It’s been said that “change is the only constant in life.” The global pandemic created a wave of change for everyone. We experienced the sudden shift to remote work, the acceleration of e-commerce, and a focus on digital capabilities.
by Michael D’Onofrio, CEO, Orbus Software
For financial services, there was the additional challenge of tighter budget control, and increased regulations around cybersecurity and data protection, in addition to rising customer expectations for stellar digital-led delivery.
As a result, we’re seeing three key challenges emerge for financial services CIOs:
- addressing disruption from new technologies and emerging business models,
- achieving a first-class customer experience,
- maintaining business as usual.
What links these challenges is the balancing act of controlling risk while enabling technology-driven transformation. Organisations with a more proactive and collaborative approach to risk management fared better during the pandemic than those with a defensive and reactive approach.2
However, Gartner notes that “almost half of global financial services organisations are still in a very early or even immature stage of their digital transformation journey”3 and rely on traditional business growth or are still working on digital optimisation (versus digital transformation) efforts. When confronted with the above challenges, those with strong Enterprise Architecture were more equipped with the tools to assess and respond.
Addressing market disruption
A 2022 Alix Partners study found that “70% of business leaders report high disruption to their company, up 11% in the past year. 94% of executives say their business model must change in the next three years.” The pace at which disruptive forces impact businesses today means leaders can no longer “wait and see.” The best-performing companies disrupt and reinvent themselves on a continual and ongoing basis.”1
Technology is the foundation of the modern bank and at the heart of much of this reinvention. But many financial services firms rely on customised and legacy systems (about 55% of enterprise applications!) and are only very slowly migrating to cloud-based options. Outdated technology infrastructure reduces agility, flexibility, and organisational resilience. You just can’t pivot or bounce back from a threat or transform as quickly.
Rising from disruption requires executing on increasingly integrated capabilities. This requires clarity and alignment on the challenge being faced, the systems, people and processes impacted, the strategy to move forward, and the shifts already underway. Many organisations don’t have the tools needed to cut through this level of complexity.
Enterprise Architecture supports the ability to execute through a shared common language across lines of business, an understanding of the layers of the organisation impacted, and a toolset to respond. A microservices and service-oriented architectural approach supports greater business agility. EA improves speed to market for application and data integrations, and the automation of business processes or workflows while establishing control over scenarios. For CIOs, speed, executional clarity and alignment make the difference in responding to change – and, planning for the future.
Achieving a first-class customer experience
To remain competitive retail banks need to ensure customers can move between communication channels easily and that they personalise online interactions to maximise customer interactions and additional revenue opportunities. McKinsey reported that 76% of US consumers moved to digital channels for the first time during the pandemic, while a survey by Accenture2 showed that 58% of customers want to be able to switch between human and digital channels.
In order to achieve a first-class customer experience, financial institutions need to focus on delivering true omnichannel: offering the same services to customers across all digital and offline channels, synchronising their data for reuse across channels in real-time. For many FIs, this trend accelerated the need for digital transformation and increased focus on digital customer experience.
The challenges CIOs face here are threefold:
- Cost and complexity of adopting omnichannel technology often spiral out of control
- Omnichannel technology projects are sometimes impeded by disconnected silos of enterprise information
- Security and compliance risks are not always visible and not accounted for
The delivery of integrated channels and seamless end-to-end transactions relies on Enterprise Architecture. Enterprise Architecture can not only help with the delivery of such things but also enable the creation and deployment of digitally-enabled business strategies and new operating models using those technologies.
Enterprise architecture can help control investment across IT portfolios, create a single source of truth of all enterprise information from all areas that are to be integrated, and gain visibility into compliance and security to anticipate and prevent potential threats.
According to an FT article from last summer, banks in the US and Europe were starting to show signs of being back to Business as Usual, moving away from the negative effects of the pandemic. This does not mean we are out of the woods. But it is a start.
The pandemic highlighted two things: the need for and benefits of cross-departmental collaboration, and the importance of “as is” and “to be” planning. Organisations need to start moving away from a reactive business model to a proactive one where the focus is back on winning against the competition. This is also the time for financial services firms to reassess the short-term fixes they put in place over the last two years and look at long term designs.
We know change is a constant. What differentiates resilient organisations is the ability to endure and even benefit from change. They have the agility to align IT assets with risk, resiliency and business processes & programs around an actionable plan.
Enterprise Architecture is the missing link between technological resilience and operational resilience. Enterprise Architecture provides organisational clarity to accelerate this transformation in a strategic and purposeful way, mapping the process of a desired future state. Overcoming these challenges in the coming year will be key for FIs in order to be truly resilient and be able to weather the next storm.