SINGAPORE (Jan 12): Accenture, the global professional services company, has published a new report suggesting that as financial services firms look to integrate robot and human services, they face the challenge of blending a physical presence with advanced digital user-experiences.

Accenture’s Distribution & Marketing Consumer research study includes a survey of nearly 33,000 consumers across 18 countries and regions.

According to its data, eight in 10 Singapore consumers would welcome robo-advisory services for their banking, insurance and retirement planning needs – specifically in determining which bank to open; which insurance coverage to purchase; and how to plan for retirement. Notably, each service category drew a favourable response from 80% of Singapore consumers as compared to the global average of 71%, 74% and 68% respectively.

A proportion of these consumers have indicated the main attractions for using such platforms include the prospect of faster and less expensive services, as well as the notion that computers or artificial intelligence (AI) are more impartial and analytical than humans.

On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of consumers in Singapore continue to expect human interaction in financial services when it comes to dealing with their complaints (64%) and obtaining advice about complex products, such as mortgages (61%).

Piercarlo Gera, senior managing director of Accenture Financial Services, believes this contradiction implies that successful financial services firms will therefore require a “phygital [a portmanteau of ‘physical and ‘digital’] strategy that seamlessly integrates technology, branch networks, and staff to provide a service that combines physical and digital capabilities and gives consumers a choice”.

The survey also found that consumers in Singapore are willing to switch to non-traditional providers – such as Google, Amazon or Facebook – for financial (32%), insurance (32%) and financial advisory (37%) services.

“Consumers expect nearly all of their transactions to be on par with the service they receive from GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) companies, which poses a challenge for banks in particular,” comments Accenture Banking head and senior managing director, Alan McIntyre.

“Banks need to create branches that provide an advanced digital experience combined with convenient locations, while also developing an online digital experience that can compete head on with the tech giants… [and] have to be more assertive in using technology to provide tailored, personalised offerings when, where and how customers want them [in order to gain customer loyalty],” he expounds.