Customer’s loyalty in the online services 35 pages

customer’s loyalty in the online services of financial service companies. Evidence from the Greek stock market

Factors affecting customer’s loyalty in the online services of financial service companies: Evidence from the Greek stock market

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Business to business (B2B). Markets in which companies trade with one another (Dennis & Harris, 2002).

Business to consumer (B2C). These are markets in which companies trade with consumers (Dennis & Harris, 2002).

Customer relationship management (CRM). Using individual customer data to ensure that a company offers each an optimum product proposition. The CRM philosophy should permeate through each aspect of customer service and at every point of customer contact (Dennis & Harris, 2002).

A e-Business. An approach to business in which digital and Internet technologies are integrated through the entire spectrum of business functions (Dennis & Harris, 2002).

A e-Commerce. The transaction of goods and services via digital media (Dennis & Harris, 2002).

A e-Retail. This is the sale of goods and services via Internet or other electronic channels, for personal or household use by consumers (Dennis & Harris, 2002).

A e-Shopping. This term refers to the purchase of goods and services by consumers using e-Retail channels (Dennis & Harris, 2002).

Background and Overview.

In order to develop the relevant background and resources needed to achieve the goals of this study, it is first necessary to find out what has already been written about the topic under investigation. For the purposes of this study, both the opinions of experts in the field and other research studies are of interest in a process that is typically known as a review of the literature (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2001). Data collection is part of the knowledge acquisition phase; for this purpose, knowledge can be collected from many sources (Turban and Aronson, 2001; Sriram, 1997).

According to Gratton and Jones (2003), a critical reviewing of the timely literature is an essential task in all research. “No matter how original you think the research question may be, it is almost certain that your work will be building on the work of others. It is here that the review of such existing work is important. A literature review is the background to the research, where it is important to demonstrate a clear understanding of the relevant theories and concepts, the results of past research into the area, the types of methodologies and research designs employed in such research, and areas where the literature is deficient” (p. 51).

In this regard, Wood and Ellis (2003) identified the following as important outcomes of a well conducted literature review:

It helps describe a topic of interest and refine either research questions or directions in which to look;

It presents a clear description and evaluation of the theories and concepts that have informed research into the topic of interest;

It clarifies the relationship to previous research and highlights where new research may contribute by identifying research possibilities which have been overlooked so far in the literature;

It provides insights into the topic of interest that are both methodological and substantive;

It demonstrates powers of critical analysis by, for instance, exposing taken for granted assumptions underpinning previous research and identifying the possibilities of replacing them with alternative assumptions;

It justifies any new research through a coherent critique of what has gone before and demonstrates why new research is both timely and important.

Likewise, Silverman (2005, p. 300) suggests that a literature review should aim to answer the following questions:

What do we know about the topic?

What do we have to say critically about what is already known?

Has anyone else ever done anything exactly the same?

Has anyone else done anything that is related?

Where does your work fit in with what has gone before?

Why is your research worth doing in the light of what has already been done?

The Financial Services Industry and Information Technology.

Today, the four major pillars of the financial services industry are represented by:

Commercial banking,

Investment banking,

Insurance, and,

Asset management (Walter, 2004).

The financial services industry also includes other types of financial activity, such as securities exchanges and specialty finance; by all accounts, the several segments of the industry are closely interrelated (Das, 2004). All of these major pillars have been affected in fundamental ways by the introduction of information technology (it) in recent years. In fact, during the closing decade of the 20th century, a number of scholarly studies reported in journals such as the Harvard Business Review and Business Week cited the disappointing results of the massive investments in information technology (it) that had taken place in the financial services sector. According to Watkins (1999), “Spending on technology had tripled between 1970 and 1990, yet white collar and office productivity in U.S. businesses and organisations remained flat. Some argued that the maintenance of current outdated it infrastructures was adding to the burden of increasing costs in the services sector and that, for the majority of firms, the potential of it had still to be realized” (p. 7).

Some industry observers at the time advocated a more strategic focus based on an efficient delivery system, a high quality product, and a flexible cost structure to ensure continued growth and global market presence; the emphasis at this point in time became focused on identifying more effective ways for a company’s management to measure and evaluate white collar productivity, quality, and it (Watkins, 1999). Furthermore, an increasingly popular option became outsourcing arrangements or strategic alliances that would provide for economies of scale by sharing the costs of certain resource-dependent in-house functions (Watkins, 1999). In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that such economic efficiencies and transformation were needed to help financial services companies in particular to remain competitive and to create the capacity to innovate, respond to customers, or provide quality service over the long-term (Watkins, 1999).

Attracting and retaining loyal customers, though, has also assumed some new dimensions for financial services companies seeking to provide their customers with the broad range of services – some of which transcend traditional financial services – to remain competitive and achieve additional market share today (Diwan, Kudya & McGinn, 2002).

Indeed, an enormous amount of recent it investment has been committed to information processing and customer relationship management systems. One authority reports that, “These systems, including data marts and analytical applications, help companies better understand their customers. By more effectively identifying [use] patterns across locations, producers and distributors can better meet market demand. Other it initiatives include global information exchanges that facilitate communication between locations around the world and business-to-business marketplace systems are widely utilized to facilitate procurement, buying, and selling” (Diwan et al., 2002, p. 27).

Although the global financial services industry remained in a state of transition throughout the 20th century, profound transformations since the early 1970s have been dramatic in their scope and impact. According to Das (2004), “Global forces for change included advances in information communication technology (ICT), making remote access to trading systems ubiquitous. Also, innovations in ICT and the development of new instruments in the financial market became self-reinforcing. Furthermore, financial deregulation and liberalization at the national level, opening up to international competition, and globalization of financial and real markets, were significant change agents” (p. 72). Moreover, changes in corporate behavior, such as growing disintermediation and increased shareholder pressure for financial performance, have been the prime forces behind the transformation in the financial services sector in the emerging market economies (Das, 2004).

The increasing effects of globalization during the last two decades of the 20th century further increased trans-border capital flows and tightened the links between financial markets in the emerging markets and global financial centers; in addition, growth of global financial markets was accelerated even further by improvements in the basics, especially by more rapid economic growth in the emerging market and matured industrial economies (Das, 2004). Growth and transformation in the financial services industry was also assisted by economic and structural reforms (such as the privatization of state-owned banks in the Central and Eastern European economies) in the emerging market and transition economies, as well as the recent spate of banking and financial crises (Das, 2004).

In this environment, many financial services companies are seeking more effective and timely approaches to their information management to help them identify opportunities for growth and additional market share. As noted above, one of the more popular approaches being used by financial services companies today is customer relationship management techniques which are discussed further below in general and as they apply to the financial services industry in particular.

Customer Relationship Management and the Financial Services Industry.

By and large, the ability to communicate more accurate information with regard to the overall business process allow any type of company to compete more effectively domestically and on a global basis; however, the high-service orientation of banking and financial services differs from many other industries because the focus here is aimed more toward customer service. According to Diwan and his colleagues (2002), “This sector, however, entails a number of subsectors that differ in character. Banking and financial services includes such firms as investment banks, commercial banks, brokerage firms, and credit card institutions. The common it pulse throughout the daily operations of these organizations involves utilizing systems to communicate between branches and subsidiaries, establishing operations throughout the world, communicating with the end customer in order to facilitate transactions, and analyzing customer and market attributes in order to reduce uncertainties in such aspects as pricing policies” (p. 24). Some of the more salient issues affecting the financial services industry today are described further in Table ____ below.

Table ____.

Examples of utilization of information technology in order to enhance efficiency and productivity by the financial services industry.

Area Impacted

Description of Impact

Credit card institutions store, retrieve, and analyze vast amounts of demographic customer information enabling them to more accurately target potential markets for new products and also identify less-attractive, credit-risk customers.

This allows them to reduce the amount of wasted resources in launching ineffective product campaigns and improperly estimated credit terms for high-risk customers.

Commercial and savings banks have continually promoted electronic banking services (paying bills online) and full-service automated teller machines, seeking to reduce the amount of fixed capital (size and number of branch buildings) and labor (less need for tellers) while expanding the scope of their banking operations.

Data warehouses with vast amounts of customer profile information along with data mining applications enable these institutions to devise new products that better accommodate the target market and, once again, identify and adjust for the presence of higher risk clients.

Investment banks have been able to take advantage of the global economy by expanding into emerging markets through the use of state-of-the-art information systems that more quickly and accurately clear security transactions.

These investment institutions then use data warehouses, query and report-writing software, and analytical information systems (IS) tools to more efficiently store global portfolios of securities, which allows them to estimate risk measures and, once again, identify higher risk counterparties in securities markets.

Brokerage firms have utilized it extensively by offering online trading and analytical tools for the customer, while booking systems enables them to facilitate a higher volume of market transactions.

Information technology has greatly transformed the brokerage business as automated trading systems have displaced labor. Automated trading has been prevalent on European futures exchanges for some time and has more recently proliferated into U.S. equities and foreign exchange markets.

Source: Diwan et al., 2002, p. 25.

According to these authors, “The trend in banking and finance has been the consolidation of organizations through merger and acquisition, forming such organizations as CitTravelers, JP Morgan-Chase, and Morgan Stanley-Dean Witter. Company leaders have continued to identify attractive synergies available from multifaceted organizations. The result has been great demand on it systems to facilitate data integration from diverse functional areas” (Diwan et al., 2002, p. 25).

Not surprisingly, then, many financial services companies today are in the awkward position of being required to reinvent themselves to remain competitive in an increasingly globalized and diversified environment. According to Divanna (2002), “The incumbent industry, banks, brokerages, insurance companies, fund management, and capital markets are now presented with a question: What is the value proposition for financial services organizations in the new connected business environment?” (p. 4). In fact, financial services companies are being confronted with an increasingly competitive marketplace wherein they must prioritize the management of customer relationships as a firm-wide imperative. For example, John (2003) reports that Dell Computer uses a “customer experience council” comprised of senior executives from each division or business line and major function that reports to a corporate vice chairman. According to this author, “The council oversees measurement of several aspects of customer behavior, including the effectiveness of its loyalty programs. Dell even measures all the costs its customers incur in purchasing and using their products, including such things as shopping, ordering, installing, operating, servicing, and disposing of products” (p. 160). Keeping track of these revenues and costs over the lifetime value of the customer allows companies to identify their brand-loyal customers and anticipate their future needs; these types of management practices will be able to deliver benefits to the heavy user to maximize their lifetime value (John, 2003).

The lifetime value of the customer must therefore be calculated for each individual customer; this assessment extends to revenues and costs over the lifetime of the customer’s relationship with the company; the investment in acquiring and retaining a customer must be made based on the customer’s lifetime value to the firm (John, 2003). Furthermore, an ongoing review of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities could increase the lifetime value of the customer because the potential customer equity from each segment or customer should serve to identify the extent of value-creating adjustments to be made in terms of delivery process or product outcome customization in terms of value or other benefits to the customer or in terms of adjusting the price and other costs to the customer (John, 2003).

Opportunities for Application and the Effective Management of the it Function.

The number of financial services companies and customers embracing Web-based technologies is growing at a faster rate than ever before and as estimated by Forrester Research the growth of e-business would increase three times between 2002 and 2004. According to Ghosh and Surjadjaja (2004), “E-business is a broad term used to express the conduct of business (buying and selling, servicing customers, and collaborating with partners) through the internet, in which e-commerce and e-service can be established as its two underlying dimensions. E-commerce mainly focuses on the buying and selling of physical goods/products that results in monetary exchange whereas e-service refers to delivery of services through the internet either paid or free” (p. 616). According to Muir and Douglas (2001), “E-commerce had been defined variously as, ‘online commercial activity enabled by the Internet and World Wide Web,’ and ‘the use of the Internet for the exchange of information of value.’ Two forms of e-commerce are identified: business-to-business (B2B) and self-selection purchasing or business-to-consumer (B2C) as it is more commonly known” (p. 176).

Today, such e-service operations are comprised of all customer centric activities beginning with pre-transaction activities, transaction and post transaction interactions all the way through the internet in delivering products/services within a service level agreement (Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004). These authors also note that by definition, it is implied that e-business, e-commerce and e-service are inextricably interrelated with each other’s boundaries as illustrated through the Venn diagram shown in Figure ____ below.

Figure ____. E-Service Boundary Overlaps.

Source: Ghosh and Surjadjaja, 2004, p. 617.

A list of 20 determinants that were found to affect a customer’s decision to use an e-commerce approach over another, traditional business form alternative are described in Table ____ below:

Table ____. A set of determinants illustrating differences and uniqueness between e-business and traditional business.



Trusted service

Exact delivery of promised services


Lead time, accuracy, and consistency of response

Site effectiveness and functionality

Effectiveness of web functions such as: help desk, search engine, FAQ (Frequently Asked

Questions) section

Customer service representative

Availability and helpfulness of a customer service representative


Delivery of products/services on time and as specified

External communication

Building a positive image of a service provider towards the existing and potential customers


Web-enabled interaction between customers, between customer and a service provider, and customers’ direct interaction with products/services

Up to date information

Keeping customers updated with latest information on products/services

Systems integration

Integration of operational systems within a company


One-to-one interaction, personalised services to individual customer


Ease of finding products/services


24/7 access to web site and services


Elimination of physical restrictions such as place and trading hours


Safety provided by technology against fraud/hackers during online transaction

Return process

Return policies and procedures

Supply chain integration

Close relationships with business partners

Internal communication

Dissemination of information within a company


Providing facility for customers to modify/adjust the system according to their specific requirements

Service recovery

Providing an alternative service to the satisfaction of the customer and/or redressing loss to customers in the event of a failure in the service process


Competitive pricing of products/services

Source: Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004, p. 617.

These determinants can be further grouped into three main service processes as follows:

Service marketing;

Service design; and,

Service delivery (Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004).

For the purposes of their investigation, service marketing was considered to involve matching market needs and firm’s resources ability. This component focuses primarily on determining the marketing mix of product/service features such as price, brand image, and accessibility of services. “In other words,” the authors note, “marketing deals with the expected quality of products/services” (Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004, p. 619). For the purposes of the instant analysis, the marketing mix can be defined as “the blend of tools and techniques that marketers use to provide value for customers. It is most widely known as E. Jerome McCarthy’s ‘4Ps’: Place, Product, Price and Promotion” (Dennis & Harris, 2002, p. 221). The four components are described further in Table __ below.

Table ____.

The 4Ps of the Marketing Mix.




This refers to the routes organizations take to get the benefits of the product or service to the intended customers – channels of distribution


This means both tangible product and also ‘service’ and all the ways in which an organization adds value to them.


This term means not just the price charged, but also all aspects of pricing policy, including, for example, distributor margins.


This component does not just refer to the more specialized ‘sales promotion’, but also every way in which a product is promoted to customers – from print advertising to Web sites.

Source: Dennis & Harris, 2002, p. 221.

More recently, though, some marketing authorities have suggested that the concept of 4Ps is no more than a simplifying convention that ‘loses sight of the chronological sequence’ and in this regard, Dennis and Harris offer a more realistic twenty-element mix that attempted to describe the marketing process sequentially, starting from conception, through pricing, product, distribution and sales to maintaining customer interest and loyalty. In addition, some marketers maintain that there are actually ‘5Ps’ of marketing, with the fifth being ‘People’: “People’ has two meanings in this context. First, customers are people, often buying according to emotion and whim. Without these fickle customers, we have no business. Second, people make it happen. Without people to put marketing plans into operation, nothing happens” (Dennis & Harris, 2002, p. 222).

As noted above, although service marketing has evolved on the front-end operation, service design focus on the back-end support of service operations. According to these authors, “Service design here refers to the design of facilities, servers, equipment, and other resources needed to produce services. It includes blueprint of service system, specifications, procedures and policies. At the front-end operations, the main function of service delivery is to deliver the core products/services to the customers” (Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004, p. 619). Based on these definitions of the three elements of service processes, the authors assigned each determinant to these service processes based on the definition of each; because a determinant may fall within any of the boundaries of the processes, determinants that are exclusive to each process were identified first and then followed by determinants that are common to two or all of the service processes as shown in Figure ____ below.

In this figure, “A,” “B,” and “C” represents “service marketing,” “service design, and “service delivery,” respectively:

Figure ____. Determinants of service marketing, design, and delivery.

Source: Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004, p. 619.

Because all of these service processes may contribute to a customer’s perception of the quality of service experienced, a conceptual framework of e-service operations that integrates the three service processes, service consumption, and perceived service quality is proposed and presented in Figure ____ below.

Figure ____. Conceptual framework of e-service operations.

Source: Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004, p. 621.

Service marketing feeds a customer’s requirements to service design and in return service design communicates the completed service design to marketing. Customer’s expectation developed through service marketing needs to be fulfilled and service delivery is an important aspect of it. Service design plans schedule of delivery of services to the customers and in return service design and service marketing need feedback from service delivery whether service has actually been delivered so that service records are accurately kept and personalised services can be designed (Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004). Service marketing and service delivery provides valuable inputs, which helps service design to plan resources allocation and design alteration (if any). In response, marketing and delivery needs to retrieve and deliver the designed services to the customers; as a result, in order to facilitate effective information flow in delivering quality service, the three processes must have two-way communication, which is represented by two-way arrows as shown in Figure ____ above (Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004).

Based on their analysis, these researchers suggest that the 20 determinants are crucial to service consumption process, and service providers are likely to strive for delivering an effective and efficient service by incorporating these determinants in their service processes; it is likely that service providers, specifically small and medium enterprises, though, would be constrained by their available resources in integrating all 20 determinants into their service processes (Ghosh & Surjadjaja, 2004). Consequently, financial companies may need to focus on a limited number of critical determinants as the foundation block on which a successful service operation strategy can be developed.

According to Divanna (2002), establishing a clear value proposition that makes a company’s products or services more appealing than existing counterparts is not easy among the rapidly converging technologies and an organizations’ ability to provide these goods or services. “Redefining what constitutes a transaction,” he advises, “and, more importantly, establishing the appropriate intermediary to facilitate a transaction, complicates the process of outlining a sustainable value proposition. This seemingly chaotic state brings to the forefront another question: What is the nature of the future role that financial services companies will play in the international business and consumer markets?” (Divanna, 2002, p. 3).

This paucity of a precise and firm definition in the marketplace continues to confuse and sometimes frustrate financial services companies and clientele alike, as well as retail consumers and corporations that are competing in business-to-business exchanges; consequently, it can be reasonably expected that the next few years will yield a continued redesignation of the role of the transaction intermediary and, more importantly, the underlying value proposition offered by financial services companies (Divanna, 2002).

In this regard, Divanna (2002) emphasizes that, “During the last two decades of the twentieth century, financial services firms invested heavily in technology as the primary means of market distinction and product differentiation. As the price vs. performance ratio of computer and telephony manufacturing continues to drive down the cost of technology, opportunities for new market entrants continue to present a viable avenue for niche players to acquire customers in all industries” (p. 4). Given the rapid pace of growth in the it function, it is not surprising that there have been some false starts and failed experiments; however, the costs associated with such initiatives do not allow for many such failures and some financial services companies have recognized this need early on.

Today, it is common to find financial services companies promoting their services based on the wide range of choices available to consumers. For example, one community bank’s Web site boasts that it offers more than 100 mortgage options; another large financial services provider estimated that one of its product lines entailed about five million possible combinations of features (Cocheo, 2006). According to this author, “The trouble with choice is that it naturally implies complexity. In a business of physical widgets, this becomes obvious quickly, because the warehouse becomes crammed. It costs something to store all those product options. But even a business like finance where inventory is mental — or at least digital — there are implications for complexity” (Cocheo, 2006, p. 7).

Financial services companies are particularly at risk of this because it is relatively easy to launch a new idea, versus an industrial firm’s need to build or acquire necessary manufacturing and related facilities. Even so, the costs of development are not negligible. “The net impact is more and more product/service variations chasing limited dollars, which are growing more slowly than the rate of proliferation. Many companies are now choked by the complexity they offer to customers” (Cocheo, 2006, p. 7). Such is the contention of the George Group, strategic consultants based in Dallas. Michael George, founder, chairman, and CEO, writes in his firm’s 2004 book, Conquering Complexity in Your Business: “Here’s a guarantee: Somewhere in your business, there is too much complexity — more product offerings than your customers want, more services than your markets can support with positive economic profit, too many ways of accomplishing the same output, etc. This kind of complexity generates huge non-value-added costs, work your customers wouldn’t want to pay for if they had an alternative. These costs are enormous in terms of lost profit and growth, and are hidden in overhead — a hidden profit pool of huge potential” (quoted in Cocheo, 2006 at p. 7). From this researchers’ perspective, financial services companies as particularly vulnerable to the effects of complexity. These consultants argue that complexity in financial services can hurt customer service, slow new product development to a standstill, and increase the cost of doing business (Cocheo, 2006).

Frequently, complexity comes about not by design, but by default, the firm contends. New products and services are developed over time to meet one need or another and remain on the company roster. Before anyone realizes what’s happened, the list of company offerings has burgeoned. The firm makes the point in another book, Fast Innovation, that: “If you are a fast innovator but ignore complexity, portfolio clutter will build up faster than ever before…. The irony is that in the pursuit of innovation, you may strangle growth.” Management attention becomes spread too thin along the way, and eventually the pace of innovation will grind to a halt because all resources are going into maintaining a bloated status quo; however, too little complexity can also be a problem, George continues, because offering too few options can make a product line too inflexible, and therefore less likely to appeal to more customer segments (Cocheo, 2006).

Identifying the right combination of complexity and simplicity for a company’s it function remains a significant challenge. The author learned many of his basic lessons in a slice of the technology business; this company manufactured and sold uninterruptible power supply units for computers and over time came up with so many variations on the basic theme that the excess choice consumed much effort, space, and profits. As a consultant, George and his company developed three “laws” for conquering complexity:

Eliminate complexity that customers will not pay for. One example concerns airlines that reduce the number of airplane types that they fly, which cuts back on parts inventory and training costs of maintaining a highly diverse fleet. A financial example cited is ABNAMRO. The authors point out that the Dutch company’s commitment to being a “universal bank,” its traditional mindset, was no longer working satisfactorily. The arrival of a new CEO in 2000 led to abandonment of universal banking and concentration on fewer products, but those with higher potential.

Exploit the complexity that customers will pay for. Capital One actually increased the complexity of its product line by increasing the variations on a basic product, the credit card, such that customers could obtain cards with a more “custom-designed” feel. This resulted in a product line that appealed to more people more of the time — Capital One credit cards, for instance, look very different to different types of users, depending on payment patterns, credit usage, credit history, and so forth. Capital One made it work by beefing up it to automate management of the wide variety of potential offerings. “Less-nimble competitors are forced into high volume ‘plain vanilla’ commodity products where customers are loyal only to the lowest price and yield low return on invested capital and hence low shareholder value,” Conquering Complexity states.

Minimize the costs of the complexity that you offer. The authors contend that customer choice can be maintained without the unnecessary complexity existing on the back end. As an example, they point to Toyota, which produces a wide variety of vehicles on a limited number of platforms and from picking and choosing among a variety of internally standardized parts and subassemblies (Cocheo, 2006, p. 8).

Business intelligence applications are being introduced that are also affecting the way in which financial services companies are administering their it function. These applications provide key decision makers in a company with the right information about their company at the right time by combining data administration tools, analytic tools, and end user business intelligence applications (Proctor & Vu, 2005). According to these authors, “The technical, or administration, tools allow for the extraction, transformation, and loading of tables from a database into summarized views and into certain formats (e.g., time formats, multiple currencies). These tools also support managing security and accounts” (Proctor & Vu, 2005, p. 499).

Moreover, sophisticated analytic applications are providing decision makers with day-to-day support as well as-needed tabulating, viewing, querying, and calculating of information about a given company’s operations (Proctor & Vu, 2005). In addition, there are some Web-based business intelligence applications that aggregate information from these tools for end users to view and manipulate. A description of these applications and their impact on the financial services industries is provided in Table ____ below.

Table ____.

Business Intelligence and the Financial Services Industry.

Area of Impact

Description of Impact

Business intelligence reports

Business intelligence reports are software products that display summary information from both CRM and ERP applications to support uppermanagement decision making, such as hiring and firing and buying and selling companies. One key human factors issue associated with BI reports is the accuracy of the data displayed. In order for vice presidents to be comfortable making decisions about information in a report, they must trust that they are viewing accurate information. There are three components to this: accuracy of the question, accuracy of the result set, and timeliness of the data or frequency of the data refresh. Accuracy of the question requires a UI design that supports asking the right questions in the right order; for example “Show me sales from California, over $10,000, by product line” will produce a different display of data than “Show me all sales over $10,000, by product line.” Accuracy of the result set goes to appropriately matching a visual representation with the given type of results, for example, pie chart, bar graph. Timeliness of the data means that a user interface has to make clear both when the data were last updated and how to update the data if needed.

Business intelligence applications

These are software products that support enterprise-level decision making on a daily basis by showing a decision maker (a) what the information is, (b) how and why the information is moving a certain way, and – what can be done with this information. This is also known as corporate performance measurement, for example, scorecards, intelligence on inventory, transportation, human resources. Users of business intelligence applications are frequently CEOs, executive vice presidents, vice presidents, and essentially anyone who is responsible for decision making about how a company is operated. They typically want to know how much money their company has made to date and how much has been spent to date. This group provides some unique human factors issues that will be discussed later as types of users. In addition to the special needs of these users, these applications share the same human factors issues as mentioned under business intelligence reports.

Source: Proctor & Vu, 2005, p. 499.

These authors also note that existing Web applications for the financial services industry are often heavily customized (Proctor & Vu, 2005).

Even if the it initiative is state-of-the-art and is supported by top management, the bottom line for customers is the contact with the individual company representative; failures at this point represent a failure of the entire system: “Successful management realizes it is essential that the employees who deal directly with customers have the necessary time, tools, and training and the complete support of the company. It is the performance of those frontline employees on which judgments of the entire company are made, and future sales made or lost. No sharp advertising campaign or glossy packaging can make up for a poor relationship between the customer and the company’s representative who deals directly with him” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 105).

These empirical observations are highly congruent with the peer-reviewed and scholarly literature on the topic, with one authority reporting, “A typical observation during the last decade was that employee loyalty has eroded and is continuing to slide. Downsizing, rightsizing, and reeingineering have resulted in layoffs, a concomitant reduction in employee loyalty, and an urgency for organizations to win back employee loyalty” (Powers, 2000, p. 4).

The use of the phrase, employee loyalty, does far more harm than good in clarifying the dimensions of human behavior in organizations. It is misunderstood, often is used in punitive situations, e.g., your behavior is “disloyal,” and generally causes organizational communications to be less effective. The definition of loyalty, like the subjective definition of beauty, is truly in the eye of the beholder; however, these authors emphasize that although organisational efficiency would most likely benefit if the term were expunged from the professional lexicon, it appears likely that it will continue as a topic of discussion in the new century. Consequently, “Arguably, however, perhaps the new quid pro quo employment contracts will diminish the importance of the word and focus instead on the specific assortment of employee inputs that can be expected in exchange for a specific variety of employer outputs” (Powers, 2000, p. 4).

These authors suggest that loyalty can be considered across a continuum, ranging from the worthy but more modest types to types of loyalty that involve true personal commitment and sacrifice as illustrated in Table ____ below.

Table ____.

Loyalty contexts.



Typical loyalty contexts

Loyalty to Country

Loyalty to Family

Loyalty to Self

Loyalty to Profession

Consumer Loyalty

Loyalty to Sports Teams

Loyalty to Religious Beliefs

Loyalty to Community

Animals’ Loyalty to Master

Loyalty to National Origin

Source: Powers, 2000, p. 4.

The continuum extends to work-related issues as well as follows:

Table ____.

Work-related and typical loyalty indicators.




Loyalty to Supervisor

Loyalty to Coworkers

Loyalty to Job

Loyalty to Company

Typical Indicators of Employee Loyalty

Remaining with the company; not leaving, not job hunting

Staying late to complete a project

Keeping the company’s business confidential; no whistle-blowing

Promoting the company to customers and community

Adhering to rules without close supervision

Sacrificing personal goals to achieve company goals

Not gossiping, lying, cheating, or stealing

Buying company products

Contributing to company-sponsored charities

Offering improvement suggestions

Participating in company’s extracurricular activities

Following orders

Taking care of company property and not being wasteful

Working safely

Not abusing leave policies; including sick leave

Helping coworkers; cooperating

Source: Powers, 2000, p. 4.

There will undoubtedly be some degree of loyalty engendered by a new it initiative because it will open up new opportunities for online clientele; however, there are some fundamental issues to be taken into account in the process. In this regard, Walter (2004) reports that, “If a new financial intermediation channel opens up as a result of technological change, it is virtually certain that end users of the financial system will sooner or later try out those channels, thereby rewarding the innovators” (p. 35). Established financial services firms therefore have three alternatives available to them:

They can stand and fight to beat back the threat of disintermediation by making an economic case that the new approach is not in clients’ best interests or threatens to reduce access to other types of financial services of value to clients, perhaps coupled with appeals to the regulatory authorities for protection;

They can “go with the flow” and build their own capacity in the new areas that pose a competitive threat; or,

They can acquire one or more of the firms that have developed a solid foothold in the new area of financial services activity (Walter, 2004, p. 35).

Current and Future Trends.

The traditional linear model of interaction and value creation between banks and customers – via transaction processing centers, ATMs, branch counter staff and other conventional nodes – is being rapidly superseded by a reconfigured business model, allowing for much more complex and differentiated production, distribution and consumption configurations. The erosion of the role of the branch as a significant barrier to market entry through the introduction of ATMs and telephone banking services has, as we emphasized earlier, already enabled supermarket chains and others to enter the retail financial services market; however, many observers maintain that the Internet offers the potential to radically undermine the hold of traditional financial institutions over the retail financial services market (Power & Scott, 2004). The emergence of Internet search engines, personal financial management software packages, such as Quicken and Microsoft Money, and specialist Internet-based financial information-brokers (e.g., Motley Fool ( and Yahoo! Finance (,are regarded as having significantly exacerbated the deconstruction of traditional industry knowledge hierarchies; in the process, already heightened tensions concerning the production, mobilization and interpretation of knowledge have also been significantly increased as well (Power & Scott, 2004).

On the one hand, the Internet offers financial services companies potential access to more robust and timely customer data, data that can be applied, together with credit-scoring technology and intelligent networked software, to further strengthen the position of traditional providers vis-a-vis customers. As a result, significant potential exists for financial services companies to develop much more sophisticated technologies of consumer discrimination, with new temporal and spatial dimensions (such as customer profiles that are constantly updated and temporally sensitive in the case of the former, and new landscapes of financial exclusion, financial inclusion, financial sub-inclusion and financial superinclusion in the case of the latter) (Power & Scott, 2004).

On the other hand, though, just as the music industry’s dominance of value chains is threatened by new modalities of music creation, reproduction, distribution and consumption, the Internet has likewise introduced the potential to significantly disrupt value chains within the financial services industry, undermining the central role of banks, building societies and insurance companies (Power & Scott, 2004). In this regard, there are at least five ways in which the Internet poses a threat to traditional providers:

The Internet allows, even more than the telephone, new providers to make rapid and relatively cheap entries into financial services markets.

Many of the new opportunities for the production, interpretation and mobilization of financial information, which the Internet facilitates, are to do with the new actors and intermediaries previously highlighted.

The deepening of a financial services “information ecology” provides consumers, or more properly particular groups of consumers (that is, those who are relatively wealthy, financially literate, Internet savvy and online) with significant new opportunities to overcome traditional consumer inertia and more actively differentiate and discriminate against financial services providers.

The Internet also provides new opportunities for credit-scoring companies and financial software providers to leverage their place within the landscape of financial knowledge.

While there is still a significant gap between rhetoric and practice, developments in the field of e-money, micro-payments, e-purses and the like also offer new Internet actors, such as Internet retailers and Internet Service Providers, opportunities to provide services which up until now have been the traditional provenance of the bank, insurance company and building society (Power & Scott, 2004, p. 66)

Therefore, online services have the potential to offer financial services companies opportunities to further strengthen their place within information hierarchies and to reduce costly branch networks; however, these innovations also have the potential to threaten the role of traditional providers as the hub of the industry through the empowerment of key consumer demographics, the introduction of new “info-agents,” the further erosion of barriers to market entry, opportunities for the introduction of new types of money and the enhancement of the role of existing financial information intermediaries (Power & Scott, 2004).

Closer scrutiny, though, of the retail financial services sector reveals a rather more complex picture. In spite of earlier predictions of their imminent demise, traditional providers seem to have fared remarkably well. Whereas in the case of the music industry new types of music format have very rapidly been mobilized, adopted and institutionalized, the development of new forms of e-money and e-purses remains at a preliminary stage. In the U.K., for instance, it has only been very recently that the necessary regulatory framework for the issuance of e-money has started to emerge; the relatively slow development of e-money is due in large part to the role of trust in constituting money: “Not only do consumers have to trust this new form of money and its issuers, but financial regulators, such as the Financial Services Authority in the U.K., and banks, credit-card companies and other existing credit and debt providers must also ensure the trustworthiness of any new money, for a crisis of trust in any part of the monetary system could quickly spread to endanger the stability of the financial system as a whole” (Power & Scott, 2004, p. 66). As a result, while in the case of the music industry, new regulatory systems have begun to be developed in response to their disruption by the widespread take up of new digital music formats by consumers, the existing regime of monetary issuance has been extended by the Financial Services Authority, together with existing and potential issuers of money, to create more robust and trustworthy structures to enable a subsequent mobilization and assume the use of e-money (Power & Scott, 2004).

To date, though, new forms of money have failed to have the impact on the financial services sector that software formats have had on the music industry, but the Internet’s impact on traditional financial providers and networks of production, distribution and consumption has also been far less revolutionary than many earlier commentators expected (Power & Scott, 2004). Although initial evidence suggests that branch network restructuring continues to proceed, and that the Internet has certainly provided an important additional supporting factor in the rationale for such restructuring initiatives, these authors suggest that there does not appear to be witnessing the death of the high-street branch (at least not yet): “While care must be taken not to read too much into bank marketing campaigns, NatWest bank’s recent high-profile advertising campaign in the U.K. – which stressed its commitment to branch banking – reflects the continued attachment of consumers to branches as service points and as symbols of organizational reliability. Nevertheless, it would be now equally hard to imagine a major bank successfully operating in the U.K. Or the United States without providing Internet banking services” (Power & Scott, 2004, p. 66).

According to Muir and Douglas (2001), Co-operative Bank was the first clearing bank to offer its customers online Internet banking services; this initiative was quickly followed by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays Bank, with other banks and financial services companies likely to follow suit in the coming years. Moreover, a growing number of so-called “Internet banks” (e.g., Smile, Egg, Intelligent Finance) have successfully become established in the U.K. marketplace over the last few years to the extent that:

There is little doubt that part of the success of such banks can be attributed to the development of independent Internet brands. However, they have also undoubtedly benefited from their status as spin-offs from existing financial services firms. Smile was established as a spin-off from the Co-op bank, Egg from the Prudential Insurance Company and Intelligent Finance from Abbey National. Thus, these Internet banks have also greatly benefited from the expertise and assets – such as money, labor, infrastructure and trust – that they have been able to draw upon from the parent organization. (Power & Scott, 2004, p. 66)

Conversely, more high-profile attempts to create stand-alone Internet banks from scratch (e.g., e-finance in the U.K. And Wingspan in the U.S.) have proven unsuccessful (Power & Scott, 2004).

Other discernible trends include the move to outsourcing the it function, an initiative that has spelled mixed results for many financial services companies. For example, in their book, Globalizing Human Resource Management, Brewster, Harris and Sparrow (2004) report that the global division of labor has been extended from the “low skilled” manufacturing sector to include diverse kinds of skilled labor, such as research and development, scientists, engineers and research technologists; in fact, it has now reached the financial services sector as well. Multinational corporations are increasingly sourcing both skilled and “unskilled” low-cost labor from a global market for financial services, banks, software and it-enabled services and retail concerns (Brewster et al., 2004). Despite this trend, some financial services companies are reaping the benefits of retaining these services in-house and providing concentrated customer service to promote e-loyalty among their existing clientele and gain additional market share at the expense of their competitors.

As noted above, one of the fundament determinants of customer satisfaction in an online environment compared to a traditional business form is internal communication, defined as dissemination of information within a company. One financial services company that reaped major rewards by improving this determinant was San Antonio-based USAA, an insurance company that has been serving members of the U.S. military and their families since 1922 (Griffin & Herres, 2002).

An incoming chief executive officer describes the chaotic situation he found upon his arrival:

There was paper everywhere. We had 650,000 members at that time and three thousand employees. Every desk in the building was covered with stacks of paper — “files, claim forms, applications, correspondence. You can’t imagine how much paper. Stacks and piles and trays and baskets of it. And of course a lot of it got lost. On any given day, the chances were only fifty-fifty that we’d be able to put our hands on any particular file. When I first started, I would often stay late and go around putting little marks on papers and files, then I’d check the next night to see if they’d been moved. A lot of people moved no paper at all. We constantly got letters and phone calls about poor service. Most of our members were sticking with us because our premiums were lower than anyone else’s and because we were good on claims. It certainly wasn’t because of our prompt and dependable service in any other area. (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 103)

At the time, there were fifty-five individual steps required to be performed for each new insurance policy this company processed: “The first person would open the envelope, remove the paper clips, and pass it to the second person, who would check addresses on big Rolodexes and write in corrections with a pen, then pass it to the third person, and the fourth person, and so on — “fifty-five steps” (p. 103). The typical employee at USAA only stayed with the company for eleven months in a predicament that the CEO summed up as being, “We were giving terrible service and boring our employees” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 103). By sharp contrast, the company’s transformation into its current form has been nothing short of remarkable, due in large part to some straightforward applications of it functions and streamlining administrative processes at the same time. The results have been impressive: “With twenty-two thousand employees, the nation’s sixth largest home insurer and seventh largest private vehicle insurer serves 4.7 million members and manages $62.5 billion in assets. Among its officer core members (the group longest served by USAA), the company’s retention rate is a remarkable 98%” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 103).

Even today, USAA’s meteoric it-based success can be attributed to the company’s customer-centered philosophy of “following the order.” This renewed focus on improving the business processes that support the company’s goals began in earnest during the closing years of the 20th century, under the leadership of Gen. McDermott when the company created its first automated insurance environment that includes policy writing, service, claims, billing, customer accounting, in fact, all aspects of the company’s operations. In this regard, McDermott explains: “Now when you want to buy a new car, get it insured, add a driver, and change your coverage and address, you can make one phone call — “average time, five minutes — “and nothing else is necessary. One stop, online, the policy goes out the door the next morning about 4:00 A.M in one five-minute phone call, you and our service representative have done all the work that used to take fifty-five steps, umpteen people, two weeks and a lot of money” (Griffin & Herres, 2002 p. 103).

Today, the company receives approximately 150,000 pieces of mail every morning, of which 60% to 65% are checks; of the remainder, less than half ever left the company’s mailroom. All of its policy-service correspondence are imaged, indexed, prioritized and are then made available instantly available anywhere in the company. Gen. McDermott illustrates these processes in action today:

Suppose Colonel Smith has sent us a letter asking for a change in his homeowner’s insurance, and he calls and wants to know if we’ve received it. The service representative says, ‘Yes, sir, I’ve got it right here.’ ‘You do?’ he says. ‘Yes,’ the rep says, ‘I have it right in front of me. What can I do for you?’ The colonel’s impressed. We received his letter only that morning, but it’s already been imaged, so it’s instantly available to every service representative in the building. Now let’s say Colonel Smith calls back the next day with some additional information we’ve asked him for and talks to a different service rep, who also has his letter ‘right here in front of me.’ Now the colonel’s impressed and amazed.” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 104)

The authors report that these innovative processes have paid major dividends for the company and its customers alike, with everyone winning in a situation where the entire transaction requires less than 5 minutes and the customers and employees are pleased with the results. In sum, the company’s operations today are characterized by a company aggressively working to serve the customer by following the order to achieve more streamlined operations. The company’s senior vice president of policy service reports:

We have successfully integrated our account administration systems across all our products. That means a member only has to contact us once with a change of address, for example, and that new information will be incorporated across all the member’s accounts — “whether it’s banking, life insurance, investments or property and casualty. One contact is all it takes. Likewise, the company’s Internet site,, is linked with the company’s imaging system so that once a member completes a form online it can pass to the image system for permanent record keeping. Again, one contact is all that is required. (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 104)

According to this author, this one-contact dependability standard assumed even more importance to the company’s clientele following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon: “Moments after escaping from one of the towers, a USAA member wanted to get word to her family that she had survived. Phone lines were down, but the woman discovered outbound calls could still be made on 1-800 lines. So she called USAA’s toll-free number from memory and connected with a service representative who, in turn, notified the member’s family that she was safe” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 105). The author cites the USAA executive, “The fact that she thought to call us for help pleased us but didn’t surprise us either. The basis of USAA’s success is our ability to establish personal relationships with our members. We work hard to keep the transactional side of the business running well so we can focus on the all important relationship with our members. What better reason to follow the order?” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 105).

USAA has identified and promoted a primary element of customer loyalty that other companies are now just beginning to understand: “That the key to growing loyal customers rests first in creating effective employees” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 106). In order to succeed and remain competitive in today’s globalized marketplace, a company must transform its internal operating systems into structures that empower rather than impede frontline success with the customer. In this regard, the authors report, “No doubt, a firm’s reputation for world-class customer care is built one customer and one contact at a time. Whether servicing customers face-to-face or through e-mail, phone, fax or self-service, frontline employees play a direct or indirect role in delivering the contact” (Griffin & Herres, 2002, p. 106).

Indeed, these trends are clearly evident throughout the financial services industry today. For instance, short message service was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1992 and by 2004 U.K. consumers were sending some 58 million messages per day; this messaging totals more than the combined usage of email and letters among this same group of consumers (Trappey & Woodside, 2005). According to these authors:

Though short message service may be less persuasive than telemarketing because direct human contact is absent from the telephone communication, short message service direct marketing is also less intrusive. For some services such as financial services where large numbers of consumers wish to deal remotely with their financial institution, this communication channel provides distinct advantages. Because a consumer is accessible at any time, at any place, short message service direct marketing messages can be transmitted in such a way as to take advantage of time and location to reach consumers in specific buying or consuming contexts. (Trappey & Woodside, 2005, p. 382)

In addition, Das (2004) reports that recent advances in information technology have proven to be a facilitating factor for many financial services companies, improving the capability of both investors and creditors to manage their portfolios and undertake better risk analysis of credit and market risks. In the final analysis, then, customer satisfaction in and of itself is not sufficient and differentiation must be sought in the conscious development of customer commitment, i.e. loyalty and devotion that transcends short-term ‘feel good’ relationships by building interdependencies, shared values and mutually beneficial strategies (Lewis & Varey, 2000).

Chapter Summary.

This chapter provided a conceptual profile of the financial services industry and how it has been affected by and has made use of innovations in information technology in recent years that can be used to frame the relevant questions that drive the industry’s evolving structure and to achieve the above-stated goals of this research project. The four major pillars of the financial services industry were shown to be comprised of commercial banking, investment banking, insurance, and asset management.


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