Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Finastra’s Ignite! Conference Emphasizes the Importance of Agility, Mindset and Culture as Community Financial Institutions Evolve

Finastra, a global provider of financial software applications and marketplaces, brought together leaders from community banks and credit unions across the United States for its annual Ignite! customer conference in Orlando. Hosted in late April, the event facilitated interactive working groups between Finastra’s Universal Banking leadership, subject matter experts, and customers. The conference also featured an executive forum at the start of the event, facilitating productive conversations and brainstorming sessions between top financial institution executives.

Addressing attendees during the opening remarks, Narendra Mistry, chief product and technology officer, Universal Banking said, “Change and transformation are not new, but the pace of change, the rapid advance of technology, and the ability of new players to enter the market are all factors the industry is facing. This evolution makes it more important than ever for financial institutions to adapt and transform to continue to keep pace with the competition and stay ahead of what customers will come to expect. Through a combination of vision, drive, ambition, and the right technology, banks and credit unions can make transformation a reality sooner rather than later.”

Throughout the forum and customer events, several key takeaways were highlighted, including:

  1. The concept of “digital Darwinism”: When technology and society evolve faster than a financial institution’s ability to adapt, it will fall behind. To improve enterprise agility, financial services firms must employ a holistic approach, powered by technology to define the future. Guided by the voice of the customer and industry insights, financial institutions can implement open technology, cloud, and digital infrastructure while embracing analytics, increased security, and the fintech ecosystem to deliver on their innovation goals. Through this approach, firms can be more agile and transform as needed to keep pace with customer needs.
  2. Embracing the rise of artificial intelligence (AI): AI, particularly generative AI (Gen AI), represents the next big shift in how people work, and is a key transformation tool for individuals, teams, and businesses. With this shift happening now, not in months or years, the faster, agile organizations will have the advantage. Through an effective AI transformation program, financial institutions can take small steps to enrich the employee experience, reinvent customer engagement, and reshape processes, accelerating innovation in the process. During a panel discussion, Adam Lieberman, chief AI officer, explained that to use AI responsibly it should first be viewed as assisting, rather than replacing people, as organizations start to explore the technology. Peter Longo, VP product management, Universal Banking, added that AI must be plugged safely into the core and digital journey, enabling the humans behind the technology to become more efficient and creative.
  3. A robust risk management and cybersecurity strategy is a must: In an era where cyber threats loom large and cause significant impact, the imperative for financial institutions to be primed for potential breaches is more pressing than ever. Attendees heard from a community financial institution that despite its significant investments in cybersecurity, fell victim to an attack. The institution’s subsequent recovery served as testament to the effectiveness of responsive technology partners. Eric Hussey, Finastra’s chief information security officer, highlighted the value of comprehensive and actionable threat-based risk assessments that understand an organization’s end-to-end value chain vulnerability. With this understanding, mitigating risk through outcome-focused processes and technology investments is a prudent approach and further underscores the incredible importance of integrating leading technology with the insights of those deeply versed in risk management. The discussion also brought to light the critical role of a reliable core banking partner. Leveraging a cloud-based core supports the security and availability of customer data, minimizing disruptions to daily operations.
  4. Retaining the community focus while embracing generational change: Community banks and credit unions are well positioned to address the financial services needs of younger generations, while still meeting and exceeding the expectations of existing customers and members. Howie Wu of Seattle Bank and Cyrene Wilke of Horicon Bank discussed how the so-called “Amazon effect” is impacting banking, and noted the industry is experiencing this shift now. Gen Z consumers, for example, do not know life without technology, which presents an opportunity for smaller institutions. With these customers expecting instant and efficient digital experiences that resemble the user experience of day-to-day purchases, financial institutions must keep up and deliver the right solutions. However, while some generations have rapidly adopted technology, most expect a combination of both human and digital interactions within their financial services journey. Panelists noted that younger people are often not as financially aware as prior generations, presenting a chance for community-based institutions to stand out amongst the competition by delivering financial education.

“Innovation is at its best when our customers, partners, and employees work as a team to solve problems and brainstorm new ways to address the challenging financial services landscape,” said Swathy Parthasarathy, chief operations officer, Universal Banking. “By coming together during this event, we’ve not just had the chance to highlight our own innovations, but to facilitate meaningful conversations between financial services leaders across the US. The industry is truly better when we work as one, and Finastra is proud to enable a robust and successful open ecosystem of ideas and solutions.”

To close the event, Finastra demonstrated its commitment to corporate social responsibility and its ESG values with a volunteer activity alongside the nonprofit organization Clean the World Global, benefitting One Heart for Women and Children. Ignite! attendees worked together to assemble 1,400 hygiene packs to help combat complications associated with hygiene-related illnesses, providing items needed for local families.

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