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3 Ways Financial Institutions are Embracing Digital Transformation


Financial services firms have often been at the forefront of security since the inception of the first Chief Information Security Officer in the 1980s. Why? For the same reason people rob a bank - they are where the money is. The financial sector has historically been an epicenter for cyber attacks. The byproduct of securing a society’s currency is a consistent aversion to unnecessary risk, which has resulted in a longstanding delay in adopting new technologies, leaving the financial services industry open for disruption by smaller players in the long term. 

However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and acceleration of digital business, financial services companies have had to reassess their digital transformation strategy and, in most cases, speed it up. From reimagining products and services around customer-centricity to developing new business models to meet customer behavior, banks and financial institutions have gone from laggards in the digital transformation front to potential leaders. Here we will dive into three ways these organizations are leading digital transformation in banking and financial services. 

Shifting Perspectives on Risk

When faced with smaller organizations capable of shouldering larger amounts of risk to achieve business goals, enterprise-level financial institutions have had to take a hard look at their perspectives on risk as a whole. A defining element in the conversations we are seeing is how a large enterprise that is relied upon in the financial markets can manage the same amount of risk as a smaller company that is not as relied upon by the ecosystem at large. 

Risk managers and officers are reengineering their risk appetite statements and devoting new resources to innovation groups dedicated to furthering the organization’s digital transformation journey. While these innovation groups are often operating in a microcosm to develop and refine these new digital technologies into a cohesive experience, we see companies digitize much faster as a result. 

Transforming Processes 

A key element of digital transformation within financial services institutions has been the rapid evolution of processes, especially as it relates to IT and IT and cyber risk. Given that these two groups are often at the forefront of digital strategy, they must be appropriately calibrated and enabled to execute the business strategy. 

  • Agile Development: McKinsey has acknowledged that over the last decade, executives have gained a greater understanding of digital product development, mainly in part thanks to the Agile Development Framework. For the past several years, Agile has been applied to many business units beyond development, but with it has come a greater understanding and predictability of digital product delivery. 
  • Risk-based Approaches to Compliance: The financial services sector is one of the most regulated industries in the world related to cybersecurity. With new regulations emerging almost quarterly, financial services enterprises have seen the need to get off their heels and onto their toes regarding risk and compliance. The first step is shifting from a focus on checkbox compliance to a risk-based approach to compliance. Specifically, looking to the emergence of frameworks such as the Financial Services Sector Profile that take a risk-based approach to compliance. Even before the pandemic, we saw compliance teams being rolled into risk organizations to align the two groups further. The result of COVID-19 and the acceleration of the digital age has seen that trend accelerate as well.
  • Integration and De-Siloing: The integration of risk and compliance teams is not the only step financial institutions are taking to integrate and de-silo their organizations. With the rise of so much new digital technology, information security leaders have had to acknowledge the increase in risk-decision makers when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. The integration of teams and the de-siloing of information have been critical for financial institutions to embrace digital transformation.

Embracing New Technologies 

People and business processes are too often sidelined when talking about digital transformation. Although, as we saw in the previous section, they are often the precursors necessary for successful digital transformation initiatives. Technology, though, is often the hallmark and the essential element of digital transformation. 

  • Automation & AI: Artificial intelligence and machine learning is often seen as a bedrock form of digital transformation-enabling technology. From the ability to process terabytes of consumer data to automating risk and compliance assessments, as financial institutions embrace digital transformation, we often see the introduction of either homegrown or third-party AI into the tech stack. 
  • Cloud Technology: Cloud technology and financial services is the forced marriage of the pandemic. In many of our conversations, we heard about an aversion to cloud technology from financial institutions. Then the pandemic hit. As digital transformation has escalated up to a top priority in the Boardroom, many financial institutions have turned to cloud providers and cloud technology as a means of supporting their initiatives. However, that is not to say their concerns are unfounded. These organizations need to have strong vendor risk programs to help and ensure their applications’ security on their vendors’ cloud. 
  • Mobile Customer Experiences: The pandemic brought about the fundamental shift in buying behavior from physical to digital. Frankly, because physical interaction was taken off the table; as a result, we have seen the most engaging and well-refined digital customer experiences win out. Many of the largest financial institutions are leveraging the shift in processes, including Agile, to deliver completely new mobile customer experiences that can supplant a physical customer experience. 

Embrace Digital Transformation or Lose

The digital era is upon us. Where digital transformation was once a distant aspiration for many established organizations, 2020 and the pandemic brought any lacking digital experiences to the fore and even cost some organizations business. The world has changed for the digital. Be prepared by ensuring your organization is not spending precious time on menial, manual efforts where automation can accomplish it in half the time. CyberStrong is saving enterprise organizations millions of dollars by automating risk and compliance assessments and transforming risk programs. If you’d like to learn more, schedule a demo or access our webinar on the subject here

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