In the early 2000s, a BBC show called Little Britain had a recurring sketch in which the main character, a man in drag playing a bank employee, would listen to a customer's request, pound on his (her?) computer keyboard for a few seconds, and then forlornly report, "Computer says no." No matter how much the customer pleaded her case and the employee queried the computer, the outcome was the same.
Computers have come a long way in the past decade, especially the really small ones people carry in their pockets. Depending on which survey you believe, almost half or more than half of American adults do their banking from a smartphone or tablet.
The rising importance of self-service banking by mobile device and PC has elevated the careers of executives overseeing digital channels.
In the past year, banks have been designating such bankers "chief digital officer" or a similar high-profile title and giving them control over all electronic banking channels, including online, mobile, ATM and in some cases branch and call center technology.
Capital One Bank named Mark Jamison chief digital officer last July. JPMorgan Chase made former Accenture CIO Gavin Michael its head of digital a year ago. USAA hired Christopher Cox away from Regions Financial to be its head of digital-experience delivery in January. In March, Citi named Heather Cox its chief client experience, digital and marketing officer for Global Consumer Banking. In May, BBVA hired two CDO-style executives: it brought Jeff Dennes over from SunTrust to be head of business development and digital transformation at its U.S. bank, and recruited Capital One's new CDO, Mark Jamison, as director of customer experience and business intelligence globally.
And our Digital Banker of the Year, Niti Badarinath, has been given sweeping charge over digital innovation for customer-facing technology.
These banks are part of a bigger trend in which companies in all industries (especially advertising, media and publishing) have been adopting the chief digital officer title. In 2005, there was exactly one CDO in the entire world: Jason Hirschhorn at MTV. In 2013, there were 488, according to the Chief Digital Officer Club. The group predicts that by the end of this year, there will be 1,000 CDOs worldwide. (As a side note, there's little diversity in this community so far: 91% of CDOs are Causasian and 80% are male. More than half, 57%, are in the Northeastern part of the U.S.)
About 4% of CDOs are in the financial services industry. These leaders are all looking to "humanize" the customer experience, remove friction and "pain points" in digital channels, and provide a somewhat similar set of features across channels.
As one chief digital officer at a large bank puts it, "Customers don't draw a distinction between what screen size they're on, they just want a consistent experience."