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2021 has been an incredible year of change for the financial services industry. We saw organizations across financial services accelerate digital innovation at a record pace. This has also been an important year for us here at Microsoft. We launched Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services and made significant advancements with the industry’s leading SIs and ISVs, as we doubled down on our long-standing commitment to provide a depth and breadth of specialized support for the financial services industry and help our customers succeed in today’s rapidly evolving landscape.

As we close 2021, I wanted to share some of the breakthrough momentum in key areas of transformation this past year and look at what’s ahead in 2022. 

Modernizing core platforms 

The pandemic has prompted financial services organizations to re-evaluate legacy systems to save on costs while gaining all the advantages of a modern system. Microsoft is focused on working with financial services institutions across banking, capital markets, and insurance to modernize core systems and move to the cloud to reduce costs, improve operational efficiencies, and create a platform for agile business.  

This year, a number of leading institutions embraced our cloud platform to unlock new value creation. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, for example, is using Microsoft Azure as its primary cloud platform, enabling it to scale and modernize its banking platform, while building in additional resiliency, efficiency, and agility. We also further partnered with Africa’s largest financial institution Standard Bank whose growing investment in the Microsoft Cloud will enable the innovation, efficiencies, and resilience required to respond to market dynamics and customer needs.  

As part of a strategic cloud partnership, Morgan Stanley is currently using Microsoft Azure to accelerate the modernization of its IT environment to enhance client, employee, and developer experiences. And in a significant development for the global payments industry, BNY Mellon successfully migrated Microsoft Treasury’s wire payments into the cloud, using Azure, marking an exciting milestone in the modernization of payments

Delivering differentiated customer experiences 

As the pandemic transformed customer behaviors and expectations, much of the industry’s need to modernize is centered on taking their client engagement to new levels. To that end, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions decided to transform its traditional customer relationship management (CRM) solution into a data-driven customer engagement management platform by leveraging Azure, Azure Databricks, and Azure Machine Learning. New Zealand’s largest bank Westpac also shares how they are using Microsoft Dynamics 365 to drive customer-focused change across its organization to better serve its customers.

We also worked with Progressive to use the latest capabilities in Azure AI to level up its chatbot journey and strengthen customer relationships through customized, rewarding interactions. And we advanced our strategic alliance with MSCI with new Azure-based innovations for the global investment industry, enhancing MSCI’s client experience among the world’s most sophisticated investors, including asset managers, asset owners, hedge funds, and banks. 

Empowering employees through teamwork 

We are all experiencing a once-in-a-generation shift in how, when, and where we work. Accelerating workplace modernization is another important investment area for us, helping enable financial services institutions to improve productivity and empower flexibility for remote work through secure collaboration, communications, and business process innovation technologies and access to key information from any location. 

Zurich Insurance is doing some exciting work to get future-ready with Microsoft 365 tools that is modernizing customer service, empowering colleagues to get the best user experience, and increasing employee satisfaction. Rabobank also chose Microsoft 365 as the platform for its One Digital Workplace vision to help employees work better together by sharing knowledge and experience to deliver a superior customer experience. The bank improved mobility and collaboration without compromising security.  

Dutch bank ABN AMRO is currently building a culture of transformation with Microsoft cloud technology and is now ready to transform employee user adoption and increase both employee and customer satisfaction—all while reducing time-to-market with new capabilities. Nationwide also shares how it is embracing change by finding new ways to bring their people-focused mission to a hybrid work scenario with Microsoft 365.

Managing risk and cybersecurity 

The pandemic showed us that despite major change, security and compliance remain at the core. As a company, Microsoft has a deep and long history and commitment to security and compliance, and we are focused on helping our financial services customers deepen risk insights and facilitate compliance while protecting their organizations and employees. 

This year, Wells Fargo marked the next step in its digital transformation journey with a new multi-cloud strategy, relying on Microsoft Azure to provide a trusted and secure foundation across all the institution’s functions and better manage risk. We also worked with Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in its move to the cloud, choosing Azure as the common system infrastructure for its risk management, security, and cost-savings benefits.  

UBS is also using Microsoft Azure for global scale and security and shares where they are today as a result. And TD Securities recently built on its Microsoft 365 Communication Compliance infrastructure with a highly secure, compliant global Microsoft Teams deployment.  

Enabling a green financial services industry 

The financial services industry is currently prioritizing sustainability and taking responsibility for its role in climate action. Microsoft is focused on empowering our financial services clients to create ESG (environmental, social, and governance) solutions and deliver on their organizational sustainability priorities. 

For example, earlier this year, we joined forces with UK bank NatWest Group to help UK businesses better understand their carbon footprints and create tailored actions to reduce their carbon emissions leveraging our Microsoft cloud, data, and AI platform. 

We also teamed up with Munich Re to help deploy secure climate change risk assessments that can predict possible financial impacts years into the future using Azure. And in a recent article, Netherland’s Rabobank and Italian fintech startup Flowe shared how our technology is helping them nurture a more sustainable planet. You can also learn more about ESG as a board-room priority

A launchpad for innovation and growth 

When it comes to digital tools and the cloud, our customers have been clear that they need cloud services tailored to their specific needs and challenges. For the financial services industry, we are answering this need through our Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services, which we launched in November.

This industry-specific cloud introduces new capabilities that add to our existing public cloud offerings and in combination truly unlock the power and value of the Microsoft Cloud to help innovate for responsible and sustainable growth. Our partners are also instrumental to the success and scalability of Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services, and we’re thrilled to have a growing ecosystem of services and ISV partners already working to extend its capabilities. Learn more about Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services.

Looking to the future 

As we approach 2022, I see no signs of the industry slowing down. Major shifts in consumer and SME trends will ratchet up industry competition as customer experience becomes the next competitive battleground. Financial services companies will need to take a hard look at their business models to identify new opportunities to help their customers, partner across the industry to leverage competitive strengths, and embed financial services throughout commerce experiences.

Another big trend we’ll see is in workforce transformation. Flexible work is here to stay, and the talent landscape has fundamentally shifted. A thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent. Here I share more trends on where the financial services industry is today and where it’s headed.

And while there is no simple roadmap for what’s ahead, digital acceleration is creating tremendous opportunities to stretch the boundaries of what’s possible, in ways we are just starting to imagine. That’s why we want to ensure that every organization has the digital capability needed to succeed going forward and are committed to helping our financial services customers improve time to value, reduce costs, increase agility, and accelerate innovation for sustainable growth. 

We plan to share more of these examples, success stories, and trends in the coming year. Happy New Year everyone.