By Stuart Templeton, Head of UK at Slack
From the rapid rise of the cashless society to instant in-app bill splitting, the world of banking has transformed at pace over the past decade. The sparks that lit this revolution were non-traditional fintech services and challenger banks, which have, in the space of just a few years, restructured a centuries-old sector.
However, today many banks are going through their own intensive conversions; restructuring their products, investing in apps and online tools, and building new features for digital-first consumers.
Some are implementing modular banking: enabling their customers to build their own virtual bank by adding on modular ‘bricks’ with the products and features that they need—whether that’s AI-powered accountancy tools for small businesses or budget planners for individuals.
Whichever approach to digitisation is taken, these are great developments for banks and for users themselves: they’ll drive a more competitive industry with better products for end-users. And the UK industry is flying in this regard: according to KPMG’s latest figures, UK fintech investment has soared to a staggering $37.3 billion in the last year, a sevenfold year-on-year rise.
However, to build transformative products, you need transformative work practices. While there’s been plenty of buzz around the innovations in fintech in recent years, there’s been a no-less important transformation taking place behind the scenes. So, how have fintech’s leaders been evolving internally, and what comes next?
Banking’s inevitable shift from physical to digital
The continued success of fintech—for banks young and old—stems from its ability to rapidly meet new customer expectations and deliver on new digital experiences. In short, the customer has always been at the heart of fintech.
And just as those new customer experiences have centred on digitising how customers approach banking—shifting away from the brick and mortar banks of yesteryear—to build them, organisations have had to invest in their own digital workplaces.
This is part of the bigger flip taking place, from work being centred around the physical office to it being centred around the digital HQ. The move from physical to digital has been accelerated by the past two years, but it was an inevitable trend—because digital HQs can simply offer more than their physical counterparts.
And employees recognise this, with over 80% wanting flexibility in where they work, something which can only effectively be delivered on with a digital HQ. For both traditional and challenger banks, this is key when there’s been a 182% increase in tech job growth for the first quarter of 2022—meaning competition for talent is hot and delivering on employee expectations is a must to secure hires.
However, the benefits of a digital HQ aren’t only around creating more flexibility for employees. They are one of the keys to unlocking the agility and pace that feed the fintech sector’s fantastic products and eye-popping growth.
How the digital HQ accelerates product innovation for fintech
Digital HQs connect teams, tools, customers, and partners in a single space that’s fast, flexible, and accessible for anyone in the work-from-anywhere world. So, what does that look like in practice?
The first thing a digital HQ does is break down communication and collaboration silos. In legacy banks, which have been operating for hundreds of years across multiple continents, this is vital. One way digital HQs can start to dissolve those long-standing silos in the world of banking (which can lead to issues like duplicated work, poor communication, and slowed innovation) is by moving communication and collaboration to the channel.
Channels are a way of organising conversations for every topic, project and initiative, making day-to-day collaboration across a business simpler, more pleasant and more productive. It gets work out of siloed blocks of emails or niche tools between teams, and makes it simple to add anyone to a project, wherever they are.
Further, channels can integrate with other key apps to bring in data from different sources. For example, at Mettle, NatWest’s digital business bank for freelancers and small businesses, customer feedback is fed directly into channels, helping the team to have more informed conversations with its customers and deliver faster, more personalised resolutions. Meanwhile, by using a GitHub app integration, engineers can request code reviews from their colleagues with the click of a mouse—meaning development of new features can move at pace, all in the channel.
While channels drive collaboration and coordination in the digital HQ, they’re only one way that fast-moving businesses can transform how they work. Low or no-code solutions are helping everyone—not just tech specialists—to automate elements of work in the digital HQ, for example, sending a new fintech feature to the right teams for testing and gathering their feedback.
Helping fintech fly
Fintech stemming from the UK is helping to rebuild banking the world over. To feed that success, organisations must not only innovate when it comes to great new features for consumers, but in how they approach work itself.
Just as investing in the digital bank is key to delivering consumers fintech experiences, investing in the digital HQ is essential for the teams building that future. The digital HQ can nurture flexible ways of working, banish silos and help teams embrace the potential of automation which accelerate innovation. With that digital infrastructure in place, the UK’s fintech sector, and the people powering it, can lay the foundations of banking’s evolution for centuries to come.