We met with Randi Marjamaa to reflect on a very challenging 2020 and discuss the way forward for the financial services industry and Nordea in particular.
An engaging and courageous leader Randi has risen to the top Norwegian position of the Nordic’s leading banking group. A Nordea veteran with 15 years’ experience across the group, Randi has held prominent positions in Personal Banking, Corporate Banking, Nordea Liv and HR. Most recently, she was the Administrative Director for Nordea Liv, and prior to that the Deputy Head of Personal Banking.
Randi: “I find working with our personal customers’ needs in this rapidly changing world incredibly exciting and meaningful. Building closer relationships and listening to our customers to support them in both the good and challenging times, such as this pandemic, and helping them with their economic challenges and concerns is the reason we are here.”
It’s this customer-focused attitude that marks Randi out as the ideal leader for the personal banking division and Norway into 2021 and beyond. Her ambition is to further improve customer satisfaction, which will attract new customers and help existing ones achieve their own dreams and ambitions.
We met with Randi on Teams just before the Christmas break. She is impressively energized, with an opportunity attitude to envy, in a year that has been demanding and turbulent 2020 was for us all.
Randi: “COVID-19 is having a huge impact on consumers – we’ve seen shifts in customer behaviour at a pace rarely experienced before. Card transaction statistics shows that people stopped travelling, spent less on culture and restaurants, and spent more time and money on their homes and hobbies. And, of course, closing down society had a severe impact on both individuals’ and businesses’ liquidity.”
Randi explained how Nordea was able to help tackle that particular challenge:
Randi: “Luckily, at Nordea, we have been able to maintain a healthy balance for our customers, and we were able to support organisations in a very challenging situation. For example, we paid our bills immediately on receipt and didn’t wait until the due date, we were also generous with easing loan instalment repayments where required.”
One of the most visible changes last year was the increased use of online services and video meetings.
Randi: “The number of online applications for loans increased by 50 per cent”, Randi says. “And not only did we see a very high adoption of video meetings, our experience is that these meetings have become much more productive. Previously, many of our customers reported that they felt discomfort during video meetings, worried about what they looked like, concerned as to whether they were representing themselves well or not, etc. But now people seem more free and ‘on par with’ our advisors, and don’t care so much about their own appearance. This has been a good foundation for more open conversations and has helped us better connect with our customers and understand their needs. This in turn has been instrumental for us, as we believe our customers want a closer relationship with us, with a more advisory relationship style going forward.”
“For us, simplicity is key. Banking should be easy. Our customers want the service and advice they need when they need it. This is basic banking. Our response has been to provide competent and effective advisory services combined with a brilliant digital, mobile banking across our markets”.
The use of new digital solutions has also opened the path for new ways of working within the bank.
Randi: “We see huge potential for the use of machine learning in our back-office operations. However, we are combining this with outsourcing and nearshoring to ensure that we have the best possible solutions at all times.”
Chatbots have become an integrated part of operations for many banks and the functionality improves every day. But as Randi says,;
Randi: “chatbots work very well for simple, standardised operations, but most people still prefer to talk to a person. So, we can’t be digital only. We will continue to develop our digital solutions and use data to improve our operations and customer services, but we don’t want to push sales. We are a relationship- and trust-based bank, and will continue to develop this role in this increasingly digital world.”
Trust in banking goes both ways. In the Nordics, trust between institutions and individuals has historically been strong. Unfortunately, in recent years we’ve seen several large financial crime incidents.
Randi: “With increased online transaction volumes comes identification challenges,” Randi comments. “But we have taken tremendous steps to improve over the last few years. The whole industry has invested and built competence and capacity to be compliant and to handle the ever increasing and new financial crime threats. We are now moving into a world where we are able to utilise data much better, and we believe this will make us more effective in our fight against financial crime.”
The pandemic, socio-political upheavals and environmental challenges around the world have upended how we think, live and work, accelerating some workforce trends and creating new ones.
Randi: “Of course, the pandemic has demonstrated the need for, and the strength in having, flexible working arrangements for our people across the organisation. From a capability perspective, we continuously adapt our workforce to the ever-changing customer needs and technological improvements. We are recruiting more data scientists to improve our ability to use our data more effectively, and to develop and strengthen our predictive models. We are also investing heavily in building our sustainability capabilities. It was interesting to see how fast our customers re-invested the funds they withdrew earlier in the pandemic, often reinvesting into more sustainable funds.”
Core banking renewal is literally the million-dollar question.
Randi: “The roll-out is still going on, and the focus in each country has been somewhat different given different market needs. For example, the focus in Norway has been on collateral, whereas in Finland it has been more focused on deposits. We are seeing more and more things in common across the bank.”
Recent events have clearly impacted customers’ needs and behaviours, and thus a key challenge for the banks persist – meeting customers’ changing needs.
Randi: “It’s a fact that banks in general underdeliver in terms of customer satisfaction,” Randi says. “This is especially challenging for incumbent banks such as Nordea, who have a large customer base that needs to be part of the transformation journey. But make no mistake, at Nordea we are working hard every day to delight our customers and to improve their experience across all of our customer segments.”