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COVID-19 Stress Testing on Banking Operations

Reshaping financial services Frontiers in Finance

As an industry, we have spent years talking about the need for radical transformation. Yet, notwithstanding a handful of truly innovative leaders, the reality is that little has actually changed in the way most financial services firms operate. Sure, over the past decade, many key processes have been digitized and automated; some exciting new channels and innovative tools have been added; new business models and operating models have also been adopted. What we have not yet seen, however, is widespread appetite — or, more importantly, competition — around full-scale transformation programs. Instead, we have seen smaller-scale efforts and initiatives, largely aimed at achieving cost cutting and efficiency objectives. Start with a healthy appetite The reality is that, until today, few executives have seemed willing to risk their careers on a wholesale organizational transformation. Yet my conversations with banking, insurance and asset management leaders around the world suggest that the mood is starting to shift. Executives and organizations are starting to find the intestinal fortitude to do what they know they must. Consider this: In KPMG International’s recent global survey of financial services CEOs,1 22 percent of respondents admitted they were primarily driven by short-term growth pressures. But 47 percent said they were more motivated by much longer-term objectives such as upholding the values of customers, making an environmental and socioeconomic impact or innovating the business model. In part, this reinvigorated commitment to transformation is being driven by concerns around competition. Executives are starting to realize that the more innovative brands are starting to look and act quite unlike a traditional bank. They also understand their customers no longer want the same types of financial services they did just a few years ago. And that is leading many financial services executives to reconsider where they want to position themselves in the go-forward economy. While most executives recognize that transformation is now an absolute imperative, my discussions with them suggest that many are worried they may not have the people, processes or organizational agility to be able to do what is necessary to compete. They want to progress, but they are concerned they may not have the right foundations for success.