Disruption: Beyond Technology

Terry Flanagan
This entry is part 1 in the series Disruption in Financial Services (4/16-5/16)


Disruption has become quite the buzzword on Wall Street, as conventional wisdom holds that it’s just a matter of time before Uber- and Airbnb-like business models transform capital markets.

And while the underlying technology is critical, it’s only one part of the story, as disruption is hardly limited to the IT department.

“The challenge of new technologies that loosely fit under the disruption or digital banner is to the income point, the value chain essentially,” said Leda Glyptis, London-based director at Sapient Global Markets. “So what is being disrupted is not a technical conversation — what is being disrupted is your day, your organization, your talent pool, your go-to market, your client relationships.”

“Everyone is talking about disruptive technology. But it is not the technology that is disruptive,” Glyptis told Markets Media. “It may have been when the journey started, when IT departments were scrambling to validate how real certain new capabilities were, to find the right talent to ask the right questions. But that is increasingly no longer the case.”

In a 2015 report, the World Economic Forum posited that innovation in financial services is deliberate and predictable, and the biggest competitive battlegrounds will be where the greatest sources of customer friction meet the largest profit pools. Disruption will not be a one-time event, but rather a continuous pressure to innovate that will shape customer behaviors, business models, and the long-term structure of the financial services industry.

Emerging innovations will give customers access to previously restricted assets and services, as well as more visibility into products and more control over choices, according to the WEF report.

Four in five financial services companies report that customers want more individualized experiences, according to a recent Oracle study. Financial technology companies have emerged to deliver more personalized competitive services; for example, small-business lender On Deck and marketplace lender SoFi can deliver a loan in minutes, rather than weeks.

Leda Glyptis, Sapient

Leda Glyptis, Sapient

“Individualization and agility are key to revenue growth,” said Senthil Kumar, vice president of marketing at Oracle Financial Services. “However, we’ve found that financial services organizations are challenged operationally and technologically: 80% of banks cannot offer on-demand order fulfillment and 63% are struggling to be channel agnostic.”

“What we’re seeing is a need for both data and digital transformations – with an iterative approach,” Kumar continued. “Banks can’t eat the elephant all at once, so to speak, or the business ceases to continue operating. But in addition to technology, a level of personalization, hand-holding, and caretaking must take place, some of which can be supported by technology.”

By being more customer-centric and offering more individualized customer experiences, financial services companies can increase revenue by an estimated 14%, according to Oracle. “It’s quite interesting that this transition is not at the top of executives’ to-do lists. What we’re seeing across the board is that organizations aren’t ready to take the leap internally,” Kumar said. “This level of change typically requires hiring new skills, providing extra training opportunities for employees, and more, but the bottom line is that organizations need to approach it from a transformational perspective.”

At least some financial services concerns are talking more about what they’re doing to get up to speed.

In a recent earnings conference call, Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter said “we have made great progress towards digitizing the bank and building digital solutions to give our customers the best experience…For example, we are now one year into an exciting new program that allows us to significantly reduce friction points in key customer areas and deliver the best on-boarding experience.” Commerzbank CFO Stephan Engels said “we have significantly improved our digital client in the phase with the introduction of new multilingual online portal and cash management app.”  

The buzzwords sound good, but ultimately it’s about connecting the dots back to the core business, which is easier said than done. “Everyone is talking about ‘customer centricity’, but very few people stop to unpack the question and figure out what that actually means.Really knowing what your customer does with what they consume from you is not very straightforward for a bank,” said Sapient’s Glyptis.

“If you think about any type of banking activity — no matter how simple or complex the product is, it’s always a stepping stone to something else. You don’t do it for the fun of it,” she continued. “So the alignment with the ‘something else’, be it at the commercial, retail, or corporate level, is often absent.”

Added Glyptis, “But to become truly customer-centric, you need to both align with your customer, whatever their shape and size, with what they buy from you, and how they do that. And the digital revolution enables you to do the’ how’ in a way that is much more aligned with what the customer values.”

Featured image by freshidea/AdobeStock

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