Speed and quality under pressure: How financial services are different

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1 The challenge of speed About the research The report is based on a survey of 461 senior, Europe-based executives. Of these, 72 were from the financial services sector, including retail, corporate and investment banking as well as insurance. More than half (52%) of respondent companies have annual incomes over US$500m. The survey sample is senior, with 49% C-level or above and a further 23% senior vice presidents, vice presidents or directors. In addition, The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted seven in-depth interviews with corporate leaders or noted academic experts, as well as substantial desk research. This article aims to offer some guidance to managers in financial services hoping to drive greater process speed and harness the potential of changing technologies to better serve their corporate goals. Speed and quality under pressure: How financial services are different Every industry must adapt to survive, but financial services are distinct. They are also caught in a net of conflicting demands from consumers, regulators and shareholders. These challenges have become sharper in the wake of the financial crisis, which has damaged customer trust and provoked sharp reregulation. As technology changes, financial services organisations ought to be ripe for innovation. However, no doubt because of their strict regulatory requirements, they tend to be more bureaucratic and risk-averse than other sectors. And let s not forget that change requires investment capital something that for many financial services organisations is still scarce. Change is not slowing down While 99% of financial services executives have experienced technology-related disruption of their industry in the last three years, more than one in five (22%) expect the next three years to yield zero technology-related disruption. After the business model and process shifts of recent years, and given the pace of innovation in mobile banking, analytics and social media, it is astounding that they should predict no such disruption. Noticeably more than in other industries, financial services executives tend to think that technological change has plateaued. This idea that change is slowing down is actually a potentially dangerous one for the financial sector. AN ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT RESEARCH PROGRAMME SPONSORED BY The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014

2 Technology transformation is escalating, says Tony Prestedge, chief operating officer of the UK building society Nationwide. As evidence, he points to the digitisation of money. Just look at the entry points of PayPal and Google Wallet. Most banking institutions still use a batch system. They process throughout the day and then consolidate and balance the ledgers overnight. Come on, man, it s a 24-hour world out there. Real-time banking will soon be the norm. The rise of algorithmic trading and cloud computing makes this as important to investment institutions as it is to traditional lending and financial services organisations. Brokerages have followed exchanges online and customers demand smooth interaction, anywhere and all the time. It is not only the development of technology that is putting banks under pressure. It is about responding to changing customer demands. The Internet used to operate on a model of connecting people to a web page, says Jaroslaw Mastalerz, the COO of mbank, the third-largest retail bank in Poland by number of customers. That s how most banks still operate. But when you look at how people use the Internet now, it s connecting to individuals through Facebook and Skype and the like. Customers are going to want to interact with individual employees over their mobile phones just as they used to interact with people in branches. And that change requires reworking processes because people interact with people especially when using mobile phones quite differently than when they interact with web pages. Regulators are also pressuring banks to evolve quickly. It s not only the technology and the shift in customer behaviour that is driving change, says Dr. Peter Leukert, Capco Partner and Head of the Capco Institute, a business and technology consultancy, and the former CIO of NYSE Euronext. It s also the regulatory requirements and the huge cost pressure that banks are under. I don t see the pace of change slowing down in banking. Indeed, regulatory compliance and security are of paramount importance for the financial sector, and essential for business and consumer confidence. Moreover, banks need to simultaneously comply with national and EU regulations, which are layered on top of each other. This becomes even more complex for institutions operating in several markets across the continent, as the EU has not yet delivered a unified single market in financial services. Even the Single Rulebook of the European Banking Authority (EBA) will not eliminate local tailoring and regulatory variation. Thus, financial services companies need to ensure not only that their technology processes are integrated, but also that they meet seamlessly with the complicated layers of regulation piled upon them. They still have to move fast to meet customer demands, but they can ill afford any mistakes in the process. What is holding financial services back? It is not surprising, then, that financial services executives value the ability to carry out rapid organisational change. More so than in other industries, financial services executives value agility, with 58% citing speedy adaptation as important, compared with the respondent s overall average of 44%. In particular, they stress the importance of changing quickly to achieve objectives such as attracting and retaining customers, adopting new technologies and improving regulatory compliance. 2 The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014

3 Where is adapting to change is most critical: How financial services are different (%) All Financial services Regulatory compliance Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit. Adopting new technologies Attracting and retaining customers We re very lucky we have a chief compliance officer who focuses as much on simplification as she does on compliance, says Nationwide s Mr Prestedge. That allows us to comply with regulatory requirements while at the same time removing unnecessary barriers to speed. Integrating technology platforms is a common problem. But financial services executives more often cite systemic obstacles to agility: bureaucratic mind-sets that impede decision-making insufficient information access risk-averse cultures that stand in the way of unproven initiatives. In terms of enabling speed, mbank s Mr Mastalerz points to one solution: change the culture by hiring entrepreneurs, rather than traditional bankers. Speaking about his own organisation, he affirms: We don t have an incumbent group of bankers who learned the business in the 1980s and 1990s. It s very difficult to convince those people to adapt to disruptive change. We focus on selecting people who share strong interests in business and technology, and then create an environment where they can be more flexible than in the average bank. The people we hire don t see speed as an impossible challenge. They just do it. The financial institutions surveyed are more likely than other sectors to use technology, but they tend to lag behind organisationally. Less than 30% of respondents agree with the statement: We minimise The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited

4 Biggest obstacles to agility: How financial services are different (%) All Financial services Bureaucratic decision-making processes Effectively linking all of our technology platforms Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit. Insufficient access to information A risk averse culture The difficulty of getting employees, business units or functions to adopt a common approach The complexity of our business processes internal barriers to rapid action (such as unnecessary approvals and controls). This pattern holds for several other practices that could lead to greater speed, such as sharing speed-related best practices, assigning formal responsibility for managing speed, and benchmarking their processes. Financial services executives further cite the issue of poor governance of change management more than those in other sectors (43% versus 29%). These are essentially issues of management diligence and process optimisation. Executives need to assign responsibility, track progress and replicate successes once they are identified. Towards that goal, below are some key takeaways for delivering greater speed: Address what can be managed There is regulatory complexity, where there s relatively little you can do unless you simplify your business, says Dr Leukert. There is complexity around product and services, and there is a lot you can do to simplify that. And there is complexity in legacy technology, and often there is no business case to completely replace that, so you need to manage it, keep it under control, and make sure you retain the ability to change at least the customer-facing parts quickly. Complexity can be managed if you manage it both on the portfolio level and the individual project or initiative level. The key is to have a very clear blueprint and a plan for executing against it. 4 The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014

5 What financial services does to enable speed - and what other sectors do (%) All Financial services We use technology extensively to enable greater speed We minimise internal barriers to rapid action (such as unnecessary approvals or controls) Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit. We share best practices related to speed We have assigned formal responsibility for managing speed to an individual or department We assess or benchmark processes for speed Speed is not in our culture Use technology as a support Mr Prestedge emphasises that you should articulate a business strategy in a way that allows technology to be a responder to rather than a driver of the organisation s direction. Technological change is all around us. But to be effective, its speedy deployment must be in the service of business objectives. Then refine your operations Use benchmarking and other process improvements to ensure that speed can coexist with quality. Identify internal barriers to greater agility and eliminate unnecessary approvals or controls. Bureaucracy is necessary when it contributes to legitimate risk management or compliance goals. Everything else should be slimmed down so that the business can operate quickly but without mistakes. Increasing speed while satisfying both customers and regulatory requirements is going to be a serious challenge. But financial services companies are facing an array of new market entrants; many are aiming to overturn traditional business models. If existing companies don t strive to become faster and more agile, they may simply get left behind. The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited

6 About the sponsor Ricoh provides technology and services that can help organisations worldwide to optimise business document processes. Offerings include managed document services, production printing, office solutions and IT services. Whilst every effort has been taken to verify the accuracy of this information, neither The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd. nor the sponsor of this report can accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this white paper or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the white paper. 6 The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014

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