By George Debono, Chief Commercial Officer, BNF Bank
The future of banking pivots more than ever on a customer-centric strategy. BNF’s approach has always been to put clients at the centre of its operations. This differentiator in the local market has been the key to our rapid growth and success. As a relatively young bank, we have managed from the outset to set ourselves apart by building strong and long-lasting relationships with customers.
Our digital-transformation strategy forms an integral part of our vision for a sustainable bank for the future, which also needs to be highly relevant in the now. Technology plays a crucial role in delivering service excellence as more and more clients embrace the convenience of digital tools. The development of our digital touchpoints gives our clients freedom, accessibility, utility and satisfaction—an overall enhanced customer experience based on device-responsive services that employ the highest security standards and are uplifted by personal human intervention when needed.
A particular nod goes to BECS, our AI (artificial intelligence) virtual agent designed to assist customers around the clock with automatic responses to standard queries. Our e-customer service bot is continuously learning and improving its ability to support our customers. As it gradually takes over several processes previously limited by human management, it will serve clients even more competently going forward. Engaging artificial intelligence has infinitely helped the bank replace physical interaction during the challenging times of COVID. Now that we’re easing out of the pandemic’s straightjacket, BECS will help us focus on other areas of process streamlining.
An ongoing journey
Such innovations are helping us establish a robust foundation and strong springboard for our digital-transformation journey. We have long invested heavily in several customer touchpoints, including express deposit machines, contactless cards and security apps. We also made significant headway in our data-management systems via Power BI, Microsoft’s powerful business-analytics service.
A key target in our plan is changing our core-banking system. To accomplish this, we have chosen Temenos, one of the leading vendors in the global retail core-banking market. This collaboration will allow BNF Bank to be the first systemic bank in Malta to access all the innovations and functionalities of the cutting-edge Temenos Transact, the world’s most widely used digital core-banking solution.
BNF Bank’s strategic plan for the next three years, recently approved by our board of directors and shareholders, is based on this key priority. Aware that there is always more to achieve in our pursuit of service excellence, the next stages of our transformation are of crucial importance.
Remaining close to customers
Remaining close to our customers is of paramount importance to us. We rose to the occasion by providing exceptional assistance to clients during the challenging times that COVID presented to personal and business finances, as we continued to serve under very restrictive conditions.
This closeness with our customers that we have developed over the years through meaningful conversations has helped us quickly adapt to their rapidly changing needs, not only meeting their expectations but also exceeding them. This can be achieved only by close and direct client contact, which gives us a considerably stronger platform from which we can listen, empathise and formulate solutions that work for them and their families.
The synergy between our retail and corporate business segments plays a significant role in supporting family-owned businesses. Whether they are small start-ups or more sophisticated family conglomerates, our bespoke corporate services, as well as our suite of products, which includes our Business Accelerate programme backed by the European Investment Fund (EIF), are tailored to the needs of enterprises at various stages of their growth.
The importance of community
The communities in which we operate also play a major role in strengthening our ability to serve our clients. Our customer-centricity is further exemplified by our actions and engagements beyond offering financial solutions, particularly by our involvement in impactful projects that encourage social action in sections of the community that need attention.
Our social and environmental responsibilities are driven by our values and the highest principles of corporate ethical behaviour. We support a multitude of important local charitable organisations and embark on several annual initiatives that typically provide funds to help address social challenges. Our efforts in the areas of philanthropy, environment, education, health, culture and heritage seek to close gaps and vulnerabilities and make the lives of those in greatest need a little better.
As we endeavour to provide clients with service excellence, we also take care of our team, acknowledging that our employees are the driving force behind our successful operations. Like so many other organisations, we recognised the mutual benefits of remote and hybrid work models early on. This strategy also meant that we kept our branch network open 75 percent of the time, ensuring minimal disruption to customers, as we kept our employees and their families as safe as possible. The rigorous upholding of national health guidelines also served to instil a culture of health-first across our organisation to protect staff, clients and operations.
As we endeavour to be clear and candid in our promise to customers, we strive to add value by enhancing our knowledge of our business and industry to remain at the pinnacle of modern financial-market trends and solutions.The strength of our brand equity uplifts our efforts, and our image, values, reputation and corporate culture combined have helped us build a positive and strong public perception of a trustworthy and transparent organisation.
Year after year, our efforts are recognised by organisations and industry publications of international repute, serving as a testament to our drive, dedication, commitment and success. Developing an environment conducive to competition and innovation in the financial-services sector is part of our strategic direction, and the awards with which we have been bestowed serve as further motivation that drives us to keep innovating and improving to deliver our customers with a differentiating experience.
Looking ahead, BNF Bank embraces the future by continuously pursuing innovations that will ultimately boost the customer experience even further. We continue to invest heavily in technology that will result in key upgrades to existing customer touchpoints and even entirely new ones. And we also seek to take our customer-centric philosophy beyond Malta and into other countries. Indeed, our drive to become a leading international lender led us to recently open our first branch in London, presenting opportunities for investors to expand and explore business opportunities in the United Kingdom.
Easy access to a wealth of banking expertise has never been more important. This is why at BNF Bank—one of the fastest-growing banks in Malta—we insist on placing the needs of our clients at the forefront of everything we do, in line with our ambition to deliver the finest possible banking experience to our customers. And we measure the success of this strategy through the ever-increasing number of loyal clients who make up our customer base and purchase our products at each important life stage they reach.