Innovation Exchange 2020: The Future of Work in Financial Services

November 19, 2020by Robert Cruz

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Financial services firms are undergoing an unprecedented disruption in the way that they do business. Far too frequently, we point to COVID-19 as the primary source of the change, but its drivers go much deeper. In many respects, the global pandemic was merely an accelerant on a path that firms were already venturing down. What might be closer to a true root cause of this transformation is the changing relationship between financial services firms and their electronic communications data.

This relationship with data has been turned upside down, from centralized control over a limited set of tools for the purpose of risk mitigation to the common goal of leveraging information as the lifeblood of the business. This has been driven by several underlying forces that have reshaped how financial services firms communicate with clients and prospects and collaborate with peers:

  • Digital-native generations are making up a larger percentage of the workplace
  • Collaboration and conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack have become non-discretionary
  • More digital communication means data volume, variety and velocity are increasing
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) are now found in many mainstream technologies

Demographic shifts in financial services

A newer generation of employees and clients are bringing their own set of tools to work. These tools are web-enabled and mobile-friendly, with conversations expressed via a unique language sprinkled with shorthand and emojis. These tools are noteworthy not only in their informal and interactive conversational nature but also in their almost instant accessibility, often literally just a download or click away.

Microsoft Teams and Zoom are non-discretionary

Even prior to the pandemic, Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams were experiencing unprecedented growth rates for a simple reason: they produced results. Whether in the form of improved cycle times, reduction in email volume, or simply enabling a faster response to their clients  investments in collaborative and conferencing tools were bearing fruit. However, since the pandemic, investments to drive the enterprise deployment of these technologies have changed from a question of proving return on investment to the question of how quickly they can drive adoption.

Big data management, at enterprise scale

The forces above combine to create a new challenge: data heterogeneity. Capturing, storing, and understanding multiple content sources that include voice, video, collaborative workspaces and other non-textual elements has stretched the capabilities of systems designed for email and files beyond their limits. This has accelerated the adoption of public cloud infrastructure and repositories designed to preserve the unique characteristics of each content source – at the largest enterprise scale.

In fact, FINRA itself is a leading consumer of big data, reporting that it leverages Amazon Web Services (AWS) to perform over 500 billion validation checkpoints per day. This should provide a clear signal to the industry about the market readiness for their big data initiatives.

Artificial intelligence/machine learning have gone mainstream

Ultimately, understanding and deriving insights from disparate content sources is a growing challenge. This is the case even for optimally designed systems that continue to leverage lexicon-based methods of search and content inspection. The result has been to drive advanced analytics, natural language processing and AI approaches deeper into content repositories to improve the effectiveness of search across heterogenous haystacks.

FINRA noted in its 2020 report, "Artificial Intelligence in the Securities Industry," that, “AI is expected to turn into an essential business driver across the Financial Services industry in the short run, with 77% of all respondents anticipating AI to possess high or very high overall importance to their businesses within two years.”

An event about the future of financial services and compliance

All of these factors have a profound impact on how financial services firms think about risk, as was recently noted by Gartner in the 2020 Enterprise Archiving Magic Quadrant, stating that “By 2023, 35% of customers will monitor sentiment in workstream collaboration to mitigate employee communication risks, which is an increase from 5% in 2020.”

"Future of Work in Financial Services" is the subject of our upcoming Innovation Exchange Virtual Conference on Wednesday, December 2. Highlights of the event will include:

  • Keynote from Peter Wannamacher, Principal Analyst from Forrester Research, who will dive deeper into the four shocks that will continue to shape the 2020s, and explore how financial services leaders can look to drive growth in new ways

  • Regulatory Spotlight, featuring former FINRA head of enforcement Susan Schroeder and Mimi LeGaye from MGL consulting, who will look toward to the trends and directions they see from regulators in 2021

  • Collaborate break-out track, featuring guest presenters from Microsoft and Slack as they explore adoption trends of their collaborative platforms in financial services

  • Mitigate break-out track, exploring how firms are managing the reality that information risks, in the form of regulatory, governance, privacy, and infosec, live everywhere, causing firms to re-think their mitigation strategies

  • Innovate break-out track, looking at how firms are embracing advances in technology to better understand the conduct of employees and to unleash new insights into their customers. This track will feature a session with Christian Hunt, Founder of Human Risk, as well as our new colleagues from Digital Reasoning

The future of work is here now. It is digital-first and location agnostic. Financial services organizations must prepare for what's next. Join us.

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Robert Cruz
Smarsh Blog

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