The financial industry was profoundly impacted by the rocky events of 2020. But one thing has become certain: a shift to digital strategies and functions in an effort to transform and modernize financial business became essential to the survival of every single organization.
The ubiquitous term “disruptive” has been in the business lexicon for a while and suggests some dramatic changes all over every industry. Skipping the theoretical point about disruptive innovation, we primarily mean that the ever accelerating technological advances and the impact of digital technology with its speed and complexity cause opportunities to abound. Recent events have proved that technology is uniquely positioned to lead and support the digital transformation of the financial services industry. Though the opportunities opened by tech are immense, some consider it a one-time act. However, just digitizing paper analogue balance sheets or introducing a chatbot to augment financial consultancy is not transformation. Within the delivery of financial services it’s not a question of dispute or competition, but rather about the collaboration strategies of financial institutions, fintech, and big tech companies, along with third-party service providers and regulators all in order to speed up and optimize tech applications. Digital transformation is multi-dimensional. It encompasses the transformation of business processes, business models, domains, and the culture/organization.
Digital transformation is the application of forward-thinking in order to solve business related issues and to streamline processes alongside the adoption of digital technologies and strategies that are being implemented to succeed. For instance, reexamining the operational models, reimagining data processes and recovery plans for the business’ resilience and reassessing engagement with 3d party tech providers, along with updating compliance, security strategies, data privacy controls, as well as the use of regtech. All of this will enable finance functions to tackle market challenges.
The financial sector within every type of service (i.e., corporate, personal, consumer) comprises a wide range of offerings by the financial industry, from money/wealth management and investment, to banking, to insurance, to real estate brokerage and on to digital finance. Since finance is the academia topic, we will touch upon the notion which is related to the topic of digital transformation: it’s digital finance.
Digital Financial Services (DFS) involves the delivery and access of the core and additional financial services (e.g., payments, remittances, lendings) that apply innovative tech through digital channels like mobile, internet, POS terminals, etc. Digital financial services are provided via already habitual instruments (e.g., debit/credit cards) offered by banks, alongside new FinTech solutions, like mobile payments, peer-to-peer (P2P) applications, crypto assets built by means of cloud computing, digital platforms, and distributed ledger technologies (DLT).
Obviously enough, digital financial services (DFS) display viable benefits for service providers, enabling them to capitalize on the offerings by:
While the finance field is gaining new dynamics and nearly every financial organization is actively applying or experimenting with new technologies, a sizable number of firms are working on executing a systematic digital transformation strategy. Financial service providers are opting for different approaches to create the best value through their digital business. Some go with optimization strategies improving existing business models, processes, offerings and the customer experience bit by bit. While others choose digital business transformation in radically new ways by employing all the emerging tech and market-dictated capabilities, organizational changes and revamped processes and interactions.
Though digital transformation looks like a coherent solution for the financial services sector, it is a strenuous process requiring a clear balance between looking ahead and keeping an existing steady business course while employing tech, innovating business models, and introducing new ecosystems.
Financial services industry players are drudging to deliver on the investment of a long-term ROI while generating value for customers in the short term.
Ultimately, digital transformation in financial services is associated with certain trends resulting from technology applications.
Today’s sharing economy and environment has dramatically changed the relationship between financial services’ consumers and their providers. A connected and exuberant consumer demands a seamless real-time customer experience across every channel and financial service or product that is backed up by data-driven intelligence. They also expect personalized offers from financial service providers addressing their particular preferences, with competitive pricing, robust connected platforms and additional support. This is driving a profound trend – integrated financial business services and the connectivity approach. Every solution is expected to become simple-to-use by default, so financial services are supposed to be robust microservice organizations playing in tune with the digital customer’s hopes.
What does technology bring into Connected Finance?
The proliferation of the connective experience has created a market for digital experience platforms, like hybrid cloud solutions giving consumers both privacy and personalization. Sophisticated cloud solutions are winning consumers and businesses over by freeing them up from the complexity and costs of legacy IT infrastructures, enabling extreme flexibility, giving them control over their data, and providing on-demand global connectivity. The need of today’s sharing economy translates into a new kind of finance innovator which is known as “Open Banking”. This is a new standard for financial institutions that enables third-party providers to connect applications and services through open application programming interfaces (APIs).
86% of global banks surveyed by Finastra have considered using open APIs to enable Open Banking capabilities.
Predicted to change every aspect of financial business models, Open Banking will include transparent strategically aligned customer-centric ecosystems with banks playing the role of platform providers covering every aspect of their financial interactions.
→ Explore why A Digital Financial Economy Needs Open Banking to Succeed
Another aspect of connected finance is mobility solutions. Mobile is a synonym of simplicity, personalization, control, and comfort within financial interactions. Mobility is becoming an instrument for on-demand banking, voice payments, micro insurance, mobile wallets, and ad-hoc digital assistants.
Rethinking financial functions and leveraging the right technology lies in the core of the connected finance concept. Technologies like AI and IoT facilitate customer retention, based on a data variable analysis (i.e., operations context, lifestyle, geolocation, values, smart devices, etc), and enable the most effective personalized offerings possible. Blockchain is the foundation for new payment models, сross-border transactions, smart contracts processing, credit reporting, and digital identity verification due to information transparency, as well as excellent accuracy and accessibility for all parties. Cloud Computing with its cost efficiency, speed and flexibility, gives financial service providers the needed instruments to deliver innovative products and services, manage risks, and interact with customers and partners in an agile connected way.
So, tech can become a competitive differentiator for the entire BFSI (banking, financial services, insurance) sector and enable connectivity in order to respond to the digital-savvy customer’s needs while gaining market relevance.
Technology is now perceived as a consumable item for customers and users, from social media and apps to mobile phones, on up to data-based personalization and timely targeted approaches. One of the key trends of the financial industry, by large a reaction to the 2020 global situation, is the ability to effectively and quickly respond to a disruptive environment, that is to adopt agility. In order to incorporate the fundamental value proposition in every feature of financial offerings, financial service organizations seek to understand the dynamic consumer landscape, market hidden demands, and to support continuous innovation, all of which are the basics of being agile. A relevant user experience starts with uncovering the real needs of the customer within the context of the current market environment.
Technology ecosystems and well-defined tools have created new opportunities for digital financial services, the most data-intensive sector, in order to implement agility which creates continuous lifecycles, builds new capabilities and delivers quality services/products that respond to customer expectations. By including data strategies backed by Artificial Intelligence(AI) and machine learning (ML) into a competency matrix, financial institutions gain fast and reliable access to a growing amount of data that is simultaneously backed up by tailored analytics, so they get the bigger picture. The agile business approach is built on smart strategy, informed business decisions, customer intelligence and advanced analytics that all reflect data and analytics as key revenue sources for financial institutions so as to stay relevant and competitive. By putting data into action, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) experts can gain clear analytics of the business environment and customer behaviors, alongside employee productivity metrics. This enables an ultimate response to the changes and consequently better servicing, as well as generating more profits.
Another attribute of data analytics for business agility is its ability to identify value drivers and growth opportunities, and then monitor financial/non-financial key performance indicators (KPIs) against those. It allows for the analysis of the correlation between investments and profitability across multiple dimensions of the financial organization (products, customers, services, channels, etc.) to further strategize on valuation or growth optimization.
Another prominent trend imposed by technology proliferation in finance functions is the transformation of traditional financial business models with new and established services integrated. The introduction of technology into the finance function gave rise not only to FinTechs, unburdened with a siloed data haul with the ability to target specific service areas, but also BigTechs, like Apple, Alibaba, Amazon, Google, and Facebook, who are heavily getting involved in the financial services market with their hefty capitalization, massive customer data pools and established networks.
FinTech, abridged for Financial Technology, operates on the intersection of financial services and technology. Despite the common perception, FinTech is not applied exclusively across startups, but is applied even more commonly by technology companies or even legacy software providers. Banking, loans, venture capital, wealth management, personal finance, electronic payments, and the insurance – financial services sector are already using some form of tech.
BigTech, the established companies dominating the information technology industry, are also fiercely challenging traditional financial service providers. Those platform companies are entering the area of finance with a pre-existing client reach and scale, big data customer insights and internet banking licences, so basically they use financial services as a tool to enhance their client reach.
How to Use Salesforce to Power Your Financial Services
Industry leaders are striving to embed a true digital financial experience, which is about a complete pack of services from personal finance and automated wealth management to on-demand insurance advisory, all in real-time at the customer’s fingertips. In order to offer all of the above, financial organizations have to work with the right timely data, gather actionable analytical insights, generate real-time predictive reports and build scalable flexible platforms with increasingly integrated digital ecosystems. But, it’s a hefty investment with fierce competition for the financial sector players. Understanding that technology implementation alone isn’t digital transformation, but a part of the strategic journey is vital. More and more financial service firms are turning to collaboration over competition with technology vendors as they recognize that ecosystems are a major opportunity for business in today’s world. The companies are now expanding their partner pool while engaging system integrators and vendors in order to leverage the potential of innovations and technology to increase operational efficiency and deliver enterprise solutions at scale.
82% of traditional financial organizations like banks, investment managers and insurers, plan to increase FinTech cooperation (PWC).
There is one more driver of collaboration within the financial services industry, which is intense regulation, rules, and growing compliance demands. With the increasing regulations network, governing groups inspecting and the skyrocketing costs of compliance or non-compliance, financial institutions are turning to technology solutions for assistance. RegTech, or regulation technology, was designed to help manage day-to-day financial compliance demands efficiently. In order to help businesses streamline nearly every part of the compliance process, RegTech is bringing the power of digital transformation into finance regulatory compliance. By implementing and integrating the powers of cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and more, RegTech helps streamline the compliance process, processes mountains of data, parses and analyzes legal texts and extracts meaningful insights, minimizes human errors, connects once siloed people and processes, and also improves risk management.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, the financial service industry leaders tend to engage flexible and agile technology enablers or they are teaming up with FinTechs to fill their technological gaps, address any critical service delivery points and ensure exclusive customer experiences.
Experts state that personalization and connectivity are the two strategies driving the financial services evolvement within digital transformation. Customers of every age segment, from the “silver tech generation” over to millennials and up to GenZ expect increasingly personalized financial services solutions. Those include everything from personal management of all their own finances on convenient devices, to real-time engagement with simplicity, speed, security and transparency. The stats prove that the age of customer loyalty to a financial services brand per se is over and that the customer experience is becoming a new benchmark for financial institutions. A personalized approach within the financial services sector is similar to any other industry that is offering customers quality and value in their interactions. While making the customers’ lives easier, the approach is based on a better understanding of their needs and requirements. But there is one more tendency specific to financial services, the financial services connected and exuberant consumer is seeking to receive a packaged digital product; for instance, like a personalized financial plan for a young couple. So, financial service firms are turning their focus towards leveraging tech to make the most out of what they have to offer. By digging insights out of historic data and segmentation, market analytics tech is called on to:
This, at the end of the day, leads to an improved ROI, efficiency, and margins due to risk assessment and financial felony prevention.
A holistic approach to every particular customer’s need is fundamental for creating strong engagement. And, a personalized experience design, triggered by big data processing, AI, blockchain, IoT, and machine learning algorithms are gaining positive perception by the consumer. Using cross-channeling like mobile, web, wearables, social media, and AI-enabled tools so as to surface fact-based insights into a user’s behavior thus implementing the most relevant technology methods for proactive engagement with a consumer, all help to identify customer journeys and offer personalized campaigns with timely products or services.
Among the most vivid benefits of tech-supported personalization in financial services are:
The year 2021 inspires more optimism in finance organizations. A whitepaper by Avenga is designed to navigate you through your digital finance transformation journey.Explore and check how to prepare for future challenges and turn them into opportunities.
“Finance is not merely about making money. It’s about achieving our deep goals and protecting the fruits of our labor. It’s about stewardship and, therefore, about achieving a good society.” – Robert J. Shiller, Economist
As we move deeper into 2021, we see the industries taking on the challenge to recalibrate for resiliency within our modern business environment. Though the future of financial services is far from clear, there have been many recent cases of harnessing technology and human ingenuity to help make the changes work.
Security-first system for COVID-19 test results in the blockchain.
The survey by Appdynamics highlights that 66% of IT professionals say the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in their digital strategy, driving an urgent need to push through initiatives that were once a part of multi-year digital transformation programs.
According to McKinsey, financial services’ high-fliers are exploring new efficiency opportunities, reaching beyond the traditional financial activities, then focusing on data and information (attributed through data visualization, advanced-analytics, and debiasing strategies, etc.) that flow as pillars for integrated, simplified and controlled decisions. And finally, finance organizations tend to revisit the operating model and are bringing about new skills and capabilities.
→ Read more To change or to pretend a change – that is the question
The first stage of finance transformation enables digital channels for financial products and services exchange. Right now, we are experiencing the next step which optimizes customer support with self-service opportunities, as well as business ecosystem development driven by the API economy. Currently, a shift from the project-based to a product-driven mindset is becoming a key element of digital transformation within the financial services sector. So, a financial services firm, be it a bank or investment broker or insurance provider, is expected to become a high performance microservices organization offering tangible advisory services about money through an all-inclusive approach.
Moving towards finance transformation is about employing the key dimensions of digital: from finance process transformation to a business model revisit to domain evolvement to a cultural transformation.
Business processes transformation is focused around specific areas of the business. By fast adoption of technology capabilities like data analytics, BI tools, API, machine learning techniques, etc., it can help reinvent numerous processes across the financial organization, commercialize on new ideas, and create additional real value pretty fast. Mobile banking, such as a switch from boring office desktop tables to intuitive solutions with customer-centric design and elements of gamification, is a vivid example of process transformation in the banking customer experience.
Business model transformation implies the re-architecture and evolvement of business logic essentials with a focus on the value delivered. That’s its strategy: gaining a competitive advantage through fundamental changes of the core business axis. As an example, on-demand or micro insurance has added value to the core insurance products. Or by moving from a monolithic architecture, banks are becoming microservices organizations offering flexible services 24/7.
Domain transformation can be vividly observed with the initial IT industry giants, like Google or Amazon, by closing finance customer expectation gaps with technology enablement. Take GooglePay and Apple Pay’s digital wallet platforms and online payment systems, or AWS (Amazon Web Services) who is one of the most trusted cloud infrastructure and services provider for banking, payments, capital markets, and insurance.
Cultural or organizational transformation is the most obvious, yet the most complex layer of transformational initiatives. While moving towards agile workflows, decentralized decision-making, and altering business ecosystems, it is all about changing human mindsets, both simultaneously from the beginning and as a result of the digital transformation process. Yet, Experian, the consumer and business credit provider, moved to become a technology company by demonstrating the potency of digital through small successful digital projects, promoting agility and innovation skills, and gradually changing the organizational culture mindset towards a company-wide one.
The most difficult and important opportunity for financial services providers is to recognize the transformation opportunities afforded by new technologies, be it financial services portfolio broadening or legacy systems transition to a new software or radical architecture refinements across the whole financial organization, and to understand that they can be captured even by traditional incumbents. So with a robust strategy in place to embody 4 interdependent attributes that are backed up by tech components, there are some clear digital transformation advantages for the financial industry.
Cloud migration is admittedly the hottest and the most promising trend of digital transformation, and this is particularly visible in finance. Though cloud adoption rates are slower than anticipated, financial service players are looking into cloud technology solutions (i.e., applications, data centers, APIs and storage) and Cloud deployment models (public, private or hybrid) for the promise of gaining a competitive advantage and long-term benefits via flexibility, speed, scalability, security, enhanced analytics and a reduced carbon footprint. The global pandemic situation became a proof trigger for not only leveraging the cloud for upscale, speed and agility, but for down-scaling as well.
Investment in Cloud Solutions as part of the digital transformation by Financial services providers (Forrester)
Cloud computing (SaaS/PaaS/IaaS/BaaS/DaaS…. XaaS) offer some clear benefits for secure, compliant and connected financial services delivery, be it banking or capital markets, asset or wealth management, or insurance. Skillfully implemented cloud solutions are winning financial businesses over by synchronizing the organization to build resilient operations, taking away the complexity and costs of legacy IT infrastructures and software, allowing for the introduction of unique types of services, enabling extreme flexibility, giving them control over their data with democratized data collection, and also on-demand global connectivity. Moreover, as the cloud is becoming a standard for ERP and CRM applications, the financial service processes are becoming exceptionally streamlined and allow for advanced Business Intelligence (BI) on top of those. One more benefit of cloud adoption that is becoming a real value to humanity is that the cloud is about sustainable business practices. Cloud infrastructures support environmental protection utilizing virtual services rather than physical products and hardware. Also, they cut down on paper waste, improve energy efficiency, and (by allowing employee access from anywhere) reduce commuter-related emissions.
Business Intelligence in Finance in the 2020s: A path to value
Data represents the biggest opportunity for financial services. Though data itself is not the goal for the BFSI industry, it’s an instrument to support panoptic strategies so that the created products and services match customer expectations. Apart from being a pure numbers game, embracing digital by the financial industry means shorter and efficient financial cycles, data-based business intelligence and forecasting, real-time operational and analytical insights, self-service analytics and informed visualization, and a whole lot more.
Data is power, which is a hidden advantage that financial incumbents have over digital native disruptors. What is an ultimate success imperative today for both is a tailored data management strategy employing technology as a tool to collect, mine, and process big structured and unstructured data, and further visualize it in a transparent and ethical way to actually generate value. All the new tech applied, either building advanced software and applications, the proliferation of APIs, leveraging AI and analytics, creating IoT solutions or enhancing customer experiences, are about working on massive complex Lego-resembling data to uncover meaningful insights.
As Cognizant reports, within the research, data and analytics are the key triggers of revenue growth and costs optimization. About 64% of surveyed businesses and technology leaders claim that they’re getting a moderate or high ROI related to data management.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is widely adopted across financial services and has already transformed some aspects of the financial services delivery. AI can streamline, optimize processes, actualize data-based intelligence, eliminate human errors which contribute to accurate strategic forecasts and market analytics, actual customer sentiment analysis which is critical for business continuity and resiliency.
The growing need of finance organizations for enhanced interoperability and operational efficiency within new working environments pushed for AI-enabled smart workspace management powered by technology.
90% of new enterprise apps will include AI technology into their processes and products by 2025 (IDC).
The most vivid cases of AI and Machine Learning (ML) application within financial services are financial risk management, fraud prediction, transparent underwriting, personalized banking and financial management (PFM) advisory, informed unbiased credit decisions, smart quantitation, algorithmic or high frequency trading, data-enabled investment, and claims management with so much more coming.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning in Finance: the Whys, the Hows and the Use Cases
Digital transformation strategies, implemented by means of AI and machine learning (ML), are primarily a source of advanced analytics for fact-based decisions, but also a huge enabler for financial service companies in terms of automation. In the world of 24/7 accessible online opportunities, growing customer expectations, surging competition and a pandemic-induced crisis, financial service companies seek to rely on data, augmented analytics and automated solutions or platforms. Experts claim that 80% of industry leaders either use or plan to implement an automation subset – RPA (robotic process automation) recognizing an enterprise-level opportunity for finance functions. According to SSON Analytics, banking and insurance top the list of RPA adoption leaders.
Automation, advancing into IPA (intelligent process automation) is gaining more traction within the improved customer experience, streamlining processes, freeing up staff and creating new value opportunities on top of optimizing back office costs. Starting from automated virtual assistants that respond to basic consumer inquiries, to robust integrated digital ecosystems enabled by open banking, to cloud-based ERPs, to touchless transactions backed up by DLT and blockchain, to mature automation cases in financial planning and audit, to automated trading systems (ATS) and to capital allocation using machine learning technologies.
Customer experience is stated to be a priority and key digital transformation strategy for the financial services domain. So, in the world of cybercrime, data breaches, and advanced hacker attacks, a significant investment is being plunged into consumer protection, data privacy, security, and compliance solutions. A modern consumer is not ready to tolerate unauthorized data sharing, unconsented emails, etc. Those are becoming unique value offers of digital financial services providers of every caliber, from FinTech startups and technology providers, to finance incumbents associated with financial stability.
Essentially, Data is good. It’s the use cases that can be problematic.
Regulations like the EU’s GDPR, PSD2 and MiFID I/II and similar supervisory requirements are putting an extra focus on risk management practices, aiming for a more secure and transparent financial sector. This calls for a thorough data analysis across all the processes enabled by big data analytics, AI and DLTs. These technologies have proved to be real working instruments in identifying operational and cyber risks, monitoring risks and improving fraud detection in peer-to-peer operations, measuring financial market risks and volatility, improving client risk profiling, minimizing credit reporting and scoring bias, etc.
There is more here: Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning in Finance: the Whys, the Hows and the Use Cases
As technology is on a mission to facilitate humans, it can not function without them. It’s clear that tech proliferation tunes up talent experiences. With digital transformation being pushed by COVID-19, the entire business operating model shifted. Finance staffing models are also evolving with a key search focus on data scientists, business analysts and technical literacy which support core job requirements to form cross-functional teams. As financial services adopt a digital working environment, which suggests flexibility, collaboration and support, agile practices spread across the whole organization from everything to attracting and retaining talented customer-oriented staff to delivering differentiated financial service levels. But it requires more than additional skills to build a strong technology ecosystem within a financial organization, but rather shared values and a commitment to the co-development attitude. By augmenting professionals with tech capabilities and investing in automation along with leveraging tools like self-service BI, digital assistants, and predictive modeling, financial service companies better use their time on value-added activities that drive actual business performance.
The Financial Services Industry is taking on the challenge to recalibrate financial functions for resiliency. Though the future of financial services is far from clear, there have been many recent cases of mobilizing technology and human ingenuity to help make the change work. Download our whitepaper showcasing the most critical factors impacting finance transformation and the opportunities of the digital financial services. Some assume that the sector will transform through tech gradually, while others believe that traditional finance is dead. The reality lies somewhere in the middle. Technology is past just disrupting finance organizations, but rather uniquely positioned to support the digital transformation.
Digital transformation is a huge and multifaceted evolution. It’s far from merely abolishing dated systems, building a banking mobile app, or digitizing an analogue paper archive. Digital transformation is a long strategic process, at times arduous but clearly seen to deliver lasting change. Staying on the right side of change means a clear vision of how technology can support business resilience within new business ecosystems and partnerships.
Though the challenges of regulatory pressures and geo-political tensions, evolving customer expectations, legacy systems modernization, workforce enablement, competitive environments of rising cost pressures, cybersecurity issues and data privacy concerns are present for every financial services company. Whether an incumbent bank, asset manager or FinTech startup, questions remain and the pandemic-hit world sees technology as one of the drivers of value for business. As allegedly said by Winston Churchill, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’. Our current situation keeps causing a huge impact on finance organizations but it also opens up a field of breakthrough opportunities to create a more sustainable future.
By scaling digital transformation ambitions, the financial service industry, like no other (except maybe Pharma & Life Sciences), can help make real changes and deliver 360-degree value to all. Technology application within a new inclusive economic context makes it possible for finance teams and financial service providers to accelerate time-to-value along with gearing up operational efficiencies and customer engagement, the ability to scale, so that market shares and even shareholder values increase.
As a digital technology partner and enabler, Avenga can navigate and support you through every stage of your digital journey, so that you are prepared for future challenges and can turn them into opportunities. We can help you adopt agile approaches to bridge your strategic initiatives, develop a product-centric mindset, leverage DevOps practices for on-demand continuous service delivery, make sense of your data capital, and support your innovation.