Nordic financial giant banks its future on digital customer insight 


By Rikke Sternberg, Corporate Journalist, SAS Nordics 

A few years ago, Danske Bank faced a number of important decisions on how to keep its leading position in the Nordics at a time, when the financial sector was undergoing rapid change due to digitization. CEO Thomas Borgen made it very clear in a very public manner that Danske Bank needed to step up its game in order to stay relevant, and the bank’s management team made it a top priority to meet its customers in the manner they prefer, when they prefer it.

 “We saw that our customers were leaving more digital footprints and we knew that to compete against both ‘Big Tech’ such as Google and Facebook as well as new Fintech players, we needed to sharpen our focus in this area. Customers are acting differently than before, they expect recognition, quick answers – their demands are on the rise. When you can rise to this challenge, that is when the magic happens,” says Jesper Nielsen, Head of Personal Banking and member of the Executive Board at Danske Bank.

Jesper Nielsen initiated a process which lead, among other things, to the hiring of Bjørn Büchmann-Slorup, Head of Sales Development and Analytics at Danske Bank, as well as a number of pilot projects and initiatives aimed a letting Danske Bank customers experience the benefits of an individualised approach.

18 months later, Büchmann-Slorup has lead the implementation of an advanced analytics strategy and created a close-knit team of data scientists who are helping business managers across Danske Bank solve business challenges via advanced data analytics.

 “For example, we wanted to understand the mechanics of a specific loans market and how we could have a relevant offering to those of our customers who were inclined to use these products. We found out that the best way to predict customer needs related to these loan types were by looking at very specific parameters in the customer’s behaviour - as opposed to trying to decide the target group based on certain consumer segments. Unlike in the US, in Europe we are not allowed to analyse specific transactions on individual accounts, so this is when an advanced analytics approach is necessary,” says Büchmann-Slorup.

Bjørn Büchmann-Slorup, Danske Bank
We do not actually talk about analytics as a discipline but simply start our discussions with the business units by asking: What business challenges are we looking to solve? Instead of discussing the merits of various channels and click rates, we discuss what our customers are telling us about their wants and need through their interactions with us – and so on

- Bjørn Büchmann-Slorup, Head of Sales Development
  and Analytics at Danske Bank

Rocket science and company culture 

Creating a culture in which highly specialised data scientists, with PhDs in physics or the like, come eye to eye with business managers with very different specialities and perspectives, is often cited as a challenging aspect of incorporating advanced analytics in an organisation. In Danske Bank, Büchmann-Slorup takes a very pragmatic approach.

“Some of them are actual rocket scientists! But business managers don’t necessarily have to understand everything the team does, as long as we are always able to show that when we get an opportunity to work with them and their challenges, we can make a difference together,” he points out.

The analytics team always ensures to agree on very specific customer deliverables and anchoring the analytics projects just like any other business project in the organisation. This makes it possible to communicate impact and outcomes more precisely.

At the same time, Büchmann-Slorup has been very conscious about how to frame the discipline of data analytics internally and does his best to dispel undue hype.

“We do not actually talk about analytics as a discipline but simply start our discussions with the business units by asking: What business challenges are we looking to solve? Instead of discussing the merits of various channels and click rates, we discuss what our customers are telling us about their wants and need through their interactions with us – and so on,” Büchmann-Slorup explains.

Close customer encounters add value

Meanwhile, Jesper Nielsen is starting to see the results of the data-driven customer experience approach as one of the elements in Danske Bank’s ongoing efforts to create value, be agile, and engage with customers. In 2016, Danske Bank gained an increase in new private customers.

Looking forward, Danske Bank plans to initiate even more data-heavy customer-centric features, such as chatbots based on Artificial Intelligence and the possibility to gain insights on your personal financial situation through peer comparisons – provided that customers will want to share enough relevant data in return for valuable advice. Partnering for added value, for example with the retail and travel industries, are other elements in Danske Bank’s strategy, Jesper Nielsen points out.

“In Finland, we have embedded a chat function into the website of a travel agency, allowing potential travellers to discuss financing opportunities, rules about credit card uses in different countries and so on. This is just one example of how we try to be more relevant and create the right offer at the right time.”

Danske Bank

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