Since the emergence of novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, many businesses have had to adjust their business strategies and processes, shifting the focus away from central offices to home services for both customers and employees. This reduces to a minimum the chances of exposure to the virus but puts pressure on IT departments to keep work and working safe.
For those working in financial services the situation is multifaceted, with retail customers and small businesses needing help to secure their futures. Are banks giving customers the experiences they need? For corporate and investment clients there may be significant opportunities as the markets lurch between record falls and gains.
The evolving workplace
Businesses of all kinds have attempted to evolve the workplace to take advantage of new tools for more efficient working for several years. New technologies give a more mobile, digital-first workforce new ways to work with business partners in every corner of the globe.
But these novel technologies rely on one assumption – that there is a core office to work from that is understood and closely controlled. This assumption has been shattered by the coronavirus outbreak.
Staff are now working from home and wholly reliant on various digital tools to successfully communicate and collaborate. This situation is a genuine stress test, not just of the financial markets and the wider economy, but of companies’ digital infrastructure, servers and more.
As The Economist notes in a recent article, “By forcing many people to work, shop and amuse themselves at home, the crisis may give a permanent boost to online companies. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, WeChat Work and other corporate-messaging services are experiencing a surge in demand.”
Zoom is an excellent case in point, emerging from a packed field as the leader for both businesses and families to keep in touch during lockdown. Financial services companies need to consider how they appear at the other end of the crisis through the prism of these services. Expectations will change.
Leading the way out
As a route out of the current situation, consultant McKinsey has produced the Five Rs to help businesses deal with the ongoing challenges:
- Resolve – address the immediate challenges of your workforce, customers and partners.
- Resilience – consider the near-term concerns of broader resilience and manage cash flows.
- Return – plan to bring the business back to full operational capacity once the crisis is over.
- Reimagination – explore what the ‘next normal’ looks like and how your business should reinvent itself to adapt.
- Reform – look at how the regulation and operation of your industry could evolve to be more flexible.
These last two parts in particular – reimagine and reform – will be the focus for many financial services companies as we emerge from the crisis.
New ways of banking
Lockdown accelerates some of the trends we have already seen emerging over the last few years. For example, in retail banking, branches have been closing as contactless payments and banking by app have proliferated.
These trends mean the need for branches has dwindled. But there’s a balance to be struck as those comfortable to switch, who tend to be younger and more digitally aware, have changed to new services or to ‘challenger’ banks. Other customers continue to rely heavily on branches, as do those customers who use cash, which includes many small and medium sized businesses.
But the direction of travel is clear. Around one-third of UK branches have closed since January 2015 according to a February 2020 Which? survey. Many banks have been looking hard at new ways to present their branches and how they relate to customers.
Covid-19 is highlighting and magnifying something banks already knew, that they need to pour their efforts into their digital customer experiences.
Hybrid IT offers financial services companies flexibility. Existing on-premises data centers can synchronize with co-located data centers to allow businesses to onboard workloads and applications faster, minimize costs through product innovation, and reduce risks through the highest quality standards. All particularly sensitive tasks as businesses continue to lockdown staff and so much more work happens remotely.
Alongside that, developments in Edge computing benefit applications that rely on low latency, high network security, and regulatory requirements – ideal for financial services companies that need to maintain a competitive edge while locked-down.
Hybrid systems will be bespoke but can be set to match your business’ rate of change to develop better services that match your customers’ needs at the other side of the crisis.
Markets and trading
For services that rely on data, like trading, tools for analyzing data and drawing meaningful insights add significant value for clients and customers. Edge systems give traders faster access to more data using a distributed model, particularly useful where apps are affected by latency, network security, or regulatory requirements.
Financial services companies need automated, responsive and robust IT where a millisecond of problem can cost millions to tie such systems together. Discover how Panduit can help your business evolve your IT infrastructure to get one step closer to realizing the full potential of the market tomorrow.