Older couple reading secure email on laptop
Feature
5 min

Why Financial Services Must Up Its Game With Digital Comms

Posted by Picture of Emily Plummer Emily Plummer

Having worked in and around Financial Services for more years than I'll admit, I am frustrated by the slow pace of change towards meeting customers’ communication expectations, and I don’t think I’m alone.

From my perspective as a consumer and employee within the sector, I have seen from both ends of the table that there is a better way to do things, and I wanted to share what it is to be an FS customer in 2022.

From my experience, the mortgage market can be a volatile beast, and with the base rate changing on what seems like an hourly basis, time is of the essence when securing the best deal.

My husband and I need to re-mortgage our house, as the term is set to expire. So, to alleviate the admin burden and get our names on the dotted line quicker, we decided to use a broker.

Famous last words! Just a few short weeks into the process and I’m not sure my nerves will take much more. Here’s why.

 

Unsecured Data

Each financial relationship begins with proving who you are – and rightly so. Cue the request for AML documents, affordability processes and a whole host of other data, including everything from my inside leg measurement to what I had for tea on Wednesdays (or so it felt).

My first question, working where I do, was this: how do we send the data to you in a secure way? After all, it’s a huge amount of PII. The answer was, of course, the portal, where we were told the login details would be emailed to us straight away. Fast forward 30 minutes of waiting - nothing.

After a phone call and much confusion on both ends, I found out that the portal was down for maintenance. Yet, we still needed to submit our forms before the market opened on Monday and the rates potentially increased.

So, it was proposed that we WhatsApp it, which we declined for obvious reasons. Their third (insistent) suggestion was to email the information. However, our reply was a firm ‘no’ unless the email was encrypted.

It baffled me that sending emails ‘in the clear’ was a part of their standard procedure, leaving mine and all their other clients’ data at risk!

 

Slow Comms

Next, our broker wanted copies of our associated mortgage insurance policies. Not a problem - we have copies of those on paper.

Unfortunately, the copies were created before our last move and reference the wrong address and we needed new versions to reflect this. In my naivety, I assumed that I could log on and print new ones, as we’d already given our new address when we moved some time ago. No luck.

After 45 minutes on hold (to a certain organisation whose logo would come in handy if it rains), I get through to an operator. They advise me that it isn’t a problem; the paperwork will be sent in the post within 7-10 days.

With time constraints what they are, my response was something to this effect - “What?! Can’t you just email it to me, it’s quite urgent.” Their reply? “Sure, we will email that over to you now.” Result!

Five and a half hours later, and 4 emails lacking the necessary attachments received, I call them up again. No answer. I send an email - 5 days later, no reply.

Finally, I take to Twitter, where they ask me to email them XYZ personal information to fulfil my request. In other words, back to square one. A secure email solution would be handy right about now.

 

Portal Struggles

The final straw was when the conveyancer stepped in, stating ‘we need your marriage certificate because of the change of name for the land registry- can you email it?’. My reply, again, was obviously "no" – not to mention that we’d already given it to the broker.

We find their customer portal, set up an account, and try to upload the required document… Error message. We try again… Error message. By the 4th attempt, still no luck, and I’m about ready to tear my hair out.

After sending a message via their portal to explain the issue, and waiting an inordinate amount of time for a reply, we discovered that our file type and size didn’t align with the system’s restrictions. However, there was no indication these even existed on the upload page. So I find myself asking, what use is a secure portal if no one can use it?

 

Connecting The Dots

This process is far from over, but I can already see massive improvements that could be made to our experience as customers, which would reflect positively on the companies who choose to take these steps.

From my journey so far, there are 4 points that should be raised:

  1. Consumers expect the Amazon experience when it comes to service, including turnaround times. We live in a world of choice, and when the safe transfer of data causes unnecessary friction, customers can enact a change of supplier with a click of a mouse.
  2. If advisers and all those associated with the mortgage industry are working like this, it’s not just the customers who are being held back, it’s the firm too. Reducing inefficiencies will go a long way to freeing up their time and opening the capacity to onboard more clients.
  3. It should not be down to me as the customer to point out that PII data can’t be transferred freely without sufficient due diligence. While organisations might have gotten away with this a few years ago, consumers now expect data security as the absolute minimum.
  4. There is already a solution available to solve these issues, and it’s called Mailock! As the encrypted email system of choice within financial services, Mailock helps firms to exchange sensitive data without friction and without concern over data loss.

 

The financial industry has a long way to go but with the appropriate tools and processes, it can offer the secure and seamless experience that customers need. Unfortunately, just not in time for my remortgage!

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