Suits The C-Suite

First of two parts

Despite the disruption and challenges caused by the pandemic, the banking industry is more poised than ever for a fundamental transformation. The speed of technological advancements and the means by which banks harness emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, intelligent automation and machine learning only accelerated over the past half-decade. However, though innovation has become more a common capability than an aspirational buzzword, there’s still much transformational work to be done. Banks in the past five years have only seen incremental investments in this direction, adopted emerging technology in a siloed fashion, and focused mostly on cost optimization.

Organizations continue to become more global, with electronic marketplaces facilitating more international activity among SMEs and with multiple micro-sized supply chains spanning across different countries. Due to a combination of disruptive technologies, dynamic markets, and easily accessible capital, small and medium-sized firms find the path to becoming substantial commercial accounts — and in turn, huge corporate banking clients — significantly easier.

An EY study released in November 2020, How will banks transform to build the next generation of businesses, shares seven hypotheses that reflect how the trends of today reshape the current market, and how they play out in the next 10 years. These hypotheses describe how corporate, commercial and small and medium-sized enterprise (CCSB) banks can rise above the challenges of 2020 and leverage opportunities for growth in 2030.

These seven hypotheses discuss 1) how the expansion of banking services from large platforms and tech giants will shrink market share across CCSB segments, 2) how banks can redefine client-centricity in a segment-less world, 3) how they can evolve to become trusted advisors by leveraging data to shape client business strategies, 4) how the subscription model can revolutionize commercial banking, 5) how banks can leverage ecosystems to organize integrated networks, 6) how banks can expand services beyond banking to help clients focus on their core activities, and 7) how banks can provide leadership on critical societal issues to strengthen trust with the next generation of clients.

This two-part article will focus on the last three hypotheses, highlighting the importance of transforming banks to better capitalize upon the future of the banking industry. In this first part, we discuss how banks can leverage ecosystems to organize integrated networks and how they can expand services beyond banking to help clients focus on their core activities.

Today’s businesses maintain relationships with different banking providers, because there are no single banks that offer a truly comprehensive range of services nor an integrated platform. The convenience of a single interface offering a unified experience for all banking needs will become a baseline in the future, with regulations such as open banking now nudging the development of ecosystems to serve clients better. Because multiple providers will drive this ecosystem for clients to access an expanded menu of products and ancillary services, tomorrow’s leading banks will be simultaneously integrated, open and secure.

Top-performing banks will still own client relationships but will also create their own ecosystems curated with products and services from third party partners through integrated platforms. This gives them an edge by focusing and excelling at their core competencies, innovating through open banking technologies, application programming interfaces (API), and attracting preferred third-party partners through niche offerings. Banks can utilize this advantage by developing macro and micro ecosystems to cater to client demand and major geographical markets.

Banks can take another path to market leadership in three ways: by capitalizing on their scale; providing profitable niche services to multiple ecosystems; or specializing in products and services for specific industries. Other banks may even capitalize on their technological capability, experience with complex payments services, risk management experience and scale to provide ecosystem connectivity. The services these ecosystems can provide could also include for instance real-time payments and instant lending to SMEs.

Banks need to thoroughly assess their strengths and weaknesses and embrace design thinking and agile working strategies. Plans must be made to heavily invest in cybersecurity, vendor management and strategies to build trust across their own ecosystems. Ecosystems are just one of the many new models that open banking regulation has paved the way for. Integrated partnerships provide the means to move forward, as proven by collaborations between banks and third parties such as FinTechs — and even with other banks and organizations that cater to niche markets, such as microfinance. This would mean determining which partnerships will be necessary to develop and scale integrated ecosystems and operationalizing said relationships.

With company success driven by focusing on core activities, more companies will need help with non-core activities, particularly those relative to key growth milestones. Banking providers can further deliver value by allowing their clients — especially SMEs — to focus on their businesses, strengthening client relationships by bringing in advisory, risk management, legal and other financial management capabilities in an accessible manner.

Harnessing the power of ecosystems allows banks to launch integrated services, such as Chief Financial Officer in a box, corporate treasurer, financial risk and asset-liability manager, on-demand tax and legal advisor, payment and electronic invoicing utility, and model platforms. These would be particularly useful for firms planning mergers or acquisitions, geographic and cross-border trade expansion, supply chain restructuring, IPOs or funding rounds, or even insolvency and liquidation. Ecosystems will also allow banks to carve out niches in specific areas such as healthcare, connectivity, and infrastructure project finance. Offerings will no longer be limited to banking services but can even include the entire financial operating system to manage the business. For example, healthcare providers can engage banks to manage insurance, liquidity, billing and payments, in addition to traditional financing services and investment advisory. A more complex example for banks would be on the emerging case of cities, companies and communities embarking on sustainable and smart city strategies that would require innovative financing and investment structures as well as development strategies aided by integrated and logical frameworks, citizen and community engagement and geo-spatial location intelligence.

Banks must be capable of deep integration into client corporations, institutional clients, supply chains and value networks to survive and flourish, as large corporations and institutions with established service providers will expect an integrated experience and seamless collaboration among banks, suppliers and vendors.

In the second part of this article, we discuss how banks can provide leadership on critical societal issues to strengthen trust with the next generation of clients.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.


Christian G. Lauron is a Financial Services Partner of SGV & Co. He also leads the Firm’s Government & Public Sector.