Unlocking the power of the cloud to improve services

The newly launched Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services is helping organisations to enhance customer and employee experiences as well as drive loyalty and customer growth, as Microsoft’s Bill Borden explains

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 04 February 2022
Unlocking the power of the cloud to improve services

Over the course of the last couple of years, the value of digital has increased at an exponential rate, not least for financial services organisations who are increasingly recognising the need to better serve their clients and empower employees, while at the same time continuing to reduce the costs of running their businesses. 

In fact, a recent survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that financial services respondents are the most likely to say that the pandemic has accentuated the competitive edge of digital-first companies.  

The cloud is a big enabler here, offering both time to value and cost reduction. Respondents to the Economist Intelligence Unit survey view cloud computing as the most important technology needed to meet their objectives.  

It’s important to realise, however, that financial services firms have unique needs and challenges. And this is where the recently launched Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services comes into its own.  

“This industry-specific cloud introduces new capabilities that add to our existing public cloud offerings and in combination truly unlock the power and value of the Microsoft Cloud to help innovate for responsible and sustainable growth,” said Bill Borden, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of worldwide financial services, in a blog post. “Our industry cloud has a foundation of privacy, security and regulatory compliance across Microsoft and our partner ecosystem, and it is built on an industry data model that enables interoperability and innovation. In addition, we are releasing new capabilities to help enable retail banks to enhance customer and employee experiences as well as drive loyalty and customer growth.”  

Financial institutions including Navy Federal Credit Union and Virgin Money UK are already exploring the new capabilities.  

“At Virgin Money UK we are always looking at ways to innovate and deliver a world class, digital customer experience,” said Fraser Ingram, chief digital and innovation officer at Virgin Money UK, in a press release. “We see Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services accelerating that journey of digitising our customer experience, while enabling us to scale and grow. Microsoft’s technologies have a broad range of applications and meaningful insights; whether it is to help advise customers on their financial plans or servicing their needs under their existing portfolio of products. This transformation will also support our efforts to enhance our employee experience, empowering our frontline colleagues to deliver the best heartfelt service for our customers, working together to make money simpler and easier.” 

Through the new solution, Microsoft aims to ensure that every financial services organisation has the digital capabilities they need to succeed going forward. According to Borden, this means Microsoft is committed to helping customers improve time to value, reduce costs, increase agility, and accelerate innovation for sustainable growth. “Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services integrates cloud services across the depth of our offerings – Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform – underpinned by an industry data model, with new capabilities and customisation unique to the financial services industry,” he said. “It was also designed for even the most complex control frameworks and regulatory requirements facing the industry, with our multi-layered security, comprehensive compliance, and trust commitments built-in.” 

All this helps enable banks and insurers, as well as Microsoft’s extensive network of industry partners, to unlock unprecedented value. “Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services helps optimise business processes through integrated collaboration and omnichannel communications capabilities and enhances the customer experience through comprehensive customer insights and personalised customer interactions,” said Borden. “Additionally, Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services helps accelerate products to market, removes data silos to turn insights into action, and defends against fraud. It offers the flexibility to adopt the capabilities in a modularised fashion.” 

And this is just the start. The platform has been designed to enhance customer and employee experiences too. “Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services is designed to address critical needs of retail banking by creating differentiated customer experiences consumers now expect and empowering employees through teamwork,” said Borden.  

In fact, according to Capgemini’s most recent World Retail Banking Report, 81 per cent of consumers said easy access and flexible banking will motivate them to switch to a new-age financial provider. This means that, as customers continue to interact with their bank via digital channels, continued focus to ensure data connectivity, interoperability of ecosystems, and actionable insights are key to retaining customers and winning over new ones. 

“Additionally, employees need to have the right tools as well as change management in processes to adapt to the current environment to service customers and support each other and their respected departments,” said Borden. “Armed with customer insights and processes that offer automation, collaboration, and communications, employees can excel in their roles and are given a better opportunity to accomplish their goals.”  

Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services offer a number of capabilities in this area, including a unified customer profile which helps banks and insurers to personalise customer experiences by bringing together financial, behavioural and demographic data. Meanwhile, customer onboarding provides customers with easy access loan apps and self-service tools, helping streamline the loan process to enhance customer experience and loyalty while increasing organisational and employee productivity. Banking customer engagement helps banks to tailor customer interaction so that they can connect with customers on their preferred channel in a meaningful way. And collaboration manager enables automation and collaboration across front and back office. 

Financial services firms also have unique needs when it comes to combatting financial crime, and the Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services can help here too. “Total combined fraud losses climbed to $56 billion in 2020, and identity fraud scams accounted for $43 billion of that cost, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research,” said Borden. “With a vast number of transactions and more customers online than ever, there is a need to analyse data and implement the unique nature of an organisation’s business. Addressing fraud not only protects customers but also safeguards an organisation’s reputation and protects from regulatory risk.” 

With this in mind, Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services offers account protection which helps to identify and prevent fraud at account creation and login. Purchase protection, meanwhile, uses artificial intelligence to help protect the merchant services arms of financial institutions and merchants from online purchase fraud. 

There are also features to address global and regional regulatory compliance requirements, which continue to expand across the industry. “Most organisations are facing difficulties to keep up with increasing requirements and higher levels of scrutiny being applied by financial services regulators,” said Borden. “Cybercrime has also increased dramatically during the pandemic – in the US, for example, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center found cybercrime complaints hiked by 100 per cent over a 14-month period – with attacks becoming more sophisticated. Financial services organisations that use the latest technologies to manage their overall security and compliance posture will find themselves in a stronger position to address these risk management and compliance challenges in a rapidly changing world.” 

Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services includes risk assurance and support, as well as regulatory compliance assessments. “These new capabilities, coupled with our existing foundational capabilities – such as our zero-standing access, our global data centre footprint with over 60 announced regions, and our commitment to SSAE SOC 2 certifications – will help organisations address security and compliance challenges more effectively,” said Borden.  

Microsoft’s growing ecosystem of partners amplifies the capabilities of Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services. “Our partners are dedicated to better serving customers by helping provide more integrated solutions that reduce risk across the ecosystem, identify new opportunities for innovation, and decrease time to market,” said Borden. “I would like to thank the financial services organisations, Microsoft partners, and other industry leaders who helped provide impactful guidance on how we can best help the industry in its digital path forward. We believe Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services has the foundation needed to help financial institutions accelerate innovation for responsible growth, and it offers the right set of capabilities for retail banking to meet their most pressing needs for enhancing customer and employee experiences, combatting financial crime, and managing security and compliance.”  

Partner Perspectives

We asked a selection of Microsoft partners about how they are using Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services and other key Microsoft technologies to enhance customer and employee experiences as well as drive loyalty and customer growth. Below are extracts from their responses, which you can read in full from page 103 of the digital edition of the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record.  

Al Karim Somji, founder and CEO of Zafin, said: “To remain competitive in a rapidly evolving banking landscape, financial institutions are focused on core modernisation and digital transformation. Our award-winning software-as-a-service product and pricing platform, together with Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services, simplifies the core by externalising product and pricing, enabling the delivery of more personalised banking experiences for customers.”

Wim Geukens, managing director at VeriPark Europe, said: “Many VeriPark solutions are focusing on employee empowerment. Recently, we have integrated our VeriLoan Retail Loan Origination System with Microsoft’s Collaboration Manager for Loans to empower internal teams with a high-level summary of loan applications – right from their Teams app. Microsoft’s Collaboration Manager, part of Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services, is a Microsoft Teams app that allows users to work on loan applications and collaborate with other team members within Teams as part of their daily activities.”

Levente Rozsahegyi, senior director of managed services and co-innovate at Finastra, said: “At Finastra, we are creating an open development platform for innovation and collaboration, to unlock the potential of people, businesses and communities across the world.”

Jason Seedig, founder of Mortgage365, said: “Mortgage365 leverages the Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services, to connect disparate mortgage data systems, automate core processes, and enable lenders to serve the customer of the future. The solution uniquely enables inclusive access to financial optimisation, removing barriers with a more accessible mortgage lending experience completely built on the Microsoft Cloud.”

Louis Dore, vice president of sales for the Americas at Solgari, said: “Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services is a specialised, sophisticated foundation for Solgari’s all-channel communication technology, enabling financial institutions including retail banking providers to deliver seamless, effective customer experiences across sales, marketing and customer service.”

Mary Anne Ballouz, marketing communications writer at ICONICS, said: “In alignment with its commitment to its sustainability initiatives and to delivering top-notch customer and employee experience, Italy’s leading banking group Intesa Sanpaolo Group teamed up with Microsoft and Microsoft Partner Network member ICONICS. The aim of the collaborative project was to improve the operations and management of the group’s buildings and facilities by moving from reactive management to predictive management to make data-driven decisions and actions.”

Dave Vieregg, senior vice president of channel sales at Versapay, said: “Manual accounts receivable (AR) processes are inefficient, tedious and prevent AR teams at financial services firms from doing impactful work. Versapay’s collaborative AR platform automates core AR tasks – invoicing, reminders, payment processing, omnichannel matching and reconciliation – syncing all data back to Microsoft Dynamics 365 to increase efficiency.”

This article was originally published in the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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