Old-fashioned thinking in a digital age – by Gemma Wright

We are living in a digital age. Our habits are changing. Not content with having the world at our fingertips when we turn on our computer, we now want this information to be immediately accessible, 24/7.

66% of the population now use a smartphone rather than a computer to go online. One in four internet users now only use a device other than a computer to go online. In the last 7 days alone, over 50% of us will have gone online to do our banking and shopping, with over 20% of us now even watching TV online.

And this instant access to information and answers has changed the way customers shop and interact. The digital revolution is changing our behaviours – advancements in technology are allowing new entrants into almost every market and this increased competition is putting the customer back in the driving seat. Amongst Generation X and Y, loyalty is dropping and people are more fickle than they’ve ever been – decisions on where to take their custom are often made solely on who can deliver the fastest service or product at the best price.

And as we are increasingly seeing this generation establishing themselves as the influencers across the SME marketplace, it is no surprise that decisions within the business environment are now being made in much the same way – instant access to a solution for a business need is key.

So, in the midst of a digital revolution, why are we at Reward promoting the old-fashioned values more associated with the traditional Bank Manager across our teams? With a recent wave of new recruits to support our continued growth, we have significantly reduced the average age of the team (it couldn’t have gone any higher!). Yet we are bringing in these millennials and “Y”s and talking to them about “empathy”, “responsibility”, “knowledge” and “experience” – words that feel almost out-dated amongst the emojis and text speak that litter our current lexicon.

We pride ourselves on being an agile, fast-paced and innovative business but rather than jumping on the digital bandwagon of decisions made on the back of a series of algorithms and computer checklists, our success is being driven by how we are responding to this change in customer behaviour.

In a market where access to finance is arguably quicker and more flexible than it has ever been – with a simple google search often the only hurdle between a director and a new loan – we are starting to see the fall out of SMEs getting quick, but not necessarily the right, decisions. What is sold as a flexible solution at the outset quickly becomes restrictive and tying with upfront fees, charges for non-utilisation, fixed terms and hefty exit fees. Such facilities, of course, have a place in the traditional property bridging market but trading businesses have different needs. Every trading business is unique, with its own unique opportunities and challenges, so it needs a facility that can flex and evolve in line with these business needs. The market is more confusing than ever and it is the responsibility of funders and advisers to provide clarity for their customers. At Reward, we do this by meeting every customer in person, listening to what they need rather than pushing a particular product, being transparent about what we can deliver… and then delivering it!

Yes, we are embracing technology and we will use it to ultimately enhance the relationships with our customers, but we will never lose sight of what underpins our success… a team of real people with real emotions that are empowered to use their expertise to think differently and provide genuinely bespoke solutions. Oh, and not forgetting that they often do all this as fast as any computer!