Digitalization Q&A: Sadia Halim, BNP Paribas


Markets Media recently caught up with Sadia Halim, Global Head of Digital Innovation & Transformation, FIC at BNP Paribas to discuss the challenges of digitalization in financial services. 

If you had to grade Wall Street compared to other industry verticals regarding digital transformation, which grade would you give it?

Sadia Halim,
BNP Paribas

Digital transformation is a priority across the financial industry and is consistently highlighted by top management of Wall Street firms, similar to what is seen in other industry verticals.  Across sectors, institutions are focused on using technology and data to stay competitive by trying to enhance revenue, increase efficiency, and improve the client and employee experience. However, challenges arise with implementation and interoperability with legacy systems of incumbents in the financial industry.  Given the complexity and history of the financial industry, incorporating new technology into production environments takes a significant amount of time. That being that case I would give Wall Street a B, but I rate the industry higher for its willingness to collaborate with start-ups and their efforts in trying to effectively respond to the rapidly changing digital environment, as well as the substantial investments being made to be more agile.

Are there lessons and best practices that a capital markets firm can or should adopt from other industry verticals?

Capital markets firms are recognizing the importance and the opportunity to leverage data to better serve clients, as is seen in other sectors, such as retail, media, etc.  One of the advantages that incumbents in the financial industry have is the large volume of data available, and the increasing amounts of data being generated, including traditional banking data, market data, reference data, economic data, alternative data, and the list goes on.  In my view, capital markets groups are taking a strategic approach to adopt a data culture which is resulting in bespoke solutions for clients, increased operational efficiency, as well as improved risk and compliance procedures. Capital markets firms also have learned important lessons from other industry verticals around the need to protect data and utilize data responsibly.

What has been the most important lesson you have learned regarding digital transformation?

One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that you cannot underestimate the value of shifting the mindset of employees on the platform.  Even if you make the right investments and successfully deploy the most innovative technologies to enhance performance, the folks at the institutions must utilize the tools and adapt to new ways of working.  The digital investment will be meaningless if people do not choose to incorporate the changes into their workflow, so adoption is critical. This comes from teams working on education and awareness and identifying the weakness of a new tool.  It is critical to solicit feedback early on from a test group and incorporate the feedback in a reiterative process.

Which is the most common mistake that the buy and sell sides make when trying to transform their businesses digitally?

One of the common mistakes that we are seeing is that many firms are trying to incorporate new and emerging technology just to say that they are using it, without giving enough thought as to if it is the appropriate solution for the problem.  For example, you will hear time and time again that institutions fixate on a particular technology and then look for a problem to fit the solution. We are finding that it is far more effective to identify the pain point and then evaluate various innovations that may be applicable, as opposed to saying here is the solution, where should we use it?

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