Digital banking in Central America: personalizing it

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Author: José Manuel Paez, Chief Digital Officer, BAC Credomatic


August 4, 2021

As the largest banking group in Central America, with operations across the region, it’s no surprise that BAC Credomatic is leading the way in digital penetration for banks in the region. With a key consumer and small business customer base, however, COVID-19 hit the region with no less force than anywhere else, and while technology and innovation remained vital, so too did keeping the sentiment alive. staff that people also needed in the midst of a pandemic. .

Say “digital banking” and you will probably think of mobile and online banking platforms. Indeed, digital banking requires a complete transformation of all activities, programs and roles, the automation of all banking processes and the digitization of middleware, in order to allow different tools and systems to exchange information. In banking, the transformation from traditional banking to digital banking has been shaped by new technologies such as cloud, big data and artificial intelligence.

These new technologies have forced the industry to improve the customer experience in order to retain customers while staying one step ahead. It is about creating digital services with high added value, ensuring their viability and optimizing their efficiency and profitability. The risk of not doing so is to alienate a clientele in a region that still has financial inclusion problems and a high proportion of unbanked populations.

At BAC Credomatic, the emphasis has therefore been placed on listening to customers, monitoring customer interaction via digital platforms, and orienting and adjusting the customer experience in order to make it simpler and easier. more accessible. These efforts to streamline internal processes and improve their platforms have enabled the company to make great progress in its digital adoption indicators.

BAC Credomatic’s digital customer penetration increased by almost 10% between 2019 and 2020 (from 33% to 42%). More than 1.6 million customers access its services through digital platforms each month, and four out of five do so through its mobile platform. Admittedly, the unavailability of banks in branches has accelerated this adoption more than it would have done if the pandemic had not struck, but BAC Credomatic has always intended to develop and innovate in this direction. .

Customer-centric innovation
Constant innovation is a strategic priority for all forward-looking banks. In fact, the journey to a more digital, customer-centric organization began in 2017. The goal is to deliver solutions that, while complex behind the scenes, make the customer experience seamless and straightforward, guided by strategy. focused on the real needs of customers in the region.
Its digital banking platforms are not simply a by-product of this digital transformation.

The bank has also made great strides with its customer service channels, helping to ensure smooth and agile customer interactions.

Strong online and mobile banking platforms allow customers to complete virtually any type of transaction, but the bank has also embraced the digital transformation of its physical assets. This led to a branch redesign to focus on relationship banking and create thoughtful spaces for self-service, which means customers still have a physical place to do their banking if they want to. , but benefit from more autonomy and convenience. The bank has also made great strides with its customer service channels, which have ensured smooth and agile customer interactions.

Once COVID-19 took hold, social distancing measures were implemented that put the new digital platforms to the test. Fortunately, some of the digital transformation efforts that have been underway for years have been prioritized throughout the pandemic, allowing the bank to take immediate action. Like many other organizations around the world, BAC Credomatic has relied heavily on WhatsApp, and while service through this platform is already in place, it predictably exploded over the past year given its accessibility to clients.

BAC supports you
The pandemic is clearly having a significant impact on spending, saving and using credit in all regions, and Central America is no exception. As a socially responsible financial entity, BAC Credomatic has a duty to support its clients throughout the crisis we are facing around the world. For this reason, BAC Credomatic has implemented several financial assistance measures in all the countries where it operates. From Guatemala to Panama, these measures took into account the individual situation of each country, while preserving the solvency, risk appetite and business continuity of local operations. For individual clients, actions included deferring payment of personal and home loan maturities for several months and deferring payment of credit card debt.

These measures were applied at all levels, without asking questions. In addition, the bank offered customers exclusive benefits for essential purchases such as those made in supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and clinics. Providing assistance measures adapted to its individual and corporate clients based on the particular situation of each client as well as the specific needs of the countries has enabled the bank to individualize its response to the pandemic while strengthening its reputation as a leading institution. financial region. The metrics were communicated to clients directly via email, on the website and through LAC’s customer service channels. Its chatbot has been changed to ensure that frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 relief measures are easily accessible to all customers.

Customer responses to the pandemic have been varied, but there was of course some concern about financial well-being. Perhaps surprisingly in a year of increasing unemployment around the world, the experience of BAC Credomatic has been that most people have shifted from using credit to using their debit cards. . This creates a challenge for a bank trying to maintain its margins, and these changes in customer behavior have led it to build a Personal Finance Manager (PFM) for its customers, which will be released shortly.

Even though these relief measures are substantial, the bank has kept all liquidity indicators within a desirable range. Needless to say, financial risk indicators are constantly monitored to ensure that the bank can continue to provide the support its customers need in these difficult times, while ensuring the solvency and continuity of its operations.

Instant engagement
A pioneer of digital banking in a region where the middle class is growing and in a context of global connectivity and instant access to information, we need agility and responsiveness. Brand awareness in a noisy online world is vital, and banks of all stripes are increasingly engaging customers digitally and by other means to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. At BAC Credomatic, that means actively listening to customer needs, using an experience management platform called Medallia.

This allows businesses to stay in tune with their brand’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to processes, products and services, and to get feedback and opinions directly from the customers themselves. Having this platform enables BAC Credomatic to react to customer needs in a timely manner and to design solutions designed with a customer-centric perspective. In addition, it allows it to develop strategic tools that add value and diversify its services and digital platforms in order to offer its customers a fluid experience.

Understanding the needs of customers allows the bank to create new platforms that not only improve the customer experience with the bank, but also allow its corporate customers to develop their activities in turn, generating a positive impact on the region in its own right. together. In the early 2000s, BAC Credomatic was the first financial entity in the region to offer a mobile banking application. It was also the first to offer NFC payments with tokenized credit cards through a banking app. Coupled with extraordinary contactless penetration among merchants of all sizes, BAC Credomatic delivers fully cardless and contactless experiences.

Musical entertainment
During the pandemic, various industries pivoted and adapted in order to not only retain but delight their customers, and BAC Credomatic implemented a number of innovations to achieve this. One initiative that was mobilized in record time was a program called “momentos online”: a series of concerts featuring local artists in five of the six countries where it operates, broadcast live via Facebook and Instagram. Another successful initiative saw a series of webinars aimed at supporting SMEs as they navigated the emergency and pivoted to keep their businesses afloat. These initiatives have been very well received by customers, with nearly 6,000 social media mentions related to online moments throughout the pandemic, 96% of which were positive comments.

As the bank adapts to the new reality it faces in the world, BAC Credomatic will surely continue to leverage its regional reach in each of the six countries where it operates, promoting the use of digital channels but always prioritizing the well-being of its customers and employees. Here is an organization that goes to great lengths to keep its customers at the center of every initiative it undertakes.

Continuous market research enables the bank to understand the behavior of its customers in order to find solutions that interest them and resonate with them. In the future, the bank will resume sending a UX team to the field every week to get customer feedback on new products and prototypes, which will yield extremely valuable results.

This information leads the bank to adjust its language to make its products perfectly clear to all customers. The institution is delighted to give its clients a voice to express their opinions, which will join the 40,000 regional clients who already provide feedback each month. BAC Credomatic can use this information to further enhance the digital experience. Technology is a catalyst, but the customer will always dictate the clearest path to take.


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