Conquering digital transformation in financial services: Interview with Gerald Pullen

Headshot of Gerald Pullen Managing Director in Solutions Design & Transformation for Gobeyond Partners.

At Enate, we really know our onions when it comes to technology, but we also love to learn from thought leaders in the space. We recently sat down with Gerald Pullen, Managing Director of Solution Design & Transformation at Gobeyond Partners to find out what it takes to succeed when embarking on a digital transformation financial services project.

Gerald is an expert in digital transformation, technology enablement and intelligent automation, having delivered solutions at scale in complex, regulatory environments over many years. Hear what Gerald had to say about transformation challenges, opportunities and trends in the finance industry…

Snapshot of Financial Services Employees' Digital Transformation Perceptions: Charts and stats.

1. What advice would you give to financial services leaders to ensure a successful transformation?

Digital transformation in finance is a complex and challenging change programme that requires clear, consistent strategy, vision and leadership, often over several years.

The key attributes to ensure success are:

  • Defining a clear vision and purpose that aligns with customer and business goals.
  • Communication of this vision and purpose to all stakeholders to ensure buy in and support.
  • Investing in the capabilities and skills required to deliver the transformation; no transformation will be successful without an investment in people.
  • Empowering employees to own the part they can play in the transformation and encourage a culture of learning and innovation.
  • Prioritising data and technology investment - tech is clearly a core component of any digital transformation programme and a solid data foundation is critical.
  • Monitor and measure outcomes – and communicate those outcomes

Within any financial services operation there are a number of regulatory rules and regulations that digital transformation needs to comply with. However digital transformation can also actively enable compliance whilst delivering a transformed experience for customers and employees. The recent introduction of the Consumer Duty regulation is a great example of this.

2. According to Deloitte, 76% of financial services employees believe their organisation is on the road to digital transformation. What do you think is holding the other 24% back?

Digital transformation can be hampered by not having the right foundations in place, as referenced above. The main challenges we’ve seen often relate to:

  • Not having a clear vision and roadmap for the digital transformation that is being consistently sponsored and driven across the organisation
  • Linked to this, budget constraints often get in the way, or overly bureaucratic routes to unlocking the funding available for transformation
  • Another key aspect that limits success is insufficient investment and time on upskilling employees to support them in obtaining the skills and experience required to drive the transformation
  • Employees can also fear the transformation if it is not properly positioned, and see it as a threat to their role or status in the organisation.
  • Sometimes, organisational structure can get in the way. If a firm is set up in siloes, it is unlikely digital transformation will succeed; it’s vital that a cross-functional and collaborative approach is fostered, that encourages innovation and removes a fear of failure; experimentation should be actively championed.

3. When considering digital transformation in financial services, what are the rules you need to adhere to?

Within financial services there are a number of regulatory rules and regulations that digital transformation needs to comply with. However digital transformation can also actively enable compliance whilst delivering a transformed experience for customers and employees. The recent introduction of the Consumer Duty regulation is a great example of this.

4. What are the trends/predictions you’re expecting to see in financial services transformation over the next few years?

The buzzword at the moment is undoubtedly ‘GenAI’ and this will have a significant impact on accelerating transformation, from delivering significant improvements to customer journeys to providing employees with expert knowledge at their fingertips.

AI will enable financial institutions to improve their operational efficiency, scalability, agility and innovation. It will also help them to enhance their customer experience, personalization, risk management and compliance. According to a report by McKinsey¹, AI could generate up to $250 billion in value for the industry by 2030.

A couple of other trends that we’d predict include:

  • The rise of embedded finance and platform ecosystems: Embedded finance is the integration of financial services into non-financial platforms, such as e-commerce, social media, or health care. Platform ecosystems refer to the networks of interconnected providers and users that offer complementary products and services. These trends will create new opportunities for financial institutions to reach new customers, expand their offerings, and leverage data and analytics.
  • Shift to sustainability and social responsibility. Financial institutions will face increasing pressure from regulators, customers, investors and society to align their activities with environmental, social and governance goals. This will require them to adopt more sustainable business models, products and practices, as well as to disclose and measure their ESG performance and impact.

5. How long should you roughly expect transformation in financial services to take? What are the factors that will influence this?

There are no hard and fast set of rules for how long digital transformation should or will take, as there are various factors that will influence this, including the scope, scale, complexity, and urgency of the transformation, as well as the readiness, resources, and capabilities of the financial institution. However, some general estimates can be made based on the transformations we have been involved in to date and general industry trends.

For example, according to a report by BCG, the average time to complete a digital transformation in financial services is about three to five years. However, this can vary depending on the type and size of the institution, as well as the level of ambition and maturity of the transformation. For example, a large global bank may take longer than a small regional bank to transform its core banking platform, while a fintech start-up may be faster than an established insurer to launch a new digital product.

The other factors that will influence the duration relate to the points raised above in terms of having a clear strategy in place; the state of the existing tech and data infrastructure; having the right people with the right skills and the culture of the organisation.

6. How important are areas like process mining and orchestration in aiding the digital transformation mix?

The advent of process intelligence/mining and orchestration in the last 5-10 years are extremely helpful capabilities in accelerating a company’s digital transformation.

Within the context of a clear transformation strategy, these capabilities can help organizations understand, optimise, and automate their customer journeys. Process intelligence provides greater visibility of how a process is truly operating and where the pain points are and opportunities for automation. Orchestration also provides greater visibility of work and ability to streamline and standardize the process execution, reduce manual work and human errors, and ensure compliance with rules and regulations, alongside automatically prioritising work according to customer expectations. If you’d like to know more, you can check out our recent process intelligence whitepaper here.