Insights 10 Ways Financial Services Organizations Can Do More with Less in 2023

10 Ways Financial Services Organizations Can Do More with Less in 2023

As we enter the new year, financial services organizations are assertively focusing on how they optimize their business during uncertain economic conditions.  The goal of most businesses is to do more with less, or at minimum optimize their ability to execute their mission for their client.  In working with many financial services organizations, I am seeing a variety of ways that organizations are able to leverage technology to do more with less this year.   

#1.  Build total customer value accelerators to achieve more with every client 

The best thing you can do for your clients is create value for them.  Interestingly, many financial services organizations do not effectively look at total customer value and how to create MORE outcomes for each relationship.  The best financial services organizations think of their clients as value generators, understanding the relationship between their own success and their client’s success.   

Examples of what I’ve seen other customers of ours do in value accelerators: 

  • Recommendation engines tied to actual customer best practices 
  • Financial optimization of customer product set 
  • Recommendation insights for advisors to provide direction to customers 
  • Customer 360 analysis of engagement approach 
  • Values-driven investment tooling 

 #2.  Turn Processes into Tools by Making All Employees Creators 

You’ve heard that teaching a person to fish catches two fish instead of one… teaching a person to “make” is a force multiplier in your organization.  The closest person to your organization’s challenges is the person in the field, client facing teams, etc.  The most successful organizations are finding ways to empower those workers to become app & process “makers”, who create efficiencies from their knowledge of the business. The question to ask is “how could I make our current process more efficient by using a tool instead of human effort?” The maturity curve below shows the path that organizations travel as they bring this capability to their existing employees.   

The curve brings a view of legacy application development, silos, and traditional dependency on IT to Emerging, Center of Excellence, Expansion, and Normative.  The Emerging State is where a company picks its top power users and enables them to drive impact.  The Center of Excellence creates a downstream impact surrounding scale, enablement, and security, leading to Expansion which drives usage across the entire business.   

This is an area for process optimization via tools in Power Platform, ServiceNow, and Teams as major components to driving a more robust workforce that makes each job more efficient.  Don’t be satisfied with running inefficient processes.  Leverage tools like these through scaled team members across your organization to create great outcomes. 

#3. Reduce the footprint of on-premise datacenters and optimize in the cloud 

This is a two-part conversation.  The first part of the story is driving mid-to-long term cost optimization through the cloud.  Those that say, “the cloud costs more” are missing the root of the story, which is that in actuality, the cloud is largely parity, unless you take the opportunity to optimize your resources, eliminate servers, sunset apps, etc.  These are the key activities that are done during cloud migrations and should be near the top of your list… “application rationalization”.  The following shows a potential migration to the cloud.  Notice that the right sized usage is lower than the cost of on-premise, when combined with reserved instances and Azure Hybrid Use Benefits, can create substantial savings.  In this scenario we eliminated 20% of the servers because they will be using cloud-native tools going forward. 

The second component is that, even at cost parity, you are “doing more with less” in the cloud because your organization receives additional benefits.  These include infrastructure-as-code, micro-segmentation of workloads, site redundancy, site security, replication/backup, monitoring, etc.  

Finally, realize that even if your organization is not migrating its existing workloads to the cloud, the opportunity for NEW application development based on cloud topologies brings substantial efficiencies in either SaaS or PaaS use cases.  Many organizations are looking at how they can reinvent their application platform to bring cloud agility to their customer relationships. 

The flip side of this story is that once resources have been migrated to the cloud, it is your organization’s DUTY to optimize those resources.  For organizations already in the cloud there are always cost savings possibilities because the cloud makes it easy to waste resources if not managed.  I find that on average there is 20 – 30% cost savings in any given cloud environment, with the following being the biggest opportunity areas: 

  • Playground resources left running, even after the person has left the organization 
  • Test/QA resources left running all the time 
  • Lack of applying reserved instances 
  • Not re-sizing resources to actual usage needs 
  • Not structuring the landing zones to facilitate automation of cost 
  • Not applying tags to facilitate review of costs 

#4.  Optimize sales & customer service processes with bots and AI 

The efficiency and customer service improvement of a well implemented bot sales & customer service channel is astounding.  I’ve gotten to a point where I can see a great bot experience over legacy modes of interacting within organizations is preferred.  The reason why is that asynchronous communication is more efficient than synchronous communication… IF it is done effectively.  The opportunities here are vast because they are tied to both customer interactions and sales team optimization.   

Areas we’ve seen optimization through bots and AI include: 

  • Sales channels for new questions from clients or escalation 
  • Product alignment to client need (create package for advisor) 
  • Customer service (advisor help-me) 
  • Support scenarios (how do I?) 
  • Move/add/change (complex support) 

All of these can use a bot to efficiently get information, provide data back to the client, potentially resolve (first chat resolution), and/or a warm handoff to a human support professional.   

In the case of customer service, the optimization could look like this: 

The use case above maps the “picture of the elephant” to understand the dependencies so they could use a bot driven experience for the client and the client support representatives.  The goal was to simplify a complex scenario down to something meaningful.  As you can see below, there are opportunities across the ecosystem that reconcile in simple interfaces. 

Finally, integrating intelligence into customer service and sales processes via bot-based platforms enables intelligent playback and assistance on follow-up from platforms like Viva Sales.  The goal is to enable every salesperson to be more effective with information and follow-through with clients. 

#5.  Establish ideal “next play” 

Many advisors have built their businesses upon knowledge and intuition but waiting for knowledge across an ever-increasing depth of services is a difficult scale model.  The best organizations are building AI-driven “next play” into their advisor tools.  The goal is to arm advisors and other client-facing teams with a clear understanding of what’s next in the recommendation to a client.  This can be exposed just to the advisor or even made available directly to the client in their interface.  The goal of this is to create a clean and natural understanding of how to improve your client’s position.  Elements of this include: 

  • Data-driven understanding of client portfolios 
  • Recommendation engine based on aggregate best practices 
  • Ability to visualize the options and help with choice selection 
  • Surface with supporting information for advisors 

#6. Intelligent map-based marketing / sales data mining to apply limited human resources to targets 

That’s a lot of words, but essentially you need to go after the right clients, in the right places, at the right times.  The most effective organizations are VERY intentional about where they apply their energy, using data to understand the big picture.  For example, can I use the sales data and related impact to drive where my investments should go? 

The graphic below shows source sessions to connect with clients based on data, then relating that data to concentrations of families, networks, or relationships.  The best map-based data brings together location, relationship, value, and turns it into prescriptive action. 

The information is also useful in aggregate to talk about the populace and how they are shifting.  How can we use information about the broader ecosystem to influence where products are going, what works, what doesn’t, and how we strategically move.  This is all done with data you likely already have or can get without much effort. 

#7.  Increase data discoverability and security 

This is a means to an end.  The best organizations are “data driven” but done in a way that includes metrics-driven data, trusted sources, and ability to experiment… combined with security.  Your organization needs to arm your teams with trusted data that is secured and controlled by the right people.  This is the establishment of a certified data-set, the mapping of data lineage, and the application of security policies… combined with accessibility of data across a broad scope.  How do you do this?  Aren’t access and security mutually exclusive?   

This is where tools like Purview step in to help define and manage the data estate, as well as aid in discoverability across a broad ecosystem in a data mesh.  The below shows the concept of a Data Mesh, that includes sub-concepts like Data Domains (logical groupings of data), Data Products (like Synapse), and Data Management (like Purview). 

The goal is to build an architecture for data discoverability based on a Certified Data Set, which then has security applied to it.  In model use cases security is applied to primary/secondary models.  In data science security is applied to the data container and perhaps even de-identified.  In each scenario lineage and understanding is critical to establishing trust, primary tied to the Certified Data Set. 

Why is this “do more with less”?  Because it creates the right conditions for all employees to get value from data and trust the data that other’s work is based on.   

#8.  Create a commoditized and secure end user experience 

Why does the end user device experience need to be so complicated?  I was talking with a company that had one-minute laptop boot time and 10 different agents running.  The experience for the end user was terrible, the security isn’t necessarily improved, and the result is less business value.  How can we make the experience of getting, using, and replacing a device more like getting a new phone, instead of getting a new customized painting?   

Enter the world of Modern Desktop, meaning a device deployed through Autopilot, in a Zero Trust approach, with no dependency on the corp-net for management or identity.  Think “Cloud PC”… this enables devices to be shipped directly to the home, with superfast boot-up time, and much less intrusion in the user’s life.  It also enables virtual desktop use cases from a variety of spots, such as MacBooks as first-class citizens and other devices.   

Also think about savings of eliminating tools and using just one platform.  The Microsoft platform is both best of breed and best of suite, enabling an integrated conditional access experience from any endpoint, to any application.  

#9.  Retain and engage employees 

The retention battle is fierce, and your team members are looking for you to represent a culture they want to be part of.  Understanding, listening, and responding to your team is one of the most critical elements of “doing more with less” as it goes to the highest cost you might have… turnover.  Organizations with less turnover can create efficiencies because of the force multiplication we add to each other.  Great teams are not just made up of great players… they are made of great players that know how to work with each other.  Retaining and empowering your team is critical to making this happen. 

Platforms like Microsoft Viva and Glint were created to help with understanding, directing, and empowering an organization’s individuals, teams, and managers with great insights.   

The mapping of goals to a person’s wellbeing, engagement, and functional accountability is also a critical element to the success of a team.  Understanding OKRs and achievement metrics. 

Finally, engaging and communicating with employees broadly is modernizing.  Are your team members all rowing the boat in the same direction?  

#10.  Address identity/compliance inefficiencies 

As your organization is expressed to the market through technology, identity becomes the critical control layer for your interaction with clients, partners, and employees.  Each stakeholder group has an efficiency lever controlled through how effective you are at creating a positive experience.  These experiences include: 

  • Onboarding new customers to your business platform 
  • Onboarding new employees (regardless of location) into your business 
  • Creating and maintain B2B relationships 
  • Optimizing changes to customers, employees, and B2B identities 

Each identity experience results in positive or negative experiences and has significant security concerns if not treated with focus.  For each, look at “how can I streamline and improve the management of my customer, partner, or employee identity to achieve business efficiency” 

For example, with Azure AD Verifiable Credentials, you could onboard a new employee and validated credential before moving forward.  This could all be orchestrated remotely vs. as manual activity. 

Here is an example of an ideal authentication experience for a new user: 

Each digital identity scenario assumes Zero Trust, and focuses on creating a seamless experience with the user, company, or employee through a single set of tools.  This contrasts with many organizations that have a huge suite of security tools, only to create a very disjointed onboarding and management experience for their user base.   

So, to re-cap, here are the 10 things to look for in creating efficiency in 2023.   

  • Understand and optimize supply chain processes with Manufacturing AI 
  • Turn processes into tools by making all employees “creators” with Power Platform 
  • Reduce the footprint of your facilities and leverage cloud services, then right size and reserve 
  • Optimize sales processes with bots and automation leveraging AI to drive more sales per rep 
  • Improve sustainability and cost efficiency at the same time 
  • Intelligent map-based marketing/sales data mining to apply limited human resources to targets 
  • Increase data discoverability and security 
  • Create a commoditized and secure end user experience 
  • Retain and engage your employees with Viva 
  • Simplify the user experience of communication/collaboration by removing extraneous tools