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FINANCE PREDICTIONS 2020

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Jayakumar Venkataraman, Partner, Banking, Financial Services and Insurance, Infosys Consulting

 

1. 2020, the year of the Ecosystem Approach and the API Economy

“In 2020, we will see the rise of the ecosystem approach in creating new propositions and delivering banking and financial services to customers. Globally, open banking and PSD2 have enabled newer players to enter the market and gain access to customers’ data that was previously the sole preserve of the banks. This has given rise to many third-party providers (TPPs) that are developing more exciting product propositions for customers, particularly in personal financial management, using customers’ financial data from the banks.

“We will see this approach growing significantly in the world of Trade Finance. As well as this, banks will bring together multiple players such as shipping companies, local chambers of commerce and insurance companies to create richer product and service propositions for their customers. We will see blockchain-based solutions continue their pivotal role in helping bring a digital ecosystem’s players together.

“All of this will be underpinned by rapid growth of the ‘API economy’, where banks and the other players in the ecosystem are exposing APIs for all their key capabilities, using this to integrate and orchestrate new products and services for their customers.”

 

2. In 2020, data will drive more customer insights than ever

“In the last few years, we have seen a significant rise in digitalisation and the amount of data that is collected on customers and their preferences, transactions, and market and industry data.

“In 2020, we will see the emphasis shift to using this data to drive a much richer understanding of customers, predicting and responding to their needs and transactional patterns. This will generate much greater insight into their lifecycle stage, and help create personalised offers that address their needs. Equally critical will be the use of this good quality data in risk assessments, compliance and fraud monitoring, to deliver safe banking services to customers.

“For commercial customers, banks will bring together the vast amounts of transactional data across multiple product lines – such as lending, trade finance and payments – to create a much richer understanding of transactional patterns, business seasonality and the resultant impact on their financial needs. This means that they too can proactively engage their customer with tailored propositions.

“To make this intensive, customer-centric approach to data work, we will see more banks adopting AI and machine learning technologies across their businesses to make sense of all their data. These initiatives are currently constrained by the availability of good quality data, which does not help in building models that are robust and yield correct decisions. In 2020, we will see banks scale their investment in data initiatives that focus on improving the comprehensiveness, availability and the quality of data, so that AI and ML can be used effectively and reliably.”

 

3. Operational resilience needs the right technologies

“Operational resilience is emerging as one of the top agenda items for senior executives in banks – and also for the regulator, to avoid the threat to their individual and organisational brand. Certainty and continuity of service availability is very important for customers, so it is important for regulators too. Operational resilience relies on tightening controls and governance around business and IT operations, while continuing to invest in the infrastructure for the future.

“Modernisation and transformation of the IT infrastructure in banks – in particular the adoption of cloud and migrating the hosting and delivery of key capabilities in the cloud – is emerging as a major strategic direction. As well as eliminating the costs from maintaining their own data centre operations, migration to the cloud also offers resilience, agility and flexibility, advanced analytics, and innovative applications that are built on a cloud-first approach. All of this significantly improves integrated working and removes some serious challenges.”

 

4. Fintech acquisitions on the horizon for banks

“The trend of fintech firms disrupting the way banks and financial services players deliver products and services to their customers is here to stay. The way banks think about the fintech players has also undergone a significant shift. While they were once seen as fringe players, this year, banks will be looking at using fintechs to fill gaps in their own offerings, giving much richer propositions to their customers.

“Banks are acting as investors, incubators, collaborators and strategic partners. Banks have set aside formal bandwidth to engage with the fintech community to identify the upcoming stars, to understand how their capabilities can be integrated into their product propositions, and to ensure they don’t fall behind their competitors. In some cases, banks have also bought out the fintech firms outright, as a move to gain competitive advantage over their competitors. Santander’s acquisition of ebury is one such example, and we will see many more acquisitions of fintechs by banks in 2020.”

 

5. Regulatory compliance and the growth of Regtech

“Regulatory compliance will continue to be a top spend area for banks, as the need to comply with existing and emergent regulatory and industry initiatives continue. There are plenty on the agenda: FRTB, EU Anti-Money Laundering Directives and other industry initiatives such as ISO20022 adoption and IBOR Transition, as well as a slew of other national and regional requirements. With all of this, banks will have their hands full in 2020. Banks will be looking to be efficient about how they approach these initiatives, to then structure their programmes of work so as to minimise duplication and rework in their efforts.

“The emergence of RegTech firms is a key development that can aid the banks in their compliance initiatives. Estimates on the size and the growth of the RegTech industry vary significantly, but we know that this sector is set for rapid growth. Regtech firms are focused on developing solutions in data collection and reporting, decisioning, predictive analytics and risk identification and management. Like with fintechs, we expect banks will co-opt these firms to aid their compliance initiatives.”

 

6. New ways to reduce costs

Given the recent trend of results posted by the banks, cost reduction and rationalisation will be an important focus for 2020.  As opposed to outsourcing and offshoring of work to lower cost locations, and the adoption of automation and RPA to drive costs down, in 2020, cost rationalisation will focus on a more fundamental operational transformation.

“This will involve a radical rethink of the way banking processes are designed and delivered, and the adoption of an automation-first approach. This approach will be supported by a much smaller team of multi-skilled expert operations teams that oversee business processes, and can jump in to manage any exceptions or incidents with expertise.

“As well as a radical redesign of operations, we will also see banks drive operational costs down through the monetisation of assets and mutualisation of costs. Banks will carve out operations and technology capabilities to a strategic partner that also offers such services to other banking clients. We have already seen some of these deals executed, and we will see these conversations picking up scale in the coming year.”

 

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Banking

LEGACY INFRASTRUCTURES MUSTN’T HOLD BACK INNOVATION IN FINANCIAL SERVICES

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By

Ian Perry, Principal Solution Architect at Zscaler

 

We are living in a changed world; one of hybrid home/office work and customers who may never return to bank branches and the services of the high street. According to RFi Group, 73 per cent of UK consumers interact with their main bank via digital banking at least once a week, and only 23 per cent believe nothing can replace what they get in a branch. Meanwhile, institutions including JP Morgan, HSBC and Nationwide have all indicated an intention to retain new higher levels of homeworking.

Now that employees work from a multitude of locations and customers bank and manage their money online the race is on to adapt processes, systems and support structures for safe, secure and productive homeworking and digital access for customers. Inevitably, this calls into question legacy infrastructures in financial services and how they might impact digital progress.

 

New tools, old systems?

The question is, how can banks and other financial institutions securely provide a higher level of remote access to their systems and applications when incumbent infrastructures were developed for an entirely different time?

Of course, the first thing to note is that banks aren’t coming at the problem from a standing start. Oft-cited legacy infrastructures have been added to over time so that many set-ups are now an on-premise/cloud-hosted hybrid. In fact, the finance sector has invested heavily in cloud infrastructures and cloud-based office applications.

The issue is how to harmonise this set-up so that it works for users and organisations as a whole. Here, there is work still to be done. It’s often the case that core banking applications remain in mainframe on-premise networks, whilst other operational tools reside in the cloud. Cloud-based Office 365 is a case in point. It supports digital working, as organisations need it to, but a range of its benefits and functions are at odds with legacy network setups.

Inevitably, when a product or service innovation reaches implementation planning stage, the starting point is the existing network, its systems and processes. The hard part is flipping this approach to assess what the resulting experience will be from the user point of view, but that is exactly what’s needed. It’s an approach that competing market disruptors have been ideally placed to adopt from day one.

However, that needn’t mean that financial institutions must completely overhaul their legacy infrastructure – something that would be expensive and complicated. They can still fully capitalise on the benefits of cloud-based services, among them flexibility, productivity, business continuity and the right customer and user experience.

 

Zero Trust without friction

One way is to take a ‘Zero Trust’ approach. As a result of recognised risks, 72 per cent of companies are prioritising the adoption of such a security model. This resets a data security approach from one that traditionally secured the perimeter to one that protects users, devices and business resources.

It’s a shift in emphasis from securing the network to securing each access and doing so without introducing friction into processes for users. We can think of legacy digital protection methods as a visitor getting a key from reception and being allowed to wander around the building, and compare that to a frictionless cloud experience in which a security guard shows the visitor directly to the room they need.

The Zero Trust model lends itself to high levels of remote access, which is exactly the situation organisations are now in. Employees work from anywhere, from a range of devices, and customers access services previously provided in-person online. Applications are no longer exclusively within the data centre, they are outside the network perimeter meaning that traffic must be enabled to run securely through the internet, rather than through corporate IT. Doing so not only equips organisations for the way things are today, it can also reduce the cost of individual site maintenance and enable the full benefit of cloud-based tools.

The technology now exists to make high levels of security completely invisible and so, with a growing number of security processes now taking place in the cloud, educating customers will be key. The industry must come together to improve user interfaces to signal what’s taking place behind the scenes.

With the right security approach, financial services can deliver on new access priorities to support their workforces and serve customers. Convenience, as well as security, should be the aim along with a strategy that ensures legacy doesn’t hold back innovation. That way, banks and other finance institutions can begin to fully capitalise on the benefits of cloud, adapt to meet customer demands as they evolve and compete in a disrupted market.

 

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Finance

HOW CFOS CAN TAKE A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO ENTERPRISE AGILITY

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By

Frederic Portal, Financials Product Marketing Director, at Workday

 

Whether brought on by a market shift, technological innovation or as we have seen over the last year, a pandemic, change in business is constant. But to survive it, or even thrive in it, organisations must find a way to adapt rapidly, while remaining strong and stable in the long-term. This is where enterprise agility and the CFO come into play. In theory, the concept of enterprise agility — a company’s ability to outperform the competition and drive growth in new, ambiguous situations by learning and adapting — sounds like something every business should inherently do. Yet, many are trying to introduce technology or implement processes before defining and establishing what agility really means to them as an enterprise. In other words, embracing agility should be a holistic approach and crucially must be led by the CFO. The CFO and financial team are instrumental in making sure that a business can lead digital transformation, steer through uncertainty and ultimately, embrace a culture with agility at its core. However, in order to achieve enterprise agility successfully, there are some simple factors that a CFO should consider when guiding their organisations to become truly agile.

 

Enterprise agility starts with the CFO

The last year made it clear that the finance function is leading business recovery. In fact, a Workday survey with C-suite leaders showed that 37 percent of respondents agree that finance is the function most likely to influence digital growth in a business. Overnight, CFOs and their teams had to rethink their processes and leave behind legacy technology in order to keep up with the continuous change that the pandemic now demands. Naturally this prompted a company-wide transformation.

To make sure this transformation towards agility doesn’t stop at technology adoption, CFOs should put practical steps in place, working in collaboration with all senior leadership, from IT to Sales and HR, to build a plan that will guide a wider change within the business. Once a plan is in place, it must be communicated and then reinforced to the rest of the workforce by providing them access to real-time data and cloud-based models. Led by the CFO, this will give crucial insight into payroll, cash flow and planning scenarios. In turn getting the entire organisation on board, creating uniformity and ensuring teams are all working from the same source of truth to move the business forward.

 

Embracing an agile mindset 

When incorporating new agile processes, CFOs must work with all business leaders to define and integrate an agile mindset. Enterprise agility isn’t just a process, it needs to be baked into the heart of the organisation — and its digital transformation agenda — so that teams across the business embrace qualities such as quick thinking, being perceptive and taking action. Adopting this way of thinking and behaving is the foundation for any agile organisation and must begin with the finance department.

Take Aon as an example. The multinational British professional services firm sells a range of financial risk-mitigation products, including insurance, pension administration, and health-insurance plans across 120 countries. By March 2020, COVID-19 resulted in the company’s entire team working from home, which meant Aon’s finance team had to do a fully-remote close. While this had never been attempted before, Aon had baked agility into its financial processes by investing in the right cloud-led, and agility enabling technology. With up to date data, and transparency across the regions, Aon’s finance team was able to close remotely, with one region even being able to close a day early.

 

Empowering agility 

Transparency and accessibility are also key to enterprise agility. So, it’s critical that CFOs empower all departments to work from the same data sources, assumptions and outcomes in their workflows. It is only by prioritising digital transformation and having technology structures up-to-date, that businesses can experience real results, and fast.

Take Netflix, for example. Even in this streaming powerhouse there were improvements to be made to back office processes. Netflix’s back office systems had usability issues due to clunky workflows and limited visibility. Led by the CFO and investing in transforming the back office into one unified system, Netflix was able to introduce an agile mindset across the business that was vital in turning this around. For instance, every time Netflix creates an original show or movie they have to create a legal entity and set up the banking and with Workday it just takes minutes to add it to an existing framework. Implementing the right technology resulted in more efficiency, more agility and fewer silos among the IT, Finance and HR teams.

 

Taking a holistic approach to enterprise agility

The disruption of 2020, and impact COVID-19 has had, is showing no signs of slowing down in 2021. It is simply no longer enough to just deploy new technology or processes with hopes of becoming  agile. In order for an organisation to truly embrace agility, it must take a holistic approach and proactively adopt an agile mindset across the entire organisation and its way of working. This is where the CFO plays a pivotal role.

 

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