“Go digital or go dark”: Companies that fail to heed this advice, irrespective of sector, run a great risk in the age of technological revolution.

By Greg Gatherer, account manager at Liferay

Consumers prioritise convenience and will often not see the need to step out of their houses to use a service that could be achieved with a few taps on their phone. Add to that a pandemic which has led to even further restrictions and the need to embrace digital ways of doing business becomes clearer.

Historically, digital transformation has been a process that happens over the course of several years. Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated that timeline. Companies were forced to adapt in order to survive, with financial services having to evolve quicker than most.

That’s because every business relies on payments and if financial services companies do not accelerate digitally in 2021, they will not be able to compete.

It’s crucial to recognise that digital transformation has become a necessity for a good business strategy. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why digital financial services need to be digitised as well as tips to help with the transition to digital.

Meet evolving customer needs

With customers increasingly expecting convenience and on-demand services, going digital is essential if businesses are to thrive and meet expectations.

It’s crucial for businesses to prioritise providing a superior customer experience — but the key focus for delivering on-demand services is simply to be available for your customers when they need it. Why is this important, though?

While prospects or customers may have a positive opinion of your brand or company based on their first impressions or initial experiences, what really matters is the ability for your business to continue to stand out from the competition. With the rise of fintech startups and other financial organisations embracing digital transformation, a key differentiating factor is to meet customers where they are and continue to be present as an option for future services within the financial industry.

Adapt to increasing regulatory complexities

Regulation of the financial services industry has undergone dramatic changes. What started as a response to the global financial crisis, bank failures, government bailouts, and investor losses, has now increased compliance spending by 60%.

One of the primary goals behind these changes is to promote financial stability by increasing financial transparency and de-risking financial systems. Additionally, by introducing strict capital requirements and restrictions on certain business activities, this offers increased consumer protection and prevents market abuse.

These increasing regulatory complexities highlight the need for financial services companies to accelerate digitally in order to monitor risks and adapt more efficiently.

Meet requirements for cyber security and data privacy

With the recent implementation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), customers now have greater control of their data.

Financial services providers like banks need to be accountable in the digital space and are witnessing a revolution in terms of data privacy and cyber security. In order to stay ahead of the new requirements, it’s crucial for financial institutions to undergo digital transformation.

Tips for undergoing digital transformation

Here are a few trends to get you started in the digital transformation journey:

* Mobile banking – Mobile banking has fundamentally changed how banks and financial institutions function. It is only expected to grow further and it is an essential service to offer in 2021 and beyond.

* Blockchain – This is the advancement that we will be talking about in years to come. Not many companies have adapted to blockchain technology, but it is gaining momentum and is expected to play a crucial role in digital payments, loan processing, and other processes.

* Big data – Big data can be utilised to serve customers by curating services based on the insights gathered. Financial firms can use machine learning and advanced analytics to process data and generate insights.

* Automated wealth management – These are essentially wealth bots. This AI uses algorithms to calculate ideal investments, loans, interest rates, etc.

* Financial technology (fintech) – Financial technology has been present longer than we realise, with ATM and credit cards falling under this classification. However, this has now expanded to include tools such as customer service chatbots, expenditure trackers, and online banking tools.

Improving customer experience

Customer experience has a major impact on how well financial services are received. While it can be influenced by a range of factors including UX/UI, colour palettes, and ease of use, customer experience boils down to two things: accessibility and user-friendliness.

Ask yourself these questions:

* Is my service easy to find?

* Is it an option for people making transactions in popular marketplaces?

* Are the features of the service easy to navigate through?

* Is the interface pleasing to look at?

The answers to these will determine whether or not your financial services are meeting consumers’ expectations for customer experience.

Why is digital transformation crucial for the financial services industry?

With the increasing levels of competition in the financial services industry, it’s difficult to imagine a financial landscape without it going digital. The number of fintech companies has continued to rise faster than ever, regulatory complexity is at an all-time high, and businesses are constantly being pushed to innovate digitally.

Despite its share of challenges, undergoing digital transformation will play a major role in your business strategy and ensure that you’re future-proofing your business to ensure long-term success.