By Hemakiran Gupta, Regional Head, Banking and Financial Services, TCS Europe

Let me start on a positive note: the response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sectors has been very impressive. 

In fact, some clients have even seen customer-satisfaction rise despite the many challenges of maintaining normal service levels. This is a remarkable achievement in engaging the most important element of any business – the client. 

Thousands of people who normally work in offices are doing their jobs from home. Hundreds of businesses remain closed, many others are open, with a vastly reinvented offer to adapt to online and remote services. The effects of all this are truly immense. 

The financial services sector is core to society and to the stabilization of economies. Their instruments create liquidity and enable the realization of dreams for individuals and corporates alike. The immediate priority for our clients in this sector is to implement the various financial stimuli announced by governments and regulators and manage the surge in client correspondence.

In the medium to long term, clients will be ramping up their investments with a view to launching new products that suit the new normal. Digitalization will gain maximum focus, while embracing cloud and beefing up cybersecurity will be top of the list of priorities.  

London’s Canary Wharf, usually brimming with activity, is almost empty as employees work remotely. Source: Shutterstock

Immediate priorities

Banks and financial institutions are always a target for cybercriminals, and it is no different during a global pandemic. So detecting and deterring cybercrime remains paramount.

Supporting the new way of working has been a huge challenge for our clients. After all, it has never been done before on such a scale. 

These are highly regulated industries, too, so any change – however agile – must be approved by national and global bodies.

To enable this huge task, within Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) we employed our Secure Borderless Work Spaces technology, so all our associates could work remotely and securely. We have worked alongside clients, collaborating closely to monitor the progress of the changes being implemented.

Rapid response

As well as security and regulatory compliance, customer service is still vital during this most unprecedented of situations. Reassuring customers during the crisis has been a key priority.

Our clients report that this emphasis on customer focus is paying off. For instance, the CEO of one insurance company told us that efforts to stay in touch and keep customers informed have resulted in a rise in their customer-service ratings.

Some customer service ratings are improving as businesses make efforts to stay in touch with their customers. Source: Shutterstock

Maintaining liquidity in the financial eco systems is also a major role for the banks and insurance companies. They have invested in building critical systems that need to be available round the clock in real time, so ensuring the support and implementing rapid changes is even more critical in this period than before. 

Our teams have risen to the occasion, supporting the critical systems across the sector to ensure business continuity remains a top priority. And the results have been amazing.

One of our clients in Belgium became the first bank to implement the government’s support packages for citizens and businesses. In the Netherlands, our client was the only bank not to need an additional settlement window because they completed their transactions in time. 

Our associates worked overnight with one of our insurance clients in Denmark to get 1,500 employees set up to work from home the next day. And in Norway, where we manage the country’s P2P platform, our associates could provide support round the clock from homes through the common platform set up.  

A contact-free world

Scalability will be a key differentiator to thriving in the new normal – and embracing cloud, and AI technologies can enable that. Cloud makes it possible to cope with unforeseen circumstances like the present crisis, removing the constraints of in-house server capacity and enabling new and multiple technologies. And AI will bring in the differentiation in analyzing patterns and building rapid responses. 

Traditionally, the BFSI sector has taken the lead in embracing technology. This means that it is very well placed to meet the crisis head-on, using the many applications built some decades ago that are rich with data and context.  

The current situation also creates an opportunity to relook at the entire value chain and make the necessary changes. Companies who prioritize and move early will have the most to gain when the markets expand. 

For example, we can now look at removing the remaining paper transactions from the system. Many of these are becoming increasingly irrelevant without face-to-face engagement. 

The Know Your Client (KYC) process has also had to be improved by removing what was still a very paper-based one, harnessing technology to make it smoother and less intensive. 

And let’s not forget contactless technology, which will become increasingly important. One very small example of this is, after the pandemic, people may be hesitant to touch an ATM keypad. We are piloting solutions where, using mobile, we can withdraw cash from an ATM using contactless. 

People may be hesitant to use keypads following the pandemic, paving the way for contactless ATMs. Source: Shutterstock

Ongoing change

Both now and in the future, companies will have to continuously revise their approaches to such situations, turning to technology to help the world adjust to the new reality. 

During the coming months, balancing crisis mode with normal operations will continue to be a challenge. Whether remote working or communicating with customers, our clients will have to live in both worlds.

What is truly encouraging is that, despite multiple challenges, this sector – which is at the core of maintaining a stable and successful society – has adapted. And it is continuing to serve all its stakeholders through the crisis.