How BNY Mellon is using a design approach to reshape client experiences

Journey mapping illustration

Despite the hurdles involved in rethinking how a large, storied financial institution views customer experience, 235-year-old BNY Mellon is tackling the challenge head on.

The bank and financial services holding company, which has $1.8 trillion in assets under management, offers investment services and wealth management products aimed at institutions and high-net-worth individuals. For nearly a year, it’s been implementing an ambitious strategy to fine tune its customer experience approach, said Martin Lange, BNY’s director of client experience strategy, at the Customer Experience in Financial Services Conference in Boston on Tuesday. It’s an approach that allows the bank to employ a design approach to customer experience matters, driven by a conception of what future experiences should represent.

“Our understanding of the client and being empathetic is critical,” said Lange. “We work with client journey maps [and] we have introduced the notion of emotions. Our clients are human beings, and they feel things when they work with us. It’s not just about what they see when things break.”

BNY’s customer experience-focused strategy took shape under the leadership of Roman Regelman, who was appointed senior executive vice president and head of digital last fall. According to Lange, the strategy conceives of initiatives built along three core areas, which the bank calls “horizons” and which are reminiscent of a management consulting approach.

The first “horizon” is core digitization, which focuses on automation of processes and incorporates robotic process automation. The second is client journey re-imagination, which involves an examination of all aspects of the client lifetime relationship from pre-sale to RFP to onboarding. Because BNY is looking at client journeys from a cross-functional perspective, they’re not specific to lines of business, Lange noted. Finally, the third “horizon” focuses on digital business development, or new business areas that could generate additional revenue streams.

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In rolling out these three focus areas, it’s important to bring collective expertise together in a new way and set aside siloed ways of looking at how customer experience applies to different parts of the firm, Lange explained. “Our sales teams who have a client experience playbook will talk about how important customization throughout the RFP process is; our marketing teams will talk about the consistency of brand; our technology teams will talk about the integration of systems,” he said. “You have to find a common ground, and you have to acknowledge the fact that everybody is a contributor to client experience.”

This holistic approach also informs how the company is conceiving of competitive forces, which currently are not typically of financial firms but direct-to-consumer digital brands. “They’re comparing us to whatever they’ve just experienced last,” Lange said. “They’ve just come to our office, and they took an Uber — that is the direct point of comparison.” To put a new conception of client experience into practice, the bank must first understand the client and design the future experience before operationalizing it, he explained.

It’s important to look beyond discrete product fixes or siloed solutions and reframe the conversation along a longer-term path around opportunities and client goals, said Lange. “Pain points have the tendency to lead us to just fixing the pain point as opposed to talking about underlying motivations and goals, because that really gives us the strategic opportunity that we could be looking for,” he explained.

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