By Ross Hignett, Head of Banking and Financial Services, Expleo UK
Global spend on IT by financial services was $440 billion in 2018, and this outlay is expected to rise to $ 500 billion by 2021. Indeed, banking and financial services are often held up as early adopters of digital transformation, compared to other slower-moving industries. Yet, this doesn’t reveal the full picture. There are still plenty of opportunities for technology to confront the underlying challenges for financial institutions (FIs).
A decade on from the global banking crisis, FIs remain under pressure to cut costs.
Confidence has yet to fully recover, so corporations are instinctively cautious and risk averse. Yet, to save money, they need to spend money, and automation of critical business processes is widely recognised as the most effective route to operational efficiency.
Innovation in technology such as data analytics, machine learning and IoT requires considerable investment, but carries its own risks, not least as the technological, regulatory and political landscape is evolving so rapidly. Service delays and outages can lead to reputational damage – something that brands can ill afford in such a competitive marketplace.
However, FIs need more than resilience. Earning customer loyalty is increasingly reliant on brands’ ability to sync new technologies with personal, lifestyle choices. Customers are demanding a quality service. What they mean by quality is innovation and intelligent accessible systems combined with the human touch. As expectations change, FIs must adapt to retain their custom and prepare for the tipping point when digital natives are the majority. Digital technology is both the headache and the potential remedy, with strong and courageous leadership needed to strike the right balance of risk and reward.
Upgrading legacy systems needs a cultural shift
FIs are investing in digital transformation programmes to replace outdated legacy systems, which are vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches, increasingly expensive to run and cumbersome to operate. They also recognise the need to keep pace with new players, who bring a flexible tech stack that can rapidly implement new applications with a better customer experience (CX).
Changing the system is just part of the solution. Brands are investing to embed a change culture that promotes continuous improvement and allows the business to respond competitively to external threats.
Those that get this right are able to turn their strategy into day-to-day operational action.
Futuristic no more
AI has had a good year, becoming a mainstream tool in expected areas such as wealth management and robo-investment, but also helping to deliver better performance in sales and marketing teams. Risk management and compliance is another department that is looking to cognitive technology such as RegTech. Fintech is spearheading improvements to the industry, making progress in growth industries such as peer-to-peer payments, paper-free banking, speedy lending based on alternative credit checks, and mobile tools that put the customer in control. Likewise, they are redesigning the aesthetics and mechanics of the customer experience, making personal finance feel more akin to ordering a pizza or hailing a taxi.
Many of the capabilities that FIs need to rapidly evolve their service are becoming available in the Fintech market, such as products for cognitive banking, credit scoring, quantitative trading, predictive analysis, fraud detection and debt collection, underpinned by technologies like Blockchain.
Traditional banks are responding by partnering or acquiring Fintech start-ups. The new wave of technology that threatened to capsize traditional banks could yet end up providing the fresh impetus they need to consolidate their position within digital society. Likewise, as start-ups face the reality of scaling up their smart idea, the large customer bases of established brands can prove a tempting compromise.
As the ‘everything-as-a-service’ economy takes off, these innovations will release FIs to collaborate further with brands in other sectors such as retail, automotive and hospitality.
What are the key trends moving forward?
- Winning the data war
All this digital transformation is making the collection of data easier, however the really useful bit – converting it into practical insights – is still a struggle. Managing data in a way that combines and analyses knowledge from across global organisations is still a major challenge. Stricter data integrity and protection laws, heavy fines and lower customer trust won’t make this critical opportunity any easier to grasp. But those that can master big data, real-time analytics and enhanced cognitive capabilities will be better equipped to counterstrike the Fintech threat.
- The year of blockchain?Blockchain?
2018 was a sobering experience for cryptocurrency investors. But while Blockchain may be synonymous with Bitcoin, this secure technology is also ranging out into different sectors and applications, from medical records and voting systems to utilities payments and connected cars. It has huge potential in more traditional financial services too, and 2019 could be the year when Blockchain goes mainstream.
- More than financial resilience
Since the 2008 banking crisis, regulators have forced institutions to swell their reserves in case of another crash. With the growing dependency on technology – and the potential threat of disruption from cyber terrorism, outages and data breaches – FIs may soon need to guarantee their operational resilience too. Or they may choose to advertise resilience as a competitive advantage.
- Robots on a charm offensive…
AI assistants and humanoid robots are constantly evolving. These technology advancements are key for FIs becoming cognitive – replicating the human ability to learn and respond to the preferences of customers. That said, there is still work to be done in convincing customers that a personalised service from a chat bot who can understand your speech, gestures and even your facial expressions is a good thing.
- … although don’t write off the human touch
One of the many benefits of digital transformation is its ability to automate the most routine office tasks. Undoubtedly, this upheaval will cause widescale restructuring in FIs. However, employers will still need people with the soft skills, who can create a human experience for customers and keep the brand relevant to everyday community life.
Tech-first for the future
The reality is that a tech-first approach is now the only approach. How banks leverage Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud Technology will determine their ability to tackle cyber risk and compete with highly scalable alternative banking providers. However implementing new tech has its risks, especially if ‘quality’ is not a focus.
At Expleo we believe every technology offering and innovation needs to be built on continuous quality assurance to drive digitalisation and innovation by mitigating risk in IT projects. It is through quality assurance and user experience testing that banking providers can deliver robust and reliable services to their customers.
For more information, visit https://expleogroup.com/industry/banking-and-financial-services
Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards®
Global Banking & Finance Review has awarded Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO of Resource Group, Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020 in recognition of his vision, strategy and strong leadership that have contributed greatly to Resource Group’s success in winning the Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020 in this Global Banking & Finance Awards®.
Resource Group is an investment group with a portfolio of diversified businesses that capitalizes on technology and human talent for value creation. The company has proven that it has gone the extra mile to develop innovative solutions aimed at improving people’s lives and helping Lebanon transition toward a knowledge-based economy. Global Banking and Financial Review, the renowned online and print magazine identified a number of areas that Resource Group has excelled. The company has been awarded Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020, and Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO, receives the award for Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020. Under his leadership, Resource Group has grown from a family security-printing business to a diversified international investment group, with a portfolio of companies across 10 sectors in over 75 countries.
Wanda Rich, editor Global Banking & Finance, said “Mr. Itani took the security printing business to another level and expanded into different technology verticals in an impressive list of success stories”. The list includes digital security, smartcard manufacturing, mobile value added solutions, cyber security and secure communication solutions, telecom infrastructure and managed services, elections supply chain services, lottery systems and operations, mobile and virtual reality games, among others.
Resource Group’s focus on technology has had a constructive and tangible impact on government automation and on citizen experience in target markets.
Editor Wanda Rich says “We are proud to offer Resource Group these prestigious awards and wish them continued success and growth into 2021 during these challenging economic times”.
Global Banking and Finance Review is a renowned online and print magazine. The magazine’s website alone receives over 7 million page views annually. Global Banking and Finance Review provides a balanced view with formative and independent news from the financial community. The Global Banking & Finance Awards® were created to recognize companies of all sizes that are prominent in particular areas of expertise and excellence within the global financial community. The awards are known throughout the global banking and financial community. They reflect the innovation, achievement, strategy, progressive and inspirational changes taking place within the financial sector.
Bouncing back in 2021: Digital Transformation is no longer a choice as dependence on 5G, IoT and Data increases in society and business
By Ivan Ericsson, Head of Quality Management, Expleo Group Limited
The global pandemic has put enormous strain on businesses and brought into sharp focus the importance of being agile, adaptable and able to increase the pace of innovation and change at short notice – catapulting technology right to the top of the agenda for many organisations.
As the economy works to get back on its feet, technology is only going to play a bigger role in our lives. At Expleo, as experts in digital transformation and the reliable implementation of technological innovations, we’ve outlined the biggest tech-driven trends that we expect to see in 2021 and beyond.
1) “Digital transformation” no longer a choice
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s that they need to be poised to respond to abrupt market disruption at any moment, making digital transformation mandatory overnight.
With no room for delay, hugely complex corporations – that have historically been slow to adopt technology – have had to accelerate their reliance on technology just to keep afloat in recent months. Digital change, at speed, has become the norm.
Even last year, the idea of an unscheduled video conference call might put people on edge – now most of us wouldn’t think twice about calling a colleague over Teams or Zoom even for a 2-minute conversation. At the same time, social infrastructure has moved with the needs of its users, with telecoms giants strengthening and opening up networks so we can keep communicating despite social distancing.
There are now very few excuses left for operating in a non-digital way. All businesses need to be intelligent businesses that can change direction nimbly, with speed, confidence and composure. As we see more businesses putting this into practice, it’ll likely result in an increased number embracing and normalising some of the behaviours of tech-savvy giants like Apple and Amazon, who have no doubt thrived during this period.
Their success can largely be attributed to normalising an agile approach. By ensuring all applications have testing facilities built in – a “quality shadow” if you will – it allows for continuous improvements, and the ability to change direction quickly and confidently, when needed. This is particularly valuable today as the world becomes more fast-paced and increasingly unpredictable.
2) Big data/AI/predictive analytics
We’re moving into a space where big data can be extracted from the most seemingly innocuous places. In a hyper-connected world, a move as simple as a dog walk could offer huge swathes of data to the right companies. Many businesses already realise the benefits of capturing and utilising big data, but not all have taken advantage of it. The businesses that move quickest are most likely to reap the rewards in a more impactful way than their ‘data shy’ competitors. Where data used to be a side effect of business operation, it is now the driving force.
As businesses begin to rely more heavily on data to make critical decisions, independent assurance becomes increasingly important to get those decisions right. Forward-thinking, data-driven organisations must therefore assure that the data is correct in the first place, to avoid giving businesses false confidence and risk them moving in the wrong direction – something that is rarely affordable in today’s competitive and fast-paced environment. If businesses are not 100% confident in assuring the quality and accuracy of their own data, they should look to a third party for support.
A key data trend we expect to see moving further into 2021 is the increased use of predictive analytics. At the moment, businesses will often use data analytics to give us insights into our past activities, or to tell us where we are right now. However, the real value lies in knowing where we are going and how we are going to get there. Data analytics will help to identify the optional levels that can be pulled to drive change and realise business benefit.
Secondly, as intuitive technology advances and becomes more accessible, we expect over the next 12 months to see companies of all sizes begin to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) to drive intelligent analytics. In this context, AI refers to various technologies that allow machines to learn, sifting through ‘messy’ big data in order to find and unlock valuable predictive insights into future events. This allows businesses to better adapt their strategy to likely future outcomes and get a head start in the market.
However, with this ever-increasing emphasis on data and data protection, ethical AI will have a more prominent role to play in 2021 and beyond. Protected, usable Data is a by-product of good data security and privacy measures; however, the public remain wary of how their data is being used, particularly after the fallout from Cambridge Analytica’s use of data to influence an election. Businesses, therefore, must give their customers confidence that their data is secure and protected.
3) Moral relevance/corporate altruism
Research shows that young people are increasingly researching and considering the ethics of brands they’re purchasing from. And it won’t be long before this attitude starts seeping into every other aspect of their lives, with more and more people wanting to work for what they consider to be “purpose-driven” businesses.
Talent is the lifeblood of any company, so for big corporations, many of whom were born to create profit, this could put them in a tricky position. They might already be influencing society in a positive way – but this is unlikely to have ever been their main goal.
Moving forward, however, all organisations will have to start thinking about the “Triple Bottom Line”. That means considering the environmental and social impact of your business, alongside your commercial imperative.
We’ll soon see a mindset switch across businesses, from ‘competing’ to ‘advancing’. Instead of wanting to be the “best,” the question will be, how can I better serve the world around me?
In line with this, businesses will have to start thinking more about how to use tech for good, as we’ve seen with the likes of Microsoft Teams connecting tens of millions of people every day, during this very dark time.
2021 is likely to bring even more inroads when it comes to using technology to improve society, whether it’s developing bespoke problem-solving technologies or using IT to ‘eco-proof’ existing sectors, the goal for businesses is to rise to this challenge and build a better future for people and the planet through the use of technology. But all organisations will continue to need to be able to justify technology use and prove that they’re using it ethically, and in a secure manner.
4) 5G new networks – just about all big trends are driven by/reliant upon faster networks – particularly relevant for a more distributed workforce
Greater access and utilisation of 5G networks across the country will underpin and accelerate all of the key trends discussed. Everything we do on our smart devices we can expect to do at higher speed, greater capacity and with lower lag times.
As our digital footprints extend beyond simple web browsing and into our daily lives through smart technology, we are creating huge amounts of data every minute. This vast flow of data is increasingly dependent on new high bandwidth networks to facilitate it. Therefore, the merging of technology and engineering will become critical in ensuring big data is carried successfully to drive analytics and drive business.
The fact we have managed to successfully work from home during COVID is a glowing recommendation for the quality of the networks as they exist today, and they will only get better.
The telecoms industry is already working overtime to ensure that people all over the country get reliable access to the internet – and the fact that there is still inequality in this area proves just how challenging this is. But, in line with this trend toward hyper automation, which will make data extraction and analysis a part of everyday life for businesses, the consolidation of tech and engineering will be ever more important.
Forward-thinking companies will look to incorporate 5G networks into their business strategy. This could be from an internal perspective to enhance the abilities of their remote workforce. Alternatively, this could relate to their own products or offerings – developing an internet of things (IoT) strategy, improve user experience, or bring products to market faster by analysing big data and adapting quicker. Either way, with increasingly improved networks, businesses are expected to take advantage of the huge increase in accessible and usable data.
For businesses to truly reap the benefits of these new technologies, they must be developed and adopted in the right way.
Quality assurance, trust and security are three key requirements that the technology of the future depends on to succeed. Having these requirements at the heart of any digital transformation will ensure that systems perform reliably, having been tested and assured.
By prioritising a seamless customer experience combined with an ability to create, test, and scale digital solutions and operationalise at pace, businesses will be in the best possible position to take advantage of the potential being unlocked by these new technologies.
Ahli Bank, Oman, is SunTec’s 50th customer for its Indirect Taxation Solution
SunTec’s GCC VAT compliance solution to help Ahli Bank automate end-to-end VAT compliance process, manage regulatory changes, and seamlessly integrate it with the existing IT ecosystem
SunTec, the world’s #1 relationship-based pricing and billing company and the provider of #1 GST and VAT compliance solution for Banks and Financial Services in GCC and India, has partnered with Ahli Bank, Oman, to provide its GCC VAT compliance solution.
The win is a landmark one for SunTec as it marks the 50th customer for its indirect taxation solution. SunTec has garnered 24 customers in India and this is the 26th customer in the Middle East to acquire the solution.
VAT is likely to be introduced in Oman in early 2021 and Ahli Bank has taken the proactive step of adopting a VAT compliance solution to ensure operational efficiency, enhance revenue, and augment customer experience.
Amit Dua, President – Client Facing Groups, SunTec, said, “We are delighted to partner with Ahli Bank, Oman in what marks a historic win, in their journey to ensure VAT compliance. We understand that the VAT landscape is evolving within the GCC, and therefore, our solution offers agility to respond to these changing regulatory requirements. With the Xelerate platform and GCC VAT compliance solution, Ahli Bank can digitize the entire VAT compliance process and comply with least number of changes to their existing technology infrastructure.”
He added, “VAT is a crucial step that the GCC countries have taken to implement tax regimes. It is imperative for banks and financial institutions to have a robust and scalable solution to accommodate their specific needs. Ahli Bank joins the list of more than 20 banks who have adopted our GCC VAT Compliance solution. I’m proud to say that approximately 3 billion transactions per annum are processed through our GCC VAT/ GST compliance solution across our client base.”
Said Abdullah Al Hatmi, CEO at Ahli Bank, added: “It is extremely crucial for us to be ready for VAT compliance. We are very happy to partner with SunTec to deploy GCC VAT compliance solution. With SunTec we will have a single solution in place covering all aspects of VAT compliance and we will be future-proofed given that any future regulatory changes will be handled by the solution with ease.”
SunTec’s GCC VAT compliance solution based on the Xelerate platform will enable the bank to smoothly comply with GCC VAT regulations and manage potential regulatory changes with ease. The single end-to-end solution helps automate the entire VAT compliance process including centralized rule-based tax determination, input tax recovery, tax invoice, reconciliation, corrections, adjustments, statements, and regulatory reporting.
SunTec GCC VAT Compliance solution is architected to meet the unique needs of banks and financial services firms and can easily integrate with existing IT systems. The solution is designed to process all taxable transactions across business lines and applications, reduce cost of compliance, mitigate potential risk of compliance violations, penalties, and reputational risk.
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