Why COVID-19 Will Push Technological Advancement in Finance

The old finance giants have long held a reputation for outdated infrastructure and technology. In the grip of a global pandemic, however, they must adapt to survive.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not just had a devastating impact on health and society, it has dominated economic and business matters unlike anything we’ve seen in peacetime history, and, across the globe, schools, companies, charities and self-employed professionals are still adjusting to a brand new remote working contingency plan.

Fortunately, as a society, we are extremely well-equipped to adapt to remote working with a turnaround time of just a few days. This was proven by the sheer quantity of businesses, many of whom care for thousands of employees, who just a few weeks ago managed to transform their entire internal structure to a digital environment. Not only is this an inspiring example of human  collaboration at a time of crisis but also a true testament to the power of the technology at our disposal.

In fact, remote working has proven itself so effective for some organisations, that it has gone beyond a short term contingency plan; it’s starting to look like remote, or at least flexible working, will be incorporated in the long term for thousands of office-based workers. Clement Desportes De La Fosse, Co-founder and Chief Operating and Financial Officer at Spearvest, shares his thoughts on how the finance sector will be forever changed by the pandemic.

Although it may sound premature to think about a post COVID-19 world, a majority of industry operations are sure to change forever, and, none more so than in the financial sector. For many years, traditional banks and financial institutions have been associated with outdated infrastructure and slow legacy IT systems, which are a burden for financial professionals and consumers alike. In fact, a recent study in 2019 revealed that UK banks were hit by ‘at least one’ online banking outage every day across a nine month period.

Today, the demand for banking and financial services has never been higher: emergency loans, government payment schemes and personal finance management are required for people to survive. What’s more, visiting a branch in person is no longer an option, and therefore financial institutions are forced to invest in capable IT infrastructure and relevant automation, regulation, and finance technology to deal with influx of demand.

For many years, traditional banks and financial institutions have been associated with outdated infrastructure and slow legacy IT systems, which are a burden for financial professionals and consumers alike.

Whilst it could be argued that this much-need update was inevitable, the pandemic has certainly forced many banks’ hands in enforcing this change, and means our financial institutions will emerge from the crisis with a much more capable IT infrastructure. The following areas are where banks are, or should be investing, in the coming weeks, months and years, with insight into how exactly these cutting-edge technologies are impacting the financial services sector for the better.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a growing trend in finance in the past decade, primarily being used to address key pressure points, reduce costs and mitigate risks. However, the demand for digital banking services as a result of COVID-19 will likely push the sector in the direction of developing and incorporating sophisticated automation and customer service AI.

We’re a few years off the mass adoption of robotics technology of this nature, but it’s safe to say the COVID-19 threat has highlighted the pressing need for more automation and better service technology.

Public Cloud

The shift toward cloud-based computing has already been significant, with most financial institution operating cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications for business processes, such as HR, accounting, admin solutions and even security analytics and know-your-customer verification.

However, advancements being made in cloud technologies and increasing demand for SaaS applications for remote workers means that soon we could see core services in the financial sector, such as consumer payments, credit scoring and billing, to become stored and managed in cloud-based SaaS solutions.

RegTech

Much like the increasing demand for AI and Cloud-based SaaS applications, regulatory technology (RegTech), can do important work in ensuring financial work remains regulated and legal. The right RegTech, such as automated customer onboarding technology, can also save a firm a lot of time, freeing-up much-needed time to focus on the work that can not be completed by software or a robot.

Big Data

Customer intelligence facilitated by big data and consumer behaviour is an incredibly important tool which can be used for extremely accurate decision making, risk-assessments and revenue and profitability forecasts, to name just a few use-case example.

Some modern financial institutions and start-ups have been using big data and analytics technology for a number of years, and those more ‘traditional’ which may have neglected this cutting-edge technology are depriving their customers of top tier financial advice and insight at a time when they are in need of it most.

Security

Cyber attacks, money laundering and hackers have always threatened the financial services to a large extent. However, with entire workforces online, operating in a remote, sometime unsecure environment, the cyber-threat facing consumers has never been larger.

Thus, cyber-security has, and should, be invested in heavily by financial institutions looking to protect their own client, employee and company sensitive information. At the same time, safe internet and banking practice should be implemented and taught to all members of the general public to ensure they do not give away sensitive information such as payment details.

Fast forward, five years from now, we will look at the pandemic as a trigger that enabled us to spend our time more efficiently, and digital technology and the cloud will be key in facilitating this positive change.

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