As we look to the financial services sector to protect our assets and demonstrate resilience in the face of the pandemic, these institutions are looking to data to drive digital transformation
For years now, organizations across Asia Pacific have been working to digitize their service operations to meet modern customer expectations.
With customer expectations around digitization only further galvanized by the COVID-19 pandemic of the past two years, the need to rapidly embrace change is significant.
This need to accelerate digital transformation is perhaps no more important anywhere else than it is in the financial services and insurance sector, with customers across APAC looking to these institutions to keep their assets, financial or otherwise, safe while remaining strong throughout pandemic recovery.
In its 2020 ‘Where next for Financial Services’ report, consultancy firm PWC stated the role and expectations of the financial services industry well.
“As the keeper and allocator of capital, the enabler of savings, investment and commerce, and the transferer of risk, financial services isn’t just another industry; its role in the commercial ecosystem is especially crucial at this moment,” the consulting firm wrote.
“The choices that financial service leaders make now will have profound and lasting implications on the future state of the financial services industry, as well as the trajectory of the Australian economic ‘reboot’.”
In the APAC region, projects to digitally transform financial services have been on the agenda for years, driven by a broad set of strategies striving for growth, agility and customer satisfaction.
While these drivers remain, they are now complemented and accelerated by the pandemic into 2022 and beyond.
“Data is a transformation driver,” says Beverley Paratchek, Principal, Data Governance at Suncorp Group. “It’s a core pillar of any strategy and there’s always opportunity for uplift across the full data analytics value chain. Whether it be capture, keep, create value and activate.
“The significant customer shift to digital channels has been accelerated with the pandemic and organizations need to be ready to service those expectations and make customers feel comfortable, secure and confident to work digitally.[MJ1]
“Data is key from everything such as basic access to responding to customer needs and services in a personalized manner.”
Priorities and Trends in Finance in 2022
Digital and data transformation initiatives continue to grow and evolve in financial services, so where are data leaders focusing their strategies and why?
With insight into financial services organizations undergoing infrastructure upgrade projects, Peter Ku, Vice President and Chief Strategist for Financial Services at cloud data management software vendor Informatica, says data and digital transformation is being driven by several factors.
“The need to grow the business, remain compliant, improve agility, manage risk and be agile have been significant drivers of digital transformation within financial services,” he says.
While all these drivers remain relevant in 2022, Ku says that improving the digital experience of customers has become the top priority for many organizations.
“Improving customer experience and engagement is the number one thing that we’re hearing in terms of driving digital and data-related investments in financial services,” Ku says.
Whether it is improving customer engagement or any other prominent business goal, Informatica’s Ku says data is the fuel for business success, but good data doesn’t come easily.
“This is especially true in an industry where you have lots of different systems and applications that live in the front, mid, and back office,” Ku says. “Add to that new technologies being brought in to replace old systems that just end up running alongside them, creating multi-generational architectures. We see this in the insurance industry all the time.”
To make data work successfully within their organizations, data leaders must align their strategies with that of business objectives, says Geraldine Wong, Chief Data Officer for GXS in Singapore.
“We should always be thinking about how the data strategy needs to fit within or align to the organization’s strategy,” she says.
“There are different ways to approach the role of data in an organization. For example, in terms of a longer-term strategy, are we thinking of using data to grow the customer base and to engage them more deeply or are we looking at data as a separate revenue stream for the company?”
Capability and Keeping up
Gladwin Mendez, Data and Technology Operations Officer for Fisher Funds in New Zealand, says while it’s not contained just within the financial services sector, the current ‘great resignation’ trend represents a priority that businesses should also be thinking about, as well as how data can help their employees and businesses.
“Everyone’s heard of it and thinks it’s an HR problem, but in my view, culture eats strategy for breakfast, so what are we data executives doing to help with our culture? While digital acceleration due to COVID is all about the front office, data executives need to also prioritise back-office also and help alleviate the issue of the great resignation with CHRO and HR leaders,” he says.
“Attracting data skills was difficult enough already. If loads of people are resigning, what can you do about that as a data executive? What can we do as leaders to create opportunities for our people, retain them and also downstream reap the rewards of enterprise data adoption and education?
“Also, how can we use HR analytics to improve our leaders and companies’ culture further? A big priority for data executives is to build a high-performance team. With a shortage of people, perhaps this capability can be built from within organizations.”
Continually building capability will in turn assist in decision making and a business’ understanding of the wider market.
This market analysis and understanding is a critical aspect of what enables a business to remain competitive, says Markus Lin, Analytics and Insights Manager at Loan Market Group in Queensland.
“It’s about keeping up with the economy. Particularly with the change that COVID has brought and how processes and operations have accelerated since and due to remote working. We need to make sure we’re more efficient in terms of looking at analytics and having that drive business decisions,” he says.
“Our executives are trying to keep up with external factors in terms of regulation and where the economy is, and all of the other factors within mortgage broking, we need to understand where we stand with respect to the market and our competitors. That’s one of the big points motivating our data and analytics strategy.”