Vertical Industry Communications: Financial and Insurance Services

In this, the fourth in our series on vertical industry communications, we analyze communications for financial and insurance services. For earlier articles in the series, see:

Finance and Insurance Highlights
This industry sector touches almost every adult in the U.S. and in most other countries. If a person uses a credit card, an ATM, a local bank, or an investment broker, or if the person has insurance on a car, apartment, or home, or if the person rents, buys, or sells real estate, that person is a customer of this industry sector.

The finance and insurance sector provides services in a variety of ways. Primarily, there is the fiduciary role: The finance or insurance firm is an agent for the customer to keep money safe (depository services), to help grow money value (brokerage services), to convert money into or out of physical assets (real estate, precious metals, etc.), or to apply the money to a future return (insurance, annuities, etc.). Finance and insurance represent about 6% of total non-farm employment in the U.S.

In most cases, finance and insurance enterprises operate on very slim margins, such as the difference between the lending rates for their borrowers and the deposit or CD rates for their depositors. This puts pressure on the IT and communications infrastructure teams to keep costs to a minimum, so it's very important to use best practices for communications technology selection and deployment.

In this article, you will see that large groups of users no longer need a traditional IP-PBX license or phone, and that many others can be served by a basic single-line or softphone option. Together, these choices can significantly reduce communications costs.

Finance and Insurance Value Chain
The value chain elements of this industry can be represented as:

  • Marketing, business development, and sales – to attract customers
  • Customer interface – to provide services to the customers, both online and in person
  • Delivery of the specific services – e.g. money transfers, investment management, risk management, insurance claims, brokerage services, etc.
  • Back office administration – the steps necessary to secure funds and maintain accounts
  • Operation of the enterprise – e.g. HR, Legal, IT, Facilities, management, etc.

The communications requirements are different in each of these value chain elements.

As we go examine each of these, hopefully you will see that large portions of finance and insurance industry users are requiring less and less use of traditional voice communications services. Some need only the Foundational Usage Profile, i.e. not even a phone at their workstation. Some are field mobile personnel who communicate using a smartphone that is driven from their mobile device business application software, as reflected in the Field Usage Profile. Others can be serviced by the Information Processing Usage Profile.

The bottom line is that upwards of 50% of finance and insurance industry employees may no longer need the traditional voice services of an IP-PBX. So, let's take a look at each value chain grouping.

Marketing, Business Development, and Sales
Marketing and business development are highly collaborative.

Business development teams, which include such roles as insurance actuarial analysis, are constantly shaping new finance or insurance products and offers. This requires very active sharing of ideas and analysis in order to create services that are compelling and competitive.

Marketing then takes these offers and packages them to capture attention from commercial or retail sectors. Creation and delivery of these marketing packages is also a highly collaborative activity, usually involving both internal and external resources, such as ad agencies and various print and online production houses.

Participants in development and marketing value chain elements primarily use the Collaboration Usage Profile. Communication for collaborative activities are moving almost entirely either to generic team collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Cisco Teams or to more specific collaboration applications such as Workfront that is favored by many marketing organizations.

The collaboration software packages should be expected to provide the necessary communications services, such that the users will not require a separate PBX license for communications, either in-house or to external parties. Also, collaboration software packages will be available on computers, tablets, and smartphones, such that incoming and outgoing contacts by voice, text, or email will be provided through the collaboration app rather than through a desk phone.

Sales roles will base their communications on a customer relationship management (CRM) application such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, and essentially all continuing communication is managed through that CRM application on the user's computer and mobile device. These CRM applications include the tools for sharing, messaging, and, usually, meeting that sales personnel need to consult with back-office support and management.

"Outside" or field sales will also use the computer or mobile device for text and voice communications with customers or prospects. "Inside" sales teams will usually be part of a contact center, such that incoming customer requests reach the best possible team member and are always served quickly, with reference to the CRM transactions. Thus, sales value chain personnel fit into the Field Usage Profile, which does not require an IP-PBX license.