COVID-19 response

Financial services and COVID-19: From response to recovery

  • bijon mehta
    Bijon Mehta
  • May 17, 2020

We see the industry’s engagement with the crisis unfolding in three phases: the response, adaption to the new circumstances, and growth.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created both a global health crisis as well as a major financial and economic one.

Thankfully, the financial services industry, the banking sector in particular, is in a much healthier financial position than it was during the crisis in 2008.

Banks are now seen as part of the solution, and are working with the government to help deliver relief. We see the industry’s engagement with the crisis unfolding in three phases: the response, adaption to the new circumstances, and growth through the creation of new models of service and engagement that reflects the post-COVID-19 reality.

While digital transformation has been a focus within the industry for close to a decade, we see COVID-19 fundamentally making digital channels, products, and services a must-have—not only to serve existing customers, but also attract new clients and grow.

The last global crisis of 2008 accelerated the growth and innovation of digitally native fin-tech companies. This pandemic will not only create new fin-tech startups, but will change the fate of incumbent players. The organizations that survive and thrive will use this moment to rethink their business model, product, and service offerings. Most importantly, future success will rest on how they engage with their customers.

The level of digital capabilities run the gamut throughout both specific sub-sectors of the industry, such as retail banking, commercial banking, insurance, and wealth management, and are specific to each organization.

Clearly some banks and insurance companies are considered leaders in their field with respect to the adoption of new digital offerings, better UX/UI, and overall omnichannel capabilities. The vast majority will need to embrace these challenging times as an opportunity. The ability to deliver a seamless, positive experience will be critical for organizations to serve their customers and survive.


As we entered a new decade back in January, little did we know that by mid-March, COVID-19 would render all business continuity plans somewhat useless. Practically no one in financial services planned for a near 100 percent work from home situation where social-distancing requires a digital re-think to delivering services.

Within financial services, the immediate focus fell into three areas:

  1. Getting employees and internal processes set up for a near-term work from home situation;

  2. Serving customers—individuals, small businesses and corporate—who need guidance and assistance through the economic dislocation; and

  3. Providing critical financial system functions, ensuring that organizations have the balance sheet strength to manage through the crisis and to be a conduit for government-backed programs.

Watch the on-demand webinar, Augmenting, Adapting and Accelerating with a Cloud Contact Center.


Getting these new processes in place while serving customers has highlighted a range of gaps. COVID-19 has become a digital litmus test as many basic capabilities are non-existent or coming up short of customer expectations. Creating a hi-tech way to deliver high touch services will be a standard going forward, and digital will be the standard for delivering high touch services. This will require organizations to rethink customer engagement, multi-channel capabilities, mobile offerings, security, and customer support.

Watch the on-demand webinar, Securing digital interactions with Two-Factor Authentication.

Organizations must look at the line-of-business level and assess how they can digitally deliver the same, if not better quality of service. Even in the short term, many processes need to be re-thought in a digital manner as social distancing will require an alternative to in-person meetings. In retail banking, the system is so branch-centric that organizations now need to separate banking from the branch.

Most banks have not fully digitized specific products, like mortgage lending, where they still need the customer to either meet in person or mail information to the bank. Insurance companies must think about how their agents and adjusters can interact with clients in a safe, digital manner.

Wealth advisors now need to function using as many digital channels as possible—SMS, voice, and video. The challenge is to be able to deliver this in a compliant and integrated manner. Even processes like client on-boarding will need to be fully digitized.

Thankfully, the technology exists and many fin-techs have led the charge in offering a complete digital, mobile experience

Regulated industries beyond financial services, such as the public sector and healthcare, are tackling these very challenges knowing that security and scalability are central elements for safely moving businesses to a digital way of engaging with their clients.

At the outset of the pandemic, we worked with international, national, state, and local agencies to provide digital tools such as alerts and notifications so they can engage with citizens in the most efficient way possible. We supported organizations to help create and scale work from home contact center agents, like in Pittsburgh, where the city's 311 service went fully remote in just one week.

In healthcare, also a highly regulated industry, providers are quickly pivoting to telehealth and mobile communications for a more consumer-centric delivery model that can also scale.

Epic Systems, which holds medical data for 60 percent of Americans, built a new video-based telehealth offering, and MDLIVE now offers convenient and affordable virtual health care services to more than 40 million members nationwide. As we go from response to recovery, we expect financial services to broadly adopt these digital capabilities across their organizations from customer engagement to customer support.


Notwithstanding the great human tragedy of this moment, the financial services industry will emerge transformed and will complete the work that was started more than 10 years ago. The growth of fin-tech back then was largely based on themes that we still know exist today: poor user experience and user interface, siloed data and information, friction-full customer interactions, a one-size fits all approach to engagement, and lack of customer centricity.

Organizations need to reimagine the customer experience and rethink how they engage. Meeting customers over the channel of their choice, in a compliant manner, and providing micro-targeted personalization will separate the leaders from the pack.

Financial services organizations have been dealing with digitally savvy fin-techs and bigtechs for some time. Now, coupled with the urgency from COVID-19, there is a new forcing function to drive long-discussed change.

Watch the on-demand webinar all about strategies for customer engagement during COVID-19.

We see a future for the industry that will put clients at the center of their engagement models. This will impact how the front line office employees interact with clients of all types. And, this new model will have to seamlessly flow to the back office and contact center. The common link from this front to back engagement will be mobile coupled with voice and video for frictionless customer engagement. While communications has always been the backbone of many industries, financial services included, it will now be integral in enabling choice, removing friction, and enhancing experiences.

In the current environment and foreseeable future, we see an increased demand for contactless services that bring financial services capabilities without face to face interactions, branches, and office meetings.

New digital services will form the backbone of customer relationships, increasingly driven via mobile communications. This new engagement model is an opportunity to turn one-off interactions into meaningful conversations and relationships.

Dive deeper into the future of customer engagement for financial services in this free webinar,

We are committed to helping organizations through this pandemic by reimagining customer engagement:

  • Twilio Flex, our contact center product, is offering 20,000 free hours per month to organizations helping with direct response through August 31.

  • We launched a grant round to fund organizations helping at-risk communities recover from COVID-19.

  • Our team is standing by if you want to connect about technical advice or building solutions together.

Customer engagement webinar

Dive deeper into the future of customer engagement for financial services in this free webinar

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bijon mehta

Bijon Mehta

Bijon is the Global Head of Financial Services at Twilio. His industry expertise spans his 25 years of experience in financial technology, capital markets, corporate innovation, and digital product development.

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Bijon Mehta