In brief

In brief

  • The past year has poked holes in long-standing norms about how banks operate.
  • 99% of banking executives agree that the COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented stress test for their organization.
  • While it will be tempting for banks to retreat to what they know, 2020 emphasized the need for a different path.
  • Those that continue to have a clear-eyed perspective on digital transformation will emerge as the leaders of the future.


Masters of change at a moment of truth

The COVID-19 pandemic was a stress test of unprecedented proportions for banks, putting their technology architecture, strategy and workforces under immense pressure. For most, the crisis was a sobering experience that dispelled any illusions about how far they had progressed with their cloud migrations and digital transformation.

Yet amid the many challenges of the pandemic, silver linings could be found in how quickly banks were able to adapt to a new reality. Most worked fast to rebuild their business with a digital core that could support a more flexible workforce, a more agile operating model and a range of emerging customer needs.

Banks worldwide have generally weathered the crisis well, playing a key role in channeling unprecedented public-sector stimulus, displaying flexibility on payments holidays and short-term credit, and rapidly deploying remote interaction solutions to make up for the lack of face-to-face engagement.

Their next challenge, after making technology and business model changes in a matter of months, will be to sustain the agility and innovation beyond the pandemic. The leading banks understand that the pace of change isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon—and they also know that COVID-19 has accelerated changes that would otherwise have taken years to materialize.

The Banking Technology Vision for 2021 identifies the emerging technology trends that hold the greatest potential to disrupt the industry beyond the pandemic. The cross-industry survey sample includes some 700 banking IT and business executives from around the world to get their perspectives on the technology trends shaping the world of finance.

68%

of banking executives say the pace of digital transformation for their organization is accelerating

93%

agree that organizations are operating with a renewed sense of purpose

2021 tech trends

In this report, we identify five Technology Vision trends that resonate for banks.

Stack strategically

In the years ahead, banks will compete on their architecture. The winners will be those that build and wield the most competitive technology stack.

Mirrored world

Banks will be able to create living models of product lifecycles, customer behaviors and journeys, market scenarios and more.

I, technologist

Natural language processing, low-code platforms, robotic process automation and more put capabilities in the hands of those closest to the business.

Anywhere, everywhere

Beyond the pandemic, leading banks are considering how to transform remote work from an accommodation to an advantage.

From me to we

Banks are rethinking how they operate in the context of multiparty systems, Open Banking regulation and open data.

View All
Leaders will set themselves apart from the laggards in the banking industry by using the COVID pandemic as a springboard—with the winners embracing leading-edge technology to evolve and transform their business.

Accelerating transformation

COVID-19 catalyzed the biggest reinvention of banking since the global financial crisis. Now, senior leaders at banks are focusing on compressing what had been decade-long transformation agendas into two-to-three-year sprints. They know they cannot fall back on old practices if they are to get on the right side of the digital achievement gap.

Banks with a clear-eyed perspective are continuing to expedite their digital transformations, reimagining everything from their people and their data to their architectures and ecosystems. A new age of banking competition is dawning—one where architecture matters, and leaders will be decided not just on the success of their business plans, but on the ingenuity of their technology choices.

Frequently asked questions

Tomorrow’s leaders are looking at how they can build technology architectures that they can wield as a competitive weapon. The Tech Vision research for 2021 shows that 89% of banking executives agree that their organization’s ability to generate business value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of their technology architecture.

Amid the growing diversity of technology capabilities across the stack, banks are determining which combinations of technologies enable them to develop one-of-a-kind offerings for their markets. Cloud strategies and microservices are playing a key role as banks look to create an adaptive technology foundation and avoid being weighed down by their legacy systems.

Most banks have moved some enterprise applications, data & analytics and surrounding architecture to the cloud. However, many still rely on the same core banking systems that have powered their operations for decades. These legacy platforms are constraining banks’ agility in keeping up with the speed at which digital innovations, new regulations and rising customer expectations are reshaping the market.

Forward-thinking banks are thus evaluating how they can hasten the pace and mitigate the risks of migrating to the cloud and including their core systems. The rewards for those that succeed are significant. They will be able to drive down costs, achieve greater speed and agility, and create platforms that can support their innovation efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted accelerated adoption of digital banking and payments tools and platforms among banking customers. A sharp rise in demand for remote services, frictionless payments, and new ways of building trust exposed what had been left undone with banks’ existing digital transformations. Leading banks are moving fast to close this digital gap.

Digital payments, mobile banking apps, and online banking experiences meet consumers‘ functional needs, yet the customer experience across most is broadly similiar and, often, emotionally void. The challenge leading banks are working on solving is how to create a differentiated experience, innovative propositions and a human connection when banking is in danger of becoming a faceless, price-sensitive commodity.

To set themselves apart, customer-facing banks need to be able to inject humanity at scale into their digital experiences. They need the capabilities to leverage internal and external data, and to engage digitally with clients in an empathetic way across multiple channels. An alternative approach is to become a utility that provides banking products and services that are embedded into other companies’ digital customer experiences.

About the Authors

Mike Abbott

Senior Managing Director – Global Banking Lead


Fabrice Asvazadourian

Senior Managing Director – Banking, Europe


Fergus Gordon

Managing Director – Africa & Asia Pacific Banking


Daniel Laniado

​Managing Director – Banking, Latin America


Alan McIntyre

Senior Industry Director – Banking


Andrew Starrs

Group Technology Lead – Banking

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

Purpose: Driving powerful transformation for banks
Banking Cloud Altimeter, a Cloud First publication
Banking in 2021: Top 10 trends to watch

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