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Digital transformation calls for engaged and educated leadership

I read with interest the recent Finextra article referencing Accenture’s survey, revealing that only 10% of all banks’ board directors, as well as 10% of CEOs, have any professional technology experience. Furthermore, the survey shows that one-third of banks still have no tech savvy directors sitting on the board.

I was not surprised to read this, but I am still disappointed by the low number. While many big banks are like huge oil tankers, in that they have little agility to turn around quickly, the concept of digital or business transformation has been around for a while now – it certainly is not a new concept.

It makes me wonder why more senior banking staff at the established banks are not more technologically-savvy. Surely this would give them more insights into the world inhabited by the banking disrupters, their major competition, the digital-only banks who are shaking-up the banking sector in a way that has never been seen before.

Perhaps size influences board engagement, a lack of which leads to disinterest in anything other than shareholder returns. Are boardrooms routinely bogged down with regulatory administration? Yes, probably. A "digital transformation project" comes along that challenges the boardroom, which is not accustomed to or knowledgeable about technology. This has led to examples of paying lip service to "going digital" by launching an app or buying a start-up, which is not enough. Or the board lets IT departments make the big decisions instead of project managers and business analysts.

But digital transformation is not just about technology. It is about changing the core of a bank’s culture, systems, organisation, and processes. It is not simply about turning a tanker around and heading in another direction – it is about a ship refit that modernises processes that take advantage of its talented workforce. Everyone steers the ship, not just the helmsman. An understanding of how technology works, as well as up-to-date knowledge of trends and breakthroughs, can help build a common direction that is underpinned by people who understand what needs to happen and how technology plays its part.

For those senior bankers in the UK who are worried about their lack of technical insights, I would urge them to remember that it is not too late to lead your institution on a digital journey. Creating digital routes to market is not the complicated, time-consuming process it once was. When it comes to working with a third party to help you implement your digital transformation plans, you should all be working from the same plan. There is little for the third party to trip over because the client boardroom gets it; they know what needs to be done, and every resource will be available so that the third party can realise the bank's vision. Common understanding about what digital actually means is the catalyst for a solid, productive relationship.

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Abbie Crome

Abbie Crome

Senior Marketing Executive

ieDigital

Member since

26 Apr

Location

Kingston Upon Thames

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Financial Transformation

The pace of evolution for many corporate finance and accounting functions is accelerating. The mandate of the CFO is expanding and the challenges they face accumulating. This blog is an exploration of these topics.


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