The world is changing. Fast. Today, global industry and commerce stand at the precipice of the next industrial revolution – the ‘Internet of Things’. In a rapidly evolving society, today’s consumer lives in an always connected world of digital interactions, contextual data analytics, real-time advice and soon we will all be part of the era of artificial intelligence. For many the digital abyss invokes fear, but for those brave few, who can embrace the tsunami of change, it represent an opportunity to define the future.
‘Digital Disruption’ is the term most used by today’s industry futurists. If you are not familiar with the words, it largely describes the impact of new business models which are challenging and devouring traditional firms through the clever use of digital commerce. Recently, the most obvious, and probably the most talked about example of this disruption, is that of Uber, which is disrupting the taxi business around the world. Without owning any cars, and with a tiny team of staff, the mobile app firm has quickly become a multi-billion dollar company that even has some politicians and governments in protest over its success and subsequent economic impact.
Outside of Uber, we also see examples of digital disruption in the hotel industry with firms like Airbnb, and it is well known that companies like Borders, Blockbusters and Kodak have succumbed to digital businesses like Amazon, Netflix and Apple. Even in the music industry we see how a combination of owning the physical and digital distribution model made a ‘computer’ company like Apple, the largest seller of music on the planet. Apple hasn’t stopped there either, they are now a significant presence in the mobile payments space with ApplePay, and before long will probably be disrupting the healthcare industry too. The point of all this, is that unless businesses recognize the rapid change in consumer behaviour and the evolving engagement dynamics of their customers, they risk being made irrelevant in a very short space of time. Never before, has it been so important to invest in digital transformation, and in finding new ways to keep ‘connected’ with your customers. From using Natural Language interaction like Cortana, Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, to building Artificial Intelligence that provide contextual advice and feedback, businesses today are faced with a number of digital transformation options to help themselves reinvent what’s next in their industry.
In financial services, digital disruption is already running rife. The infancy of technologies like blockchain, biometrics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are threatening to go mainstream in just a few short years, and with the number of Fintech start-ups and ‘Unicorns’ increasing month by month, there is a strong case to argue that banking is being ‘unbundled’. Never before has the banking industry faced such an onslaught of new digital challengers to each and every aspect of its revenue streams. From Peer to Peer Lending, to Blockchain enabled FX Payments, and mobile-only banks, the Industry of Trust faces an inflection point - a complete overhaul of how value is stored, moved and invested. However, with great power comes great response, and many banks are now looking at ways to anorak the winds of change.
The launch of Dubai’s first dedicated banking and smart government digital innovation center (SDIC) by Synechron is evidence that the industry is seeking guidance and help on its transformation efforts. The problem today faced by many organizations who wish to embark on a digital transformation program, is that they have no real end-to-end ‘experts’ to turn to. First they must engage with consultants who develop a strategy. Then they must engage with a design agency to conceptualize the idea, and finally a technology services provider who is able to develop the solution. Today Synechron is one of a handful of companies globally, who offer all three services as a turnkey partner.
Synechron’s state-of-the-art Innovation Center was designed to enable businesses to step into the digital world and experience ‘What’s Next’ for themselves. Unfortunately ideation, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are attributes that are in short supply today. Bankers have ideas and imagination, but what idea’s work and what are the practical challenges that confront digital transformation, are the reasons why Synechron’s management envisioned and invested in building a space where its clients could come and experience the latest in the digital world, get inspired, and learn from industry experts about what trends and technologies are disrupting their industries worldwide. Visitors to the SDIC can see and experience a next generation digital branch or customer service center, in which they are able to interact with digital touch walls, interactive tables, tablet and mobile phone apps, and use voice, face and body recognition to engage in a fully immersive experience. The innovation facility also contains the latest technologies in digital queue management solutions, a next generation ATM and Self-Service kiosk zone, with and an area dedicated to smart mobile and digital payments. Visitor’s role play the customer journey through a typical digital engagement scenario and are beginning to understand what impact that technologies like beacons, drones, biometric authentication and Augmented/Virtual Reality can have on their business. Investing in such technologies, is now an imperative that few organizations can choose to ignore. The threat of competitors and start-up challengers is compelling firms to invest not only in changing themselves, but also in the very start-ups who seek to dethrone them. A recent trend of banks establishing Start-up Accelerator funds to co-invest in these disruptors show that bankers recognize the threat to incumbency, and are looking to learn from the newcomers whilst evolving their businesses. With great power, comes great clout, and as several industry experts have pointed out, “the rebundling of banking” is well underway. For the time being, Banks should look to digital experts for reimagining their business and investing in Digital Transformation should remain a priority for at least the next five years.