You are here: VRL Financial News - Home » Retail Banking » Retail Banking » Reports » Call Centres in Retail Banking: the Path to Excellence

Call Centres in Retail Banking - The Path to Excellence

By: David J Cavell
Published: 2008


Call Centres in Retail BankingThe retail banking call centre operates in two roles within a range of differing business models. The first is the traditional role of the call centre as a supplementary channel within a branch led business. The second is the direct banking operation where the call centre is still predominant but other newer channels are now being explored and exploited.

This report provides executives, planners and senior managers with a walk-through of the principal issues that will drive success or failure in the short term. It identifies six business models within which the call centre is either the predominant delivery channel or simply provides supplementary support and outlines key success factors.

To purchase this report, or to request a report summary or list of case studies, call Jeannie on +44 (0) 207 563 5640 or email

The retail banking call centre operates in two roles within a range of differing business models. The first is the traditional role of the call centre as a supplementary channel within a branch led business. The second is the direct banking operation where the call centre is still predominant but other newer channels are now being explored and exploited. The case studies in this report include call centre operations that are healthy and operating to high standards irrespective of the business model.

However, it is worthy of reiteration that the quality of service provided by the call centre is critical to its effectiveness and future viability in the face of an increasing number of consumer channel choices. And where the call centre is not regarded as the primary delivery and relationship management channel, the case for considering its outsourcing is strengthened. Given the growing use of internet banking, there may also be the need to consider the development of an exit strategy for many bankers with a major call centre commitment.

This report includes:

  • Case studies in success and excellence, including: ANZ, ING Direct and Nationwide
  • The role of the call centre in the cards industry
  • The call centre as part of a multi channel distribution strategy involving branch and internet
  • Projecting brand through the Call Centre
  • Call centres and good HR practice: designing call centres for maximum productivity
  • Outsourcing versus rightsourcing

Who should read this report?

Head of delivery channel strategy, planning, retail operations, IT, marketing, premises, human resources, senior planning executives, head of banking, finance director.


To purchase this report, or to request a report summary or list of case studies, call Jeannie on +44 (0) 207 563 5640 or email


The call centre now operates within retail banking as part of a multi-channel mix. There are six business models within which the call centre is either the predominant delivery channel or simply providing supplementary support.

These six business models are:

  • Branch led retail banking (including building societies)
  • The domestic direct bank
  • The foreign direct bank
  • The postal bank
  • The non-bank brand
  • The credit card

The principal issues surfaced by the case studies and research related to this report include the four objectives of a delivery channel and how these are met through the call centre. Other issues include the basis on which both service and brand values are delivered. Consideration is also given to both the role of outsourcing and the life expectancy of the call centre in the face of the developing channel alternatives channels and consumer preferences.

The vulnerability of some call centres to disintermediation by internet banking is recognised. There is evidence of this trend emerging at least 6 years ago in America. And a series of issues and tactics are discussed that should be included within a proactive response to potential call centre redundancy.

A review of the principal issues concludes with a reiteration of the following findings and truisms:

  • Call centres perform two different roles within retail banking
  • They remain the predominant channel of direct banks
  • Service quality is critical to call centre effectiveness
  • Outsourcing offers economies – with caveats

Certain business scenarios now justify the development of exit strategies ahead of potential call centre redundancy

Section A: Case studies

The case studies within this section have been included to provide examples of the principal banking business models and delivery strategies which the call centre supports. Each case study has been chosen because of the way in which some part of its commitment to call centres exemplifies industry best practice.

The Australia and New Zealand Banking group (ANZ) has distinguished itself with a high quality branch led expansionary policy. However, within its multi-channel delivery mix is a call centre operation that has won national awards over three recent consecutive years. The bank recognises the sensitivities of off-shoring call centres and has committed to retain its Australian operation to serve its domestic market. This case study provides a brief overview and fine example of the first business model.

No review of global call centre banking would have been complete without the inclusion of First Direct. Its mould breaking launch in 1989 as a domestic direct bank within the British market set new service standards for the genre and the industry. The way in which it is leveraging the new banking technologies to complement the call centre makes it an excellent example of the second business model.

Another imperative for coverage within this report is the case of ING DIRECT. The bank has used the call centre to support a predatory strategy that will see it opening in its 10th culturally diverse country in 2008. It has acquired a profitable portfolio of over 20 million customers since its launch in 1997. A closer look at its biggest country operation in the USA exemplifies the full range of brand building initiatives that have driven the bank’s success. It is the leading global example of the third business model.

Nationwide Building Society is the largest organisation of its type in the World. It is a further example of the first business model, offering a full range of retail banking products to its members through a branch led multi-channel delivery strategy. However, it also has a major commitment to its high quality call centre operation. This includes a research driven policy that has seen it retain its call centre operations on-shore.

Firstsource Solutions Limited is one of the banking industry’s leading service providers, although it also has major commitments to other sectors. It was originally launched in 2001 by ICICI, the leading Indian banking group. This case study is included to provide a view of the scope of resources that are now available – onshore or offshore – should a financial services institution elect to outsource its call centre operation.

Section B: Operational strategy

This section looks at the issues and operational practicalities that have the greatest impact on strategy and excellence. It provides an overview of the issues pertinent to both the in-house operation of call centres and their outsourcing.





Section A: Case studies

Chapter 2: ANZ

Chapter 3: First Direct

Chapter 4: ING Direct

Chapter 5: Nationwide building society

Chapter 6: Firstsource solutions

Section B: Operational strategy

Chapter 7: Aspect index

Chapter 8: Workforce management

Chapter 9: The principles of call centre design

Chapter 10: Call centre operations in credit card issuing

Chapter 11: Principles and practice of outsourcing

Chapter 12: Contingency planning - brief notes

View full Summary Report

For more information about any of our reports, please contact:


To purchase a report or request more information:

For information on writing for us or to discuss upcoming titles:

Retail Banking Products:


Retail Banker International
Banking and Payments Asia


Retail Banking and Cards Forum, September 2010, Bahrain (TBC)  
Retail Banking/Payments Innovation, Kuala Lumpur, 11-12 May 2010


Retail Banking/Payments Asia Roundtable, detailed subject matter TBC, Hosted by Titien Ahmad, VRL Asia-Pacific, and Hugh Fasken, Editor, Retail Banker International, August 2010


Bancassurance: The Lessons of Global Experience in Banking and Insurance CollaborationBancassurance
Best Practice in SME Banking - new edition
Branch Banking: Best Practice in the Worst of Times 
Call Centres in Retail Banking - The Path to Excellence 
Consumer Finance in Latin America
Creating Female-Friendly Financial Services: Strategies, Opportunities and Lessons   
Creation from Destruction: Restructuring Financial Services Organisations 
Cross-selling in Retail Banking: Meeting the Revenue Growth Challenge
The Future of Fee-Based Banking Income
Gauging the Effectiveness of Social Media in Financial Services
Indian Retail Finance 
Knowledge, Social Media and Learning in Financial Services 
Maximising Recovery Rates in Consumer Debt Collections - A Global Perspective
Mobile Banking in Emerging Markets                   
Non-Listed Banking Models   
Packaged Accounts                                                                            
Peer to Peer Lending                                                                                      
Post Office Financial PartnershipsPost Office Financial Partnerships
Remittances 2010: Products, Players and Strategies
Remittances at a Time of Global Uncertainty
Restoring Trust and Credibility in Financial Services
Retail Financial Services in China 
Retail Finance in Japan
Retail Financial Services- An Overview
Self-Service in Retail Banking: Developing and Implementing a Successful Self-Service Strategy
Segmentation in Financial Services
Social Media in Financial Services
Strategies for Banking the Unbanked: A Global Market Opportunity
Survey of Global Islamic Finance
The Branch is Back   
The Business Case for Biometrics in Finance - 2nd Edition 
Voice Biometrics - Security by word of mouth 
Web 2.0 in Financial Services