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What a great week it has been at Sibos 2020. It was exciting to hear from leaders how they are adapting to a new environment, as they deliver digital value and innovate responsibly.

The theme of “evolution” that Sibos landed on for this year’s event resonated with me on many levels, given the dramatic changes around the world. Recently, I have been talking with customers about the need to reinvent, whether that refers to renewed prioritization in the banking industry or within ourselves. Reinvention correlates with evolution in many ways, delivering both immediate or gradual change. I think all of us can relate to both on a certain level as we look to adapt in this new world.

To me, “driving the evolution of smart finance” means the need for intelligent banking and the necessary digital transformation. Because of increased business challenges, we need to work faster and harder. This evolution was already underway prior to COVID-19, and we are now moving forward faster and more intentionally to improve customer experience, upgrade technology, and manage risk.

In talking to attendees and hearing from presenters, various thoughts emerged for me around the four conference sub-themes, so I wanted to share them here.

Delivering digital value

As the word evolution implies, banks and financial players are constantly looking to innovate and modernize to survive. The one-upmanship of competition and adverse market conditions are pushing both incumbents and challengers to capitalize on emerging technology.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are top-of-mind tools right now. AI and cloud-enabled systems can help forecast future events and behaviors to conduct what-if analyses and make smarter decisions. Organizations recognize that AI plays a key role in meeting rising customer expectations with simple, differentiated, and adaptable tools and services.

I believe that applying AI to real-time payments data is a huge opportunity for delivering value through new business models. Banks have the richest data sets in all of financial services, given that the world economy passes through their payments systems every day. While banks have historically used that data to combat financial crime, they are now seeing the potential to enhance the client experience. To do that, they need to upgrade their older generation systems for core banking and payments, as well as bring on more data scientists to pull out customer insights.

Responsible innovation

In the banking sector, I see a renewed prioritization to offer fresh experiences for customers, balanced with financial crime solutions to reduce fraud. COVID-19 has introduced stressors into the system as people work and shop from home, necessitating a response to the increase in digital spending and fraud scams. Banks need to embrace new technology to take on these renewed threats, making sure that legitimate customers are onboarded quickly, and legitimate transactions are approved and processed, while keeping out bad actors.

We have been working with several customers on risk mitigation. American Express is using Microsoft Dynamics Fraud Protection to enable merchants using their Amex card to grow transaction revenue and reduce cardholder friction. Capital One teamed with Microsoft to implement a cloud-based authorization engine, improving fraud detection accuracy.

Microsoft is also supporting banks with compliance initiatives, helping them lower compliance costs while protecting banks and their employees. Together with various partners, we have implemented policy-based recording in Microsoft Teams for recording online meetings and calls in a streamlined and automated way. This compliance feature is critical in the current remote work environment.

The future of finance

The changes in consumer habits since global lockdowns appear to be permanent. According to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, there has been massive, accelerated growth of e-commerce, with total US online spend in August hitting $63 billion, which is up 42 percent year-over-year.

The pace of change has sped up as financial institutions (FIs) strive to be agile and reinvent the way they leverage technology. Cloud-first strategies are helping with new workload deployments and consolidation of systems to reduce costs. FIs like Charles River are using Microsoft Azure to rapidly deploy new products and services, increase data and computing capacity, while serving all geographies on a single platform.

Banking for humanity

The world’s well-being is weighing a little heavier on all of us these days. We have a responsibility to address issues of sustainability, financial inclusion, and diversity and equality. There is work to be done here, especially as the world has shifted heavily to digital interactions.

The emphasis on virtual team collaboration demands that we all understand the importance of accessibility. When the financial workforce reflects the diversity of financial customers, accommodating and serving people of all ability levels, that is good for business and good for humanity.

Many thanks to the team at SWIFT for organizing such an important industry event in challenging circumstances. It was a privilege to share ideas, and the whole week was truly invigorating.

Continuing the conversation

To explore these themes further, please visit Microsoft for Banking and Capital Markets.