As the consumer base of the global financial industry becomes increasingly environmentally conscious, banks are facing a building amount of pressure to adopt ESG strategies and shift their operations into a greener light.
In this guest post for The Fintech Times, Matthew Williamson, the Vice President of Global Financial Services for Mobiquity discusses every level of this transition, whilst offering a remedy to the barriers that prevent the full adoption of green financial initiatives.
As an experienced turnaround manager and intrapreneur, Matthew is an expert on global payments, technology, M&A, and fraud. He joined Mobiquity during Covid-19 supporting the company’s global growth strategy. Matthew is a thought leader on the bank of the future, cashless societies, digital banking, and security of payments.
Matthew is an expert in building brands on a global basis: he was instrumental in the merge of Misys into Finastra, leading its successful hyper-growth strategy as the Global Head of Payments and Cash. He has supported the activities of fintech start-ups like CoBa as its Global Head of Fintech and FORM3 – the world’s first cloud-native payments scale-up – as its Director of Customer Success, supporting the company’s global growth.
Barriers To Sustainable Behaviours
Sustainability has been a notable challenge for banking and financial services for some time, and companies have already been incorporating Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies into their business plans. Earlier in 2021 for example, the Net-Zero Banking Alliance was launched, with 45 banks from 23 countries joining together to align as an industry with net-zero emissions by 2050.
With greater transparency surrounding sustainability and renewed importance on tackling climate change, the importance of sustainable banking has been accelerated over the course of the last year.
Despite this, our “Benchmark for Sustainable Banking” report of banking executives across the UK and Europe found something rather surprising. That banks were citing that Covid-19 is the main barrier preventing banks from becoming more sustainable across traditional and challengers in the UK, with nearly a third (31%) of banking executives reporting that the pandemic and related industry demands are to blame. As a result, less than half (45%) of UK banks are planning for sustainability initiatives.
Reframing Covid-19 as an Opportunity To Drive Sustainability
However, is the Covid-19 pandemic really preventing more banks and financial institutions from going green, or is this merely a diversion tactic? Or perhaps a lack of awareness around the opportunity that the change to our living and working environment brings?
As an industry, we need to reframe Covid-19 to be seen as an opportunity instead of a barrier if we are to build a sustainable banking infrastructure of the future.
Through our research across the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany we have identified a golden opportunity for the banking and finance industry to drive sustainability through leveraging digital technologies. We call this “Sustainable Digitisation.”
Digital technologies are opening up new and exciting prospects for sustainable banking, and there is a growing awareness among challenger and traditional banks around the role that digital can play.
What is reassuring is that a large proportion of banks are embracing “Sustainable Digitisation” in a bid to make their operations more sustainable. Our research shows that almost three-quarters (72%) of UK banks are embracing digital technology to make their business operations greener. Digital technologies such as machine learning, intelligent automation, digitisation of paper processes, and investing in Internet of Things (IoT) are all being used by banks to drive sustainable outcomes.
Indeed, the benefits of creating a sustainable banking ecosystem are diverse. From retaining and growing customers to improving internal operational efficiencies. Sustainable banking not only improves business efficiencies, but it also helps to make banking and finance a greener industry over time.
By using digital to drive sustainable outcomes, banks and financial institutions are already seeing the benefits. Our research found that 2 in 5 (40%) of UK banks reported cost savings, customer retention, and growth through using digital technologies to drive sustainability initiatives. Other benefits highlighted by UK banks included accelerated innovation, improved brand reputation, increased operational efficiency across the business, and maintaining practices against business competition.
Bank of the Future: A Digital Lifestyle Enabler With an Eco-Conscience
By embracing a sustainable future through accelerating customer-centric digital solutions, banks will remain competitive in an ever-changing banking and financial services landscape. To achieve this, banks need to identify the barriers that are preventing them from becoming sustainable and incorporate sustainability into their planning and execution – this will positively impact the environment while also driving business value.
Smart data is also crucial in this path to sustainability, enabling banks to make informed decisions that lead to sustainable behaviours and increased efficiencies. For example, as banks and financial institutions scale digital transformation initiatives, we are able to measure and monitor the impact of operations across the business, including ESG initiatives.
For those that remain slow to act, they risk their reputation and their customer base, as an increasingly eco-conscious banking customer base could become alienated over time.
The role of the bank in our society has already changed. It is becoming less of a wealth repository and more of a lifestyle enabler and an integrated part of the community that it serves.
Taking a Human-Centric Approach to Digital Banking
For banks to begin to embrace the benefits of sustainability they must take a human-centric approach to digital banking. Digital solutions need to be seamless and aligned with customer needs, retaining the personalised customer experience that has been traditional banks’ distinguishing feature for many years. By doing so, sustainability becomes the only ‘by-product’ in banking – enabling banks to retain and grow customers along the journey to digitalisation, while creating new revenue streams and optimising processes internally and externally.
Banks are becoming increasingly aware of the opportunity to use digital technologies to solve environmental concerns. The next step is leveraging digital to solve frictions across banking and financial services; from sustainable outcomes and better decision making to improving personalised customer experiences and financial inclusion. This will become a business priority as we enter a more connected and socially responsible world post-Covid-19, and the banks that grasp this opportunity will be the ones that grow at lightning speed.