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Executive Interview: Customer Service Still Key in New Banking Environment In this Executive Interview, Tim Fitzpatrick discusses with TMI the priorities for treasurers in the current financial climate and the future of the branch banking infrastructure in Europe post-SEPA.

Customer Service Still Key in New Banking Environment

In a transformed banking environment, what do you consider to be the most important factors for a bank to be successful?

A successful bank today needs to look outside its own organisation, and put customers’ needs at the centre of its strategy. Payment and cash management products have become commoditised in many ways, so while a customer should not take for granted  products and infrastructure, which remain essential for a robust and reliable service, we recognise the importance of investing in our people, infrastructure and operations across Europe to ensure we continue to add value for our customers. Having the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles and locations, is critical to our ongoing success. While other banks are actively hiring people as they prepare for growth, we think you need to go further and ensure that employees have the skills and experience to do their job, together with the management support and infrastructure to enable them to be effective. For example, at HSBC, we have a comprehensive sales transformation programme, overhauling our processes to enable sales staff to spend their time engaging with customers and being as responsive as possible, as opposed to dealing with administration.

Having the right people with the right skills, in the right roles and locations, is critical to our ongoing success. 

While HSBC has demonstrated considerable success and resilience throughout the years of crisis we are constantly striving to do better. To find the best ways of managing the business with the interests of our customers at the core, we have looked beyond banking for inspiration. For example, we have visited the sales and service organisations of major companies in other industries to understand how they deliver complex, customer-centric solutions, to understand best practices and apply these to our business. We are formalising deal coaching to ensure the right teams work together to construct, present and deliver innovative, robust solutions that specifically meet customers’ needs. In addition, although HSBC is often complimented on the quality of our RFP responses and other customer communications, we are also reviewing critically how we present information to customers and prospects to ensure that it is clear and specifically addresses customer requirements.

As well as skills and support, having the right culture throughout an organisation is essential. This can be a major challenge when people are located throughout the world, and work in countries with different business cultures. We place our customers at the heart of what we do, recognise entrepreneurship, encourage teamwork and espouse a desire for excellence across the organisation, so that we support our customers in the best way possible. 

In addition to HSBC’s internal development, how is HSBC developing its business externally?

Our aim is to be the bank of choice for any company that does business internationally, wherever it is headquartered. Mainland Europe is a major focus for HSBC, building on the strength of our existing position, such as in the UK, France, Germany, Turkey etc. While most companies are aware of our global capabilities, fewer are aware of our ability to support their regional activities. Companies of all sizes need solutions to facilitate international expansion both across Europe and globally, so we have positioned our sales, product management and service organisation to facilitate this.

It can be complex to deliver international projects across multiple sites and jurisdictions. In addition to ensuring the right people are in place, how do you maintain a consistent approach?

Global payments and cash management deals are indeed complex matters requiring co-ordination across regions and departments, with different business requirements, stakeholders and time zones. Various teams are engaged in a single project, with both regional and local objectives. Consequently, achieving a common understanding of the project status and access to relevant project information can be challenging and time-consuming. To ensure everyone has the full picture of a project status we have introduced ClientSphere, a collaborative workflow and project management tool available through HSBCnet that allows the whole team, including both customer and HSBC personnel, to share the latest updates, revise project plans, documents and status reports. By holding a consistent view of information, the risk of miscommunication amongst project stakeholders, whether internal staff, vendors, customers or the bank, is greatly reduced. All individuals involved in a project can work in collaboration, with the same reference point and common understanding of goals, constraints and deliverables, at whatever stage in the project they become involved, regardless of location and organisation.

Another common challenge for companies implementing international solutions is the need to complete documentation in each jurisdiction to satisfy local requirements. At HSBC, we are concluding a project to harmonise and simplify client documentation to make it easier to do business with us, and ensure that project time can be dedicated to activities that add specific value. This accompanies initiatives such as our global payments investigations platform that has been rolled out across more than 40 countries, and has significantly improved issue resolution times.

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