RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Accenture research explores banks’ technology expertise at board level and offers strategies to help build directors’ technology skillset.
  • In today’s pandemic-afflicted business climate, our research found banks increasing their investment in technology to meet consumers’ changing needs.
  • But we uncovered a deficiency on banks’ boards: Only one in 10 board directors have tech expertise, leaving banks exposed to potential risks.
  • We’ve listed the steps banks can take to upskill the board’s technology know-how, boost digital fluency and pave the way for digital solutions.


Technology investment is crucial for banks

Unusual circumstances are changing the equation for banks and technology. Our research report, Boosting the Boardroom’s Technology Expertise, finds banks increasing their technology investment. Why? in part, banks are looking to enhance their resilience and efficiency. But increasingly, they need technology to address changing customer demands and drive growth.

Banking customers prefer the seamless, high-quality, hassle-free service the right digital tools can enable. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened customers’ interest in interacting digitally. For example, before the pandemic only 15 percent of customers used video calling, while 46 percent are now ready to do this when banks reopen—and 35 percent prefer this to face-to-face.

Banking executives get the picture. Nearly four in five see a need to dramatically reengineer their technology-people interactions to achieve a more human-centric approach. Banks are leveraging technology such as cloud to boost service levels and accelerate offer development.

But as they increase their technology investments, banks face a key question: Does their board have the digital fluency and expertise to assess and support these new solutions?

Missing: Tech-savvy bank board directors

Banking personnel and executives see value in rapidly increasing their digital technology investment. What’s missing, though, is technology expertise at the board level.

Some banks do have high-profile technology experts on their boards, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Our research finds only 10 percent of banking board directors currently hold or have previously held a technology role, or a senior role at a technology company. Among those with tech expertise, roughly a third are women.

These numbers are low, but we’ve seen improvement since we first conducted this research in 2015:

67%

of banks have at least one board member with technology expertise, compared with 57% in 2015.

1OUT OF10

banking board directors have tech expertise, a modest improvement over 6% in 2015.

This progress is good, but slow. We believe banks should aim for technology expertise in at least 25 percent of its board directors. But at the current pace, most won’t reach that goal until the end of this decade.

Why does the board’s technology expertise and digital fluency matter?

  • Without it, banks could make mistakes in developing their digital strategy, evaluating potential vendors or rolling out new systems.
  • Lacking coordination from a tech-skilled board, different business units might choose different—and incompatible—technologies.
  • Further lessons learned might not be shared from one business unit to the next.

Technology risk is on the rise, so banks cannot afford to be guided by boards that lack adequate technology expertise.

Building bank boards’ tech proficiency

Banks can take steps toward upskilling to build a tech-savvy board, better positioning themselves to respond to new consumer demands in the post-COVID era. Here are actions they can pursue:

Boost directors’ tech savvy

Ongoing coaching can help them improve their understanding of technology and their usefulness in guiding tech investments.

Listen outside the boardroom

Leveraging partnerships with fintechs, technology consultants, suppliers and other business partners can draw in technology know-how.

Add technology to the agenda

Technology can only come to the fore if board agendas incorporate it. Forming a technology board committee can keep the topic included.

Assess new appointees’ tech skills

Evaluation of technology skills should become a factor— albeit not the only factor—in assessing potential new board directors.

Get smart about human-technology interactions

Boards should carefully consider how technology and humans interact, whether it involves customers, bank employees or the bank’s extended partners.

Spark a transformation mindset

Technology can be transformational. Boards that support a transformation mindset pave the way for bold efforts that can take hold across the business.

View All

Banks with tech-savvy, digitally fluent boards are better positioned to avoid the risks inherent in new digital technologies. But even more importantly, they are equipped to maximize what technology can offer, to deliver valuable customer experiences and profits for the bank. Read our report if you’d like to learn more about building technology competence and raising the tech savvy of your bank’s board.

"If they enhance their boards’ technology competency, banks can make smarter and swifter decisions about technology investments. Today, that would give them a significant competitive edge."

About the Authors

Mauro Macchi

Strategy & Consulting Lead Europe – Accenture


Tim Good

Managing Director – Talent & Organization / Human Potential, Europe Lead


Andy Young

Managing Director – Financial Services, Talent & Organization Lead

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