2020 is destined to be an unusual year. The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously impacted life and work worldwide, casting a shadow over the global economy. The future has become increasingly uncertain, and people are starting to think about how to cope when the “black swan” becomes the new norm.
Challenges and Opportunities Facing Financial Institutions During COVID-19
With the rapid spread of COVID-19 worldwide, reopening economies while ensuring safety and preventing a second — or even third — wave of the pandemic have become major challenges. These challenges, plus an economic downturn, have left the world facing increasing uncertainty.
The world’s major economies have stagnated, or even experienced negative growth, and national governments and central banks are facing unprecedented challenges. It’s difficult to strike a balance between reopening economies in the short term and avoiding financial risks, which has caused uncertainty for fiscal and monetary policies.
Meanwhile, consumers’ reluctance to spend and disruptions to supply chains have had a continuous and unprecedented impact on enterprises in regard to demands, operations, and financing. Survival has become increasingly difficult for many enterprises. Financial institutions, which serve hundreds of sectors, are no exception, and face huge challenges in both the short and long term.
During the pandemic, 25% of all brick-and-mortar financial outlets have been closed, while the remaining outlets have shortened their opening hours and reduced staff numbers. Many bank staff have been unable to work as usual, disrupting normal operations of data centers and call centers. The pandemic has seriously impacted client acquisition and marketing channels, causing a sharp drop in both client numbers and product sales at financial institutions.
In the long term, financial institutions will face great pressure from low-quality assets, which will negatively impact their credit ratings, core capital, and equity financing. Compounding these problems, many financial institutions will face restructuring or go bankrupt. Measures such as downsizing outlets, optimizing positions, and reducing costs have become the new norm for financial institutions.
As tech giants compete across borders, financial institutions face challenges regarding client acquisition and profitability, which endangers their long-term business performance. Digital and agile operations capabilities will be vital to bridging the gaps between financial institutions and enabling leading institutions to overtake their competitors. Reshuffling and restructuring will become major trends for financial institutions.
Digital Transformation Has Become a New Direction for Financial Institutions
It is worth noting the increasingly important role that technologies, especially digital and mobile technologies, have been playing during the pandemic. The inability of brick-and-mortar stores to serve customers has led to explosive growth in online shopping, in areas such as groceries and medicine, incubating many new businesses. Numerous students have been learning online from home, which has directly driven the development of live lessons and distance education.
Many sectors and enterprises that are closely related to national economies have been able to use innovative technologies, like mobile offices and remote videos, to rapidly resume work. Thanks to stronger remote collaboration capabilities and higher work efficiency, enterprises that are taking the lead in digital transformation are more capable of resisting risks caused by the pandemic.
The same is true with the finance sector. Banks’ response to the pandemic clearly shows that digital and mobile capabilities are critical to addressing business challenges. Enhancing such capabilities will allow banks to weather the current crisis, leaving them in a better position to address future challenges.
The pandemic presents the finance sector with a great opportunity to reshape its infrastructure. This will allow the sector to achieve digital and mobile operations for its internal processes and workflows, better manage and process data, and provide more personalized services and products that better suit clients’ needs.
To achieve those goals, executives of financial institutions must re-consider how to use mobile and digital approaches to ensure business continuity. I would offer the following recommendations:
Begin with mobile office platforms to maximize the value of bank resources. For example, departments inside banks can collaborate anytime, and bank staff can assign and track tasks anywhere. Account managers can communicate with their clients and conduct marketing from home.
Enhance mobile apps platforms and use mobile programs (such as outstanding apps) to establish unified interfaces for 24/7 client services. Banks should reshape their services throughout the client journey, allowing clients to enjoy one-stop services, including consultation, investment, insurance, loans, payments, food deliveries, and ride hailing. Banks can also use flexibly structured technical capabilities to transcend service boundaries, connect to numerous sectors, and provide better services.
Upgrade big data and AI capabilities to gain access to more data. This will allow banks to more proactively and effectively conduct stress tests and risk controls, ease the pressure posed by low-quality assets, and reconfigure assets.
In addition, as all sectors — including governments and regulators — are rapidly going digital, digital transformation has become a must for financial institutions. Executives of financial institutions should proactively introduce leading technologies and implement digital transformation step by step.
Develop a “mobile first” strategy to keep pace with the mobile trends; establish organizations in regard to technology, business, operations, and risk controls, and encourage changes in cultural systems.
Introduce cloud computing technology to build an agile and scalable digital pedestal, and gradually move business capabilities to the cloud. Gradually change the operating model from being offline to online, and ensure asset-light operations.
Iteratively upgrade mobile client platforms and office platforms, and reshape services throughout the client journey. Establish an open, flexible, and superb system architecture that allows bank outlets to develop functions based on business needs and open up services to third-party platforms. This will enable banks to more frequently connect to and closely collaborate with Internet platforms.
Apply technologies like big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enable ubiquitous banking services and continuously improve client experience.
Finally, the sector must keep pace with the development of new technologies and explore future possibilities in advance. This is important because competition in the finance sector will no longer be limited to financial institutions. New technologies, especially 5G, will revolutionize connections at bank outlets. More importantly, these technologies will inspire comprehensive client experiences and ubiquitous business innovations. Banks will evolve from their traditional roles as banks for people to banks that also connect “things.”
In the future, digital technologies like 5G, Wi-Fi 6, the Internet of Things, and cloud will provide numerous mobile devices with fast Internet access, leading to exponential growth in connections and information exchanges. All kinds of financial services will be aggregated and delivered to mobile devices without users even knowing. Users will be able to access financial services from their smartphones anytime, anywhere. Through Virtual Reality (VR), users will even be able to communicate with bank professionals “face-to-face,” while smart assistants will provide them with detailed investment plans and fund arrangements. The possibilities are endless. Technological developments will cause disruptive changes to financial services, and all this is just the beginning.
Huawei Works with Ecosystem Partners to Help Financial Institutions Go Digital
Huawei advocates an overall strategy of combining connectivity and computing ICT infrastructure. The company aims to provide the world with the best connectivity through powerful, simple, and intelligent networks. Huawei also aims to provide the world with the most effective computing power through its “general computing power + AI computing power” to enable pervasive intelligence.
Connectivity and computing will collaborate and correlate through AI. “Connectivity” transmits data to “computing,” while “computing” provides support for “connectivity.” Together, they create intelligent ICT infrastructure for digital economies. By focusing on digital ICT infrastructure that consists of connectivity, computing, and AI, Huawei is committed to building an open ecosystem.
Huawei also aims to build a digital platform that will help its partners and customers in the global finance sector go digital. Based on clouds, Huawei’s digital platform will integrate new ICT technologies and data of the finance sector. Upward, this platform supports the rapid development and flexible deployment of apps, and enables agile business innovations for financial institutions. Downward, the platform improves “cloud-network-device” synergy through ubiquitous connectivity, further integrating the physical world with the digital world.
As we are about to enter the age of intelligence, we position our enterprise business as “Huawei Inside.” This represents our aspiration to become the core of the digital world and build an open, digital pedestal through a combination of ubiquitous connectivity, a digital platform and pervasive intelligence. Huawei is also committed to developing a partner ecosystem and providing its customers in the global finance sector with end-to-end industry solutions.
Huawei has a unique advantage of providing financial institutions with solutions that range from connectivity to intelligent computing and from the core to the edge. These solutions will help the global finance sector address post-pandemic challenges, accelerate mobile and intelligent transformation, and develop core digital innovation capabilities and competitiveness.
Over the past 10-plus years, Huawei has worked with more than 5,400 solution and service partners worldwide, serving over 1,600 financial institutions in more than 60 countries and regions. Throughout this process, Huawei has accumulated vast experience in doing business with the finance sector and has built a sound ecosystem.
In the Chinese market in particular, we have helped leading banks complete digital transformation and proactively respond to the disruption and competition from Internet financial service providers. We have gained vast experience in facilitating the robust development of banks during the age of mobile banking. We are more than willing to share our successful experience and ecosystem with the global finance sector, to help rapidly move the sector toward mobile and smart finance.
Learn more about Huawei’s Intelligent Finance Solution.