For the past 21 years, Accenture’s Banking Technology Vision has pinpointed the emerging tech trends with the greatest potential to disrupt businesses and the industry. I’ve been with Accenture all that time. Reading this edition of the Banking Tech Vision I felt it stood out from all the previous ones—especially from the perspective of the industry in the UK and Ireland. 

Why? Each year, the trends called out in the Tech Vision have differing degrees of relevance to different industries, and are projected to manifest themselves over varying timeframes. But this year, all five of the forces we’ve highlighted are not only relevant to UK&I banking, they’re actually already underway. Which makes responding to them not just a long-term goal, but an urgent business imperative. 

Uniting technology strategy and business strategy 

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has played a key role in this. The fast-tracking of technology enablement and digitisation triggered by COVID-19 has compressed what might have been a decade-long digital transformation journey into less than two years. In doing so, it’s seen technology strategy and business strategy converge to become effectively indivisible, and dramatically increased the ability of banks’ CIOs to propose and execute radical change. 

We’ve been seeing these shifts in our clients’ organisations since the early days of the pandemic. When the UK Government introduced the furlough scheme, we hit the ground running, helping a high-street bank set up systems, processes and teams in record time to handle the flood of requests from distressed business customers. The CIO didn’t have to argue or make the business case: everyone across the bank accepted—and bought into—the need for action powered by tech. No ifs, no buts.

Click/tap on image to enlarge. Source: Accenture Banking Technology Vision 2021

Our five trends in action

It’s a huge power shift towards the CIO. And it’s against this background that the five trends in this year’s Tech Vision are playing out. Take the new furlough service I’ve just mentioned: the main reason we were able to implement this so quickly was that the client had already embedded the digital architecture in place to support and enable it. The pandemic had simply delivered the impetus to build on it and realise its full potential.

This illustrates the first of the Tech Vision trends: Stack Strategically—architecting a better future, as banks begin to compete based on their technology stacks. The reality? Competitiveness for banks today increasingly depends on leveraging the connectivity, speed and scalability of cloud throughout the business front-to-back and across business lines. This will be largely enabled by cloud, supported by using tools like analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to homogenise the architecture, removing data silos between channels, and integrating the front- and back-office around unified data and insights.

We have seen this strategic approach to architecture across both incumbents and challengers, as banks seek to re-factor and transform their core banking platforms or elements of their IT core services, in order to increase their speed to market and advance their digital capabilities. For many of these organisations cloud is more than an accelerator. It has become the fundamental driving force behind new technology stack capabilities that can be architected once and subsequently applied multiple times across a wide range of customer journeys—mortgages, loans, account opening and more.

A critical component of this new approach to re-architecting is data, the core focus of our next trend: Mirrored World—the power of massive, intelligent, digital datasets. Banks are already using AI to mine complex data and create living models of product lifecycles, customer behaviours and journeys, market scenarios and more. The results? They can explore limitless ‘what-if’ questions—and understand the subtleties in conversations to take personalisation of experiences for customers to a whole new level.

Now that banks have started to unlock the power of data, we see significant investment in data strategy, remediation and the prioritisation of data across the enterprise. Given the sheer amount of data banks hold, we are seeing a prioritisation of datasets that underpin bank values (e.g., fair customer outcomes, single view of the customer and pro-active identification of vulnerable customers).

What does this mean for employees and customers? The answer lies in the next trend:  I, Technologist—the democratization of technology. Low-code platforms and robotics are putting powerful capabilities in the hands of the people closest to the business’s day-to-day problems, and customers are getting the chance to create their own self-tailored portals on top of banks’ platforms.

The context for this trend is clear. Cloud foundations are being built at pace. We see great examples of new emerging capabilities—chatbots, AI interfaces and so on—that business operations can tune and refine daily. However, in this initial phase, customers’ ability to optimise their own experience is much more limited.

To leverage these newly introduced technologies, and continue to build on their IT innovation portfolios, incumbents will have to modernise and strengthen their governance accordingly. They’ll also need to continue to enhance their workforce capabilities to attract and retain the talent who can exploit these technologies and unlock their full potential.

The implications for employees go beyond the talent agenda. With experience in the pandemic having proven that remote and hybrid working is not only feasible but often more productive than physical co-location, banks are progressing to Anywhere, Everywhere—bring your own environment. The race is on to turn remote work from an emergency response to a source of long-term competitive advantage—and UK banks are helping in the vanguard.

Incumbents are continuing to enable their remote workforces using cloud capabilities that aim to reduce the complexity of the modern workplace, while also providing fascinating data insights into the behavioural patterns of successful teams, such as collaboration techniques, and their results, such as higher productivity. With fewer face-to-face interactions taking place, we’re observing the rapid adoption of next-generation workforce enablement tools including gamification, innovative training, scheduling support and talent management.

The fifth and final trend is further out than the other four, but we’re still seeing the early signs. It’s From Me to We—a multiparty system’s path through chaos. This maps out how, in a post-pandemic world where no single player has supremacy all along the value chain, multiparty collaboration will become increasingly dominant in delivering services to customers. Think of how a customer might open an account with a fintech while knowing their data is hosted by a high-street incumbent they’ve known and trusted for decades.

That’s just one example among many. Increasingly, incumbents are paying more attention to the harmonisation of their cloud vendor landscape. They are actively seeking opportunities to co-develop their capabilities—think Microsoft and Nuance Biometrics, Salesforce integration with AWS Connect, Adobe Campaign Manager and Content Manager working with cloud CRM providers—to enhance the value they can achieve by harnessing the combinatorial power of their partner network. At the same time, parts of the value chain are increasingly being re-imagined by fintechs, injecting not only next-generation technologies and capabilities, but also modern engineering practices amongst IT teams.

From tech moment of truth—to moment of trust

That’s our whistle-stop tour of this year’s Banking Technology Vision through a UK&I lens, explaining why I think this year’s trends are more urgent and resonant than ever. And it’s appropriate that our closing point centred on trust. Following the digital watershed of the pandemic, the golden opportunity for banks now is to turn this moment of truth for technology into a moment of trust on the part of customers and society. By embracing the five Tech Vision trends today, banks may set themselves on course to do just that.

I would like to thank my colleague Purnima Pratap for contributing to this blog post.

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