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Covid-19 Accelerates Banks’ Move To Digitalization

Covid-19 might be just what financial organizations needed to move beyond talking about going digital to implementing digital capabilities broadly across their organization.

A new report, The Future of Work in Banking, from Digital Banking Report takes an optimistic view of the future, at least for those organizations who are prepared.

“The future of work in a post COVID-19 world will be defined by humans augmented by the power of technology,” writes Jim Marous, CEO of Digital Banking Report. “For organizations that embrace this opportunity, there will be the ability to enhance the role of employees, creating increased efficiencies and better customer experiences.”

A number have made it readily. Employees at Atlantic Union made the transition smoothly, helped tremendously by the COO’s decision a few years ago to make laptops and notebooks the standard work computers, so staff could unplug and take their work home. Being digital is not optional, says the report, a comment I got recently from Shanker Ramamurthy global managing partner banking and financial markets at IBM Services.

“Our clients, almost to an enterprise, are fundamentally rethinking their workflows to become more and more digital,” he told me. “Digitalization is not an option.”

Marous writes that working remotely will become much more common, with a nod to complications, like children at home. Some firms have helped staff with $500 to $1,000 they can spend on a flat screen or a good office chair to make their home working space more comfortable. In the long term, remote working could lead to people moving to new locations where space is cheaper — no reports yet that companies are helping employees build on an addition for a home office.

The outcome of remote working has been much more positive than many leaders had expected, according to the report.

“In fact, our research found that, while there were challenges initially, these challenges decreased with each stage of our research from April 10 – May 10. Not only did new collaboration and creativity opportunities increase, but distractions became more manageable resulting in increased productivity. Interestingly, many respondents noted longer working hours in an at-home workplace.”

WFH will require better security to protect employee and customer information, the report notes. It also found that firms are finding some significant digital skills gaps, at all levels of banking, from the boardroom to the call center.

“Few organizations have programs in place to address these needs,” wrote Monica Hovsepain global senior industry strategist for financial services at OpenText, which sponsored the report. “As more back-office operations become automated, the importance of human capabilities such as creativity, empathy and leadership become more important. Even digital consumers desire a combination of human + digital in certain instances that may involve customer care and advice,” the paper advises.

It may be too soon to dismiss the need for humans to help technology.

Ben Pring co-founder and leader of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, finds that “Even though businesses can use data to do mass personalization and customization of solutions, they make you fill out forms sharing financial information which they already have.”

Really? Banks have been talking about automating such simple stuff for at least a decade, probably two. If they can’t pre-populate internal forms, they are a long way from becoming digital — indeed, it may be premature to fire the person who runs the fax machine.

Meanwhile, “As the current disruption resets business models and objectives, the skills needed to deliver business performance are likely to change even more radically and rapidly — and the existing workforce will be even less fit for the purpose.”

Current job title may not match business needs, or jobs may require a mix of skills that cross categories in an org chart. One way to help employees, said Pring, is to direct them to online courses to fill in gaps.

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