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DIGITAL COMPETITION: HOW TRADITIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS CAN CONTINUE TO ADAPT IN THE FACE OF NEO-BANKS

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By Halil Aksu, CEO and co-founder of Digitopia

 

The meteoric rise of the neo-bank has given traditional financial institutions a lot to think about in recent years. Born in the era of mobile banking, the convenience of a digital-first approach can be epitomised by the customer base of leading financial technology company, Revolut. Having only crossed the 1 million customer mark in December 2017, Revolut now finds itself with 15.5 million global users, and this growth is only expected to continue.

Neo-banks are challenging traditional institutions that still operate with legacy systems. They are the “new kids on the block”, capable of quick money transfers and seamless payments, as well as a plethora of other financial services. Competition is fierce, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the pace and scope of change. In response, traditional banks have had to undergo severe digital transformation – and they have certainly stepped up to the plate.

 

Evolving with the Times

According to research undertaken by Digitopia, in conjunction with UAB Digital, traditional banks have made significant strides in their digital transformation efforts in the last 24 months.

The digital maturity of the banking sector is improving, especially when it comes to the adoption of technology, data analytics, employee upskilling, and customer experience. Judged across six dimensions – technology, governance, innovation, people, operations, and customers – the average digital maturity score for the banking sector sits at 3.27 out of 5. This shows, on average, an improvement of 0.2 maturity points per year.

Digital transformation can develop in multitudes across each of these six dimensions. While further improvement requires defining and following a clear strategy with company-wide roadmap alignment, Digitopia’s findings in digital maturity research point to a few specific areas where the banking and finance industries appear to be excelling the most:

  • Data is being acknowledged as a critical asset and analytics capabilities are developing.
  • Organisations know the importance of prioritising customer experience.
  • There is progress in:
    • Use of technology
    • Integration of processes
    • Employee upskilling
  • Businesses are applying new ways of working.
  • Data-led critical decision making

 

Digital Transformation Is a Process

To continue this progression, financial institutions must take a holistic approach in their digital transformation, encompassing six dimensions into their efforts; technology, governance, innovation, people, operations, and customers. There is no way to ‘complete’ a digital transformation. To drive true business value, digital transformation must be regularly measured and benchmarked across each of these six dimensions. 

Digital Transformation is a team sport. Each dimension requires equal attention and investment. One must excel across all each of these six dimensions to be successful.

 

Assessing Digital Maturity is Key

Accurately measuring and benchmarking digital progress is just as important as the digital transformation effort itself. Tracking digital maturity throughout the digital transformation journey enables organisations to consistently and efficiently improve their digital processes.

By following the methodology that the six dimensions provide, businesses will progress. With that said, it is just as essential to measure and benchmark this progress regularly.

Regularly measuring progress allows an organisation to look at the bigger picture and create a competitive advantage. This will allow for an accurate understanding of where the organisation is doing well, and where it must improve. With that knowledge, a business can finally move in the right direction, closer to digital maturity. Eventually, it will find business success.

 

Developing One Step at a Time

The journey toward digital maturity is complex. It covers a range of business domains and requires harmonious functioning across each one. Over the last two years, many financial institutions have achieved significant digital progress. They have developed a range of digital capabilities and a considerable degree of integration. However, the job is never finished.

Truly digital companies do not limit themselves to using new technology, allowing remote working and process automation. They must rethink their core value proposition and set a clear direction to develop their capabilities while moving towards their goal.

Developing digital maturity takes time and effort, but it is an extremely fulfilling process.

 

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How insurers benefit from digitalisation

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Oliver Werneyer, CEO & Founder, Imburse

 

Insurers need to embrace digital transformation to stay relevant. Customers nowadays are well-informed and expect user-friendly experiences and smart solutions that meet their needs. They are also more demanding than ever, so being able to gain their attention and trust is key to boosting customer loyalty and guaranteeing sales. Delivering an excellent omnichannel customer experience is only possible through the adoption of technology and the optimisation of processes.

Insurers have been facing the pressure to digitalise for a few years now, and it continues to increase. Technology is here to stay, and customers are likely to continue using it for their everyday tasks. The traditional insurance industry as we know it is undergoing a disruptive evolution, driven by customer demand and the rising competitiveness of the industry. To be customer-driven, however, insurers need to place focus on improving customer experience from end to end. This goes from the moment that customers are searching for policies online, to the moment customers file a claim and expect a quick and seamless reimbursement process.

This may not be news to insurers, who are well-aware of the need to embrace a digital transformation journey. However, they are faced with challenges that make it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to compete with newer, innovative companies that place the customer at the centre of their business proposition. For instance, when it comes to payments, insurers must be able to integrate with various payment providers and technologies so they can offer their customers a wide variety of payment methods, as well as the payment methods that best suit their unique needs.

Oliver Werneyer

While some customers may prefer to receive a voucher for their favourite shop, others may be happy with a bank transfer or a push-to-card payment. Being able to meet customers’ individual needs is crucial to gaining their loyalty, and even more important now that hyper-personalization has become so popular across industries. Integrating with various providers is a complex process, mostly due to insurers relying on old and outdated IT systems that power their entire operations.

These integrations are incredibly time-consuming and expensive and require a lot of internal resources. Insurers don’t typically have these resources available, because they don’t have a dedicated payments team nor the in-house expertise to leverage payments. Equally, the length of these integrations makes it difficult to swiftly adapt to continuous market changes. Speed and flexibility are crucial elements of success and elements that most insurers don’t have.

These challenges can only be solved through partnerships. Thankfully, the Insurtech market is packed with innovative solutions that can enable insurers to solve their most pressing problems. Such companies, for instance, enable end-to-end connectivity to the whole payments world. This means that insurers are able to connect to any payment provider or technology they want, in any market, for both collections and payouts.

Instead of having to deal with lengthy and cumbersome integrations processes, insurers can focus on other key business areas while solutions like Imburse take care of all the heavy lifting. Another key element that insurers must consider outsourcing is expertise. Payments is a niche area and, while crucial to the success of the business, it isn’t considered a core department. Being able to access agnostic payment experts that help insurers navigate the payments world and make the best business decisions is a stepping stone for the successful optimisation of payment operations.

Some of the benefits of embracing digitalisation for insurers include streamlining customer experience and ensuring that customers go through a seamless and quick journey from beginning to end. According to PwC, 80 percent of companies are now investing in omnichannel experiences, powered by the need to ensure customer retention and satisfaction. Customers expect everything to be instantaneous, whether that is finding the most suitable policy for them, making a claim or receiving a payment. Digital insurance makes it possible for insurers to meet and exceed their customer’s expectations, and boost retention and satisfaction. Digitalisation also enables insurers to reduce costs. According to a McKinsey report, automation can reduce claims costs by as much as 30 percent. Insurers can improve their underwriting processes, improve speed to market and generate new revenue streams by, for instance, adopting embedded insurance and partnering with other companies. This will boost sales conversions and lower the costs of distribution.

Large incumbents can more than double profits over 5 years just through digitalisation (McKinsey). These benefits are both in the short and long-term. In the long run, having future-proof systems and processes in place will enable insurers to continue to adapt as the market changes – and it will change. Being able to have this flexibility will prove invaluable.

 

About the author

Oliver Werneyer is the founder and CEO of Imburse. Oliver spends most of his time overseeing the overall operations of the company, but with a strong focus on powering international growth. Before founding Imburse, Oliver held various roles in the insurance industry, with the likes of Liberty Life, Swiss Re and Genworth. He also founded Flynrate, an innovative flight tracking and flight delay insurance app, and became a leading member of London’s startup ecosystem, sharing his industry knowledge and passion for entrepreneurship with London-based startups.

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The penny has dropped – the finance sector needs Data Governance-as-a-Service

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By Michael Queenan, Co-Founder and CEO at Nephos Technologies

 

In our data-driven world, the amount of data is growing exponentially and it’s predicted that the amount generated each second in the financial industry will grow 700% this year. Leaders of financial services organisations have realised two things since the start of the pandemic – that data on their customers and services is their greatest asset and that they must embrace technology to make intelligent business decisions to grow successfully and outperform competitors.

Since the financial sector holds arguably the most valuable and sensitive information, organisations must do more than just store this data. They need to ensure its security, integrity, and governance so that it’s useful in improving the brand’s customer experience, innovating products and services or predicting future trends to improve risk management.

Yet without a robust data governance model – a strong set of rules and processes for what data means, and how it is categorised, owned, accessed, stored, and used – data is worthless. Only when an effective data governance model has been established, will data meet regulations and be secure. Data leaders must shift gear in their data processes to avoid hefty compliance penalties and unlock potential value from their data assets.

 

The data governance challenges faced by financial sector organisations

The barriers for achieving ‘good governance’ are many and varied. Ignorance of the benefits of data governance is a major hurdle for developing a governance strategy. Many financial firms have invested – at significant cost – in data governance tools, but struggle to deliver the benefits they are looking for. Many don’t have the right skills and resources to maximise or set the right metrics to measure the business value. Some are compromised by unoptimised gaps in their approach.

With many different elements to master, data governance is complex – from identifying the right tools to managing the challenges presented by encryption, all whilst ensuring that data quality is sustained and data is managed responsibly.  The negative impact of misplaced investment in ineffective data governance strategies can be significant, for the short and long-term.

 

Why data governance matters

With the acceleration of digital adoption in the financial services industry, it has become crucial to deliver seamless, intelligent customer experiences. Data governance is the key to managing data flow, ensuring compliance, and scaling up. Proof that data governance matters is evident in the Master Data Management Market growth prediction, from $16.7 billion in 2022 to $34.5 billion by 2027.

Data governance is a comprehensive methodology for ensuring the quality and security of the company’s data. The various benefits of an effective data governance strategy include minimised risk, coherent policies, metrics and processes, and better implementation of compliance and enhanced data value. However, for financial services, there are significant advantages as a result of the following:

  • Data governance saves the company money by increasing efficiency. Precious time can be saved by having good quality data and a single source of truth, with less duplication of data, and less time needed to correct data errors.
  • Good data governance gives the business confidence in having accurate and trustworthy data, the holy grail for delivering outperforming customer experiences.
  • A data-driven culture can also be introduced to your business through good data governance. With the ability to gather critical customer and market insights that can guide the direction of your business, data governance allows financial institutions to drive innovation and gain competitive advantage.

 

Bridging the governance gap with Data Governance-as-a-Service (DGaaS)

Increasingly organisations are turning to the ‘as-a-Service’ model to bridge the gaps in their data governance capabilities, as well as ensure critical alignment between objectives and results. This dedicated approach aims to minimise the risk of investments and delivers the strategy and proven technologies required to ensure data governance success.

DGaaS can be applied across each major component required to deliver good data governance. First, it uses software tools to scan all data within a typically complex financial services data infrastructure in its data discovery and classification phase. Without this detailed insight, organisations can’t always identify their data assets, any data mishandling and the level of risk generated.

The next part of the process is creation and documentation. This means organisations can drive their governance objectives through to execution, while removing the operational and recruitment overheads, which means they can purely focus on value created from data. In doing so, organisations can convert the raw outputs from the toolsets into meaningful business outputs.

With a holistic approach, DGaaS allows financial services organisations to focus on the transformational potential of data while critically staying compliant.

 

Reaping the benefits

Data is a vital asset to enable financial sector organisations to build the right capabilities to deliver their services and remain competitive. With a robust data governance model, financial firms can assess risk, predict trends, and seize market opportunities based on data-driven insights. Only data-driven processes, built on high quality and effectively governed data, will enable them to build outstanding customer experiences. It’s essential that leaders realise data governance is a fundamental discipline, not a luxury, and establish an effective model to formalise processes and responsibilities before their data lets them down.

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