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Digital transformation is a priority for the banking sector – and it represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Here are Synechron’s top five areas that we believe banks will be thinking about and investing in this year from a technology point of view.

  • Open Banking, Open APIs and Banking as a Service

Open Banking, OpenAPIs and ‘Banking as A Service’should disrupt traditional ways of working and drive adoption of digital banking services. Banks are now in the process of enabling each other and authorized third parties – including tech companies and fintechs- to have access to their customers’ account transaction data with full read and write functionality. This could be the initiative that brings one or more of Google, Apple and Facebook in to transform banking as we know it, without having to ‘become’ banks themselves.

Many financial institutions are launching their own Open APIs to monetise their core value propositions. Banks can generate new fees by offering new products and services. Exchanges, bespoke research firms, and investment institutions will also all be looking at ways to build an open API strategy.

  1. Redefining work

2018 will also see the industry building a new culture and productivity model in a move to ‘Google-esque’ office environments and cultures to attract skilled talent and drive productivity. The war for attracting and retaining technology talent will only get more competitive. Furthermore, banks will spend time honing their employer value propositions and work atmospheres toward the values and environments they believe millennials will favour, hopefully bringing out the ‘intrapreneur’ in every employee. This is critical for workforce planning given that millennials will constitute roughly 72% of the global workforce within the next decade

  • Voice Commerce, Natural language processing and generation

More than 50% of all internet searches will be voice-initiated by 2020. In fact, in countries like China, where typing on a mobile phone is less convenient than speaking, there is already a tendency towards voice-first. In banking, there is a trend toward voice banking and payments, with AI solutions like Synechron’s Neo, Kasisto, Clinq, Nuance and Personetics leading the way.

With Amazon Show, Synechron has an inbuilt touch screen and front-facing camera that allows for easy authentication on our voice banking app. Other voice-based technologies like ‘hotwords’ will help shape banking innovation in 2018 as smartphones and devices monitor our conversations for more targeted advertising. Hotwords are also capable of transforming areas like financial advice, customer service, compliance, and even real-time personal finance management.

  • Biometrics and the Internet of Me

In 2018, biometric adoption will go mainstream due to the out-of-the-box integration with smartphones, wearables, and IoT devices. CCS Insight has predicted this market to be more than US$40 billion by 2020. This is driving a new trend – the Internet of Me – where we are connecting our bodies and brains to the internet to better understand our health, behaviour, and more.

Banks and insurance companies are using the IoM to access lifestyle data and spending patterns, and the market for financial applications and solutions from banks and insurers will increase exponentially – supported by cloud-based delivery and effective bigdata infrastructure. Such convergence in technology is likely to lead to the amalgamation of B2B and B2C business models into new “business-to-business-to-consumer” (B2B2C) models where data can be used for behavioral targeting, modification and authentication.

  • Cognitive Automation

Cognitive Automation is the natural evolution of Robotic Process Automation, which learns from mouse clicks and other desktop PC patterns using clever techniques and screen scraping, and combines it with the power of data science, machine learning and cognitive computing. Unlike RPA, cognitive automation focuses on meta-human automation which compliments humans and makes them quicker, smarter, better employees. Ultimately, the goal is taking the robot out of employees so that they get more time to do strategic work, talk to each other, andinnovate. The challenge is it involves considerably more variables to be effective, often involves neural networks and requires a more refined skillset.

2018 will be another exciting year for technology in the banking sector. Banks which do not make significant digital progress in 2018 will find it hard to compete and may show signs of lower revenues, customer attrition and shareholder discontent. The pace and variety of new technologies that are coming together means that banks have plenty of choice on how to innovate and differentiate themselves to an increasingly growing digital customer base – now they need to make it happen.