In the banking sector, digital transformation is long overdue in one of the most competitive markets. Despite 30% of the US GDP, mid-cap banks often get ignored when asking for capital from bigger investment banks and other financial institutions. The massive gap in their size and revenue means that mid-sized banks invest significantly smaller sums in technology. Despite their unique selling propositions, they need to figure out how to squeeze the most out of limited budgets and resources and satisfy an increasing demand for functional digital banking solutions.
In the banking sector, digital transformation is long overdue. It’s the pandemic that caused a rapid spike in customers’ demand for digital channels and effectively forced business leaders to quicken their digitally-oriented initiatives. Cloud-based services, mobile banking app development, multichannel distribution, advanced ML-powered analytics tools, and a myriad of other technological trends have become vital for staying relevant in one of the most competitive markets.
Regardless of their size, both mid-cap banks and industry giants have similar investment strategies, allocating up to 10% of their revenue to technology adoption and core banking system (CBS) modernization.
However, the massive gap in their size and revenue means that mid-sized banks invest significantly smaller sums in technology. And, while accounting for nearly 30% of the US GDP, mid-cap banks often get ignored when asking for capital from bigger investment banks and other financial institutions.
Even if they have the means to pursue digitization, business leaders’ hesitation to do so shouldn’t be surprising since failing modernization efforts often mean going out of business. At the same time, the whole selling point of mid-cap banks is that they trade technology and scale for relationships. Especially when it comes to specific niches like wealth management advisory, technology is of secondary importance.
Nevertheless, as the banking landscape is rapidly evolving, mid-sized banks are under significant pressure. Regardless of their unique selling propositions, they need to figure out how to squeeze the most out of their limited budgets and resources and satisfy an increasing demand for functional digital banking solutions.
The digitization strategy for mid-cap banks
First things first, banks need to understand what exact digitization approach they need to apply. Large established banks with outdated legacy systems and sufficient resources opt for full system replacement. Mid-sized institutions don’t have the means and time to follow this approach; however, they often don’t need to.
The majority of mid-cap banks need to either selectively update certain features or build a new platform, which will run in parallel with their core platform. This approach requires much more attainable investments and far less time than full system replacement.
Second, it’s critical to align in-house IT efforts with the overall business strategy. Far too often, IT departments work in isolation and are focused on maintenance-level work rather than on strategically important projects. When it comes to big-scale initiatives like CBS modernization, it’s assumed that this work has to be outsourced. While it’s true in the majority of cases, it’s paramount for business leaders to realize full potential of internal resources before going after outside vendors.
Third, it’s pivotal to approach vendor selection wisely. Conventionally, bank executives negotiate critical factors that they will base their vendor choice upon, and the selection process looks similar to comparing products online. However, on top of comparing vendors based on costs and project delivery approaches, it’s critical to build prototypes during the pre-sale stage. This will give IT staff and bank employees a much clearer idea of what implications they will face, what additional skills they need to acquire, and what data-related issues should be addressed. Not only will this ensure a smooth project implementation overall but also eliminate costly risks.
Fourth, at the project implementation stage, banks need to involve key experts and employees from every department. CBS modernization is not just another IT update but an all-permeating transformation, impacting stakeholders, employees, executives, and customers.
Fifth, mid-cap banks need to take advantage of their size. Given that customer demands and tools accessibility change as fast as never before, being nimble and adaptive is an important competitive differentiator. For mid-sized banks, recognizing an opportunity and capitalizing on it in the midst of the project implementation is far more attainable than for their bigger rivals. This takes us back to the importance of vendor selection. It’s important to assess solution providers’ ability to be agile and transform quickly.
Sixth, prepare your workforce. Regardless of the updated CBS finesse, it won’t matter if the workforce still has a legacy mindset. Retraining should start from the top, with leaders being hyper-aware and excited about the new system.
Collaborate and prosper
Unlike their bigger competitors, many midsized banks are threatened by digital transformation rather than thrilled about it. Such mindset often leads to the industry players being reluctant to take a proactive approach. Many of them are planning to wait for their competitors to take these risky decisions and see how it goes. In such a competitive environment, this strategy won’t suffice in the long term.
In the past five years, the number of mergers among mid-cap banks has been steadily increasing. While this is a logical solution to the disproportionate advantage that megabanks have, without well-thought-out digitization and modernization plans, acquisitions will lead to bigger banks with the same outdated legacy systems. This is why it’s still critical to collaborate but with the main goal to cover the technological gap. Fruitful partnerships with agile fintech companies will most likely be the critical factor.
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