A customer-first mindset 24/7

  • By Kate Weber

From sports marketing to head of retail banking, ING Australia’s Melanie Evans understands the importance of human engagement particularly as the industry continues to embrace digital banking and now open data. 

In high school, sports marketing was the destined career path for Melanie Evans with subjects such as modern history, geography taking priority over maths or science.  The career path was set in motion with Evans working on the welcome home parade for the Australian Olympic team after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 

Yet today Evans heads retail banking at ING Australia. “I loved sport, I loved the PR and the storytelling component of it.”

However, Evans soon found a stronger purpose helping people with their finances through her work as a teller at St. George Bank her mum suggested applying for a cadetship despite no experience. 

“Interestingly, I then worked with the HR director at St. George Bank later on in my career and asked why they hired someone who didn't do business -that’s how I learnt about the importance of culture very early on.” 

We thought it was important to reinforce to customers that although we are a digital bank, we're also incredibly human

Holding onto these lessons from her time as a teller at Bankstown Square, Evans would soon move around the banking space garnering a Harvard Business School Executive Education in the process, alongside degrees in accounting plus finance and marketing. 

“I found it coming back to this whole concept of purpose - from helping people buy a house or setting up their financial health or help them pay for a rainy day. 

I just found it incredibly impactful. Once you understand how the business works, you then find it's intellectually interesting learning about how you keep customers happy, how you run a big network, how you make money, how you manage your costs, those sorts of things. 

Now I couldn't imagine not working in financial services.”

Human touch through social distancing 

Now in her third year as head of retail bank at ING Australia Evans is in full leadership mode as the country and industry confronts the challenges around COVID-19. 

“We thought it was important to reinforce to customers that although we are a digital bank, we're also incredibly human. ING set up their call centre to allow their team to work remotely with the key message that the bank is “ here for a chat 24/7.” 

“While some organisations were almost suggesting customers do the opposite, it was very clear that some of our customers wanted that chat.”

Another aspect of the action plan has seen ING Bank focusing on building a human centred design approach as it proceeds with its open banking plan amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

ING Australia is now the first digital bank to reach the July 1 deadline and unveil its product which will enable third party developers to have access to information about its products and services. 

Evans believes in keeping deadlines true to target despite the ongoing health crisis, choosing to create a human lead approach to understand consumer needs and expectations.

“If we’re advocating for this new way of doing business on behalf of customers, then it makes sense that we keep to the timeframes that we set ourselves,” said Evans. 

“You can't say that you're a digital leader or that you're living up to your brand promise, unless you're doing those sorts of things.” 

The ACCC previously stated that it had granted three-month exemptions to financial services providers – outside the major banks – that were required to share product reference data by 1 July 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forgoing the option to delay, the bank has now completed part one of phase one for their open banking strategy which targets daily banking, saving, term deposit and credit card product reference data. This will then lead into sharing the same data for ING’s mortgage and loan products.

Looking to keep to the pre- COVID-19 timeline, the first half next year will see the bank move into the consumer data right ecosystem. 

Evans said it is important to note all the necessary “checks and balances” will still need to be made from the regulators which may impact the banks readiness. 

There is a whole range of challenges, education, opportunity to build trust moving forward. It's absolutely necessary that anyone operating in the consumer data right ecosystem has that front and centre of their minds

“We don't want to put a hard deadline on any of this because we want to make sure that we go through the appropriate mechanisms. 

As strong supporters of the consumer data right, we want to make sure that that ecosystem is licenced appropriately, that's it's safe and secure.”

Evans stated the bank will be using their human centred design approach for phase two. 

“We are actually in our conceptual and prototype phasing at the moment to really understand the use cases that customers want us to move into when it comes to open banking. If any of those things are compromised, then we could end up in a situation that we don't want to end up in, with potential mistrust in the system.” 

Part of the human centred design approach will also include generating consumer awareness amongst customers. 

One challenge facing open banking in the Australian finance market is consumers failing to be aware of the options available to them, rendering the concept of an open market ineffective. 

However, Evans warns open banking will only enhance a consumer's experience if the customer is aware of the option. 

“There is a whole range of challenges, education, opportunity to build trust moving forward. It's absolutely necessary that anyone operating in the consumer data right ecosystem has that front and centre of their minds.  

Otherwise, we run the risk that we go and build all these great models and we don't have everyday Australians using them.” 

The full interview with ING’s Melanie Evans is featured in the August edition of AB+F.