An Interview with Derek Corcoran, Chief Experience Officer, Avoka


There is no doubt that customer service will be the most important differentiator for banks. Consumers have more choice for financial products than ever before, which means that, to stand out in a crowded market, banks and insurers may be best served by focusing on service rather than products.

FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities over the next six months?
Corcoran: Earlier this year we launched a new analytics capability in the Avoka platform called Insights. It gives banks detailed data on exactly where the customer is abandoning in a new account opening, loan application etc., right down to the field. We’re now seeing vast amounts of data flowing through the analytics engine and are looking at innovative ways to use that data to help our clients, including fraud prevention.
Secondly, we’re further enhancing our platform to provide even greater support for agile delivery. We’re agile in our product development to support our clients being agile in their delivery of new initiatives. Agile is ‘the new black’ in banking.
FST Media: How is Avoka responding to the challenge of digital disruption?
Corcoran: There are two types of fintech companies: those that are disrupting the banking sector (for example, PayPal, Lending Club, Kabbage), and those that are helping the banks respond to this disruption – like Avoka. So, we’re front and centre with the banks helping them respond to digital disruption.
To be successful, we must continually evolve our product offering. Some of the things we’re working on and exploring include digital fraud prevention, machine learning to customise experiences, conversational interactions for account opening, and mobile identity.
FST Media: Where do you see traditional banking and insurance services in five years’ time?
Corcoran: Embedded. I think we’ll access banking and insurance services at the point where we’re thinking about them.
People don’t want a bank – they want what the bank can facilitate: 1) safe storage for my money; 2) the ability to make payments with my money; and 3) access to money when I need it but don’t have it (through credit).
So, think about vehicle financing. We’re completely comfortable getting a loan or a lease through a car dealer. I believe more products will be white-labelled and offered at the place we’re thinking about them; open banking and APIs make this possible. Why can’t I set up a savings account for my child’s education when I enrol them in school? Why do I need to go to a bank or a bank’s website?
FST Media: What role can traditional banks and insurers play in spurring digital innovations?
Corcoran: There is no doubt that customer service will be the most important differentiator for banks. Consumers have more choice for financial products than ever before, which means that, to stand out in a crowded market, banks and insurers may be best served by focusing on service rather than products.
Most consumers aren’t interested in opening a chequing account from their refrigerator (yet), but with the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), banks need to be able to provide account opening abilities anywhere and with any internet-connected device. Expect to see this trend continue as IoT companies focus on improving user experiences on a multitude of devices. If your bank isn’t focused on building omnichannel digital acquisition processes, you’re already behind your competitors.
Some banks are also setting up their own innovation hubs to help further their digital transformation agendas.
FST Media: What currently evolving technology do you see positively reshaping and bolstering customer engagement?
Corcoran: There are two things I’m really interested in:
Biometrics – with the challenges of data breaches, the concerns about fraud, and the near-ubiquity of smartphones, I believe biometrics has a huge role to play in authentication – and we’ve only scratched the surface at this point.
Machine Learning – this has the combined capability to automate repetitive tasks and provide insight into the massive amounts of data we’re generating.
FST Media: How can AI (artificial intelligence) best serve to enhance customer engagement? Where do you see its limitations?
Corcoran: The immediate opportunity is to use AI to personalise the experience – essentially, to create a “segment of one”. Generally, banks treat new customers the same regardless of all the ‘signals’ that can be drawn from mobile, social, fraud etc. engines. Everyone gets the same questions, the same interrogation! It doesn’t need to be like that. AI could help analyse these signals and personalise the experience.
Then, once an individual becomes a customer and is generating thousands of data points from their purchasing behaviour etc., AI can be used to target offers and advice for consumers.
I’m not sure there are any limitations currently because we’ve only scratched the surface of what AI can do.
FST Media: What fintech initiatives stand out as particularly promising for the financial services sector as a whole?
Corcoran: APIs and Open Banking are the real game changers for me. There are huge efforts going into fraud prevention, KYC (know your customer), AML (anti-money laundering), payments, robo-advice etc. But the ability to connect these services through APIs into existing banking services, purchasing processes, lending process, shopping cart experiences etc. – that’s where the real power is achieved. That’s how we take fintech initiatives from the kitchen table to the mainstream and really deliver value to the masses.
FST Media: What existing technology would you like to see play a more prominent role in financial services over the next few years?
Corcoran: Banks are conducting digital marketing with success. They are promoting their products via social media, internet search, online ads, their websites, and more. They also continue to invest heavily in core banking and their service layer. But the digital sales experience can often fall flat and there is a disconnect that occurs when digital marketing transitions to sales. So, there is a real opportunity for banks to invest in digital sales capabilities which enable customers to transition between online, broker assisted, and branch, and allow multi-party applications to take place.
FST Media: How can analytics and insights be better used to develop customer-centric services?
Corcoran: At Avoka, our Insights capability, which measures where customers are spending time, making errors, requesting help, or abandoning their session, gives banks access to a wealth of information that can be used to refine and continually optimise the customer experience throughout the onboarding process.
We’re finding a growing number of departments across organisations we interact with are recognising data’s ability to grow a customer base and why this is a key priority area for us.
FST Media: What do you do to ensure a healthy work/life balance?
Corcoran: I enjoy what I do. That’s a start :-). I also try to keep my weekends sacred to ensure that I have that time to spend with my family.
My role benefits from face-to-face meetings with banks and partners. But, at Avoka, we make significant use of Zoom for web meetings to minimise travel. In that sense, the technology is allowing me to spend more time in my home base of Boulder, Colorado. And being surrounded by the natural beauty of Boulder in both summer and winter helps me make sure I get out and enjoy nature with my family – it would be a crime not to.