In today's environment, financial services executives have plenty to keep them awake at night: earnings declines, toxic portfolios, the lack of liquidity in the interbank markets, decisions on accepting governmental investment and looming new regulation. Yet current market conditions offer some unique opportunities.
First, the many bank failures and voluntary and involuntary mergers have left some 20 million customers wary, putting them essentially "in play." At the same time, one clear lesson of the current crisis is the value of a strong core deposit base. Accordingly a focus on improving customer acquisition, engagement and retention will be a critical differentiator. We expect to see increased IT investment in channel integration, customer self-service and improving the overall customer experience.
At the same time, there are many functions within the retail bank that remain people-intensive and inefficient. This had led to ongoing operating cost burdens that have reduced earnings as well as customer service. Accordingly we expect to see a renewed focus on automating and streamlining high-volume business processes such as account enrollment, payments processing, loan origination and account servicing.
The current crises have also highlighted issues of operational risk and compliance, particularly in areas such as customer communication, loan document processing and credit. Further, the current crises will almost certainly lead to calls for new regulation and transparency. As a result we are already seeing new IT investment in risk and compliance systems associated with customer communications, document management, loan origination and other functions, especially where these investments can also drive cost reduction or better customer service.
Finally there will be structural changes in the IT investment strategies for banks worldwide. We have already begun to see large, complex, multiyear projects being shelved in favor of smaller, more manageable programs that are either self-funding or have a relatively short payback.
Similarly banks are seeking to reduce their IT risk profile by consolidating vendors and focusing on more-strategic relationships with large, financially strong suppliers. Where appropriate, they are also looking to outsource more business and IT functions.