Digital Transformation in Financial Services, leveraging Agile
The financial services industry is undergoing significant disruption driven by consumer demand for new and innovative products and services, with rich user experience, shorter timelines to deliver while continuing to reduce cost. Enterprise agility is emerging as a key imperative for such digital transformation. Smart adoption of agile is now critical for banks and capital market firms globally. This article highlights how successful firms are leveraging agile for such transformation in a rapidly evolving industry landscape.
Over the past few years, the nature of financial services has changed owing to consumer demand for highly personalized service, intuitive interfaces, backed by robust security and business transparency. Most financial services firms have embarked on digital transformation keeping customer centricity at its core but flexibility in continuing to on-board new and emerging technologies will be critical to retain the edge in today’s dynamic and competitive marketplace. There is a need to adopt evolving data and insight driven approaches to increase market share, use cloud to improve security, leverage AI for contextual and personalized service, in line with the firm’s vision and strategy. Enterprise agility and the ability to innovate, adapt and respond quickly, is no longer a choice but the cornerstone of successful digital transformation.
What Drives Successful Digital Transformation?
Here are 5 key factors that are crucial for successful digital transformation programs in the financial services industry:
- Put customers at the core – Consumer today want seamless experiences across every channel, service and product. They also expect financial services firms to create personalized products and services that address their specific preferences and goals, with robust underlying platforms, provide competitive pricing, that can educate consumers and can support additional tools.
- Accelerate time-to-value – Somewhat like Moore’s Law that predicts the doubling of transistors in an integrated circuit every 2 years, consumers expect their banks to double down on their value proposition within 18 months or less. This means that banks need a smooth innovation delivery pipeline that tracks market trends, tests innovative products and uses fast feedback mechanisms to iterate for continuous improvement. Such an agile, on-demand innovation pipeline will help banks improve customer stickiness by catering to changing consumer preferences.
- Leverage the potential of minimum viable product (MVP) – A recent PwC report shows that while 61% of respondents from financial services and FinTech firms feel they are good at generating ideas, only 41% feel they are good at developing MVPs . Achieving customer-centricity as an enterprise goal calls for a consumer-driven focus among product teams where continuous feedback is used to drive continuous improvement. This requires strong collaboration between business and technology teams, a robust tooling ecosystem and an incremental approach to creating MVPs. Such a strategy will help banks quickly roll out much-needed capabilities across digital channels and avoid becoming obsolete.
- Modernize legacy to keep pace with digital – While digital technologies such as cloud, big data, analytics, can improve efficiency within firms, they still depend on data residing on-premise and information flow across legacy systems. Thus, a crucial aspect of digital transformation is modernizing the core systems using Micro-services, APIs as well as DevOps processes for continuous integration & continuous delivery leading to faster release cycles.
- Upgrade the workforce – As per the Future of Jobs Report - 2018 by World Economic Forum, 56% of workforce in financial services industry will require learning new skills and 29% of the workforce will be employed in new emerging roles by 2022 - up from 15% in 2018 . As automation replaces routine tasks and machine learning accelerates process efficiency, companies must take due care to manage concerns around ‘automation anxiety’. This can be done by organizing hackathons and ideathons, infusing entrepreneurial thinking in the workforce, investing in cross-functional teams and reskilling employees on emerging technologies to create a culture of learning, that is vital for firms to thrive.
The Power of Agile in Financial Services
An underlying theme among the above success factors for digital transformation is the need for agility. Infosys has helped financial services firms globally, adopt agile approaches for greater value realization. Our experience shows that there are 5 common underlying themes and they include the following:
Understanding the bigger picture – The end goal of digital transformation can be represented as a roadmap of milestones to be achieved, features to be released incrementally or a chart of targeted outcomes to be realized over time. Agile teams have the advantage of understanding this bigger picture, allowing them to better identify what steps are needed to achieve small and large goals. Such teams comprise of multi-skilled personnel that collaborate well with the extended organizational ecosystem to uncover challenges, brainstorm solutions and execute resolutions with precision. Agile teams also leverage agile practices such as iterative delivery and frequent demonstrations to business teams for better involvement, thereby aligning IT with business.
A leading US Insurance company successfully used Agile to enhance Business-IT collaboration on a large digital transformation program and was able to bring down time-to-market for new features by nearly 80%.
Shift from project-based to a product-driven mindset – Many organizations continue to view agile as a purely technology-related concept for improving project delivery by identifying defects, meeting deadlines and achieving milestones. In reality, agile represents a new way of organizational thinking that goes beyond smooth project delivery to encompass customer-centricity, business-driven IT, outcome-oriented change and delivering business value from each project. With customers at the core of thinking when developing, testing and deploying, agile projects are delivered continuously, fulfilling top priority requirements first while responding to changing and evolving requirements.
A leading broker/dealer leveraged agile for modernizing their legacy platform to a distributed transaction posting system which helped improve the ability to handle market volatility and more than doubled the legacy throughput in terms of transactions per second.
Translate agile digital to clear outcomes – Enabling digital capabilities is not about simply adopting digital technologies but driving better outcomes. This is where agile helps. Prioritization of features based on business value facilitates outcome driven mind-set; shorter and more frequent release cycles provide early visibility to business, thereby amplifying the feedback loops - making it easier to pivot, if required, keeping in mind the target outcomes.
A US Bank made this shift and leveraged Agile to deliver faster to business, thereby contributing towards 25% increase in digital channels revenue within the whole-sale banking portfolio.
Get on-demand DevOps-themed delivery – Organizational agility is about creating a continuous lifecycle to brainstorm ideas, build new capabilities and deliver high quality services and products. This requires a well-defined technology and tooling ecosystem to accelerate idea generation, development of features on cadence and delivery on demand utilizing DevOps.
A leading Australian Bank successfully adopted DevOps for a strategic digital banking initiative, thereby accelerating the release cycles resulting in faster time to market. DevOps capability amplified business feedback loop by 20X in the digital initiatives across retail banking, allowing for rapid response to changing market needs.
Innovate continuously and responsibly – While agile helps organizations foster a culture of experimentation and innovation, this culture must be nurtured across the enterprise and not be relegated to a single vertical or ‘innovation team’. Initiatives such as hackathons, ideathons or immersive learning experiences based on the principles of failing fast with a focus on cross-functional collaboration help firms remain ahead of the innovation curve.
Financial Services firms are beginning to measure and report Key Business Indicators to track success of their Digital Transformation Programs. These include metrics like percent increase in digital adoption by customers, account opening - initiation to conversion, average time from account opening to funding, cost reduction in account servicing, quantum of asset retention, overall increase in customer satisfaction and more.
The key drivers for success for any digital transformation initiative, include enabling customer-centricity, faster time-to-value, minimum viable product releases, legacy modernization, and workforce training and enablement. Adopting enterprise agile has been a crucial step to achieving the above outcomes. Agile approaches have helped financial services firms connect each step in their transformation journey to the bigger picture, adopt a product-centric mindset, drive better outcomes, leverage DevOps for on-demand delivery and create a culture of responsible and consistent innovation. With these capabilities, banks will be able to continuously transform to achieve better service efficiency, higher product quality, delightful consumer experience, and greater business growth.