Using digital technology is going to change the relationship between financial, banking and insurance service companies and their customers. For a start, the technology will offer an improved experience, regardless of the format and the time of use, and will lead to significant changes to the IT structure of these companies.

Talk virtually with a financial advisor: the customers say yes!

Availability, skills, efficiency, data security and customised services are the customers' key expectations of their bank. They also expect these characteristics to be presented through digital, mobile and even automated services, accessible 24/7 from anywhere. And virtual communication for obtaining advice or conducting a customer-advisor relationship has been the norm for several years. According to Kurt Salmon*, 67% of smartphone owners used their device for a banking operation in 2012.

The acceptance of digital technology for banking services is also reflected by a study from Cisco. The report focused on customers and banks from around ten countries on four continents, and highlighted two changes in the customer-bank relationship. The drive to increase efficiency through digital technology and the customer's understanding of the importance of personal data to facilitate virtual interaction. Consumers say they are ready to provide their bank with more personal data in order to enjoy the services they want, on the condition that data security is guaranteed and that data is not shared with third-party companies.

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With digital technology, the customer is the focus of retail banks' strategy

Responsiveness, a flexible customer relationship, customised services. Large banking groups have been weighing up the pros and cons for around ten years: "We have to understand how hyper-connected individuals are changing digital usage. This must be taken into account to ensure the continuity and consistency of the customer experience across all physical and digital channels, while keeping a personal relationship with the customer," says Pierre Rédarès, digital transformation expert. These groups have looked into the impact of digital technology, and in their own ways have taken different necessary measures to combine the sustainability of their retail activities with the changes to consumers' digital habits. They concentrated on multi-channel approaches, a strong presence on social networks, and more recently omni-channel strategies, the creation of 100% digital and low cost subsidiaries, and apps for accessing basic services from smartphones and tablets.

How to adapt IT systems in financial companies to the demands of digital usage

With heavy security and legal constraints, can the IT departments of banking and insurance companies meet these expectations of instant service and mobility? An answer was provided by Société Générale, as Bruno Delas, Head of Information Systems for the Group's Central Divisions explains*: "The industrial IT sector does not need to take part in this transformation. However, to assist the current digital transformation, we are developing an IT Department for "Fast IT." These two worlds of IT complement each other perfectly. Necessary information for one is stored in the other, which implies joint work." Allianz is pursuing another adaptation strategy. The insurer's Digital Director said: "We are combining staff from the digital and insurance sectors. Digital technology is a business line, and we need a strong digital department with experts and a start-up attitude."

Société Générale has also started working on the internal diffusion of digital culture to accelerate the digital transformation at every level of its structure. WiFi access on the premises, an internal App Store, a Desktop package, collaborative Cloud tools and tablets will all be available to staff from 2015. According to Françoise Mercadal-Delasalles,* "Digital technology is changing customer relations, but also the way we work."

* More details on the digital transformation in the banking and insurance sector