Digital Disruption: Minus Most of the Disruption
BY ALEXANDRE DELEN
While digitalization has caused many brick-and-mortar bank branches to close, family-owned Delen Private Bank continues to open its doors wide, ushering in customers with digitally inspired offerings such as “Life-as-a-Service.”
In banking, the difference between making digital services available and embracing digital transformation is the difference between companies that will be left behind and those that will emerge as winners. It’s not enough to offer customers a menu of digital services they can access online. The leaders will be the financial organizations that can harness the power of digital technology to offer their customers an unparalleled experience.
At Delen, we’ve always put our customers first. As a family business, we provide services the way a good, old-fashioned mom and dad would want it.
We also prefer to keep IT operations and strategy inhouse. We own our infrastructure, information, and security. We developed our IT system in-house and programmed a backend tailored to meet the needs of our business and our customers. Our developers write all core apps inhouse, and we integrate APIs or SKDs in a defined build or-buy strategy.
Our IT teams also mix with the business, so they understand our business and what we need before they program anything. Sometimes IT meets with customers too. Shortening the chain between developers and customers creates intangible value.
Performance Through Digitalization
Efficiency in our processes is key to Delen’s success. We believe in the Keep It Simple Strategy and the Minimal Viable Product, and we digitalize the backend wherever we can. We’re driven by the belief that every repetitive task that takes more than 5 minutes a day should be subject to a change.
So, we use digitalization to eliminate mistakes in processes, streamline them, and improve them. Our aim is to make the life of our customers and relationship managers easier and the assets planning process better. Integrated digitalization also makes the bank more agile, improving our ability to respond quickly to dynamic industry and market conditions while coping with regulation requirements.
Digitalization also helps facilitate transparency in our fees and in the way we operate, which is what customers want from a personal bank. We strive for providing transparency at our customers’ fingertips and in our branch locations.
We look to controlled processes, our IT system, and digital applications to deepen our relationship with customers. Digitalization is a way for us to serve our customers better, but it’s not a substitute for maintaining human relationships. While most of our customers access their accounts via digital platforms, the bank branches are still the pillar of our customer relationships and why we continue to strategically invest in our local offices and local relationship managers.
Our online presence is a support function of the relationships we cultivate with customers in person. For instance, our IT system provides customers easy access to their account information and financial data, and it also enables relationship managers at our local offices to have discussions with customers about their portfolios and pull data in real time.
A bank’s personal relationship with its customers is a continuous effort. This is where we put a lot of our IT resources, to create services customized for an individual’s unique financial situation. For example, we want to be the gatekeeper, the safehouse if you will, of all customers’ assets—any asset related to their finances, including contracts such as prenuptial agreements and house notaries. With this holistic view of a family’s assets we can proactively help them navigate life transitions, such as retirement, and take action when something happens that affects their finances, such as changes in the tax code. I like to call this lifecycle management of a client “Life-as-a-Service.”
Together with each of our clients, we compile all the pieces of their financials and create a dashboard for them. Then we work together with them to make sure their financial life is well planned, organized, and managed with their needs and requirements in mind.
Life-as-a-Service relies heavily on our backend programming expertise along with machine learning and OCR technology to understand and interpret the context of contractual documents. We develop digital apps that can identify documents accurately and apply “if x, then y” scenarios. All of this results in event-based automated triggers that alert us when to notify the customer and take action. Digitalization enables us to be proactive instead of reactive.
Streamlining the process saves our relationship managers significant time when meeting with customers. A 34-page prenuptial agreement typically takes someone 30 to 40 minutes to read through and interpret for the customer. If that prenuptial agreement was already given to us, scanned in our system, and interpreted digitally, the patrimonial manager could simply pull up a summary of the contract on screen and validate it with the customer in about 5 minutes.
We’re In It Together
At Delen, we work as a team to provide customers with exquisite service. Every customer who comes into the bank the first time is seen by two relationship managers. We do this because we don’t want the relationship to be bound to one person. Team-based incentives discourage relationship managers from proposing disproportional risks to clients, a practice seen with individual-based goals.
Delen has always put the relationship with our customers first. We also have roots in IT, which had us thinking about what computer technology could do for our business long before anyone heard of digital transformation. IT is not only fundamental to Delen’s success; it’s an important prong of our overall business strategy.
About the Author: Alexandre Delen is executive director of Delen Private Bank, one of the largest private banks in Belgium. IT runs in the family.