Banks looking for a pay-off from investments made in digital processes should focus on back office automation projects and steer clear of multi-channel integration, according to research from McKinsey.
McKinsey's findings appear to be at odds with the digital investment strategies being adopted by most established banks, as they pour money into front-end, customer facing applications.
McKinsey looked at the impact of digital investment on cost/income ratios and levels of enablement provided by IT in end-to-end automation of processes.
The areas with the highest correlation with profitability were product back-office automation, digitisation of document management and automation of credit decisions, and big data analytics applied to sales campaigns.
"The profit margins of banks with high levels of digital enablement in these areas were, on average, twice as high as the profit margins of other European banks," says the consultancy.
In contrast, investments in multichannel integration and sales dialogue support appeared not to yield a clear payback.
"Investing more in multichannel integration may be advisable for banks whose integration between channels is poor," says McKinsey. "But the complexity of their architectures may cause an escalation of project expenses and delays, therefore reducing overall return on investment."
In the absence of limitless funding for IT projects, McKinsey says banks can strecth their budgets by adopting strict cost control, rigorous project prioritisation, advanced sourcing practices, and standardisation of IT infrastructure and application architecture.
"Banks urgently need to digitise their businesses, but they should invest selectively in areas where recent research indicates the best payoff," states the firm. "To meet IT budget pressures, CIOs have many opportunities to fund investments by cutting the costs of day-to-day operations and application development."