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Banking on digital: Enabling a digital first mindset with a digital operating model

Financial services companies need a digital operating model to deliver on the promise of the digital age in a changing financial services marketplace.


As financial services companies reinvent how they work for the digital age, many now have multiple teams overseeing various aspects of the digital footprint. This fragmentation results in a lack of consistency and coordination that can negatively impact customer service, responsiveness and costs.

While it can be challenging, determining the right digital operating model is essential for financial services players to execute against their digital strategies. While there are a number of models to consider, the key is to pursue one best positioned to help the company truly put the customer at the heart of the business.

Digital operating model is one of seven enablers that can help financial services providers renew the customer experience in the digital era. Adopting a “Digital First” mindset—putting digital at the heart of the business—enables financial institutions to redefine their relationship with their customers.


To identify the best digital operating model, financial services companies must consider a few key issues:

  • The degree of centralization
    The degree of centralization that a company adopts for its digital operating model depends on its priorities, level of desired control, business model (global vs. regional), and common synergies from the customer’s perspective.

  • The level of maturity
    Financial services companies need to take an objective look at the current state of their digital operations in determining which digital operating model is the best fit for today. Committing to a model is not irrevocable, and companies can adopt different models as their maturity evolves.

  • Role of digital in future operations
    Financial institutions will also need to consider how each model could help develop digital skills, launch new customer propositions, and rapidly and cost-effectively advance technology change.

  • Digital execution capabilities
    Selecting a digital operating model is not enough to create a high performing digital organization. Regardless of the digital model adopted, financial services institutions will need to develop a robust digital execution arm within or across business units. These capabilities should include:

    • Innovation, strategy and governance

    • Execution and expertise

    • Digital foundation

    • Digital management

    • Change management

    • Digital knowledge management


Companies can select from one of four digital operating models depending on their needs:

Option 1. Decentralized Model
Financial services companies may choose this option if they prefer digital strategy and execution to be tied to individual business units and where complexity between departments is relatively minimal. Each business unit manages its own digital strategy and delivers digital activities separately, with little exchange.

Option 2. Shared Services Model
In this model, each business unit manages its own digital operations and priorities. Business units have their own digital marketing services and digital technology investments, while the centralized shared services that are IT-driven focus on the execution.

Option 3. Center of Excellence (CoE) Model
A CoE provides central access to digital skills and delivery, combined with close business links. Business units set their digital strategy, while the CoE standardizes applications, processes, data and business functions to drive greater consistency. Some components of the IT platform are standardized and shared across business units; however, there are still a large number of business unit-specific digital technologies.

Option 4 Centralized Model
In this model, digital products and services are well integrated across channels. The IT platform and business services are centralized, and a dedicated team takes responsibility for digital strategy and execution across the organization. The organization has moved to a standard digital platform, which allows rapid and cost-effective implementation of new digital campaigns and tactics.