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How Microsoft is reshaping financial services

Many businesses are having to reimagine the way they do business and are using technology to get them there.
Microsoft partnered with Standard Bank to allow the bank to scale its business on demand and roll out innovations as these are ready for launch. Image: Moneyweb

Demand for Microsoft Teams shot up during lockdown, with the company reporting 44 million daily users in May – a 40% increase in demand over a period of months.

What’s driving this growth is the massive shift to remote work and education. It’s now become clear that the lockdown, far from being a temporary blip in the way we interact, is likely to become a permanent part of the way we do business.

But a far more profound change is underway in the financial services sector, says Amr Kamel, Microsoft enterprise director for Africa. “Microsoft Teams is a vital tool for millions of businesses around the world, something that has been accelerated by the Covid lockdown, but this is just part of the transformation we are involved in implementing in the financial services sector.

“For every organisation right now, these are unprecedented times. Businesses  of all sizes and entire industries will need to adjust to disruption and change, and the coming months will be pivotal for many. Many things may never be the same [when lockdown is lifted]. But one constant is the power of technology to help people and organisations adapt, reinvent and transform.

“Technology will be a key ally in rebooting enterprises.”

Kamel calls it the “reimagine” mindset. It is astonishing how many businesses are adapting to online delivery and cloud technology, and nowhere is this more evident than in financial services.

Three phases

Kamel says there are three phases required for any coherent response to the pandemic: response, recovery and reimagination.

“I think we are already through the response phase, and now well into recovery,” he says.

Those businesses that survived this far will now be confronted with reimaging the way they do business in the future, and this goes far beyond remote meetings and online delivery – though these are a critical component in future survival.

“This pandemic has taught us that no business is 100% resilient, and those fortified by digital technology are more resilient and more capable of transforming when faced with structural changes in the marketplace,” says Kamel.

Banks are paring back their bricks and mortar branches across the country, placing greater reliance on electronic delivery to service customers.

That trend was already in place before the lockdown but accelerated at unprecedented rates in the last few months. The traditional banking model is being challenged by largely digital banks, which have the advantage of starting a banking operation from scratch based on back office systems that can be scaled with ease. Traditional banks’ legacy systems will have to be overhauled to stay in this race and enrich the customer experience.

Unlike most other types of business, banks are under intense scrutiny from regulators at a time when many customers are under severe financial distress. This puts regulatory compliance and risk management front and centre of the banks’ supervisory obligations.

Microsoft partnered with Standard Bank to allow the bank to scale its business on demand and roll out innovations as these are ready for launch.

Integration

One of the problems banks have faced when introducing new customer offerings in the past is the ability to integrate these into often clunky legacy systems. The partnership with Standard Bank involved migrating the bank’s customer experience to SAP Cloud Platform on Microsoft Azure, which is a cloud computing service for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centres.

“Standard Bank South Africa is moving its core SAP Cloud Platform services to Microsoft Azure to improve the experience customers have with the bank while enabling it to introduce new solutions to market more efficiently,” says Kamel. “By moving workloads to the cloud, Standard Bank will be able to access a range of features that it can deploy instantly and scale according to demand. This will result in cost reductions, improved system performance, and access to innovation.”

June 2020 saw Standard Bank Group host its 10th annual Africa Investors Conference as a virtual event, using a specially enhanced Microsoft Teams platform to host more than 2 500 meetings over a period of five days. This is more than double the total number of meetings hosted by the bank in 2019, all made possible by the new virtual platform introduced by Microsoft.

The number of investors registered for the conference increased by 78% and African corporate participation increased by 17%.

This is just one example of the type of investor and stakeholder engagement ushered in through new technological enhancements.

“This gives us a sense of the future of business, and the ability of companies to vastly improve their level of engagement of stakeholders,” says Kamel.

Another Microsoft engagement at Nedbank involved the fast-track use of Teams for meetings, conference calls and live events, culminating in the bank’s virtual annual general meeting (AGM) in May. Kamel says productivity was maintained and even improved as the bank’s 30 000 staff across the continent were able to meet with their colleagues through virtual meeting rooms and conference calls.

For a major financial services group like Nedbank, with over 30 000 employees and operations that span the African continent, making that move with minimal disruption presented a challenge – but the organisation was able to achieve that aim through technology adoption at speed and scale.

“In the space of months, Nedbank was able to adapt with amazing speed to the new operating environment that confronted it as a result of the lockdown, and we are proud that we were able to implement this with no disruption to productivity,” says Kamel.

Brought to you by Microsoft South Africa.

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