Joel Ripley, CFO, Schroders Personal Wealth has a similar story. Through the amalgamation of various parts of its wealth businesses, the company needed a single system for its procurement, financials, financial planning, and HR processes. Ripley explains how COVID-19 was a challenge, but not enough of a barrier to prevent the company’s Workday deployment.
“As a business, we were born straight into a pandemic. So, going fully digital in six or seven months was pretty challenging, but actually having the technology in the cloud really made that pretty fast and straightforward. We did the entire implementation during a pandemic, so end-to-end, we didn't have a single face-to-face meeting. The entire thing was done digitally. That was down to a combination of our people, our knowledge with the skills that Workday brought, and an excellent integration partner,” Ripley said.
Operating in the “Never Normal”
Business leaders recognise the importance of having digital systems in place to make informed decisions as they look to unlock value and growth in what is being dubbed “the new normal.” But, how should financial services firms prepare for a business environment that threatens to be anything but normal? Accenture’s Merry points to being built for change and ready for disruption as key elements of the “never normal.”
“Technology has blown open the opportunities for financial services. Because, we're going to see disruption and change again. I love Nassim Taleb's work around antifragile, and how you set up an organisation that actually thrives when it's put under a stressful situation or faced with elements that it couldn't predict. COVID has been a great example of that,” Merry said. “We’re now entering an era of possibly the never normal and that's exciting and I think technology does give a lot more choice and optionality. So those who can stay ahead and kind of are bold about using agile technology are going to be at the vanguard of this evolution.”
A clear example of this agility in practice came from Schroder’s Ripley who highlighted the importance of having the right data available on-demand to make decisions as circumstances change.
“One of the things that we've been able to do is react really quickly to the changing environment. We have really gone a step beyond what's normal in a finance team and we actually produce all of our financials every day. Concepts like a month-end close, which will be familiar to many finance colleagues, didn't really exist in our world. Now we close the books every day, so we have up-to-date information. We understand the data, both in terms of our financial performance and in terms of the assets that we're looking after for our customers.”
Preparing Financial Services for the Unknown
Even if the phrase “normal” still needs to be fully defined, Workday’s Patel summed up the compelling need for financial services organisations to embrace digital technology. He discussed how financial institutions require systems that are built to flex with the changing needs of customers.
“It's about having a system that's going to give you the ability to react, to be agile and to be resilient to all those changes in the industry. With financial services, there's regulation coming in. There are new disruptors. So the ability to bring in new measures, to add new dimensions as the market changes with a flexible data model is key. Technology should give you all of that, not just for now, but for the future as well,” Patel said.
Data is key for most financial services businesses, but there is now a stronger emphasis on what organisations are doing with this data. As businesses prepare for more uncertainty, Schroder’s finance leader Ripley pointed to the importance of data in helping to visualise and create narratives to gain fast actionable insights.
“Analytics is hugely important in terms of bringing together different sources of information from outside Workday, and integrating them to give a more cohesive and rounded set of data to enable decision making. That’s important as things change fast. We've used that then to create dashboards and make data visual. Having a visual dashboard in front of key stakeholders is a really powerful tool and it's brought some immediate insights into our business,” Ripley said.
The last word goes to Hutton-Penman, deputy CEO, Tokio Marine Kiln Group Ltd, who outlined the role of back-office systems that can swing 180° to support change.
“You can’t underestimate the need for adaptability, because, right now, all financial services businesses are going through a huge amount of change very, very quickly. Digital transformation is about having the foundation of a tool that is flexible and that businesses can bolt on new modules and processes as things change, inevitably beyond their control, in the future.”
Learn how businesses in the financial services sector have accelerated their journey to becoming a digital enterprise.