The time to shift from running the bank to changing the bank is now
Tackling costs has become a dominant theme for financial services organizations and a key consideration in any strategic decision. The cost per customer of operating a bank in today’s market has risen to the point that, all too often, it is prohibitive to delivering high levels of customer support.
A major contributing factor is the growing expectations from more demanding and savvy customers. They are aware of an expanding array of choices and highly value personalized guidance and services. Added to this, newer and more agile firms have disrupted the landscape, bringing these services to market quickly with the use of emerging technologies.
Maintaining the pace and keeping up with technology leadership has proved a challenge. For some firms, simply running the bank has required major ongoing investment while introducing challenging backlogs in technology and customer experience. The pressure of incremental regulatory compliance has further compounded the issue, absorbing significant portions of budget and change capabilities. With this burden now easing, firms have freed up some budget and resources to invest in developing their propositions. For them, this is just the beginning.
Firms recognize the risk of being left behind if they tread water with the same approaches. Equally, they need to be cautious about how to initiate change so as to not waste resources and simply amplify existing problems. To thrive, they must align their efforts around a single common goal: achieve agile customer centricity at a sustainable cost.
Agile customer centricity and AI
The key is to strive toward creating a genuinely agile enterprise that is able to deliver the right support today and seamlessly accommodate future changes. Enter AI.
There is an enormous amount of activity in this area with Silicon Valley companies leading the way, investing billions of dollars exploring the many possibilities. Tech giants such as Google and Baidu spent an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion on AI technology globally in 2016.¹ However, financial services firms, historically ahead of the technology curve, have been slower to implement AI in real practical terms. Ongoing high-profile investments reflect the industry's enthusiasm for AI but many have struggled to effect real business change, which suggests it is time to take stock.
There are many possibilities available to harness advanced data analytics, machine learning and intelligent process automation. Research firm Opimas predicts that AI will have a major effect on capital markets jobs, with more than 20,000 more jobs in technology and data by 2025. As efficiencies grow, it predicts as many as 90,000 fewer jobs in asset management, 58,000 fewer in securities services and 45,000 in sales and trading.² However, these numbers will pale in comparison to the opportunities to improve productivity and create true incremental client value.
It is easy for firms to pursue AI projects that simply garner attention without actually benefiting the business. For AI to have a meaningful impact in financial services, it must align with the core business purpose and, specifically, deliver shareholder value. The customer is central to any firm’s success, so by focusing on customer centricity, it can organize and prioritize its AI efforts to get the best results.
Achieving this requires agility. Firms must be innovators and think like start-ups, with a focus on speed, emerging technologies and data. The best AI strategies are those that enable firms to unlock their full potential and, ultimately, do more with less.