When George Orwell wrote about Big Brother in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, he described a leader of a totalitarian state, who ruled through brainwashing dissenters into loyal party members, mass surveillance on a scale previously unimaginable, creating widespread famine and shortage along with constant war and propaganda. The novel had such an impact on the world that it spawned the adjective “Orwellian” that describes a totalitarian state.

In the banking world the regulator, has long been seen by banks as Big Brother, waging a constant war against them to hinder their performance and progress and fine them for compliance failures; generating propaganda to turn the public against them; imposing limits on pay and bonuses and monitoring every single thing the banks do and all their interactions with stakeholders.

But… is the regulator, in this case the Financial Conduct Authority, really this totalitarian dictator that’s out to destroy banks? Well, their published objectives would appear to suggest otherwise:

Our strategic objective is to ensure the relevant markets function well.
To support this, we have three operational objectives:

  • To secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers
  • To protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system
  • To promote effective competition in the interests of consumers

So surely the regulator is actually a benevolent figure trying to protect the banks and consumers – to ensure the whole family gets along nicely.

For years now, in the name of training and quality assurance haven’t banks been doing their own form of mass surveillance by recording all consumer calls? They’ve been doing that to drive and improve sales staff performance. Why don’t banks use those recordings more proactively to improve consumer interaction and outcomes? And not just that, why don’t they use the same analysis to ensure the regulator’s expectations are met?

Companies have been offering digital tools that can enhance the banks’ existing capabilities and enable them to satisfy the regulator’s requirements for years now. An example of such a tool is one that not only routes a consumer’s interaction to the right agent in the right department but can also actively monitor the agent and consumer’s mood. This means banks can identify when the consumer is getting angry and flag this to the agent for them to address immediately. This could help address a potential complaint before it occurs and ensure the consumer agenda stays at the forefront, which after all is the primary driver behind the regulator’s objectives.

Call analysers are similar digitally advanced tools that enable real-time analysis of all calls and immediately identify instances where an agent has forgotten to provide the consumer with key information, such as terms and conditions of a product, and instances where an agent has said something they should not have. It’s easy to imagine how much time, effort, money and reputational damage could have been saved by banks if they used such tools proactively.

So isn’t it time banks looked at using digital tools and the enormous amount of data they’ve been collecting all these years and use it in a way that leads to better consumer interaction and regulatory compliance? This leads us onto another term of choice these days, “Big Data”, which includes internal and external data, but that’s a topic for another blog. But in the meantime, why aren’t banks making the most of the data they have? Surely it’s time to stop seeing Big Brother as an evil tyrant? Surely it’s time to get proactive, and use the resources they already have to engage this Big Brother in a friendly fashion? Embrace the regulator in his role as the caring family member, who’s trying to ensure everyone gets along. After all, who doesn’t prefer a happy family to a bickering and disjointed one?