Q&A from Shanker Ramamurthy, Global Managing Partner – Banking at IBM, BIAN Executive Board Member

by jcp
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Could you provide us with some background on your current role within the financial services sector? 

I lead the banking consulting practice across IBM Consulting, focusing on banks’ digital transformation, core banking, and payments. Additionally, I am the President of the IBM Industry Academy, a dynamic and diverse community of IBM’s industry experts aiming to form new solutions to help our customers win in a constantly evolving industry landscape. The Academy offers IBMers the chance to work together and collaborate with industry experts from all areas of IBM.

Since my career began almost three decades ago, I have been lucky enough to work across six continents in various consulting and leadership roles in the financial services sector. This experience, coupled with my current role, has provided me with a unique insight into the digital trends affecting all industries and enables me to serve IBM’s financial services clients better.

Can you explain more about your recent appointment to BIAN’s Executive Board and BIAN’s role in the industry? 

BIAN stands for the Banking Industry Architecture Network. It is a collaborative, not-for-profit organization of institutions and professionals from the financial and technology industries, including leading banks, technology providers, consultants, and academics from all over the globe. Member organizations are committed to lowering the cost of banking and increasing the speed of innovation adoption in the industry. Members draw upon their combined industry expertise to define a revolutionary banking technology framework that standardizes and simplifies banking architecture to overcome limitations preventing growth and efficiency and encourage ease of management in their existing environments.

The opportunity to become a member of the BIAN board was an invitation I could not turn down. I am honored to be part of BIAN’s executive board to provide counsel and support their work in helping financial institutions negotiate this time of immense opportunity and disruption. For the financial services industry, BIAN’s open framework, services-oriented architecture, and standards model are more critical than ever before.

After working in the financial services industry for a number of years, what is it that makes you so passionate about the industry? 

I am delighted to see the impact of exponential technology on financial services because these innovations provide an opportunity to bring positive change to people’s everyday lives. I am also a strong advocate for financial inclusion and emphasize its importance as part of my practice. Financial services should be accessible for all, regardless of financial means and where you are in the world. In this respect, I am committed to helping banks widen the availability of banking services and reduce the cost point of doing so.

The importance of financial inclusion is evident. But what measures can global banks take to increase the availability of banking services and keep cost points low?

The financial services industry still has much to do to achieve inclusive banking globally. Having said this, incumbents, fintechs and techfins have made significant investments in technology and innovation, with this end in mind. Unfortunately, we live in a world where globally, billions of people still do not have access to basic financial services. Critical areas such as payments – particularly cross-border payments – remain costly, and access to credit continues to be a challenge for so many.

Global financial institutions will find success for their own business processes and their customers through a technology and business strategy to support the bank of the future and by prioritizing innovation powered by hybrid cloud and AI. Although there is much work to be done, it is encouraging that the combination of innovation will help democratize and transform finance like never before.

What can banks do to prepare for the future? 

Banks are facing an evolving landscape due to COVID-19 and changing regulatory environments. This is something banks and fintechs are navigating. At the same time, the financial services industry is being shaped by new consumer trends – from the rise of a cashless society to the pandemic-driven shift towards online banking and mobile payments.

The focus on technological development to accommodate these changes will continue. The banks that succeed will be the ones who have a technology and business strategy to support the ‘bank of the future,’ in which much of the middle and back office gets almost entirely automated and focus shifts to customers and customer value-adding functions. This transition requires rapid digitization and the adoption of exponential technologies powered by the hybrid cloud and AI. BIAN has an essential role in helping banks do just this.

What does the shift towards digital banking, including the increasing use of mobile contactless payments by customers, mean for the bank of the future?

Digitization drives innovation, new business models, and efficiency while simultaneously enabling extreme competition from traditional and non-traditional competitors. In tomorrow’s banking eco-system model, the value is increasingly accruing from customer-facing functions supported by platform-based business models. By extension, this has meant competition from both fintech and importantly, techfins (large technology companies that are moving into the less regulated aspects of financial services such as payments, electronic wallets, BNPL – buy now pay later models and more).

Banks in the future will automate extensively, and likely extend their business models to create ‘beyond banking platforms’ to support their customers in areas outside of the traditional banking value chain. The future of such models is being written in Asia by banks such as DBS in Singapore, State Bank of India, among others as they evolve their business models to combat the growth of ‘super-apps’ like Alibaba, Tencent, Grab, Gojek, and more in that part of the world.

How can the industry find its footing after such a change?

Banks have several natural advantages that come from incumbency, customer loyalty, and material regulatory barriers preventing non-traditional competitors from quickly breaching their businesses. Regardless, mastering the future will require banks to ask themselves three questions:

  1. Is our strategy ambitious enough?
  2. Are we executing fast enough?
  3. Do we have the talent and capabilities to win?

Answering these questions honestly and then putting in place programs to execute relentlessly is the only way for the industry to continue to thrive and take advantage of the extensive opportunities in the near future.

– Shanker Ramamurthy, Global Managing Partner – Banking at IBM, BIAN Executive Board Member

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