Digital Transformation Project Group 13: Better serving of niche customers in the retail banking industry.


The sector that we have examined in our assignment is the retail banking industry, with a focus on core banking services, which most people use on a daily basis. Starting with the financial crisis of 2007/08 commercial banks had to undergo a series of challenges and changes. This led banks to restructure costs, internal processes and redefine their customer strategies.  Nowadays, the banking environment is harsher than ever before and everything is revolving around a customer-centric business model with the purpose of achieving higher understanding of what clients want and improve the overall customer experience. As the new set of challenges for banks have been coalesced, retail banks have turned their attention towards differentiation from competitors. Exploring new customer segments and winning the loyalty of overlooked customer niches can be a means to such a goal.

This paper introduces arguments for a digital transformation project as the first steps towards realizing the stated goal.  To capitalize on the potential of a potential disruptive change in a comparably conservative and traditional industry would bring surprising benefits to an organization, counting increased brand trust, customer centricity and setting a new standard in the branch strategy of banks in general. For this assignment we offer a detailed look into the niche market of the hearing impaired.

Communication is a problem and specialized help for these customers is scarce. The problem is made more difficult due to the closed community which, compared to the blind community, features no universal language. The hearing-impaired communicate by sign language but every country has its own signs and smaller districts have their own dialect. Making it hard even for people whose first language is sign language to communicate with each other.

To overcome this challenge, ING Bank Śląski has undertaken the immense task of accommodating such individuals by offering a service which many of us could not even imagine living without – basic banking.  Having control over personal finances is elusive for the hearing impaired due to the nature of the commercial banks. There is a recorded case in which the Poland legislation has prevented a man from resolving an issue with his bank caused by an identity error from the bank’s server. During a phone call, the deaf man’s wife offered to act as an intermediary on his behalf on the telephone, however due to the bank’s strict policies, the bank was unable to discuss his private finances with her. Finally the couple arrived at the bank and in the presence of a bank lawyer they were able to solve the rather straightforward problem.

This type of behavior has been challenged at ING Bank Śląski and has been addressed in commercial banking in Katowice for the first time. As Mirosław Forystek, Bank Director responsible for IT Department at ING Bank Śląski has remarked in an interview “As a company socially responsible, we offer practical solutions where we can improve service quality and comfort. We hope, that we will create a new standard of hearing-impaired customer service.”

Since June 2014 ING Bank Śląski has officially started a partnership with Migam.pl. The company has shown great potential and talent in developing software for translating Sign language into plain text through the help of Microsoft’s gesture-capturing technology – the Kinect camera.  Their ongoing development efforts promise a cross-language service that will, in the future, incorporate most of the Sign languages in the world and be able to enable communication between people who communicate in different sign languages, as well as orally.

In our assignment we propose a business plan implementing a digital translator by using Migam’s software in combination with Microsoft’s Kinect. ING Bank Śląski would benefit greatly from being the first company to extend their core banking services to hearing impaired customers through this digital transformation. However, some comments need to be made. Too early adoption rate will not be rewarded, and shareholder expectations might not be realistically met. Furthermore the risk of overinvesting or relying on the technological value chain completely can create high switching costs.

The grounded next steps follow a cautious and incremental extension of the service in the branches. By leveraging current infrastructure and cheap iterations such as the project currently being developed, ING can control the direction of their standard in banking, as well as create trust and brand recognition.

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