The pandemic upended in-person banking, turning the app into the new branch and customer experiences into mostly digital ones. Examining the degree to which technology strategy contributed to corporate resilience during the ongoing pandemic, a new global MIT Technology Review Insights report, “Digital acceleration in the time of coronavirus,” details shifting IT priorities as a result of COVID-19. The research, based on a global survey of more than 600 C-level technology decision-makers, reveals key leadership priorities across six industries. Deeper insights from financial services organizations are now available in a new report, MIT Executive Study Uncovers Top Financial Services Trends Shaping IT Resilience.
Customer Experience Driving IT Transformation
The pivot to digital-first engagement at the onset of the pandemic has led to significant shifts in IT strategy. A full 98% of financial services leaders in the MIT Technology Review Insights survey have accelerated adoption of a cloud-based platform to support modern application development. And nearly two-thirds (65%) indicated that they have expanded their Agile practices and continuous delivery (CD) methods in response to new business demands. Investment in these areas will continue to tick upward as over a third of respondents (41%) believe their budgets will increase as a result of COVID-19.
Financial firms are also betting on emerging technologies. Nine in ten (90%) respondents are planning to maintain or increase their commitment to emerging technologies in their customer-facing apps.
Public cloud workloads are also growing, albeit slowly. On average, financial services companies expect to host 19% of their applications in a public cloud over the next 18 months.
Together, these actions appear to be a direct response to what financial services executives told Forrester researchers earlier in the year—that improving their application portfolios was key to improving the customer experience and, ultimately, driving revenue.
Defending Data and Brand Reputations
Although IT organizations are increasingly focused on helping grow top-line revenue, they are equally concerned with mitigating risk. Financial institutions are heavily targeted by cyber criminals—during the first quarter of 2020 alone, U.S. financial services organizations saw a 38% increase in cyberattacks. During the same period, 52% of all global ransomware attacks were targeted at financial institutions. And the numbers and severity of attacks keep rising.
In response, 51% of financial services respondents are allocating a significant share (more than 25%) of their IT budgets to security and threat management. And 63% said that securing new endpoint risks and expanding threat management was a top priority as they seek to protect data in the new remote-access world.
Enterprise Resiliency and the Workforce
Although 75% of financial services respondents indicate they had business-continuity plans in place prior to the crisis, fewer than half (42%) felt their plans were effective when attempting to cope with the shutdowns. When asked about future business continuity plans, infrastructure efficiency was cited as key to maintaining resiliency—specifically, automation and adopting a multi-cloud strategy.
From a workforce standpoint, COVID-19 disrupted long-held corporate attitudes regarding remote work. The MIT Technology Review study found that pre-COVID-19, only 8% of workforces regularly worked remotely. This shot up to 34% in financial services, higher than the average of 27% across industries globally during the pandemic. Somewhat surprisingly, half (50%) of financial services leaders expect at least 25% of their employees to work remotely three days a week going forward. In managing a distributed workforce, leaders cited three priorities: securing a remote workforce, formalizing or expanding work-from-home policies, and optimizing employee efficiency.
Future Ready Finance
As organizations globally were forced into COVID-19 work-from-home orders and even complete shutdowns, they had sudden, dramatic proof of the value of digital technologies. Now facing new business pressures, new enterprise technology priorities are emerging. For financial services organizations, being “future ready” and succeeding in the uncertain times ahead means implementing adaptive, flexible technology architectures fully capable of supporting remote operations and distributed workforces securely.
To access the data and learn more about how the pandemic drove unique transformation in financial services, read MIT Executive Study Uncovers Top Financial Services Trends Shaping IT Resilience.