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Digitising High Touch, High-Value Financial Services with Matt Harvey


01 Jun 2023 | Alex Avery

In April ’23, gravity9 partners Noel Ady and Andy Ross sat down with Matt Harvey, Head of Cross Product Sales and Development at NatWest Markets, to discuss how to digitise high-touch, high-value customer services (and how to get the market on board).

Matt’s career began as a Trader and he’s gone on to spend over 20 years in financial trading and technology working with Charles Schwab, Ion, Deutsche Bank and NatWest Markets, where he leads a range of digital initiatives. With a background that blends business finance and technology, he likes to “bridge the gap” between both – something that’s proven valuable as digitisation in financial services continues to grow.

Here, we reflect on that conversation, and provide key learnings that, we think, can apply not just to the financial sector but elsewhere also!

Move away from the traditional supplier/customer relationship – it’s a partnership.

There was a time (when embarking on a technical project) that only the requirements might have been shared with technical colleagues, with the business side keeping the commercial case close to its chest.

That has changed, there’s now a much more collaborative environment where (especially in finance) it’s critical that technical teams understand the domain in which they’re working. Leading us neatly onto…

Know Your Stuff

As much as the bricks and mortar of implementing a solution might not drastically differ between domains, there are times when it can be almost dangerous to have someone on a team who doesn’t understand the (FinTech) domain.

It can take years to fully achieve this level of understanding but it’s also becoming quite common to see technical people strive and invest that time in learning the domain – the difference it can make to a project is startling. Having (that understanding of context) can be such a positive, whereas not having it can be such a negative!

Digitisation isn’t “one size fits all”.

Although we are, of course, keen to drive the adoption and utilisation of technology, it’s important to not lose sight of what the customer wants.

In FinTech, for example, there’s still a lot of value placed by clients and customers on high-touch interactions with real people (and their experience) within an organisation.

To swap analogies, if you were buying a house you might search for it online and even enjoy a virtual tour – but you’d probably not buy it online. For such a high-value transaction, you’d likely value human interaction and expertise.

Although, at the time of writing, AI and intelligent chatbots are an exploding market (and we’ll speak more on that later), it’s important to know where not to employ technology and to know where not to force it on your customers. It should be natural and complimentary, not a source of concern or “another thing to manage”.

…However, it can, sometimes, just make sense.

In the case of, for example, a liquidity provider, there can be multiple steps involved in pricing and trading security between the client, salesperson, and trader. Much of this is relaying simple information (often multiple times) that doesn’t build the client relationship, takes time, and could be at risk of user error. There’s also potentially different formatting involved which adds another layer of detail.

The introduction of an intelligent chatbot solution can alleviate these pain points with standardised formatting, security against risk, and both salespersons and traders are free to provide better relationship management and value-added activities.

Another scenario would be the issuance of securities, another process-heavy activity, in which a small internal team may have many clients and therefore struggle with demand. A digitised process relieves pressure and increases productivity.

Clearly, there are times when digitisation can augment a process and free people up to focus on the real goals of their work, rather than repetitive data capture and entry. Our examples here exist mainly in the world of finance, but similar situations undoubtedly exist across other sectors too.

You’re automating me out of existence!

Amongst the major concerns of technological advancement (particularly with the advent of AI and chatbots) are that humans will be replaced by machines.

We shouldn’t discount that human fear and, in some cases, will need to adapt. But on the other hand, that technology can digitise the most painful parts of a workflow, increase productivity without increasing strain and mitigate operational risk.

When discussing this at a C-Suite level with those in a position to lead the approval process for adoption, the prospect of workflow efficiency, reduced risk, lower cost, higher quality and increased precision are almost always a door opener.

Then there’s the client or customer, where preferences can vary. Some prefer the trusted workflows that they know – and the human touch – whereas others are excited at the opportunities that automation brings.

Tech skills are on the up.

There has been a surge in demand for development skills and technological awareness (even amongst e.g., traders in financial institutions). There are strong signs that the future will include being able to build your own small functions and apps to e.g. leverage KDB or observe tick data without needing to rely on a third party to build these. It’s a shift towards autonomy.

On a national level (within the UK at least) there’s an ongoing drive to equip even primary school children with rudimentary coding and logic experience that is grown through their education.

Here then we have signs of an even greater future demand for some level of development knowledge in roles outside of pure technology – and education shifting to meet those needs.

Look to the future.

We’ve touched on some new and developed applications of technology in the FinTech space above, but there’s still plenty of scope to explore – for example integrating data into workflows desktop-side. For traders and salespersons who are ‘glued’ to their dashboards, having that blend of intelligence and UX can provide the right data when it’s needed but also reduce cognitive load.

At NatWest, for example, they’ve thought a lot about the workflow – the process – and the work that people do, with the aim of building solutions that are both innovative and frictionless to meet the demanding trading environment in which they reside.

That’s been a theme throughout our article here: putting technology in the right place and balancing it with the human element so that technology can take up the strain and free people up to work to their strengths by building relationships and the higher-level work they’re best suited for. The result? Technology and people complimenting each other beautifully.

You can listen to Matt, Noel and Andy directly in the podcast below!