Digital customer experience in financial services

Even before the pandemic, the financial services industry was under a state of disruption, with the entry of Generation Z or the digital natives in the market. But the challenges in customer experience (CX) in traditional banks have been highlighted at the onset of the pandemic in 2020 when there was limited physical movement.

In fact, I wrote about this in 2021, when “my Gen Z son had to physically go to a physical branch of one of the largest banks in the Philippines to reopen an account, only because his previous account, which he had been holding for several years, had been automatically closed because he placed all his money in an investment portfolio of the same bank.”

Obviously, this bank did not see my son’s overall value as a customer and instead treated him in silos. My son commented that his customer experience was “totally crap,” and promised that he will eventually move his money to another bank that doesn’t have the same hassle.


This is precisely the reason why brick-and-mortar banks are losing their appeal to the younger generations and may lead to its ultimate demise. This is also the reason why they are racing to digitally transform to migrate their customers’ journey into the digital realm.

In response to this trend, the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has approved and capped the number of digital banking licenses to six, with the aim of reaching a broader base of the Philippine market.


But does migrating to digital banking guarantee better CX? Not necessarily. In our evaluation of customer journey among local digital banking — from onboarding, to transacting, to transferring funds, to paying — only two banks stood out in their digital CX.

Moreover, the financial services industry’s biggest challenges during the pandemic revolved around managing “maintaining channel consistency as customer expectations rose,” “successfully managing the increase in fraud incidents” and understanding “their customers’ unique and evolving needs,” according to the 2022 White Paper of Harvard Business Review on “Digital Transformation and the Customer Experience: Challenges and Opportunities for the Financial Services Industry.”

The white paper, which was based on the research of the Bank Administration Institute, revealed that financial services firms “developed more contactless ways to engage with customers, accelerated their shift to cloud computing — part of an overall acceleration of their digital transformation efforts — and developed more self-service delivery channels.”


To improve digital CX, automation is a top key investment area mentioned in the paper. A large “71 percent of the financial services executives surveyed by BAI said their organizations were investing in new technologies to better serve customers from contact centers in 2021, with call and text automation the most common investment,” according to the paper.

Furthermore, “if a bank wants to prioritize the fastest-possible response to customer inquiries, for example, it may wish to focus on technologies that facilitate automated responses directly to the customer; if it wants to prioritize personal responses by human employees, by contrast, it may want to focus on technologies that allow those employees to quickly assess the customer’s needs and access the information required to solve that person’s problems.”


Therefore, finding the right technology partner is critical when a financial services firm wants to improve its digital CX. But when working with technology partners, the white paper further reports: “It’s important to fail fast and fail forward — to experiment, gather feedback and then iterate,” said Janelle Sallenave, senior vice president for operations and member services of Chime, a digital bank. “You will iterate many, many times. That’s progress.”

It is an opportune time that we are holding a virtual “CX Forum with Southeast Asia’s Unicorns” on April 21, 2022, where speakers from Unicorn companies and financial services firms will share their insights on humanizing customer experience with the power of personalization through marketing technology.

Marketing and CX practitioners who are interested to join can send me an email at

The author is founder and chief executive officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the chair of the ICT Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at