Toine van Beusekom, Strategy Director, Icon Solutions
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Looking back at 2021 – which promised to be the year that the industry realised the full potential of data-driven transactions, instant payments and cryptocurrencies – it is clear that although there is consensus on the direction of travel and the opportunities, progress continues to be hamstrung by familiar challenges.
Banks remain constrained by existing infrastructure and technology, demonstrating that the time for waiting has passed. Now is the time to prioritise the long-term revenue opportunities and build the capabilities needed to realise them safely and quickly.
As we look to 2022 and beyond, seven key trends mean that potential is starting to be translated into action.
- The rise of agency banking and Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS). Strategy Director – Toine van Beusekom
In 2022, we’ll see the agency
industry start to catch up with the embedded finance market, and the realisation that payments as a service requires a banking license. At Icon Solutions, we don’t believe that technology is the answer to every question. Hiring a Silicon Valley hotshot seldom solves the root cause of why change is so slow, as tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. To effectively transform, the right technology must be coupled with a profound understanding of the business process that translates into a pragmatic, navigable roadmap for change.
Banks are working out the actual cost of transactions. Sales Director – Liam Jeffs
Banks don’t know their actual cost per payment transaction. 2022 will be the year they find out. And when they do, it will be too high by at least a factor of two. This means scrutiny will shift from change cost to run cost. Consequently, banks will need to understand their payments estate and build a target and transition roadmap to immediately address these unsustainable cost challenges and deliver wider value.
- The beginning of the end for core banking. Services Director – Simon Barrows
Any bank that’s been around for 10 years or more (i.e., most) invariably has some form of legacy core banking platform that is no longer fit for purpose. Yes, transitioning to something more suitable for today’s real-time, always-on world is a marathon not a sprint, but banks have been stood pondering on the start line for many years already.
Yet, banks are finally reacting to the starting gun and it’s clear that one size doesn’t fit all. Some banks are spinning up new world architectures, often leveraging cloud-based BaaS platforms and proving it in discrete parts of the business first. Others are de-composing their existing core banking estates, breaking the ‘elephant’ into bitesize chunks to either re-create in new, domain-focussed, micro-services built in-house, or to enable third party BaaS components into a heterogeneous, API-enabled, plug-and-play architecture.
For most banks, these are long, hard, yards of change. But this could be the year that core banking as we know it really begins to change, or good.
- Impending card-mageddon. Senior Payments Consultant – Louise Shorthouse
Request to Pay has quickly become one of the most talked about initiatives in the payments industry. From Icon’s recent research, it is clear it has the potential to reduce costs, provide real alternatives to traditional payment options and increase visibility and transparency. This promises to change the way we pay.
Take merchants, who have been trying unsuccessfully for years to circumvent card rails to lower costs. Many in the industry see Request to Pay as an opportunity for merchant’s to finally reduce their dependency on payment cards, as the combination of instant payments rails, open banking APIs and Request to Pay services converge to drive consumers towards cheaper account-to-account (A2A) based payment options at the point-of-sale.
Could this be the sign that card-mageddon is heading our way? For banks, aligning technology with a clear strategy will be critical for Request to Pay services to realise their huge potential.
- Time for some action on leveraging payments data. Senior Payments Consultant – Andrew Ducker
For UK and EU banks, 2022 will see the go-live of ISO 20022 upgrades for the Bank of England’s RTGS, the Eurosystem’s Target2 RTGS, and SWIFT’s platform for cross-border payments. While critically keeping focus on the infrastructure programmes, banks also now need to raise their sights to consider how they can achieve valuable business benefits by making use of the richer and more timely data, alongside open banking opportunities.
Inaction is not an option, with investment is urgently needed just to retain existing business and relevance, let alone generate new revenues or cost savings. The potential use cases for the data are many and varied, spanning improvements to a bank’s own operations and processing, as well as new or enhanced products and services for corporate, SME and consumer customers.
Banks will need to create prioritised plans for developing and launching data-enabled services, supported by an effective operating model, new skill sets, and secure availability of the clean data sources to feed the analytics.
- Money launderers actually getting caught. Anti-Financial Crime Centre of Excellence Lead – Tom Cleaton
The inconvenient truth is that banks are losing the war on financial crime. Criminals are exploiting increasingly sophisticated tactics, customer behaviours are more complex and demanding, regulatory scrutiny is increasing. With the threat of huge fines and reputational damage looming, banks must work smarter to keep up, let alone get ahead.
There are advancements that we expect to see making a significant difference in 2022 enabling banks to find more criminals, faster. For example, machine learning detection algorithms alongside rule-based controls across both fraud and AML have huge potential to cut down on noise and facilitate better identification of potentially suspicious activity. Sourcing and continued management of data will continue to be a key area of focus to drive a more joined-up approach across ‘FRAML’. Cloud deployment architecture and the ability to leverage cross functional data stores will be an enabler for better data management. Improving data quality and currency moving from a periodic batch model to an event-driven approach will support the detection of suspicious behaviour closer to real-time.
This will not only reduce losses and meet compliance obligations, but also better protect end customers and the wider public from the terrible effects of financial crime.
- Banks embracing low code approach as middle ground. Pre-Sales Consultant – Matt Piper
Banks have become increasingly frustrated with the inflexibility of change and the constrictions that heavy-code platforms put on them, stifling their ability to innovate and serve their customers properly. This is exacerbated by the war for engineering talent which has reached boiling point.
The advent of the ‘low-code’ approach offers an alternative, wherein deployables (such as payment flows, business functions, rules, you name it…!) can be defined and moulded in a highly intuitive, non-code language, often coupled with dynamic graphical representation, and where the code itself is automatically generated, reducing the reliance on engineer resources. This approach has been catalysed by the adoption of domain specific languages (low-code languages that pertain to a specific domain, such as payments).
What does this mean in practice? Well, change is simplified and accelerated. Banks are less dependent on engineering resource. There is increased alignment and transparency between business and IT in what is being built. And banks have the right tools at their disposal as well as the time to focus on differentiating their offering.
Wealth Managers and the Future of Trust: Insights from CFA Institute’s 2022 Investor Trust Study
Author: Rhodri Preece, CFA, Senior Head of Research, CFA Institute
Corporate responsibility is more important than ever. Today, many investors expect more than just profit from their financial decisions; they want easy access to financial products and to be able to express personal values through their investments. Crucial to meeting these new investor expectations is trust in the financial services providers that enable investors to build wealth and realise personal goals. Trust is the bedrock of client relationships and investor confidence.
The 2022 CFA Institute Investor Trust Study – the fifth in a biennial series – found that trust levels in financial services among retail and institutional investors have reached an all-time high. Reflecting the views of 3,588 retail investors and 976 institutional investors across 15 markets globally, the report is a barometer of sentiment and an encouraging indicator of the trust gains in financial services.
Wealth managers may want to know how this trust can be cultivated, and how they can enhance it within their own organisations. I outline three key trends that will shape the future of client trust.
THE RISE OF ESG
ESG metrics have risen to prominence in recent years, as investors increasingly look at environmental, social and governance factors when assessing risks and opportunities. These metrics have an impact on investor confidence and their propensity to invest; we find that among retail investors, 31% expect ESG investing to result in higher risk-adjusted returns, while 44% are primarily motivated to invest in ESG strategies because they want to express personal values or invest in companies that have a positive impact on society or the environment.
The Trust Study shows us that ESG is stimulating confidence more broadly. Of those surveyed, 78% of institutional investors said the growth of ESG strategies had improved their trust in financial services. 100% of this group expressed an interest in ESG investing strategies, as did 77% of retail investors.
There are also different priorities within ESG strategies, and our study found a clear divide between which issues were top of mind for retail investors compared to institutional investors. Retail investors were more focused on investments that tackled climate change and clean energy use, while institutional investors placed a greater focus on data protection and privacy, and sustainable supply chain management.
What is clear is that the rise of ESG investing is building trust and creating opportunities for new products.
TECHNOLOGY MULTIPLIES TRUST
Technology has the power to democratise finance. In financial services, technological developments have lowered costs and increased access to markets, thereby levelling the playing field. Allowing easy monitoring of investments, digital platforms and apps are empowering more people than ever to engage in investing. For wealth managers, these digital advancements mean an opportunity for improved connection and communication with investors, a strategy that also enhances trust.
The study shows us that the benefits of technology are being felt, with 50% of retail investors and 87% of institutional investors expressing that increased use of technology increases trust in their financial advisers and asset managers, respectively. Technology is also leading to enhanced transparency, with the majority of retail and institutional investors believing that their adviser or investment firms are very transparent.
It’s worth acknowledging here that a taste for technology-based investing varies across age groups. More than 70% of millennials expressed a preference for technology tools to help navigate their investment strategy over a human advisor. Of the over-65s surveyed, however, just 30% expressed the same choice.
THE PULL OF PERSONALISATION
How does an investor’s personal connection to their investments manifest? There are two primary ways. The first is to have an adviser who understands you personally, the second is to have investments that achieve your personal objectives and resonate with what you value.
Among retail investors surveyed for the study, 78% expressed a desire for personalised products or services to help them meet their investing needs. Of these, 68% said they’d pay higher fees for this service.
So, what does personalisation actually look like? The study identifies the top three products of interest among retail investors. They are: direct indexing (investment indexes that are tailored to specific needs); impact funds (those that allow investors to pursue strategies designed to achieve specific real-world outcomes); and personalised research (customised for each investor).
When it comes to this last product, it’s worth noting that choosing advisors with shared values is also becoming more significant. Three-quarters of respondents to the survey said having an adviser that shares one’s values is at least somewhat important to them. Another way a personal connection with clients can be established is through a strong brand, and the proportion of retail investors favouring a brand they can trust over individuals they can count on continues to grow; it reached 55% in the 2022 survey, up from 51% in 2020 and 33% in 2016.
TRUST IN THE FUTURE
As the pressure on corporations to demonstrate their trustworthiness increases, investors will also look to financial services to bolster trust. Wealth managers that embrace ESG issues and preferences, enhanced technology tools, and personalisation, can demonstrate their value and build durable client relationships over market cycles.
2022 ESG Investment Trends
Jay Mukhey, Senior Director, ESG at Finastra
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) themes have been front and center throughout the pandemic. While the framework has been surging in popularity for several years, COVID-19 served as a period of reflection causing many companies, investors and other individuals to take these factors seriously. It’s something that we can no longer afford to ignore.
We are witnessing drought, adverse weather patterns, hotter climates, and wildfires with more regularity, raising the profile of the climate crisis. Efforts were renewed at COP26 in Glasgow last November to help address the challenge, with the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact and agreement of the Paris Rulebook. As a result, we are now seeing record net new inflows into ESG investing and impact.
Evaluating ESG criteria
Long gone are the days when ESG issues were at the periphery of a company’s operations. In just a few short years, ESG criteria have become a key metric for investors to evaluate businesses they are considering investing in.
Investor money has poured into funds that consider environmental, social and governance issues. Data from the US SIF Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment shows that ESG funds under management have now reached more than $16.6 trillion. It’s not just institutional investors who are embracing ESG, with Bloomberg Intelligence predicting that savers across the world will amass £30.2 trillion in ESG funds by the end of the year.
Due to the multitude of divergent factors that contribute to a company’s success on ESG, it can be tricky to pin down exactly what criteria to measure. Depending on the industry a company operates within, environmental criteria could include everything from energy usage, the disposal of waste and even the treatment of animals.
Social criteria are primarily related to how a company conducts itself in business relationships and with stakeholders. For example, does it treat suppliers fairly? Is the local community considered when the business makes decisions that would impact them? Do they have a statement and policy around modern slavery?
While governance criteria have traditionally been an afterthought, this may be changing. Everything from executive pay to shareholder rights and internal controls are relevant to investors within these criteria.
Tracking ESG for competitive advantage
Many experts within the financial services industry point to the power of ESG as a major competitive advantage, if used correctly. It has been noted that increasingly corporations, from big Fortune 500 companies down to small scale-ups, will communicate on their sustainability metrics to grow their business and to attract talent. However, it’s no longer enough to just pay lip service to ESG issues, with abstract commitments increasingly being seen as insufficient. Companies must now quickly progress to concrete objectives that can be measured and tracked.
A wide range of data providers now offer detailed information and tools that can measure ESG performance and effectiveness. Yet major challenges remain around bringing together what is often extremely fragmented data and transforming it into actionable insights.
Focus areas for 2022
The ESG criteria that investors measure is by no means stagnant. Complex societal challenges regularly emerge that require the attention of companies. Contributors recognize several topics that demand a sophisticated approach, including the COVID pandemic, diversity challenges and powerful social movements.
Companies operating within the financial services sector face several specific challenges related to ESG, with contributors believing that fintech will also continue to play a central role in finding answers to them.
For example, industry experts expect customers to be more demanding of firms in SME lending when it comes to understanding exactly what impact they are having on the climate. For many financial services firms, 2022 will be the year that they will try to reduce the time it takes to bring ESG products and services to market, such as green loans and mortgages, as well as checking accounts with sustainability and carbon tracking capabilities.
When selecting a service provider, customers are increasingly interested in the ESG credentials of their bank or financial institution. Research from PwC finds that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that stands up for environmental and governance issues. Consumers are one of the main drivers of ESG and many are putting their money where their mouth is. It’s a trend that’s not going away; financial institutions need to start implementing their strategy for ESG now.
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