Year: 2020

Winner: HSBC Argentina

Technology keeps HSBC Argentina close to customers

Argentina’s government adopted one of the strictest pandemic lockdowns in Latin America, the only country in the region to close banks as part of its effort to contain the coronavirus.

It was an unprecedented move and while banks were shuttered for only three weeks, the impact was profound and, in some ways, unexpected.

For Juan Marotta, CEO of HSBC Argentina, the sudden stop changed the way people perceived the idea of going digital.

“We have made huge strides in connectivity and communication even though we are physically apart. This is an aspect our employees and customers have told us. We might be apart today, but we are closer than ever before,” said Marotta.

The bank’s capacity to remain customer-centric while adapting to the pandemic and other pressures caused by the country’s tough economic climate helped secure its Bank of the Year distinction in 2020.

HSBC Argentina was already involved in a digital transformation – a process its calls “digital onboarding” – when the crisis hit the country in March. Marotta said the pace and scope of the changes accelerated overnight.

“The pandemic has provided a great deal of learning about the application of technology and the relationship between customer and banks. It showed that the customer was still at the center despite the technology being used,” he said.

The bank has implemented a biometric format to identify customers that is linked to the state’s citizen identification registry. They found it makes confirmation fast and simple, and replaced traditional products that required teller interactions with digital options.

Checks are a prime example.

“Checks are an old-school product and they are being replaced by e-checks (virtual checks). Customers recognize that they have all the features of a physical check but provide a new level of security through a digital platform,” said Marotta.

As of June 2020, 74% of the bank’s customers used some form of digital channel, with the number having doubled during the pandemic. Even more startling, 96% of the money moved monthly through the bank is now done without a customer personally visiting a branch.

Marotta said there is no turning the clock back on the changes that have happened in the pandemic.

“The use of technology is a game changer in services, especially in financial services. We were working on strategies that accelerated with the pandemic. There is no going back, only more change,” he said.