process that fits in perfectly with its moves towards greater sustainability. It is providing its customers with the ability to apply for loans through methods other than face to face contact.
Already, the bank has set itself stiff carbon reduction targets as part of those moves to sustainability, but the rollout of digitisation will also play a crucial role in its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Framework.
The bank along with others in the financial services sector have accelerated their digital transformation plans due to COVID-19 and the move to more people working remotely.
Chief Operating Officer Haseeb Qureshi is spearheading the drive.
He comments, ‘I believe there are four areas to making a digital transformation plan work for customers and banks.
- Defining your customer experience: Putting customers and their needs to the forefront to build solutions with staying power.
- Taking a device view: Customers expect product and service accessibility from portable devices, at a moment’s notice.
- Developing a data strategy for personalisation: Building solutions means knowing what data you have, what data you need, what questions you need to ask of that data, and how to interpret the answers.
- Selecting the right technology platforms: When building new services into operations which are subject to high levels of regulatory scrutiny as banking, choosing the correct platforms to use and how to use them is essential.
We are now living in the digital age where technology provides the power to collect and analyse information, helping us multi-task and allowing us to make decisions faster. People have embraced this change with open arms. If you look back 10 years, it’s fascinating how far technology has moved businesses and people forward – from the use of software analysis programmes to having multiples applications on our android phone allowing us to utilise devices for multifunctional uses – people have unknowingly adapted to digitisation.
For those who are sceptical, since the first lockdown there has been a 72% rise in the use of fintech applications across Europe. The fact that the pandemic has accelerated organisation’s digital transformation plans should only be seen as positive for stakeholders. Financial services are taking huge strides to ensure that they have the ability to offer customers better products and services and at a faster pace to remove the requirement for back and forth discussions throughout an application journey.’
Conister Bank prides itself in providing the best services to its local community in the Isle of Man through a number of distribution channels.
‘What we are aiming to achieve and drive in the Isle of Man is sustainability which naturally goes hand in hand with operational efficiency,’ said Haseeb.
By offering a quicker service to the bank’s customers – business and individual – digitisation means a huge reduction in paper use, which dovetails nicely with Conister Bank’s firm commitment to the environment.
‘It means introducing technology within our systems to drive efficiency which allows us to adapt our processes to suit our customers’ needs– to make our service even more user-friendly.
He added: ‘Our market in the Isle of Man is focused on deposits and lending, with the volume of transactions coming from our lending channels. Digitisation can help to speed things up for our clients and, where those clients are supply-led businesses, for their customers. Whilst this article focuses on our lending platform there are equally key developments taking place across our deposit platform.
‘You can pretty much get a decision within minutes of applying for a loan – which includes signing your credit agreements using e-sign functionality adapted to phones, tablets or desktop.
‘That’s good for all within the supply chain; the supplier of goods, the bank and ultimately our customers.’
Digitisation makes services such as requesting a loan available at the touch of a button.
But the customer is still treated as an individual with their own specific needs. If you are a returning customer, it means Conister Bank already has your details, and is able to help you make the right choice.
‘The system we have introduced and the rules that are attached to it make sure that we continue to treat customers fairly,’ said Haseeb.
Carefully constructed system rules enable the bank to maintain all the regulatory and affordability obligations while retaining that personal service.
Whether you are a new or existing customer, Conister Bank will be able to speed up the decision-making process, so a response will be made within hours rather than days.
‘Not only are we using technology to give our customers a better service and quicker decisions,’ Haseeb explained. ‘we are also helping other businesses provide finance options, quickly and efficiently, for their customers. If a business is already set up with us as an Approved Partner, with the assistance of our online portal the customer will know almost straight away whether they qualify for a loan.’
The move to digitisation had already begun before the 2020 lockdown. In 2019, Conister Bank introduced their online portal offering on the Isle of Man and this has developed and adapted across more products over time to suit their customer needs. It has meant Conister Bank was in a position to offer rapid response support for businesses and individuals in urgent need – maintaining its tradition of adaptability and flexibility to help the customer, something that is enabled by its position as an independent bank based on the Island, which means it is able to quickly adjust to specific circumstances.
Conister Bank will continue the rollout of digitisation to apply all the remaining sectors that it serves, including the depositor community and savings accounts later in 2021.
But digitisation does not mean Conister Bank is abandoning the personal touch and individual detail that is a hallmark of its position at the centre of the Isle of Man community.
‘While our services are becoming digitised, they are not robotic. Each customer will have an individual offering tailored to their precise needs. And, of course, a customer will still be able to pick up the phone or call in to meet us – but digitisation means that where it suits them, we are able to react to their needs much more quickly.
‘We are taking the customers with us through our journey and maintaining direction. Customer interaction is a key part of what we do and that will always be the case.
‘It is an enhancement of our customer service offering, not a replacement.’
Being an early adopter of technology prior to the first lockdown in 2020 enabled Conister Bank to help local individuals and businesses quickly.
Haseeb said: ‘Digitisation has definitely helped us to be more resilient and remain customer centric through the three lockdowns in the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom.
‘We had the infrastructure in place to deal with the situation. Digitisation played a crucial role in helping to support the community through the crisis and its strengths remain equally important going into the future.
‘It will help ensure our clients’ longevity in the marketplace and allows all of our customers the speed of service now that will become the expectation across the board. We understand that technology is being used by a large coverage of the population and both individuals and businesses trust in the digital ability of systems.
Digitisation is just one component of Conister Bank’s strategy responding to the sustainability agenda through day-to-day operations and existing practices through what it does against environmental, social and governance objectives.
Conister Bank, has provided 86 years of service in the Isle of Man and has made a firm commitment to reduce its carbon footprint.
It commissioned an independent study and is now acting upon the results. After discovering that Conister Bank’s total carbon emissions in 2019 equated to the average energy use in 40 homes, the bank decided to act, with a pledge to reduce that figure by 42% by 2029, to go with the longer term target of net zero emissions by 2050.
That includes providing ‘Green’ financial options to businesses and individual customers to support an environmental, sustainable and resilient future.
When the Manx Government launched two business support schemes in response to the Covid crisis last year, Conister Bank was the only lender in the island to be accredited for both (which you can also now apply through online). It also became accredited for two UK business support schemes through the British Business Bank.
Haseeb added: ‘We value our position at the heart of the Isle of Man community, which we have worked hard to maintain over the years, by supporting Manx residents and the Isle of Man Government.
‘Our outstanding performance recorded last year demonstrates the value of an independent bank that is able to serve the local needs and the specific requirements of consumers.
‘Digitisation will help us to continue with and improve upon that.’