Abbey National has not had its problems to look for in recent times, but there is one remarkable success story at its core in the shape of its flagship CRM roll out.
It’s based on the presumption that - in the words of one of its leading executives - banking is boring. Abbey National is driving ahead with a major enterprise software investment to connect with its customers in a variety of new ways, complete with coffee shops in branches and Woody Allen quotes adorning the walls.
“When people are walking down the high street, they walk quicker past the banks,” says Abbey National’s Ambrose McGinn. “What we want is to be a fantastic retailer. There is so much we can learn from retailers in terms of speed to market, a sense of theatre and the whole emphasis and approach that we take. As a business, if we’re doing something that doesn’t make a customer’s life easier, then we should stop it. Banks really are experts at complicating lives and gold champions at not treating customers as individuals.”
‘One on One’ is in fact the biggest single project under way within Abbey National as the firm rolls out a Siebel-based implementation in a bid to bring the bank closer to its 16 million customers. Abbey National is one of the most recognised brand names in the UK, reckoning by its own estimates to have a relationship with one in three of all UK households. But those retail customers have a relatively low average of 2.1 products each with Abbey National. As a result, some 10 per cent of customers make 100 per cent of Abbey National profits.
In January 2001 the firm began a 12-month ‘thinking’ period, during which the limitations of the existing technology infrastructure became apparent. Abbey National had ended up with a mish-mash of legacy systems developed over the years. Among the first decisions taken by the company was to stop acting as a software developer and move towards packaged applications. “We decided to buy out of the box, get on with the implementation and turn off a whole bunch of redundant systems,” recalls McGinn. “That way we could get back to being a bank, not a software developer.”
Most of 2003 will be taken up with a Siebel eFinance packaged applications rollout, the biggest that the vendor has enabled in Europe. The initial deployment is in both branches and call centres, while future deployment phases will add new functions, such as the ability for customers to book appointments anywhere in the business and eChannel capability.
One of the benefits anticipated is a greater ability to cross and up sell products. If a customer has a savings bond that is maturing, the system will indicate that a phone call to say it is reaching a certain point and invite the customer to come in and discuss what he or she might want to do next would be useful.
Abbey National also wants customers to be able to do business with it when it suits them. To that end, the company has overhauled its website for e-commerce, reducing the number of pages from 1,200 to a simpler and more customer-friendly 400 on a less is more principle.
In addition, forty branches are opening in supermarkets to meet the needs of those out doing the weekly grocery shop. The bank is also piloting a scheme with an outlet in Homebase in Liverpool to catch customers who might need credit information. In its first week of operations, this outperformed expectations by more than four times.
McGinn concludes: “This is not about technology in the end. This is about culture, procedures, people and some technology.”