Credit Suisse is going digital and shrinking its branch banking network. Source: Shutterstock

Credit Suisse is going digital and shrinking its branch banking network. Source: Shutterstock

Why Asian banks need to study Credit Suisse’s digital strategy

ACTIONS elite banking organizations take often set precedents for other banks in the region and around the world.

Credit Suisse’s recent decision to increase investments in digital services and shrink its branch banking network is one such action — and banks, especially those in Asia, need to pay close attention.

“The achievement of long-term success will not depend on having the biggest branch network in the future. Instead, having the best digital offering – combined with access to advice from any location and the best service quality – will be the deciding factor,” said Credit Suisse’s Swiss Universal Bank (SUB) Head Thomas Gottstein.

Although the bank hasn’t provided the finer details about its decision to put the spotlight on digital products and services, the reality is that the landscape is changing quite rapidly.

In a recent interview, Gottstein highlighted that Swiss banks (despite their global footprint), have seen consolidation at home — and that more consolidation is likely in the future.

“There’s the margin pressure, driven by more competition from non-banking entities as well as the need to invest in areas like digitization, regulation, and compliance.”

Gottstein, acknowledging the increased competition from fintech companies, believes that there is value in collaboration in the digital age.

“I wouldn’t rule out that we work with some of our competitors at some point, be it in compliance or certain transactions in information technology.

“Lots of Swiss media outlets print their publications in the same printer’s. What’s stopping us from cooperating, for example in execution? It would certainly make our sector much more efficient.”

Credit Suisse, Gottstein revealed, is already piloting several digital projects.

“For example, we’re launching digital onboarding for small- and mid-sized firms and we’re evaluating whether we want to license our Digipigi project internationally to other financial firms. The demand is there.”

Next year’s plan emphasizing the improvement of its digital capabilities is expected to pick the best of these projects and weave together a plan to provide customers (many of whom are digitally savvy) with best-in-class digital products and services.

The emphasis is on improving the digital experience

Credit Suisse’s Gottstein has made it clear that the future of the banking industry rests on the ability of bankers to provide better digital experiences — through better digital offerings.

In Asia, with retail and high net worth (HNW) customers benchmarking digital experiences against the best services across industries, digital offerings provided by banks need to match up.

To be honest, banks in Asia don’t seem to be lagging behind. In terms of providing a good digital experience, regional giants such as DBS, Maybank, and CIMB have created great mobile apps and online banking platforms to ensure that customers are not only able to transact online but can also engage with personal bankers and advisors digitally.

Further, ahead of many European banks, Asian banks seem to be readily collaborating with fintech companies and digital partners in its ecosystem to create exciting offerings that extend their portfolio and delight customers.

Through partnerships, banking entities in Asia have also been able to bridge the customer experience gap that resulted from relying too much on legacy infrastructure and being unable to provide exciting products and services to customers.

Overall, the reality is that banks across the world need to go digital and focus on their technology portfolio if they want to retain and delight customers. Those that fail might struggle to survive in the long term.