Management Strategies

09:56 AM
Arjun Sethi, A.T. Kearney
Arjun Sethi, A.T. Kearney
Commentary
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How Prepared Is Your Bank For Digital Disruption?

Digital transformation is going to change banks’ relationships with their customers and will require an over-arching strategy for dealing with those changes.

You can talk about reinventing branch banking, or about the future of cash versus other currencies. You can talk about the role of banks in e-payments or m-payments or any other kind of payments. You can talk about service innovation or advanced analytics or social networks or viral marketing, or incorporating the voice of the employee and the consumer. But in each case what you’re really talking about—the trend behind most coming challenges and opportunities for banks — is digital disruption.

Digitally-driven transformations have disrupted book publishing, newspapers, and television. They will, and perhaps in a tangible sense have already begun to, disrupt the financial industry—sooner than most people think. Indeed, many organizations do not appear to be ready for the scope and speed of the coming disruptions.

When it comes to the technologies themselves, companies have taken large and commendable steps. For example, retailers and consumer-goods companies create Facebook pages; media companies replace print revenues with digital revenues—and financial institutions learn from every step. But often these adjustments to the new digital realities capture only a fraction of the shifting value. It’s hard to make any huge company do more than inch toward digital, especially since nobody knows when, or from which source(s), the next disruption will come.

[See Related: Banking Transformation: How Do We Get There?]

But such inertia is particularly devastating now, because today’s digital disruption involves not only evolving technologies, but a revolution in the way that people use technology. In short, today’s innovations are digitizing not only content, but interactions. Now, every time you make a transaction or even speak with someone—in person, on the phone, or on the Web—that exchange is augmented by technology tools. Those tools can both generate information and leverage that information to enhance the exchange. And thus your relationship is transformed. Transforming relationships can often be a good thing, but it can also lead to operational risk, because of the proliferation of information, tools, and channels involved in the new relationships.

Many commenters note the exponential adoption rates for mobile connectivity, but they don’t always talk about the implications. A sudden population shift to seamless anytime, anywhere connections with anybody means that although many of us think we’ve experienced rapid and profound technology-driven disruptions, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Rapid and profound: again, the coming digital disruption will change not just processes but relationships. Thus the pressure to transform enterprises will come from not just technologists or number-crunchers but consumers themselves.

Sure, headquarters may exert pressure to reinvent the branch in the face of declining performance numbers - but consumers will exert greater pressure because they will be exasperated at doing their banking the same stodgy way their grandparents did. Sure, the board of directors may encourage involvement in new payment technologies — but that involvement will blossom or falter based on how the organization can respond to pressure from partners or consumers to add meaningful value to the new relationships involved in these new digital formats. Most coming bank challenges — how to innovate new services, manage complexity and risk, relate to consumers, and so on — will depend on a deep understanding the new relationships produced by digital disruption.

At A.T. Kearney, we’ve been watching these signs of digital disruption and working with companies seeking to exploit them. But we’ve been surprised at how many organizations don’t really have that deep understanding. Some bandy about phrases such as omni-channel consumer engagement or new digital products and services, but few have put together a big-picture view of how these trends might combine to reconfigure their traditional value chains. And so over the next several months, I’ll be sharing some details of how we at A.T. Kearney see the mega-trends of digital disruption affecting traditional practices, showing how they fit into that big picture.

But the first step is a general acknowledgement: Big changes are coming, driven by consumers empowered by new technologies. Are these changes an existential threat or a transformative opportunity? The answer may depend on how effectively an organization comes to grips with digital disruption.

Arjun Sethi is a partner with A.T. Kearney, where he leads the Strategic IT Practice for the Americas. He can be reached at Arjun.Sethi@atkearney.com.

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Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
10/22/2013 | 8:23:38 PM
re: How Prepared Is Your Bank For Digital Disruption?
Good point. I don't want to play the "bank of Google" card too many times but I really do think that as more tech companies without legacy begin to play around the periphery of financial services, some will soon discover that with enough startup capital they can be their own financial providers and we could see some real disruption. It's happening more in insurance Gă÷ it's very small scale but it's out there.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
10/22/2013 | 12:35:14 PM
re: How Prepared Is Your Bank For Digital Disruption?
Devo711, I think the battle between "systems of engagement" and "systems of record" is still a huge problem in most banks. Most research seems to show that banks still spend 60-70% of resources on "systems of record" (keeping the lights on). Are banks moving fast enough to develop systems of engagement? Or will they eventually become victims of digital disruption?
Devo711
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Devo711,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/21/2013 | 7:01:55 PM
re: How Prepared Is Your Bank For Digital Disruption?
Most CEO's, not just financial services, are funding business transformation to become digital businesses---this is supported by McKinsey's August 2013 survey. The challenge they all face is moving to "systems of engagement" while still keeping the lights on for "systems of record". Mass simplification/rationalization is needed to clean up legacy apps and infrastructure---the companies that execute this effectively will have sustainable competitive advantages. Those that don't, will be "disrupted". No CEO wants to see their business model disrupted on his/her watch, so CEOs that understand this risk/opportunity, are funding the transformations.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
10/21/2013 | 2:55:10 PM
re: How Prepared Is Your Bank For Digital Disruption?
Financial services truly has been "inching" towards digital, but some of that might be due to still figuring out how to monetize digital/social channels most effectively.
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