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What were the biggest takeaways from SunTec Confluence 2021?


This year’s SunTec Confluence was online. The last event was in 2019, when  the event was held in Dubai at the prestigious Palazzo Versace with keynote speakers including Chris Skinner:

SunTec Confluence is an annual symposium which brings together the world’s leading technology executives and investment experts to debate current trends and to discuss how organisations can leverage technology to deliver more value to their customers.

This year marked the event’s tenth anniversary and the focus was on customer-centricity, accelerated digitisation, hyper-personalisation and the environment.

The event took place during the same week as Collision 2020 and Fintech Week Tel Aviv which raised the bar higher than normal.

Value Creation in a Turbulent World

Nanda Kumar, Chief Executive Officer of SunTec, kicked off the event with a fireside chat alongside Tony Zerucha, Managing Editor of Bankless Times. They discussed how the COVID pandemic hadaccelerated digital transformation. And regulation.  

Kumar shared his philosophy with viewers during the chat: “You have to create more value than what you consume. And everyone who is in touch with your business has to receive value from their contact.” He went on to explain how this fundamental philosophy was particularly apt during the turbulent times of the last 12 months.  

Kumar has some excellent examples about customer-centric business models. Apple is a company he particularly admires. He is also focused on setting short and medium term digital transformation goals, which he explained in more detail during the chat.

The New Goal Post for Digital Transformation – Customer Experience Transformation

An early session on the changing goalposts of digital transformation explored the challenges faced by many traditional financial institutions. How they are seeking to put the customer at the heart of digital transformation.

The panel was made up of James Fowle, Executive General Manager at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Steven Reiter, Lead – Business Consulting Practice for Financial Services atEY, and Soneel Raj, Global Head of Banking, Strategy and Solutions at Cognizant. Satish Chandran, President and Global Head – Demand Fulfillment Group, SunTec Business Solutions, moderated the panel.

The speakers all agreed that a top-down approach and commitment to cultural change throughout a company was a key component of successful digital transformation.

Reiter underlined the importance of compliance in the U.S. under the new Biden administration and highlighted that regulators are often more sensitive to GDPR and customer data than customers themselves.

Fowle commented how the last year had accelerated digital transformation for the bank’s staff and employees. Customers who were resistant to change historically, have now learnt to interact digitally with financial institutions. “This virtual contact is here to stay. Customers will stay in the digital world they have embraced.“

Raj commented how banks in the U.S. have realised how most of their customers have not visited their retail branches in over 10 months. And on the back of that revelation he suggested that banks need to ask themselves the following question: “Am I spending where I will have direct client impact?” It’s all about the experience your client will be delivered. The skills we need now to create this personalisation. Raj concluded by asking whether we have the employees to do it?  

Creating the Cognitive Bank

The IBM Break-out session started with a small video explaining IBM’s LinuxONE enterprise platform. Likhit Wagle, General Manager, Global Banking Industry at IBM kicked off the discussion by explaining how banks had performed during the pandemic.

Despite the doomy post-pandemic predictions, economies in Asia are bouncing back and U.S. investment banks have recorded hugely impressive results in 2020 and this year so far.

Europe’s growth rate was described as showing ‘’pedestrian growth’’, banks were already struggling in Europe before 2020. The atmosphere in Europe will be more challenging than in other parts of the world during the next 12 – 24 months.

The panel went on to discuss the success of FinTech companies like Stripe, PayPal and Square, whose market capitalisations have all moved above that of incumbent financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs. Their success can be boiled down to 3 main ingredients: convenience, complete service and instant fulfilment.

In order to stay ahead of the game, banks need to switch their focus to front-office customer interactions and aim to match the higher expectations set by Amazon and other Big Tech firms.

What does a conscious, creative, connected future look like?

Mark Stevenson, Advisor, Author and reluctant Futurist, concluded the SunTec Confluence event.

“Real change is afoot. The dose of reality we have all received has just exacerbated what we already knew before Covid.”

Great companies can thrive in a crisis, Stevenson argued, but only if they ask themselves the right questions. Are we being good ancestors? How can we use technology to solve the pressing issues of our time?

Stevenson concluded by talking about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we all heard about in January. He challenges the audience to ask themselves where they will invest.

“Technology is not the answer, Technology is part of the question. Given these tools you will be given by companies like SunTec, what will you do with them?”  

“It’s time to be conscious, it’s time to be creative, it’s time to be connected.”

Although Covid did not lead to a bank crisis like we saw in 2008, something resonated from the SunTec event. It won’t surprise you to learn, that the successful bank of the future will follow Amazon and Apple’s lead to ensure customers receive a hyper-personalised experience where all their needs are met.

#SuntecConfluence #CreateValue #TurbulentWorld #Hyperpersonalisation #Digitisation #Customercentric

Author: Michael Quick

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