Technology Record - Issue 27: Winter 2022

Today’s financial services leaders are tasked with the careful balancing act of driving greater efficiencies while consistently improving the customer experience. Empowering the workforce is imperative to this – and technology from Microsoft and its partners can help BY L I ND S AY J AME S F E ATUR E The last few years have been challenging for financial services organisations. Cost-cutting measures are in full force as banks try to counter the economic slowdown and fears of an upcoming recession. In fact, 61 per cent of banks say that cost reduction has increased as a strategic priority and 83 per cent say they are refocusing their cost optimisation efforts, according to KPMG’s 2021 New Cost Imperatives in Banking report. For many, this cost-cutting has meant branch closures. In the USA, for example, banks have shut more than 4,000 branches since March 2020 – double the prepandemic rates of closure. Meanwhile, data from the Financial Conduct Authority shows that a record 267 UK bank and building society branches were closed permanently in a single three-month period in 2021. Despite all this, demand for in-person services hasn’t gone away. “Contact centres are experiencing record call demand, with fewer workers handling this increase,” said Bill Borden, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Worldwide Financial Services in a post on LinkedIn. “Employees are being expected to deliver high-quality interactions while also handling highvolume, routine transactions.” It's a lot to manage, but banks are increasingly recognising that, with the right technology, they can drive new efficiencies more effectively, while empowering their employees to deliver better customer experiences at the same time. According to the KPMG study, digitisation is the number one lever for cost reduction across all regions at 59 per cent, followed by reducing headcount and legacy IT transformation. “We see the biggest gains are to be made in process automation and end to-end digitisation in the middle- and back-office where there often remains a high reliance on inefficient manual processes,” KPMG’s report states. “This also provides a route to headcount optimisation – reducing labour-intensive, paper-based processes and freeing up staff to focus on more clientcentric activities. It is a hallmark of the digitally enabled organisations that banks are seeking to create as they replace and modernise their legacy IT platforms.” Microsoft’s September 2022 Work Trend Index research backs this up. The financial services industry respondents – who represent employees in banking, insurance, fintech, private equity and related sectors that largely did not work from home during the Empowering strengthen loyalty workforces to customer 104