Identity forms the core of our existence

Recognition is the thin thread our relationships, including those related to business, hang on

Published: 14, Dec 2016

The author is senior vice president, technology, Newgen Software, which is a pioneer in the Digital Transformation space. For over two decades organizations have relied on Newgen’s innovative technologies and solutions to drive smarter business decisions. Newgen through its proven Business Process Management, Enterprise Content Management, Customer Communications Management and Case Management platforms brings about the perfect amalgamation of information / content, technology and processes; the building blocks of Digital Transformation. Newgen’s commitment is towards enabling clients achieve greater agility when it comes to transforming processes, managing information, enhancing overall customer satisfaction and driving enterprise profitability. This philosophy and commitment forms the guiding fundamentals of the organization’ and the basis of its Mission and Vision. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Newgen Software Inc. was incorporated in 1997 with a view to grow business in the North America market. The company is credited with large, mission-critical deployments at the world’s leading banks, insurance firms, BPOs, healthcare organizations, government agencies, telecom companies, and shared service centers. Newgen Software Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Newgen Software Technologies Ltd. – Leader in ECM, BPM, CCM and Case Management space. Newgen is certified /appraised for ISO 9001:2008, ISO 27001:2013, CMMi Development (v1.3) Level 3 and CMMi Services (v1.3) Level 3. The organization has a global footprint with over 1300 installations in more than 61 countries.


Jason Bourne.

That’s a name we’ve all come to know. But, when we met him for the first time in 1980 in print and then in 2002 on screen, he didn’t know his own name. “What’s your name?” his rescuer asked him. What he replies throws you right into the core plot. “I don’t know,” he answered.


It forms the core of many a spy game and thriller plot that we have come to become accustomed to. It forms the core of our existence. “What’s your name?” is the most basic and normal question. What happens next can still make all the difference. In movies, things happen for dramatic effect, sometimes leading to a great story laden with intriguing context. In real life, it is a rudimentary conversational transaction.

Or, is it?

Think about how many times you are asked this question in a day. Also think about the people who typically ask you this question.

In a world of sense and sensibility, these people would be strangers. In the world of business, it’s the long-term loyal customers who keep fielding the same question, every single time, at every step of engagement. Irony? Yes.

Who am I? Do you even know me? Let’s rewind to the Bourne situation. Stillborn is how he felt when he entered the bank. All he had was a safe-deposit box number extracted out of his skin, as if it was an integral part of him. His fingerprints rescue him and his name is not asked. For the bank, it did not matter who he was, as long as his identity is established through some mechanism - in this case locker number and fingerprints. Jason Bourne is the name as per the American passport with his picture. So, Jason Bourne he is—he comes to know. The bank probably would have known. The bank probably didn't care anyway.

Let’s cut to real life. You are a customer.

If only you were Jason Bourne, the central character of a plot that is loosely hanging on this thread of a system-established-identity, there would be no reason to complain to the bank. You rather got saved by their impersonal business. But hey, don’t you exist first as yourself and your identity being just a label? When you contact a bank, you don’t care about the account number, or even your own name. All you care for is that they see you for what you are, and why you are there, without being tortured with robotic and mechanically dumb questions.

So, when you blurt out, “Who am I? Do you even know me?”, it is not a question born out of identity loss. It’s a scream of frustration.

Recognition, you see, is the thin thread our relationships hang on. These—to be known to them, to be remembered by them, to be recognised by them when they see us—are natural human expectations we carry from those we interact with. When that happens, it gives us our identity. It makes it easy for you to pass as “you”. It makes it possible to build layers of experiences over mutually built contexts. This is how it works in personal relationships. This is how it needs to be in business relationships too. And, while it sounds ‘godfatherly' to claim: “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business”, well… then that’s got to be a different business altogether in that case, ahem… godfatherly.

All business is indeed personal
Let’s plot something.

Imagine. You call your bank.

(I know you might have a text-based facility or a mobile app, but be with me for a minute. Let’s say you want to inquire about the possibility of a transaction that is very specific and personal. Let’s say you want a quick personal loan on account of your daughter’s college admission and you don’t know what the best way to proceed is.

So, you call your bank. The built-in straight-through mechanism is quick to ‘recognise’ that you are an existing customer. It connects you directly with a customer service representative based on your account status and type of account. The only time you hear a robotic recorded voice is when you are being informed that you’re being connected with whom—with name and title. Would it feel special to be bypassed directly to a pre-assigned, consistent and personal relationship manager based on your relationship status? I bet it would! She doesn’t ask you your name and account number, and rather addresses you by name. This bank has already scored a few brownie points if it was competing in your head for your loan business. All this even before you spoke a word or tapped a key!

Still continue to imagine that your relationship manager could preempt your queries. What do I mean? Let’s keep aside the privacy bits for a minute and imagine that your relationship manager, while exchanging greetings, also congratulates you on your daughter’s college admission without any prompts from your side. And, when you talk about the need for a quick loan, she also knows what to recommend you based on your credit history, your linked accounts, your past transactional patterns, your daughter’s own education loan eligibility status among others.

And, that’s not where it ends, but rather begins. The loan gets approved, processed and credited to the account (yours — or your daughter’s, in which case a one-time approach from her side happens quickly over an app), and you are off and running to your own chores without having to run around for additional documents. The whole transaction takes few minutes. Every relevant transactional documentation is already digitised, accessible, retrievable and digitally process-able, you see. If any additional document was needed, you could click it with your mobile phone, digitally sign and authorise it and send it over to the bank, and your relationship manager sees it right away and attaches it to your case.

Engagement. How tomorrow gets built over today.
Would you still shop online for loans if your bank treats you personally?

How would this bank do it? By building the context of one transaction at a time, by digitising your documents and keeping them attached, to keep adding context to your account one day at a time. They build a better tomorrow for you, by adding context over today, every day.

Now, cut the thread of imagination and get back to reality, caring enough not to crash-land your thoughts. Today, this situation doesn’t sound like a fantastical dream. It’s doable, if banks want to do it.

In fact, the narrative of your imaginative experience is not imaginary any more. It is real. Digitally native technology companies are changing the customer expectations at an unprecedented speed. If you’re a bank you know that the competition from payment banks and marketplace financing startups is not even imminent, it is real today, on the ground. The experience that we just talked about is the minimum expectation today.

What’s needed?
All that is probably needed to face the changing reality is by “imagining” banks being detached from their own legacy. Imagine that there are no branches, for instance. There’s no teller through the window asking a customer – ‘What’s your name?’ A customer feels known and cared through that little glass panel and with a tap on the surface.

All that is needed for a bank is to identify the customers, acknowledge them, make them know they’re recognised, and engage with them in their own time and place. This cannot be done by treating digital as an extended alternative to a branch and treating technology as replacement of human touch. Banks need to leverage digital enablers like workflows, content management and mobility to connect their people, processes, system and things. ‘What’s your name?’ would then be conspicuous by its absence.

-By Ashok Kapoor, Vice President - Marketing, COE & Product Management, Newgen Software Inc

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