If 2016 has taught us anything, it is that across politics, business and even popular culture, one of the few things we can predict with confidence is unpredictability. It means that, as we kick off the new year, innovation and agility must be front of mind to help financial services organisations manage the changing environment so as to anticipate and then react to new demands from regulators, investors and customers.
One part of being ready for the unexpected is to plan where you can; anticipate what is coming but be flexible enough to respond rapidly. The other is to innovate, take the bull by the horns, and start to shape the future rather than waiting for it to hit. We believe that we will see the financial services industry executing both tactics in 2017. One thing we can be certain of is that new and emerging innovations will steadily transform the landscape this year.
So what are the key trends we can watch out for?
The regulatory deluge continues and 2017 will usher in more reforms. This year, the most progressive organisations will throw themselves into preparation for PSD2 ahead of the early 2018 deadline. These organisations will get ahead of the game by positioning themselves to exploit a new app-driven era of openness in banking.
Like all regulatory compliance initiatives, the move is a challenge on the face of it – but the drive to comply and also take advantage of opportunities to streamline architecture and reduce operational costs, could actually push banks towards digitalisation. This is no bad thing, given changing consumer behaviour.
Most recently, we have seen a move away from the asset-heavy mindset, towards an asset-intense lifestyle, led by the new generation growing up in an era where you can consume everything as a service. Why own a car when you can hire one for a day? In an age where you can Uber a kitten (you really can do this in America) it stands to reason that banks must continue improving their offerings to make sure banking and personal finance keep pace with society’s digital trailblazers.
To meet today’s customer demands and reduce costs, financial services organisations have started to embrace the cloud, and this adoption is going to accelerate into 2017 and beyond. With around 10-12% of bank revenue currently spent on IT, it makes sense to embrace new architecture which lends itself to reining in spiralling costs and delivers greater flexibility to respond to expected (or unexpected) events.
Blockchain will continue to bubble along. And despite being a way off hitting mainstream, we are likely to see more examples of it moving out of the lab and into the live environment. The true value of blockchain is significant, but will be distributed between participants of the networks – including users, support providers, technology providers and infrastructure providers – rather than one company.
This year, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) strategies will also open up core infrastructure, enabling third parties (such as fintechs, consultants and enterprising developers) direct access to develop and deploy financial services apps. Open interfaces, open standards and open platforms will drive faster innovation cycles and change the face of IT development. If the financial services community can build on top of trusted solutions and services, it can reduce costs and embrace agility and innovation with lower risk, transforming financial services.
True transformation comes back to people and meeting the needs of consumers. Banks must look at how they can streamline architecture and digitise processes to deliver a richer customer experience. Cutting account opening time to less than five minutes using selfie authentication, or delivering tailored offerings to consumers saving for specific items, can change the way banks operate from a technological perspective – as well as influencing the way in which people bank.
In 2017, technology will also take a leading role in furthering financial inclusion and driving more sustainable trade. Imagine, for example, a shoe manufacturer in India wants to sell its goods to a retailer in the UK. Facilitating this type of global trade by boosting financial access for SMEs can help developing economies and SMEs to reduce costs in the supply chain, broaden economic prospects and improve wealth distribution (and poverty reduction) for everybody.
And for events we can’t anticipate?
No matter how hard you try, you can’t predict everything and, if 2017 follows 2016’s example, there will no doubt be surprises along the way. The ability and agility to respond to these challenges will be key. And, more than that, it could be the drive financial services organisations need to bring innovation to the fore and make the move to customer-centric business models – to give focus to truly changing people’s lives.
Simon Paris, President, Misys