How would you describe an industry which is expected to wrestle with 300 million pages of regulatory documentation by 2020? Brave. That is exactly what the financial services industry is: brave, and ready to face the future.
Approximately £60 billion will be spent every year in the UK alone on meeting regulatory obligations, one study has predicted. This is equivalent to a staggering 2.6% of the nation’s GDP. The cost is worrying, and customers will bear the brunt of it.
Even more alarming is the burden such regulations will put on people assigned to keep pace with them. Those employees’ jobs will become exasperatingly repetitive. One tiny error in managing documents and details could get organizations into deep trouble with regulators, investors and customers.
However, technology can change all that. Modern data sciences, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), natural-language processing (NLP) and cognitive computing can eliminate the drudgery involved in executing hundreds of tiresome financial processes.
With 'finnovation' advancing, soon work may not seem like work anymore. Instead, technology will take over jobs in fields such as compliance, trade settlements and cross border payments. Employees will once more be able to use their intelligence, intellect and intuition - characteristics that are critical to business, and that machines do not possess - to become innovators and explorers. More importantly, they can use the available time to improve customer experience, which is more art than science.
The first step involves going digital by transforming paper-based and labour-intensive processes. We don’t have to wait for that future - some of it is already unfolding before us. Pressure from employees and customers in the financial services industry for an Amazon-like experience has been mounting. Users want processes such as opening and accessing an account to be fully automated, smart and intuitive. A host of digital banks have begun to show what is possible. Such initiatives are showing remarkable business outcomes.
The Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) serves as a good example of how digital can improve services and eliminate tedium from the workplace. The bank has launched new digital partnerships that are reengineering jobs, and helping launch new services for customers. Last November, DBS launched the largest API platform, with 155 APIs. This created new payment options, products and service opportunities, while automating repetitive and error-prone processes. Not surprisingly, the Bank has emerged as ‘Southeast Asia’s most valuable company’.
DBS is using technology to transform the workplace. At the same time, it is building a more inclusive economy, by reaching out to the bottom of the pyramid, delivering services economically and continuing to increase quality. Technology is helping repair what is an already fractured financial services world.
There are several approaches to achieving this transformation. One tactic is to treat every silo within the organization as a start-up. This involves thinking of ways to address even functions such as recruitment as a start-up, bringing onboard the best technology talent and introducing agile ways of working. Fortunately, financial institutions are able to attract top talent and appeal to millennials.
In order to improve the velocity of business transformation, the workplace must undergo even more change to make jobs feel less like jobs. The physical workplace must use an ‘agile’ working and ergonomic philosophy. This means seeing work as an activity and not a place. Performance is emphasized over attendance. Team work is valued over individual contributions. Relationships matter, not hierarchies. Sustainability wins over aesthetics.
When we have worked with clients to design and implement technologies for relaxed, open and engaging work settings, with an emphasis on environmental sustainability, the results have been notable. Team bonding has improved, and consequently so has collaboration. Skilled staff have stayed on longer and performed better. Creativity has increased. Employees have been inspired and motivated to think differently, devise effective solutions and incubate new business ideas. The ethos of a cutting-edge technology company has sprung up, replacing the musty, traditional feel of a bank or an insurance organization.
Technology is changing the idea and nature of work. People want the freedom to choose where they work from and the tools they use to deliver work. They want to make better use of their intellect, instead of investing time in repetitive processes with marginal value generation. They want to drive new thinking within the organization and let it bloom in the form of cost-effective services that put the customer in control.
Occupations in fields such as predictive spend analysis, fraud detection, credit scoring, risk analysis, regulatory conformance and transactions of every nature will vanish. Technologies including analytics and cognitive computing will become custodians of these processes. Working at a bank, an insurance provider, a card company, a consumer finance organization or an investment bank will feel different. In fact, it won’t feel like work at all.