Nordic Financial Services Players Late to the Revolution

The first industrial revolution was driven by steam power and mechanized production. The second was about mass production of electricity. And the third automated production through information technology. Now we’re at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution. One built on digital, with nanotechnology, bots, AI, 3D printing and other forms of computing revolutionizing the workforce. Making companies much more agile, ready to respond to rapidly evolving customer needs and enabling big companies to behave like nimble startups.

But to what extent is this wave of change shaping Nordic financial services (FS) players? The simple answer is not enough. Based on our own research and experience in the industry, it appears that players in the region are slow to grasp the importance of this latest revolution. This lack of engagement in new technology could hobble the industry for years to come.


More and more FS companies have jumped on the automation bandwagon, using it to tackle repetitive tasks: things like applications handling, claims processing and financial trading. And they’ve reaped the benefits in terms of falling error rates and faster processing times. An overwhelming number of Nordic executives believe intelligent automation will take over routine tasks. Yet only half think it can be used for more complex back-end operations like analytics or legal operations. Although some FS players are using it in the front office, one-third doesn’t believe it can be leveraged in customer-facing tasks like advisory and sales.

In short, Nordic FS players are behind their international counterparts. Globally, 76 percent of industry respondents believe that within three years, most banks will deploy AI as their primary point for interacting with their customers. In the next 10 years, digital assistants will be so pervasive they’ll keep employees productive around the clock, 365 days a year. Yet, when asked whether they believe machines and AI are going to replace people in advanced tasks, some Nordic respondents reported that 10 years is too short a window of time for the industry to experience major technological impact. Net-net, Nordic FS has missed the mark in terms of the value and speed at which technology will transform the workforce.

Globally, 76% of industry respondents believe that within 3 years, most banks will deploy AI as their primary customer touchpoint.


Financial service organizations have untapped potential of which they seem aware. In fact, most pension insurers consider “slow service development” and “inability to carrying out improvements” as the two biggest competitive risks in the future.

So, what are the steps players can take—today—to “pivot to the new,” transforming the workforce to meet competitive challenges? For starters, digital leaders will be those that lead change with a clear vision, focusing on outcomes and value instead of investing in digital applications for the sake of it. And people—customers and workforce—need to be at the heart of the change. That entails involving stakeholders in the design of new services. Like one bank that gathered its workforce and asked, “What processes are the ones you’d most like to not do?”

How to become a change leader in the new digital economy

FS digital leaders will be those that drive change and support the transforming workforce both inside and outside their organizations. Inside requires transforming the workforce, ensuring their skills are relevant. And that operating models are flexible. Outside involves influencing the regulatory scene so that new ways of working are embraced, and developing offerings that serve the extended workforce of freelancers and other third-parties. There is a real urgency to plan reskilling, augmenting workforce by AI, and defining new operating models to anticipate the digital and automated environment. By 2020, more than one-third of the desired skill sets of most jobs will be comprised of skills not yet considered crucial today. Already today, 40 percent of employers report talent shortages.”

“By 2020, more than one-third of the desired skill sets of most jobs will be comprised of skills not yet considered crucial today. Already today, 40 percent of employers report talent shortages.”

To pivot to the new, on-demand services will be key to the transformation to a truly digital business. What do we mean by that? Reacting quickly to changing market demands requires an organization that can access ad hoc resources and skill sets. Yet Nordic financial service representatives do not fully recognize the potential of utilization of leveraging an external workforce, with only about half anticipating a rise in usage in the coming few years. Compare that to global trends, where nearly a third already see project freelance workers being a seamless extension of their own people in the next 2-3 years. And banking leaders anticipate that freelance workers will grow by more than 51 percent over the next year.


Financial services in the Nordic region, and around the world, are at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolutions: digital. Yet, so far, too many players have been too slow to react. And like the horse and buggy manufacturers that hesitated in the face of the burgeoning car industry, financial services players may find themselves plodding forward, and eventually left behind, as competitors race to the future. It’s increasingly clear: The time for action—and harnessing the power of AI before competitors do—is now.


The Nordic workforce transformation research was carried out in two research rounds through web-based questionnaires. The first round was conducted in Finland focusing on pension insurance. Those results were then validated by a second research round during the spring of 2017 to encompass other Nordic countries and financial service sectors. Research participants consisted of executives in leading positions in Nordic financial service organizations including life and pension, property and casualty and banking in the areas of development, digital, strategy, HR executives and managers, and research managers. In total, more than 30 experts across Nordics participated the research.


Anne Lind

Anne Lind

Anne Lind is Managing Director within Financial Services sector and leads management consulting in Nordics. Anne is passionate about transformations and equipping organizations with capabilities to survive the changing business environment. Anne is very intrigued by human performance, and how artificial intelligence and automatization will change the very fundaments of work.

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Riikka Uimonen

Riikka Uimonen

Riikka is a management consulting analyst at Accenture, working in the Insurance practice within the financial services group. She has background in both property and casualty as well as pension insurance, and she has been conducting the workforce transformation research in financial services on Nordic level. Riikka finds advancing technologies and their workforce impacts as a supremely urgent topic, as the future will demand businesses to rethink their strategies and to drive the transformation in order to stay relevant.

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