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Banking’s Big 2015 Conference Heralds Digital Revolution


London recently played host to debate and collaboration between the world’s senior financial services leaders, all around the theme of “Building the Foundation of Digital Change.”

The Financial Services Forum took place at Grange St. Paul’s Hotel, which is nestled beside the breathtaking St. Paul’s Cathedral. The forum attracted over 450 decision makers and industry leaders from banking and insurance firms, as well as members of the press, analysts, and SAP partners.

Many topics were discussed, including crypto-currencies, challenger banks, and cloud strategies in secure regulated environments. Participants explored modern solutions in three key areas:

        . Digital transformation at banks and financial services firms

        . Financial technology (FinTech) innovation, influencing and affecting financial services

        . Building foundations for a better, leaner bank

The opening keynote was titled Run Simple in Financial Services. It centered on the integrated banking delivery model that is driving digital transformation in financial services. Ross Wainwright, global head of financial services at SAP, outlined how FinTech and digital disruption are fueling the digitization of banking.

The digital revolution theme continued with a presentation titled The Digital Future of Insurance, and it included exciting new paradigms created by the connected car. The presentation was delivered by Bob Cummings, global head of SAP Insurance, who described how, with the rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), insurance is quickly evolving from a financial services product to tomorrow’s customer protection service.

Andreas Weiskam, managing director at Sapphire Ventures, discussed recent investment from a financial services perspective, including the continued rise of FinTech. Mr. Weiskam stated that the dramatic changes underway in financial services are driven by new digital technology and consumer behavior, and he expects global investment to continue into the foreseeable future.

Deloitte’s Nick Sandall, Margaret Doyle, and Liz Fasciana led a lively discussion on the future of banking with a presentation titled, Banking Disrupted: How technology is threatening the traditional European retail banking model. The three presented a road map to the future of retail banking. They described how technological innovation is resulting in an array of new capabilities and possibilities, and in combination are creating powerful megatrends. Deloitte believes that data, social media, and mobile technology are the specific megatrends that are making the most impact on banks, as they fundamentally change customer behaviors and needs.

Rahul Modi, managing director at Adarsh Credit Co-Operative Society, lead a riveting discussion on advancements in financial inclusion in India. Adarsh’s mobility initiative was designed to drive financial inclusion and has provided banking capabilities for the first time to tens of thousands of people. The life-changing impacts that technology has had on Adarsh customers, who live in some of the farthest reaches of India, was recently featured in a story on SAP’s Community Network.

Special guest speaker Dr. Stephen Christie, interim CIO at Williams & Glyn, delivered a presentation titled, Establishing a Challenger Bank and Exploiting the Digital Opportunity. He outlined how technological innovation is crucial to the success of an effective challenger bank. Additionally, Dr. Christie stated that digital technology is at the heart of enabling innovation, and it’s driven by three factors: discovery, design, and delivery. He also believes that the leaders within the challenger landscape will be determined by their ability to deliver a transformative journey and apply innovation.

The consistent theme throughout this year’s Financial Services Forum was that modern finance means making life easier for people throughout the world. Another key takeaway was that there is still a great potential for finance professionals to discover how complexity can be reduced – while at the same time enabling an innovation-driven enterprise.

As Diogenes advised way back in 350 BC, simplicity is the key to happiness. As evidenced by the discussion at the conference, that is still sound advice for today’s financial services organizations.

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