Q&A with Harit Talwar, President, US Cards, Discover Financial Services

We all felt extremely lucky to score Harit Talwar as a speaker for Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals West, which is coming up on October 9th and 10th in Los Angeles. Why lucky? It’s for two main reasons.

First, Discover has been a consistently strong performer in our Customer Experience Index, in a virtual dead heat with American Express. Yet Discover’s customer experience story is not nearly as well known as the American Express story, so we’ve been dying to bring it to a Forrester stage.

Second, Harit blew me away in our first forum prep call. Not only does he really get the concept of a customer experience journey, but also he’s been living it. What’s more, he brings results in terms of metrics like customer loyalty scores, wallet share, and J.D. Power scores as proof that what Discover has been doing actually works.

In the run-up to the forum, Harit recently took the time to answer questions about what Discover is doing and why it's doing it. It’s my pleasure to be able to share his answers with you, and I hope to see you in Los Angeles where we’ll all get to meet Harit in person.

Q. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why? 

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Haste Makes Waste — Take Your Time When Selecting Business Applications

When my teenage son is interested in purchasing a mobile phone, some PC equipment, or a games console, he will typically spend weeks gathering the necessary information to arrive at a well-informed decision. He once told me that he feels this is necessary to make the best use of his savings — a trait that I do not always observe banks around the world exhibiting.

Recently I had a phone call with a few people from the business side of a medium-size bank somewhere in the world. Their challenge? They wanted to use the best method to find the mobile banking application most suited to their bank. Their real challenge? They had no time to make a deeper assessment of their individual business and technology situation and only wanted to get proof that their approach would be the right one. They wanted a clear recommendation within a few days.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. When I know nothing about a bank’s business environment, its supporting application landscape, and its underlying technology, I am very reluctant to offer more than a long list of business applications, regardless of whether the topic at hand is mobile or cross-channel solutions, core banking, or something else. This is in line with a research report about best practices for banking platform transformation that Forrester published some time ago. At the time, we identified a few key reasons common to major banking platform transformation failures. One of those reasons: ill-designed shortcuts.

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Highlights and Thoughts From Finovate Fall 2013

[note: this was written live last week while I was attending Finovate]

Greetings from the Big Apple! I’m here attending the fancy schmancy Finovate Fall 2013 conference featuring tech solutions and innovations from – and for – the financial services industry. Here are some of the offerings and presentations that stood out for me, in the order they were presented at Finovate:

  • Kofax offers process automation software for lenders, but the big takeaway for me was their recent expansion of mobile, cross-channel, and multichannel analytics for financial providers. Focused on how customers shop for a loan, the dashboard and data are digestible and actionable. The jury’s still out, but strong analytics and easy-to-use tools can help banks improve sales in their lending lines of business.  
  • MoneyDesktop offers digital money management tools – also known as personal financial management or PFM – and their demo at Finovate continued to show their strengths: Nifty tools, clean design, and intuitive UI and UX. The question mark for banks, however, continues to be how well integrated – or better yet, embedded – the experience can/will be for end users.
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Influence Forrester’s Future Banking Apps Coverage

Forrester’s latest survey on financial services architecture shows that financial services firms in general, and banks in particular, put a high priority on a few selected topics (see the figure below). Our banking-specific research for AD&D professionals has focused on topics like banking architecture, banking platforms including core banking, Internet and mobile banking (to be published soon), and multichannel enablement. Forrester’s more industry-neutral research has covered aspects such as analytics, business intelligence, big data, customer relationsship management and other, less industry-specific, areas of business applications.

We have also started preparing a report about the key building blocks of today’s risk management solutions. However, my recent discussions with Forrester clients have covered plenty of additional topics, including anti-money-laundering, branch apps, private wealth management, lending in retail/consumer banking, corporate/commercial lending and its syndicated flavors, mortgages, trading, and treasury, just to mention a few.

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