Innovation

Intelligent Workflows in Banking: End-to-end digitization of credit processes creates added value for corporate customers

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Financial service providers are part of their customers‘ solution

The current health and economic crisis emphasizes the role of banks and savings banks in our economic system. Their role is, among other things, to remain good partners to their customers who are in a state of emergency and to provide flexible financing solutions in an economically challenging environment.

Companies have been and will continue to be dependent on rapid assistance measures to bridge liquidity bottlenecks through the short-term provision of credit and the suspension of repayments. But even before the crisis, many banks formed a bottleneck in their customers‘ value chain.

The crisis reveals where the potential of digital transformation has not yet been fully exploited

In recent years, there have already been some positive changes in the design and digitization of individual processes, such as consumer loans. Decision engines in this area already enable turnaround times of minutes, while corporate customers still put up with lengthy processes of up to five days (time to „yes“) for credit inquiries.  One reason for this is that the process is still non-transparent and time-consuming for customers. Data that the customer already has available digitally is often sent to the bank in analog form. Customer data already held by the bank is only used to a limited extent. In the digital age, media discontinuities lead to missed customer expectations and contradict today’s concept of customer centricity. This leads to frustration for customers and bank employees. Especially in times of crisis, quick and individualized solutions for customers are required. By being able to offer such solutions, banks have a unique chance to strengthen customer relationships

To achieve this, there is still considerable potential for optimization in most banks‘ front and back offices. Customers, as well as everyone else involved in the process, expect transparency and and want to be aware of the current status of the process at any time. In addition, they want to be able to complete and correct the required data and documents flexibly and comfortably [KO1] . Once information has been delivered, it should ideally also be available for future processes and in all channels. Therefore[KO2] , silos within the bank must be consistently broken down in order to gain a holistic, cross-divisional view („end-to-end”), on the process and be able to support all people involved in the process with the appropriate technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and blockchain. [KO2] 

While customer relationships today paint a static picture, in which banks to a large extent only respond to customer inquiries or negative events, such as a downgrade, it is possible to additionally strengthen the customer experience and thus the added value in the business relationship by increasing the frequency and quality of interactions with customers.

However, this requires banks to offer their customers new, innovative products and services. In addition to creating the technical prerequisites, this also requires questioning existing processes and products as well as the bank’s own vertical integration. The question also arises as to which process steps the bank will still be responsible for in the future or which can be covered by external service providers through integration in the end-2-end process. Likewise, own services can be offered within an emerging partner economy. Right from the beginning of the transformation, these strategic considerations should be combined with a customer centric approach in order to achieve the greatest benefits for clients.

Effects on the back office are to be expected

While, at the beginning of the crisis, the focus was almost exclusively on managing initial credit application processes due to the challengingly high number of applications for government assistance loans, the increased commitment of resources will now gradually spread to the back-office processes. 

According to a study by the Leibnitz Institute for Economic Research in Halle, Germany, thousands of companies will experience payment difficulties due to the increasingly poor economic outlook, which will place a very heavy burden on savings banks and banks. The first banks are already reporting an increase in risk provisions due to concerns about upcoming loan defaults. This demonstrates the need to not only take a closer look at future lending but also at the risks within the existing loan portfolio, and to prepare the internal intensive care units for a future wave of non-performing loans.

The many challenges of the prevailing crisis thus highlight the need to support the entire workflow along the credit process with technical solutions  so it can become  more adaptable to the constantly changing conditions of the current crisis and further challenges in the future, as well as being able to deliver better and faster service for customers.In the course of the current crisis, the topics of data analysis, inventory management, and restructuring will have to take center stage in order to manage balance sheet and earnings effects best. As the cost-income ratio of many banks was already strained before the crisis, it is essential to avoid a significant increase in costs as due to the modernization measures.

From customer benefits to sustainable IT solution

The problems described above are not new in principle. However, the current crisis once again highlights the need to develop solutions in these areas as quickly as possible. The technical challenge for implementation lies in the existing system landscape of German banks and their data centers, characterized by very heterogeneous and outdated systems. In the credit process, the aforementioned media discontinuities occur between the systems, and thus require a manual data transfer. With „Robotic Process Automation“ (RPA) initiatives, individual processes or process steps are already being digitized. This can achieve measurable improvements relatively quickly, serving as first aid measures.  However, the goal of sustainably faster and more flexible overall processes cannot be achieved with this alone. In this context, flexibility also means the ability to adapt workflows quickly to changing market conditions, such as COVID-19, new regulatory requirements, or new business strategies. 

Thanks to new technologies and project methods such as DevOps and continuous delivery, the implementation of an “intelligent workflow” in which employees are supported in the human-machine interaction can already be implemented much easier and with greater certainty of success, if the following three points are being considerd.

  1. Viewing modernization from a customer-oriented, business perspective and focusing on a market-ready solution that delivers tangible benefits for customers in a timely manner. If banks want to reduce their IT complexity, the first step is ideally to rethink their own portfolio and the underlying processes in a „design phase“ based on the principle of „simple and smart“.
  2. Defining and implementing an end-to-end data strategy. Data is of enormous value in the digital age. The comprehensive utilization of data for the benefit of customers and banks, in which data security and transparency form the foundation of the bank’s digital offering, will be more crucial than ever for banks‘ success in the future.
  3. Modernization of the IT landscape. Here, the shift of services into the cloud plays a key role. By modularizing the architecture and using microservices, functional end-to-end and real-time credit applications can be implemented and integrated into the existing system structure, which has wildly grown over the years. In addition, all communication channels can be utilized user-specific via an API ecosystem, thus offering not only an optimized user experience but also the possibility of new collaborations in a partner ecosystem.

The ability to collaboratively develop and regularly improve the solution in an agile environment together with business experts and IT experts should be an elementary component of the implementation. This will allow to directly link the needs for innovative and value-adding business processes with the modernization of the IT landscape. In addition to selecting a reliable integration partner, it is also important to carefully examine the possibilities and experience that solution providers have in combining business and technological expertise and successfully managing such complex projects within a tight timeframe and budget.

Conclusion

The challenges posed by the economic environment, crisis, competition, and regulation seem more significant than ever before. However, today there are also new, promising solutions and reliable partners for overcoming these challenges. These solutions not only promise to optimize existing processes, but also form the basis for breaking up a company’s own value chain. This opens up new ways in which banks can inspire their corporate customers with new services and offer them real added value.

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