A Celent Survey of Financial Services Firms
Until the spring of 2020, office work was the norm for employees of financial institutions and other large Japanese companies. When dealing with complex issues or making important decisions, all the stakeholders usually gather in the office to discuss the relevant topics. The COVID-19 outbreak has challenged this common practice, as companies have been compelled to impose travel restrictions on employees and/or limit the size of meetings. As a result, remote work very likely remains the new normal through 2021, significantly impacting the daily management of financial institutions.
The shift to remote work environments has created an increased demand for better solutions for remote meetings, including teleconferencing and web conferencing, and better approaches to virtual collaboration. It has also required that new employment, personnel, and management rules be developed for remote working that maintains face-to-face meetings and office work as options. As for customer service, some processes have needed to be fundamentally redesigned. However, by enhancing business plans, designing thoughtful processes that respect user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), and thoroughly considering the quality and productivity of those plans and processes, companies should be able to make substantial changes in working practices that past business process redesign (BPR) approaches could not address.
The pandemic has also created a lot of uncertainty and caused significant volatility, including price and volume fluctuations, in daily financial markets. The design and implementation of remote work environments required companies to race against time and be flexible enough to change very quickly. In other words, the transition to “amoeba management” (information- and data-driven, autonomous, and flexible organization management) was essential and worth trying, even though Japanese financial institutions and other big companies struggled to implement it. The shift to remote work has also required a virtual process design that takes into account operational modifications and sophistication and is accompanied by rigid business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) management revisions.
It will be impractical, and in some cases illogical, to simply revert to pre-pandemic practices once the risk of COVID-19 has been minimized. What financial institutions should learn from this infectious disease outbreak is that remote IT work should be the default in the new normal as a matter of course, not only from the perspective of business continuity but also in terms of business costs, quality, and productivity. After the crisis abates, there will be a new arena of innovations in which cost savings and increased productivity go hand in hand.
The new normal in 2021 is shifting gears from 'survive' to 'thrive.' Prosperity is the goal of the new financial services industry, driven by emerging technologies, as financial institutions serve large enterprises, small and midsize businesses, and consumers, and financial technology vendors serve their customers through their technology offerings.
Survey methods and highlights
Celent conducts regular surveys of trends in the financial services industry. In this survey, Celent examines IT priorities in the new normal, one year after the pandemic.
The survey consisted of 10 questions, asked in both August 2021 and July 2020, seeking input about post-pandemic business goals, IT budgets, and priorities for applying IT to the new normal. The survey questions are almost the same, but with slight modifications to reflect the new situation.
The majority of survey participants were senior managers, including C-level executives, followed by middle managers and practitioners. The geographic distribution was about 70% in Japan and 30% in the major APAC financial markets (Singapore and Hong Kong).
The method was to obtain quantitative responses in an online survey, followed by a telephone interview to obtain qualitative views from the respondents.
Many open-ended responses of the survey participants were recorded in their statement quotes (anonymously). The biggest change in 2021 was the progress in the application of IT to the new normal that reflects the widespread use of vaccines and infectious disease control. There was less concern about stagnation in innovation and more positive talk about exploring growth strategies in the new normal with IT as an enabler.
There was a clear shift in gears from "survival" (supporting customers and employees under a pandemic) in 2020 to "prosperity" (understanding new customer behaviors, searching for new approaches, and implementing new normal business practices) in 2021. Major financial institutions in Japan and APAC have begun to use IT as an enabler and to use IT to change their business organizations. The reverse of Conway's Law (“IT architecture will change your organization.”) has begun.
Check out my latest Celent Report—Asia-Pacific IT Priorities: One Year After the Pandemic | A Survey of Financial Services Firms