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Britain's banking sector has been told to jizz up its customer databases to more effectively target the female market.

Based on their latest research, financial consultants at Accenture are urging British banks to reorganise their "archaic IT" as well as the information they keep on customers so as to improve the way they market new products to them - particularly women who are statistically more open to switching banks when offered a competitive alternative.

"Rather than simply slapping on 'pink branding', the key is delivering carefully-crafted products supported by clear, targeted and timely advice utilising both the internet and well-informed advisers, which is something very much within the ability of banks to deliver," report author Natasha Miller said.

More than half (55 per cent) of the 1,000 women surveyed by Accenture said they were likely to switch providers "if a bank was proposing tailored financial products for a woman's different life stages (e.g. get married, have children, get divorced, become retired, become widowed)".

However, Miller, a senior executive in Accenture's Banking Industry Practice who penned the "Because They're Worth It" polemic, said British banks were unable to effectively seize this market opportunity because their IT systems were not geared up to record customer data and lifestyle changes.

"Lifestyles have changed dramatically in the past 20 years leading to greater financial independence for women, but the financial services industry has not kept pace," she said. "Often banks do not hold the relevant information. But even when they do they are often unable to access their data in a way that allows them to create appropriate products and services."

Miller said IT is the fundamental problem, because the typical bank's IT system is based on a 1960s-era mainframe. "While these have had all sorts of extra systems added to them over the years, there is only so much you get from 40-year-old technology," she said. "This is a major stumbling block.

"This inability to store and process customer data in useful ways is at the heart of the problem faced by many banks and building societies. They do not have the data in enough detail to identify profitable niches and market to them effectively," Miller said.

In other advice relevant to the Irish banking sector, Miller pointed out that British banks need to target other distinct social groups, particularly workers from Eastern Europe.

One Irish bank that is upping its game in terms of IT is AIB. The high street bank has engaged financial IT firm i-flex to help deliver "one of the most important transformational projects in AIB's history" by implementing a common IT operating model for retail banking operations throughout the AIB's domestic and British retail operations.

AIB already uses i-flex's FLEXCUBE Universal Banking Solution for its wholesale banking operations, and the retail transformation project is expected to be completed within the next three and a half years.

AIB said the strategic partnership with i-flex meant it would be in a position to streamline and more efficiently handle customer data.

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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