This year, banks have needed to innovate at unprecedented speed and scale to navigate the choppy waters of the COVID-19 crisis. In the Accenture Banking Technology Vision for 2020—our annual review of emerging IT developments that will have the greatest impact on banks in the coming years—we identify some of the dangers and opportunities emerging in this volatile landscape. After looking at customer experience-related trends in my previous post, this time I’ll look at AI and innovation.

Accenture Banking Tech Vision 2020: Driving Value and Values During COVID-19
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AI and Me

The ‘AI and Me’ trend explores how leading banks are fostering human-AI collaboration. Most banks have successfully adopted AI tools and practices that speed up the automation of basic tasks in existing workflows. But today, that’s just table stakes. To use AI simply to make certain processes and functions run faster and cheaper is to limit its impact. Tomorrow’s leaders are thinking about how they can scale their AI deployments, as well as using it as a collaboration tool.

In the short-term: Workforces desperately need augmentation.

With enormous challenges facing banks, they are turning to AI to help get work done—and not just in terms of automation. Many will continue working with reduced staff and new distancing rules and will face lingering economic impacts after the pandemic is over. AI can help them dream up new solutions and ideas to build a more flexible organization.

It can ease the burden of operating in a post-COVID world by becoming the vehicle that banks use to pivot as situations change. For some banks, COVID is thus becoming a lens for looking at AI differently: not only as a way to transform how they carry out work, but also what their people actually do, as well as how their business operates, delivers its services and interacts with customers.

In the long-term: COVID-19 will let us see human-AI collaboration at its best.

As AI tools mature and COVID-19 spurs adoption, the opportunities to use human-machine interactions to transform the banking experience will multiply. But to facilitate true human and AI collaboration, banks need to replace a “command and response” relationship between human and machine with an experience that is interactive, exploratory and adaptable.

More effective communication between people and machines, for example, allows humans and computers to work together more successfully. Advancements in natural language processing, image recognition and machine learning are enabling machines to start understanding not just the content but also the context of human communication.

It goes the other way as well, with humans being better able to understand machines. Explainable AI allows people to open black-box AI systems to get at how the machine made a decision. As algorithms assume more responsibility within a business, explainability helps businesses build trust.

Innovation DNA

How should banks prepare themselves for the amplification of many of the competitive threats and technological disruptions they were facing before COVID-19? By building what Accenture describes as their unique innovation DNA—a code that helps an enterprise determine how it will grow. This code includes two major components:

  • Maturing digital technology that is more commoditized and accessible—the social, mobile, analytics and cloud stack. This technology has proven its value during the pandemic. Look at how one global bank turned to the cloud to cater for a spike in support call volumes and a need to enable 20,000 agents to work remotely. In less than a week, it implemented an Amazon Connect solution to support basic inbound / outbound call handling.
  • Emerging DARQ technologies (distributed ledger, AI, extended reality and quantum computing) that are poised to scale rapidly. Banks are finding new ways to inject DARQ technologies into mature markets. This is helping to ground these tech explorations and open doors to innovative business solutions.

In the short term: Banks face pressure to overcome legacy and accelerate digital.

Whether they are rolling out technology to keep the world running or working to prevent industry collapse, the partnerships, products, and services that banks are building today have the potential to last long after the crisis. They will define business and technology for years to come.

The leaders are focusing on targeted transition strategies, developing a path and a vision for decoupling applications from legacy infrastructure and moving to the cloud. Businesses can run new technologies—such as APIs, microservices, event-driven architectures, DevSecOps, data lakes and more—in parallel with their legacy systems using Agile and domain-driven methodologies.

In the long term: The rules around innovation will never be the same.

Many of the reasons banks might play it safe—failing to see demand for change, or being risk averse—are irrelevant in a world going through overwhelming transformation in such a short time. Old models for collaboration and innovation, based on sharing the same space and time, will give way to virtualized teams that work together using digital tools and Agile methodologies.

Leaders will weave together new innovation strategies, virtual teams and new partnerships to help them pivot quickly and continuously during this crisis and beyond. They will create agile and resilient innovation DNAs, and when the pandemic is over, will be positioned to meet new needs and build new capabilities faster than ever before.

Beyond the pandemic

As banks emerge from the pandemic, the success of the next generation of products and services will rest on their ability to elevate the human experience. Those that have a shared-success mindset—and invite collaboration with customers, employees, ecosystem partners, governments and the public—will create new opportunities for growth in a way that benefits all. I invite you to read the full Banking Tech Vision report to find out more.

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