Digital change is remaking sales in financial services. By 2020, customers will be comfortable using AI and virtual reality to interact with their financial service providers. They will expect affordable luxury and personalized offerings in every consumer interaction they make. Sales teams will have their own automated helpers and the ability reach customers in virtual reality.

Many financial institutions are already experimenting with the technologies that will drive this transformation. These initiatives broadly fall into three categories:

  • Digital-for-digital initiatives are investments in robotics, analytics, and other technologies that grow or improve the digital customer experience. They aim to offer more personalized service at scale, boost efficiency, and improve quality.
  • Digital-for-human initiatives seek to connect digital capabilities with the flesh-and-blood members of the sales team or the customer.
  • Human-for-human initiatives are investments in developing the skills of the sales force to compliment digital systems.

This last category might seem surprising. But forward-looking financial firms are convinced that uniquely human skills like empathy and storytelling will remain relevant in the digital future of sales—in fact, such skills may grow in importance. Such human-for-human initiatives seek to grow these capabilities. For instance, National Australia Bank, the largest bank in that country, runs storytelling workshops for leaders of all levels, including salespeople and branch managers. The program starts with a one-day workshop and runs for six months. It focuses on improving communication and presentation skills.

One of the most interesting digital-for-digital investments on the market right now is Marcus, an online loan platform developed by Goldman Sachs. Marcus, named for one of the founders of the firm, automatically provides personalized loans to customers with credit card debt. The service pre-screens clients and contacts those with relevant debt, providing a code that can be used to take out a loan. It is easy to imagine services like Marcus expanding in the future to offer many more financial products.

The digital-for-human space is also an active one right now. For example, CheBanca!, part of Italy’s Mediobanca Group, launched Yellow Advice last year. Yellow Advice an automated advice service built on three pillars. First, it offers clients an educational platform with financial news, lessons, and personal finance simulations. Second, it provides fully automated advice to users after they fill out a questionnaire on their risk tolerance and financial goals. Third, the service also offers hybrid advice, which mixes automated and human advisors to provide value-added activities.

Standard Chartered’s Workbench service is another example of digital-for-human innovation that points towards the future of financial services sales. Workbench aims to “bring the bank” to customers by making banking functions available on tablet computers, which can be taken anywhere. Customers can use Workbench to open accounts and apply for loans and credit cards with no paperwork and faster turnaround times. After the service launched with a splash in Korea in 2014, the bank announced plans last year to invest $1.5 billion in the technology and make it available in 18 markets by the end of 2017.

Disruptive innovation is often seen as a danger. Change can be scary. But in retrospect, we can see that these changes help us reach goals that were previously unattainable. Change is coming to sales in financial services. It will open up new possibilities for firms to improve operations and please their customers like never before. The next three years will be a very interesting time for the industry.


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