In June 2017, a groundbreaking moment occurred in South Korea’s banking industry with the establishment of Kakaobank, a mobile-only bank. Within its first 24 hours, an astounding 300,000 subscribers signed up, and in just two weeks, it surpassed the 2 million customer mark. This impressive feat was accompanied by $930 million in savings and $710 million in loans. Kakaobank had arrived in the market and made its mark!
Fast forward to today, in a country with a population of 50 million people and an economically active population of 25 million, Kakaobank boasts over 10 million customers. Its exponential growth is a testament to the power of innovative thinking and customer-centric approaches in the banking industry.
The Power of Fundamental Questions
In every industry, true innovation precedes remarkable growth. However, what sets apart truly revolutionary companies is their ability to ask and answer fundamental questions. Kakaobank’s journey began with introspection and questioning the very purpose of a banking business. They pondered: “Why do we sell loans and other products? Are we solely in this business for financial gain?”
The Clarity and Differentiation of Digital Operations in Banking
digital operations and platforms in the banking sector require both clarity and differentiation. As tech companies, social media platforms, and e-commerce giants venture into banking, a crucial question arises: Which is more important, the sector itself or the customer? The answer lies in clear thinking and long-term vision.
Kakaobank’s vision gradually took shape. Rather than focusing solely on beating rivals’ rates, they aimed to revolutionize banking by placing the customer at the heart of their operations. Unlike traditional banks, which allocate a significant portion of their budget to branch operations and back offices, Kakaobank passed on the cost differential to its customers from day one. They achieved this through rigorous technological assessments, robust risk control measures, and meticulous customer experience design. Kakaobank’s mobile-first approach offered on-demand services, going beyond traditional online banking.
The Current Outlook for Digital Operations in Banking
The 2021 Global Banking Annual Review highlights the imperative for legacy financial institutions to adopt digital operations. Failure to do so could result in a decline in profits ranging from 20% to 60% by 2025. Moreover, a 2014 Harvard Business Review article revealed that 85% of retail transactions in the United States had already gone digital.
While the advent of new market players, regulations, and disruptive technologies has already transformed customer expectations, recent global crises, such as the pandemic, have added further complexities. The acceleration of digital banking, the decline in cash usage, and the growing focus on sustainability and circular economies have all directly influenced banks’ revenue generation, expenditure, and brand perception.
Advantages of Digital Operations Solutions in Banking
Boosting Revenues and Lowering Costs
According to McKinsey’s executive AI playbook for Banking, the potential annual value derived from AI and analytics in the banking industry, both traditional and advanced, amounts to a staggering $1 trillion. Digital operations enable exponential personalization, driving efficiencies through automation, reducing error rates, and optimizing resource utilization.
Enhancing Customer Experiences and Uncovering New Opportunities
Leading financial institutions are leveraging digital operations management to enhance customer experiences at both the front and back offices. Biometrics, natural language processing, humanoid robots in branches, and conversational bots improve the front-office experience. In the back office, machine learning detects fraud and cybersecurity attacks, while real-time transaction analysis monitors risks. Robotic process automation, virtual interfaces, and machine learning techniques are revolutionizing banking processes.
Benefits for Small- and Medium-Enterprise Customers
digital operations services not only benefit retail customers but also provide advantages to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Banks now offer customized lending solutions, employ micro-expression analysis to review loan applications, facilitate seamless inventory and receivables management, provide SME platforms for sourcing buyers and suppliers, and offer AI-powered virtual advisors outside traditional banking hours.
Challenges of Digital Operations Solutions in Banking
Transforming legacy financial entities into digital-first organizations is akin to repairing an aircraft mid-flight. These institutions face the challenge of operating with the agility and speed of fintech companies while maintaining the rigorous demands of scale, security, and regulatory compliance.
Across industries, transitioning to an “AI-first” or “totally digital operations” approach necessitates a strategic mindset shift and the establishment of foundational building blocks. For banks, the absence or inadequate implementation of digital operations gives rise to immediate challenges.
Lack of Scale and Sub-Optimal Efficiencies
Outdated core systems lack the power to handle transaction volumes of over 150 per second. Developing and testing environments for these systems require significant time, effort, and resources, leading to delays in provisioning.
Poor Accuracy and Lower Customer Satisfaction Scores
High error rates, outdated data refresh rates, data siloing, and limited accessibility hinder accurate decision-making and compromise customer satisfaction. The inability to integrate with external sources further exacerbates these challenges, resulting in costly workarounds.
Longer Time to Market
Limited software and code reusability across internal teams, along with difficulties in collaborating with external partners, impede seamless user experiences. When data and services cannot be easily integrated across functional silos, legacy banks struggle to navigate market complexities. Limited coordination and cross-team testing contribute to extended time-to-market, resulting in cost leakages.
Learning from Kakaobank’s Success
Kakaobank’s journey provides valuable insights into successful digital banking operations. Their accomplishments can be attributed to four key indicators: profitability, personalization at scale, omnichannel experiences, and the speed that arises from a culture of innovation.
In conclusion, the story of Kakaobank demonstrates the transformative potential of digital operations in the banking industry. As legacy banks embrace varying degrees of digital transformation, it is essential for them to invest in the necessary capabilities and align their strategies for value creation. By doing so, they can not only survive but also thrive in the rapidly evolving landscape of modern banking.