AUSTIN, Texas — Personalization and automation will be the driving forces behind the evolution of financial services, several digital banking executives said Tuesday in laying out their visions for the future.

Digital has moved past the point of banks just “chasing the next shiny object,” and executives should be focused on solving genuine customer problems, said Michael Rhodes, head of consumer services for TD Bank.

“[Digital] success is understanding the customer’s expectations, and delivering relevant products and services when they need it at a fair price in a simple and intuitive way,” Rhodes said at American Banker's Digital Banking conference here.

Needing the human touch
“Technology is never in and of itself the hero but [is] used to solve human problems,” TD Bank's Michael Rhodes says.

By focusing on solving customer problems, banks can more effectively spend their time and resources, rather than releasing digital products for the sake of new releases, he said.

“The days of ‘If you build it, they will come’ are long over,” Rhodes said.

One of the main things banks must realize is that most customers still want a mix of digital services and human interaction, he said.

“Technology is never in and of itself the hero but [is] used to solve human problems,” Rhodes said.

TD offers a mobile service where customers can tap an icon to speak with call center representatives. While this feature is fairly commonplace, the TD app goes further and pulls in customers' biometric information so they are already authenticated before the conversations start.

It also knows which pages customers were scrolling through before dialing the phone, giving the representatives a better idea of what their problems might be.

Banks will also be using cognitive technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver a more personalized customer experience, Eddy Ortiz, the vice president of solution acceleration and integration at Royal Bank of Canada, said in a separate discussion at the conference.

These technologies, he said, will help bank customers discover financial insights that might not otherwise have been found in human analysis as well as aid banks in deciding in which products and services are appropriate for their clients.

“It provides [banks] with a reduction of costs because we can automate processes that are costly to us and that are not efficient to our consumers when they interact with us,” he said.

Cognitive technologies will be used to “turn the mobile app from a banking app to a personal finance app,” said David Sosna, co-founder and CEO of the tech firm Personetics. This means having features like predictive alerts and automated transactions — such as saving or debt payments — that are tied to their financial goals.

In fact, in the near future, digital banking will be “like having a digital CFO with you,” added RBC’s Ortiz.

Ultimately, banks must keep tweaking and evolving their digital services, said Jamie Armistead, the head of digital channels at Bank of the West. He noted that Google still has a team working on search even though the tech giant has long moved on from search as its primary business.

He said banks should always be looking for the common hassles for customers and innovate in those areas.

“You look at the frequency of use, the things people are doing on a recurring basis, and make those things easier,” Armistead said.