Retail Banking Research Outlook 2021

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Leading in the Post-Pandemic World: Our 2021 Research Themes in Action

The summer is over, and everyone is gearing up for the last quarter of the year, traditionally the busiest time for us. If the end of last year was marked with hope that the vaccines will help us eradicate COVID-19 and return to normal, there is now a growing acknowledgment that the virus is likely to be with us for a long time and the “normal” is about trying to manage a delicate balance between the economic activity and precaution.

Going into 2021, we highlighted five themes for the Retail Banking research: customer engagement, lending, payments, growing the banking ecosystem, and cloud-led transformation of the core infrastructure, and this remains our focus. In March, we also published the case studies of our Model Bank award-winning initiatives, which cover topics across all five themes.

Clients tell us that they always look forward to our reports on top trends and top priorities, which we used to publish right around the cusp of the year. This year, we are launching a new series of "previsory" reports, the aim of which is to preview technology trends and advise financial institutions on what they need to be thinking about and addressing in the coming year. We are also accelerating the process and plan to publish the Retail Banking Technology Trends Previsory in October to support our clients’ year-end planning activities.

As always, we want to be nimble and respond to fast-moving developments in our research space. If you have a hot topic in mind, where our research could add value to your organisation, please get in touch, and we’ll endeavor to incorporate it into our research agenda for 2022.

Optimising Customer Engagement

Retail banks have told us repeatedly during the pandemic: their two most important priorities for 2021 are enhancing digital self-service capabilities and improving digital product origination and customer onboarding. In Q1, we published the results of a detailed survey on the state of digital customer acquisition among financial institutions in the US. One finding was that banks would like to understand better how to measure success and how their performance compares with peers. We listened and followed up with another survey that delved deeper into digital account opening metrics and benchmarking. The report analyzing the results makes a fascinating reading.

Another finding from the survey in March was relatively low levels of adoption of modern identity proofing tools and techniques. We have been exploring some of the key issues around customer identity management further through interviews and roundtable discussions with bank executives; look out for a report on that in Q4.

A big area of focus for us in Q3 was refreshing our research on customer communication management (CCM) technologies, essential for optimizing customer engagement across all products, including lending. The research resulted in two reports in Q3 with one more coming up in Q4. The next quarter we will also be looking at the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, intelligent virtual assistants (chatbots), and how banks can enhance their collections capabilities.

Winning in Digital Payments and Growing the Retail Banking Ecosystem

We continued our coverage of key topics in cards and payments. In Q3, we shifted the focus from digital payments to look at the continued presence and importance of physical cards. We published a report which analyzes how banks can make their card programs more sustainable and safer for the planet, a topic high on many banks’ agendas at the board level.

Our research indicates that the growing maturity of open banking finally brings real opportunities in open banking payments (OBP). One of the reports published in Q3 refreshes a primer on OBP, while another makes the case that the time is now ripe for OBP.

In Q4, we will continue our coverage how banks can thrive in the increasingly open ecosystem. Look out for reports outlining how banks can leverage open banking for commercial gain and shining the light on the growing vendor ecosystem for open banking infrastructure products.

Enabling Cloud-led Core Technology Transformation

Cloud is playing an increasingly important role in transforming the banks’ technology infrastructure. We continue to monitor the cloud adoption trends in banking, how banks make Buy vs Build decisions, and how they work with various technology and service providers to migrate to a modern technology stack. An example is an overview published in Q3 on how Cobiscorp can help their clients accelerate migration to the cloud.

We have been reviewing IT Services vendors and Low/ No-Code platform providers in retail banking. In Q3 published multiple reports detailing the findings of that research, including a primer on Low/ No-Code platforms. In Q4, the focus will shift to exploring Next-Gen core banking platforms in the cloud.

Also, in Q3, we published our flagship report on IT spending. In Q4, we will zoom-in on Asia Pacific, looking at IT priorities one year after the outbreak in Japan and APAC.

Finally, we continue our quest to help clients understand what it takes to transform large organizations, and recently published a report exploring digital maturity in banking.

Model Bank Case Studies

Celent Model Bank awards programme celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2022. At the time of writing, we are still accepting nominations, but the submissions window for our 2022 program closes on October 15th 2021. We can’t wait to start reviewing all the nominations and selecting the winners for 2022 – always a difficult but rewarding task!

Of course, the case studies detailing the initiatives of 2021 Model Bank winners are available to download for Celent Retail or Corporate Banking research clients, depending on the project’s focus. We chose to recognize 21 initiatives from almost 170 nominations of exceptionally high quality and announced 2021 winners on March 10th, as part of our annual Innovation and Insight event.

About Celent

Celent is committed to helping our clients assess the technology implications of external factors across the financial system, from changes in customer behaviour to new strategies and technologies required to respond to an uncertain economic future. We’re in touch with financial institutions and their technology partners around the world and are developing a host of new perspectives, updated regularly, to help you make the right strategic technology choices in the medium and longer term. Our clients have access to our insights through traditional ways – reports, blogs, analyst access – and new media, like interactive virtual roundtables and snap polls.

Because Celent is part of a larger organization, Oliver Wyman and Marsh McClennan (MMC), you have access to our collective thought leadership in areas ranging from epidemiology (Oliver Wyman), to economic modelling (Oliver Wyman), to risk/ crisis management (Marsh), and human resource implications (Mercer). For further information, please see:

Oliver Wyman

One thing is certain: none of us can go it alone. As you face strategic decisions in the areas of technology and partnerships, Celent is here to support you. We can help you vet partners and technologies as you look at shifting priorities, competitive threats, and growing cost pressures.


We continue to deliver different types of insights, from analysis of technology trends shaping the banking industry to vendor analysis. Note that we are publishing Solution Briefs (a short format based on interesting updates we receive from industry players) throughout the year, but there’s no way to predict what those topics will be.

Industry Trends and Case Studies

  • Model Bank case studies from around the world
  • Cloud, AI, APIs, open banking
  • Cards and digital payments
  • Consumer lending, including mortgages

Polls, Panels, and Primers

  • IT spending priorities
  • State of digital customer origination and onboarding
  • AI (and RPA) Imperatives and Lessons
  • Embedded Finance and Banking-as-a-Service

Vendor Analysis: ABCD, Spectrum, Landscape Reports, Solution Briefs

  • IT Services
  • Low- and No-code Platforms
  • Digital Engagement Platforms
  • Modern Card Issuing Platforms
  • Various Solution Briefs

VendorMatch, Celent’s new vendor discovery tool, is playing an increasingly important role in our vendor analysis. See more at

Contact us for more information about what we have planned in Q4.

If you are a client, please sign in to access a full view of our Q4 2021 agenda.