Data was thrown into the spotlight following the Facebook scandal in March and also by the Royal Commission in Australia and GDPR in Europe.
But 2018 was also the year we saw Stacey Cunningham become the first female President of the NYSE and Apple became the world's first trillion dollar public company.
So while it’s been another transitional year for financial services, not least because of the amount of regulation to contend with, 2019 is when we expect things will really start to happen.
We asked our experts to share their top technology predictions for 2019.
Since the Royal Commission in Australia and GDPR in Europe highlighted significant gaps in the way businesses retain and digitise information, we’ve witnessed a noticeable rise in activity involving digitalisation and data analysis for the purposes of compliance and monitoring.
The coming year will bring a realisation that data underpins effective oversight. And with reliable data quality for supervision purposes, opportunities for automation will be open - a critical success factor for financial services businesses looking ahead to 2020 (more on that later).
That said, data quality will remain difficult for a lot of financial firms to achieve and many small and medium-sized businesses will have their work cut out to achieve that.
While we predicted the rise in data importance as a tool for growth and competitive advantage, in 2018 progress around artificial intelligence and machine learning moved faster than we thought. The speed at which Google has extended and uplifted its cloud capabilities helped businesses move quickly too.
In 2019, we expect AI to play a bigger role in providing the insights to help financial services professionals make decisions particularly across advice, trading and compliance - but only if they have the data to support it (read Andrew Walsh’s thoughts on AI in his blog Breaking Bad Data).
Data for decisions, for governance and compliance, and where it sits, is still something that hasn’t been cracked. Could 2019 be the year it is?
“People will be sick of hearing 'digital' as an outcome and will start to look for real meaning and relevance.”
Business models will continue to adapt to recognise digital-first clients but it will become ‘just the way we do things around here’.
It will be critical that any digital strategy is well executed and provides a high-quality experience that’s optimised through every service channel - those that don’t deliver that will become increasingly irrelevant.
It all points to a shift in focus from one-off transactions and interactions to an approach with continuous engagement and experiences that drive greater value, client interaction and loyalty (more on that in Aaron’s blog How to master the digital client experience).
Businesses wanting to take the lead could look to conversational interfaces and bots as consumers’ use of voice technology (including Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod) has progressed quickly in the past year.
So far the impact of these devices has been slower in the business world, particularly financial planning, presenting an exciting channel for advisers to engage and update their digital clients in 2019.
“2019 will be about driving automation and efficiencies with an increased focus on data and machine learning."
We see automation as being one of the most exciting opportunities for financial services businesses in 2019 - especially when combined with different thinking about business strategy and operations.
Future success depends on servicing both high-touch clients and those with low-touch needs profitably while delivering heightened service experiences. Unless businesses become more automated this will be difficult for many to achieve, and success in this area will weigh into who the winners and losers are as we look ahead to 2020.
Again, it boils down to data; with data quality and integration both holding the key to unlocking the opportunities of automation, AI and machine learning.
Finally, expect to hear more about predictive compliance and machine learning as compliance moves from post-decision checking to real-time. RegTech might have moved slower than we expected in 2018, but as global regulation and costs continue to mount, a regtech boom could be on the horizon.
While we don’t expect to see any major game changers in 2019, the big technology trends and drivers of recent years will all progress presenting significant opportunities for financial firms. In the coming year artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the cloud will become more enhanced and embedded within financial services making data a key priority for businesses as they head into 2019. For those that are focused on data strategy and quality, 2019 will be the year when things really start to happen.
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