COVID-19 has undoubtedly had an adverse impact on the financial world. Firms are scrambling to survive this downturn by looking for new ways to generate revenue and cut costs. This has effectively reduced spending within the economy and thus, banks and other financial institutions are faced with a tough market to sell their products off.
In the wake of this uncertainty, firms have been focusing on investing only in the following areas:
Operations: to ensure continued access to basic services;
Supply chain: to address emerging supplier and customer needs;
Revenue: to ensure the continued viability of the business; and
Workforce: to support employees and remote working amongst disruption.
As per a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), around 60% of firms have paused the deployments of new IT systems, for instance, and 44% have delayed upgrades to their existing systems. A study done by Gartner shows that the banking industry, one of the largest IT spenders, is expected to cut down on their IT spending by nearly 4.7% owing to the turbulent market. They are focusing on investing in technologies that will keep their businesses running – specifically by going digital and investing in emerging technologies trying to adapt to the “new normal”.
The New Normal
The entire world is currently transforming in an attempt to adjust to the new normal – the practice of social distancing. Even though a lot of industries can work with the limitations of social distancing poses, there are many which cannot.
Banking is one such industry. Banks build trust in very tangible ways – with retail outlets that are designed to emanate confidence and security. Older and larger banks rely on the security that comes from human contact, reassuring customers that their money is safe and in a concrete vehicle, as opposed to a mere tab in their internet browser.
When COVID-19 struck, their business took a hit even though most banks had already enabled digital banking for their customers. This was not because the business operations affected their customers drastically, but because they needed their employees to work out of their retail outlets to process transactions. Social distancing and working from home is feasible only when employees are enabled by the infrastructure they need. This new normal meant molding a secure environment that was safe for both the employees and for customers’ transactions.
Agility and Customer Experience
Banking, insurance, and other financial services are highly customer centric. Traditionally, they have always needed the human component to provide a sense of confidence to their customers. COVID-19 has put these companies in a situation that they haven’t ever seen before. Traditional financial systems have not been very agile when it comes to change, with a large cluster of systems hosted in an on-premises environment and large IT teams supporting it for years. The pandemic showed them the importance of agility in their systems and how it can impact their overall customer experience and hence, their business too.
During the initial days of the lockdown in different geographies, many banks could not keep up with the number of customer requests pouring in, and multiple outages were reported owing to the lack of staff. This was heavily impacting their business’s reputation. Soon, their customers’ behavior changed with the new normal and the demand for digital banking was at an all-time high. This is where an agile system would be quite useful, so they can quickly and efficiently change their business operations as needed by customer behavior.
Risks and Business Continuity
With COVID-19, every organization was faced with a pressing question – how to keep the business running? This was definitely a concern for those who were doing business with banks or other financial services companies.
For the banks themselves, the actual challenge was to reassess their customers’ Credit Risks. With a looming NPA crisis, it was already a tough task for banks to give out loans to corporates. Their existing formulas now needed a revamp, as the variables had changed. In many countries, a moratorium was announced by Central Banks, keeping private banks devoid of any interest revenue for that time. Handling the collection process and dealing with distressed customers was the other big challenge they faced as problems caused on this front were leading to a lot of reputation risk for the organization. Robust risk management functions would be needed with the active tracking of borrowers.
Given the circumstances; their business operating model needed rework to ensure that business continuity is maintained.
How Can Technology Help?
Technology has been a key driver of the financial services industry for ages now, with the domain spending around 10 percent of its revenue on IT expenditure. However, now is the time for these companies to use this budget wisely, as technology is going to be what saves them from bankruptcy.
In the current situation, there is an acceleration to the digital strategy of all bank leaders. Decision-making concerning these projects has quickened and “someday” or “one day” has become “today”.
Operational costs have become much higher during the pandemic due to unconventional methods of working and handling crisis management. Organizations have had to provide facilities for everyone, including their call center employees, to work from home. Thus, technology must play a key role to provide these facilities remotely – be it secure access through a VPN, or a security system to process the transactions without fail or delay.
Machine Learning, RPA, and other emerging technologies could be an essential component to help solve a lot of these challenges, as they reduce the dependency on humans to an extent. It could be expected that financial services companies could start to adopt Machine Learning algorithms for their credit scoring systems to make their systems more agile. Insurance companies could adopt technologies such as image processing to help underwriters in claim processing and so on. There has also been a shift to Cloud hosting from On-Premise installations, which was highly preferred by the large traditional banks, to keep all activities remote. Some banks have started turning to intelligent automation to tackle problems related to collections and debt as well.
Going digital is the key solution, even though that is not the ultimate goal, as human interaction is still imperative when it comes to the banking and financial services sector. However, if you work in financial services, now is the right time to look into developing a viable Digital Transformation roadmap for your company, and ensure you have the right technologies to stay agile and customer-centric.
The ability to balance technology and the human element will define every organization’s success in the future. At Experion, we help enterprises on their digitization journeys by developing FinTech solutions that are truly future-proof. For more information on how we can help you stay future-ready, drop a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org