COVID-19 driven change – Fuelling a surge in creativity & innovation?

Written by: Robert Adler, Commercial Director, SteelEyeTechnology and remote working

Could a technology revolution be a positive outcome from the current COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s clear that the coronavirus crisis will have significant social, economic and humanitarian impacts. The financial services industry has already had to reinvent its approach to business continuity on the hoof, support a vast number of employees working from home, and rethink the way it engages with both retail and business customers, as well as the markets.

Certainly, the government-imposed lockdown, designed to prevent the spread of the virus, has led to many employees working remotely. However, financial firms are discovering that many roles and processes are tied to an on-site presence – often because of the limitations imposed by legacy and on-premise technology. It will therefore be very interesting to see how much today’s circumstances will challenge conventional thinking regarding innovation and investment in modern solutions? Will we see more firms moving more core business processes to the Cloud to support greater flexibility in the future?

And, if firms do move more core data and technology solutions to the Cloud, what related processes should also move to the Cloud? For example, the current crisis is reshaping how firms think about business continuity and compliance procedures, particularly in light of recent regulatory focus on operational resilience. Firms are recognising that their existing approaches often rely on legacy technology – or even manual/physical processes – that cannot respond nimbly in the face of the kinds of events that have recently unfolded.   

To further develop this nimbleness, is there going to be a burst of innovation around solutions designed to support teams? There may well be as individuals that work with video conferencing tools such as Zoom and collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams and Slack identify ways that these can be improved and evolved.

Could there be a similar burst of creativity across the whole financial services technology sector? Potentially, as financial firms move in new directions, they will develop closer working relationships with RegTechs and FinTechs to enhance existing technology solutions.

So, in which areas could we see creativity and innovation unleashed in response to the changes being imposed by the current crisis? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Software and data in the cloud – Having technology solutions and information in the cloud, rather than on physical servers at a company site, provides unparalleled opportunity for flexible working. It paves the way for further innovation too, as people engage with larger data sets, more powerful analytics, and reporting that is available anywhere.
  • Solutions that support collaboration – Overnight, Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams and other technology products that support collaborative working have become the nerve centre for many teams. New features are likely to be suggested and implemented as a result of the intensive usage they are experiencing today, and new technologies may be developed.
  • Security solutions for homeworking – Perimeter 81 and other IT security solutions that make it safer for employees to work from home, in terms of cyber risk, look set to be more widely adopted. Financial services teams often work with sensitive or personal data that needs extra protection for remote working.
  • Compliance strategies to support homeworking – There is likely to be an explosion in demand for RegTech that can be deployed quickly and easily to ensure that workers in non-office locations remain within the rules. Compliance teams will also be looking to automate processes that were previously manual, so these processes are more operationally resilient.
  • Support for mixed-mode working – It’s generally agreed that even when people start working more from their offices again, the level of homeworking will be higher than before. New tools will be needed to make this mixed-mode approach easier to engage with and a better overall experience. For example, one such tool is MeetingOwl, which improves videoconferencing by focusing on one individual speaker around a conference room table, at a time.

With change and innovation also come challenges, however. For example, Zoom has experienced issues with “Zoom-bombing” where trolls gate-crash meetings on the platform. It has also been criticized for its data privacy policies, which allows it to track user data even if the users are not members. Solving challenges like these will make proactive collaboration between financial firms and technology companies more important than ever.

In fact, if the coming period of innovation and creativity were to have one overarching theme, it would be “collaboration.” Financial firms and individuals who thrive in the “new normal” will be successful at fostering collaboration. As well, all of the areas for potential innovation listed above will also help to nurture more collaborative environments. And other grassroots initiatives can be just as important, taking many forms, from supporting online employee get-together during the lockdown, to providing more online training that has an in-person feel. 

So – what do you think financial services technology will look like in two years’ time, given the creativity and innovation that are being unleashed?


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About Robert Adler: 

Robert Adler-portrait photoRobert has over 19 years of experience within the financial technology and software sector, delivering complex business and technology change programmes for asset managers, wealth managers, hedge funds and banks.

Robert has leveraged his cross product and front, middle to back office knowledge to deliver a range of projects for clients. These include IT deployments, cloud and telephony migrations, regulatory technology control remediation, trading systems solutions, equity business and technology reviews, assessment of IT & technology strategies, regulatory due diligence, wealth & portfolio management solutions and IT cost management reviews. He has also spoken on TV,  in panel discussions and in the media regarding IT, outsourcing, technology, financial regulatory & compliance subjects.