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Executing on a digital vision: time to let your imagination run wild

With the financial services industry undergoing momentous change as it moves to the digital world, it is time for institutions to reimagine financial services. At SAP’s Financial Services Forum in London, Laurence Leyden, EMEA general manager, financial services at SAP, invited delegates to let their imaginations run wild in planning for the digital world. “It is time to make some plans for your digital vision and execute on them,” he said.

People will be a key factor in succeeding in the digital world. There are two elements to this; people as customers and people as members of staff. In the digital world, a focus on customers will be all about providing financial services in ways that the customer wants, not about what is convenient for the financial institution.

When it comes to the people within a financial services institution, there are issues at the very top – in the boardroom – and within the ranks. Senior management must understand digital transformation and what it can deliver, and more importantly, back it. Recruiting the right staff, not only in IT and operations departments but also across the business, will also help to drive transformation. Too often, new graduates consider banks to be dull; they are more likely to want to work for a fintech. But as one speaker pointed out, for some who have already worked in the fintech world, a bank is the ultimate challenge – ‘fix’ a bank and transform it into a digital enterprise will look great on a CV.

In a keynote address, Ashok Vaswani, CEO Barclays UK, explained how the 327-year old institution is reimagining banking. The answer for Barclays lies in ‘truly connected’ finance, recognition of the fact that finance oils virtually everything that people do and that life is increasingly connected. The bank is focused on individual customers and their personal objectives. A millennial customer will have very different needs from those of a retiree. Deeper customer engagement will come about by offering services and products with which customers identify.

This was a point also made by Joe Van Niekerk, CIO of South African insurer Discovery Vitality. He described how the company has transformed insurance – often described as a ‘grudge’ purchase – into something that resonates with customers. By using gamification technology, Vitality has set up rewards-based programmes in its healthcare and motor insurance divisions. Healthy habits and good driving attract various rewards and lower premiums.

Many speakers pointed out that digital transformation is not a journey that can be done alone. Collaboration is now a strong theme in the financial services industry. Five years ago, fintechs were viewed with suspicion; now they are welcomed into the banking fold and were exhibiting at SAP’s Forum.

Technologies including AI, blockchain, natural language processing, advanced data analytics, open APIs etc will enable banks to create new business models that are not just an update of existing practices. The platforms on which these models operate will increasingly be transferred to the cloud. Delegates heard from Ageas, the first insurance company to build an end-to-end solution on the cloud. Ageas’ driver is to provide “exceptional customer service”, operational excellence and to become a preferred employer – all themes that resonated during SAP’s Forum.



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