We focused on improved processes, better forms of collaboration, and a higher acuity around communication in particular due to the loss of physical interactions.

Where the older generation has traditionally wanted the regular in-person meeting, the handshake, to build a relationship, the 20-something generation could not care less. They just want a comprehensive online service that they can self-serve - it's all digital for them. The pandemic has seen that gulf eroded.

Boomers are becoming more like Gen X or Y in embracing more sophisticated digitally enabled services and products. Before COVID how many people had never actually been on Zoom, Teams or similar platforms? How many had never previously collaborated that way? How many people who previously rejected online banking or mortgage advice suddenly had to embrace it, because they had no other choice?

So, wealth will continue to change hands, but across the generations people don't look so different anymore. They – we – have all had to learn to operate in a new way these past two years. Under normal circumstances that chasm would not have closed, you would have needed a dual servicing strategy – but now you can actually deliver an integrated service profile. Everyone is now more comfortable accepting less human contact and more technology.

The digital-led transition that was happening is only going to accelerate…

Yes. Plus, as Boomers are retiring, they are typically becoming more mobile, in terms of relocating in different regions or even countries, potentially for months at a time. Yet nobody's to date had a great approach for servicing mobile customers, in the sense of having a rounded and consistent engagement strategy for them. Those customers have always had to tie themselves back to their local branch or local broker or local adviser. That’s gone now. Remote is now a given in people’s lives.

The other aspect worth mentioning is investing, where there is a clear trade-off between risk and reward. However the systems are broken when it comes to risk categorization – the criteria are very crude, placing people in one of a very limited number of buckets due to the antiquated systems used to measure, quantify and manage risk for an individual. They do not give a clear enough picture of an individual’s level of risk tolerance, so it is all rather play and pray.

You’ve spoken about the potential for (hyper-)personalization to transform how providers design and deliver products to their clients. What are the key steps that firms need to take ensure they are meeting their customers’ preferences and expectations around choice, risk, cost, and the type of relationship/engagement they wish to have with their provider?

Everyone says that they are customer-centric. That is largely a fallacy. Certainly they intend to be customer-centric – but the customer experience is typically fragmented across multiple different advisors, departments and internal silos. For instance, I’m a customer taking five products from a bank. I'm a good customer, right? But the bank charges me loan interest here, I pay a margin on a mortgage there, I pay another fee for my accounts. Ultimately, then, what's the value for me being a good customer? Nobody cares about my holistic needs.

Hyper-personalization is an opportunity to offer actual customer-centricity, about really getting to know the customer better and providing them with an enhanced seamless experience across all their needs. Data is absolutely critical here. Learn about a customer from their credit card data, their banking transactions, whether they pay their mortgage on time. Even their social media activity – while admittedly that is a little out of scope right now, soon enough that type of data analysis will be permitted.

How important will Open Banking be in facilitating greater personalization of products and services?

It will be instrumental. Canada is steps behind countries like the UK on this front, and while regulations and standards are coming in to drive the necessary ecosystem changes, the concept hasn't been fully digested here yet. So there is a real set of work to be done by firms to figure out how to compete and collaborate in what will be a new banking landscape. There's a lot to unpack, a lot of grey areas, and I’d suggest as Canadians we need to take lessons from other geographies and learn from those experiences. I’d include the regulators too, as they also don't have all the answers right now.

Banks need to be on the front edge of the curve and pick ecosystem partners early, so that going forward they can have a holistic approach to the customer. And as a customer, if my bank can offer equivalent service to other providers, I'm probably going to go with what I already know.

Inevitably there will always be a lag when it comes to regulating new innovations, and we shouldn't criticize the regulators for that. 

The biggest single obstacle often isn't tech, it is culture. There is an imperative to be open to change - but that doesn't mean there's a change culture in your organisation.