For financial services, being customer-centric requires the modernization of platforms and people

For financial services, being customer-centric requires the modernization of platforms and people
Nov 12, 2020
As financial services organizations continue to modernize their digital platforms and experiences, CTOs need to find more effective ways to train, engage, and empower their employees to drive change through technology investments.

The financial services industry is in the midst of a referendum among its customers – people are demanding higher touch, more personalized experiences and services that match what they get from other industries such as retail (like Amazon) and big tech (like Google or Apple). The pandemic accelerated this push, as the shift to digital has become a requirement for so many businesses since March. For financial institutions, the key to successful transformation in today’s remote world is customer-centricity.

A buzzword of yesteryear, customer-centricity is arguably more important now in the context of our disrupted lives. To meet customers’ needs, organizations must first look inward. For financial services firms, this starts with assessing their technology ecosystem, including CRM (customer relationship management) platforms, personalization tools, and other digital enhancements. Their employees – their people – also play a pivotal role. Many CTOs and technology leaders struggle to keep their workforce’s skills relevant in the face of rapid technological advancements. Yet inadequate investment poses a real risk of not getting the most out of employees and technology.

As firms plan and execute their transformation mandates, they should prioritize the modernization of skills and the people power required. Many financial services organizations are experiencing significant workforce gaps, often due to not backfilling roles from retired legacy talent in an attempt to combat the economic devastation of the COVID-19 crisis. Conversely, many organizations have seen an influx of younger employees entering the workforce, leaving gaps in leadership, capabilities, and in some cases, critical and adaptive thinking. These challenges will only become more widespread. For CTOs and technology leaders, an ongoing focus on emerging technologylike machine learning, automation and artificial intelligencewill require a more pointed ability to identify the skillsets, processes, and people gaps across their organizations.

Understanding emerging technologies and the need for new business practices

A CTO’s mandate is much bigger than simply mapping a business’s technology ecosystem to power engagement with customers. Indeed, understanding the business management process and rethinking governance is a foundational element for success. Financial services firms of the future must have the ability to create a vision for a new digital work environment through cross-functional collaboration, DevOps, and scaled agile to drive value in-market at an accelerated pace; it requires a mindset rooted in innovation, design thinking, rapid prototyping, and bringing together disparate data from across the organization to power experiences that meet the needs of their customers. And it requires forecasting what the future holds. As technology and customer expectations advance at an accelerated pace, CTOs need to stay ahead of trends and understand the implications they bring to an organization.

Transformation must be a firm-wide mandate

Any CTO or technology leader should endeavor to accurately predict emerging skills and capabilities their firm will need to deliver more value to customers. But it can’t stop there. For financial institutions, technology leaders must work with business leaders across the organization to align current operations and the vision for future enhancements. They must be an agent of change, focused on driving leadership, modernization, and innovation across the firm’s priority areas; they must steer strategic thinking for the firm around enterprise architecture, innovation management, and research and development. And they must ensure the appropriate planning and risk assessments when introducing new information and operational technology into the firm, along with determinations regarding the right approach and whether to bring this vision to life. We suggest these four steps for guidance:

  1. Assess: Determine the digital maturity of your organization across all divisions, lines of business, and employees.
  2. Plan: Outline your vision, goals, and plan from a technology, business practice, and people standpoint.
  3. Develop: Formalize your planning by devising your work plan, staffing, training, and implementation plans.
  4. Change: Devise a change management framework and process that takes the organization through implementation and beyond, focused less on the technology and more on the people tasked to power it.

CTOs are in a war for talent

Recruiting, developing, and retaining the right talent is crucial. It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Understanding workforce challenges in a more meaningful way will enable CTOs to identify skillset gaps today and forecast future needs. If 2020 has taught us anything from an enterprise analytics standpoint, it's that moving from a historical analysis to a predictive and more agile one – including talent analysis – is fundamental. Being able to predict what is likely to happen and how your industry and customer expectations are likely to evolve, while not being afraid to place some informed bets, will pay off. Both the business and the customer will reap benefits when an organization keeps a close eye on potential risks and makes decisions that both mitigate these risks and improve overall performance. Planning early and often will leave your business better prepared for change.

While it’s unknown exactly when things will return to some sense of normalcy (whatever that looks like), the current pandemic has amplified significant shifts in consumer expectations. Thanks to our new remote and digital realities, the vast majority of industries and organizations are playing catch up on their transformation initiatives. Financial services firms, in particular, must ensure that their employees are uniquely capable and empowered to deliver beyond transactional experiences. These experiences culminate in sustained, continuous relationships between firm and customer, and depend on CTOs and other technology leaders embracing their role in this evolution.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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  1. Frank Cristiano

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