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What the Next Phase of Digitization Means for Financial Services Operations

Digitization is revolutionizing the way banks work as much as it is the way customers bank; this all means a more prominent and complex role for financial services operations teams

For those working in financial services, it may already feel as if digitization has upended their industry, but there is more to come.

This is especially the case for those working in banks’ operations teams; as more and more customers become comfortable with digital financial services, and as automation and data collection and analysis become a vital part of the industry, operations teams are now directly responsible for a large part of the customer experience, shaping customer behavior in ways that affect both revenue and costs.

Four Areas to Focus On

In order to be successful in this rapidly changing digital environment, senior operations managers should focus on four areas.

  1. Improve customer confidence in Operations’ processes: With the rise of mobile apps and online portals, customers now often complete tasks that they once would have done with a member of the bank’s staff. In the absence of this frontline support, firms should remove any uncertainty from important tasks, such as product purchase, onboarding to a new service, and so on. Failure to do so could easily reduce customers’ confidence in the process.

    Operations teams should seek to build customer confidence by providing transparency and clarity of information throughout the processes they are responsible for. One way to achieve this is to contact customers in the event of any delays, and set appropriate expectations. Moreover, allowing customers to have a view into operational processes (for example, by providing an online tracker to see how a mortgage application is progressing) will also help improve customer confidence in a self-service environment.

  2. Accelerate automation efforts: The adoption of automation is gathering pace. Recent advances in robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) have significantly reduced the average time to deploy these technologies, and plummeting implementation costs have further increased ROI.

    As a result, more and more financial services firms are embracing automation. More than 50% of operations managers report that their firm will increase spending on RPA and AI in the next two years, according to CEB data. From conversations with managers in CEB’s networks, most operations teams have already moved from proof of concept stage to piloting RPA projects within their organizations.

  3. Train the workforce to learn new skills: As more and more tasks become automated, the role of operations’ staff will have to evolve to handle more value-added tasks. In a recent CEB survey, operations executives across Asia and North America highlighted three critical competencies they believe an operations workforce will need in the next five years:

    • Adaptability and flexibility.

    • A customer centric mindset.

    • An improved ability to communicate and collaborate.

    It’s clear that the future requires an adaptable, innovative and responsive workforce that can make use of all these new AI and data analysis technologies at their disposal.

  4. Develop close partnerships with internal stakeholders: As banks use automation technologies more and more, the lines between operations teams and IT teams are expected to blur. This would require ops/IT to collaborate on process improvement efforts, enable business-led projects and collectively make decisions about legacy systems, disconnected databases, and siloed information.

    To navigate all of this, operations leaders will need to work more closely with their IT counterparts and, to make a success of those relationships, will have to take greater responsibility for making projects a success, provide more visibility into project and technology portfolios, and be better at measuring the ROI of each project.


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