Ensuring financial sector continuity and innovation on changing landscape

By Greg Bukowski, Strategic CTO, BMC Software

30 April 2020

Today’s business landscape is not what it was a month ago. Across every industry, enterprises are adjusting to fully remote work policies that inherently change the way their employees engage with one another and their customers. While many organisations are facing this situation, the financial services industry has also been hit with a level of volatility not seen in over a decade. These circumstances have not necessarily surfaced new challenges for IT departments – arguably, the industry has been moving in a fully digital direction for some time – but they’ve undeniably accelerated them.

For the financial services industry, the mandate has always been clear: deliver seamless, integrated, and secure services without failure. Technology has long been instrumental to this mission, but it’s never been more pertinent than it is today when the availability and reliability of online services for both employees and customers are of the utmost importance.

Now is the time for organisations to re-evaluate their operational resiliency and ensure they have the technologies in place to guarantee continuity during times of hardship, pivot with agility as circumstances change, and come out better for it on the other side.

Meeting the needs of customers in a crisis and beyond

In times of hardship, customer needs grow more frequent and customer service conversations can become more difficult. This is especially true for the financial sector in times of economic turmoil. Now more than ever, customers need reliable customer support and unencumbered access to expertise.

With all of these customer interactions happening virtually, financial institutions must quickly take stock of their applications and how effectively they are handling the surge of requests. Are call centre representatives being overrun? Are web pages crashing from increased traffic? IT professionals must be able to quickly ascertain possible trouble spots based on usage patterns and quickly adjust or augment resources to prevent interruptions to customer services.

In addition to bolstering existing digital platforms for continuity, financial services firms should consider how they can enhance the experience based on customer needs. Given the times, what customers require and how they want to receive it could change dramatically. For example, if web traffic is showing an increase in senior customers, it may make sense to add new functionalities or resources to mobile and online platforms that accommodate them. Expanding the ways customers can reach service representatives can make a considerable impact too. By implementing chatbots to accelerate response time or teleconsultant services for a more personal feel, organisations have an opportunity to redefine the customer journey and leave a memorable mark that will cement loyalty for years to come.

Paramount to these changes is the ability to understand customer patterns and respond swiftly and intelligently. The opportunity to evolve and embrace new digital assets is not a new consideration for financial services executives. In fact, a recent Forbes Insights survey of 300 US-based, C-level financial executives commissioned by BMC found that digital transformation was one of the top three business objectives for 50 percent of respondents. It is, however, arguably more important than ever. Leaders in this industry recognise just how critical agility is to remain competitive and how it can only be done through technology. 

Don’t neglect employee experience

It’s not only about the external customer. The employee experience needs to be seamless as well to keep them productive and delivering on customer and business needs. Stay-at-home mandates have placed considerable burdens on company networks, as employees securely access enterprise applications, share files, video conference, send emails, and handle customer support requests from different locations. This is underscoring the perennial question in IT departments: how do you continue to run operations smoothly while also innovating to meet emerging needs?

Today, existing applications require resiliency despite unprecedented usage. IT departments must ensure employees have the bandwidth to support their daily workflows in ways that preserve quality and limit interruptions to service. In organisations where remote work is rare, employees may need laptops. Some may need new ones able to support more rigorous uses, and everyone must be fully outfitted with all the IT trappings, from security applications to virtual private networks (VPN) and shared drives for communal files. With these new remote provisions come the responsibilities of monitoring and maintaining more dispersed systems and protecting a larger number of user endpoints against possible cyberthreats.

At the same time, organisations must also explore new avenues. In some instances, a VPN could be an entirely new need that IT must properly select, deploy, and integrate across the workforce. Some organisations might consider implementing collaboration tools, such as chatbots and instant messengers, to ease the burden on email inboxes while also encouraging continued comradery and company culture. Finally, one must not forget the new challenges that can arise as IT grapples with setup, application installs, and troubleshooting for an entirely remote staff.

IT’s ability to proactively identify areas of need, deploy solutions, and asses their impact will be key to a company’s success during times of challenge – and beyond. The only way to manage these tasks effectively is through data-driven insights. IT departments must be able to easily see and manage data from across the enterprise in a singular view. This functionality is critical to establishing usage patterns and, more importantly, detecting anomalies that could indicate inefficiencies and risks. Artificial intelligence and machine learning-driven applications are playing substantial roles in this effort. For example, solutions like AI ops are helping IT departments cut through the noise to identify threats or faults across enterprises and address them before they occur.

CIOs and IT departments are on the front lines of this new remote reality, putting them in a position to make a substantial impact in the weeks and months ahead. The infrastructure solutions and practices established now could not only help weather the storm but empower organisations to finally realise their digital potential and become autonomous digital enterprises.

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