How the pandemic is impacting the Australian banking sector

How the pandemic is impacting the Australian banking sector

Martin Creighan, Managing Director, Citrix ANZ –

COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated the adoption of digital technologies across the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industry. This has resulted in not only a transformation of the customer experience, but also new ways of working with banks, insurers and other financial institutions.

Today, three quarters of Australians conduct their banking digitally. In addition, the total number of active ATMs in Australia declined by 15 per cent to around 28,000 ATMs in March 2020 and has since decreased further due to the temporary closure of venues under COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.

As customers move towards online and mobile banking, brick-and-mortar branches are closing down. But within those branches that remain, flexible working arrangements are now more common than ever, thanks to the pandemic, allowing banks to better adapt to their customers’ needs.

It could be argued that the industry now develops software and does finance on the side. Major Australian banks are investing more heavily in paid internships to train a new generation of technology talent, reflecting the high demand for software workers since the pandemic.

For example, the National Australia Bank increased from 14 interns in 2017 to 292 technology interns in 2021 and has ambitions to fill 1,500 technology roles this year. Commonwealth Bank of Australia launched a new internship program in 2020 which covers technology, engineering, and cyber security.

This coincides with a surge in technology expenditure. In 2021, Australia’s mutual banks, building societies and credit unions invested $274.60 million into cyber security, digitisation and to make technology changes to fit new regulatory requirements – up almost 20 per cent on the previous year, according to an analysis by KPMG Australia.

As Australia’s biggest banks rely on paid internships to attract top technology talent, and increase technology spend, it’s clear that digital thinking and technologies are top priority for the financial services industry.

An exciting new chapter for BFSI

One of the fields that excites me most is smart technology that encompasses artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation. This area is promising both for the front-end features that improve customer experience and the back-end services that make organisations more efficient, agile and secure. AI in particular has capabilities to allow banks to respond to customers quickly, as well as technologies that identify and prevent fraud.

We’re also witnessing a shift in the way the financial services industry develops and deploys products. Let’s take DevOps as an example. DevOps has been popular in software development for several years but its adoption has accelerated over the last 12-18 months. DevOps offers are more agile way of developing applications, integrating back-office requirements and addressing compliance and risk strategies. This is especially important to supporting the hybrid workforce that has resulted from the pandemic.

Again, this reflects the notion that banking and financial organisations see themselves as financial technology companies.

Looking ahead

We’re living in a fast-changing environment where unexpected technological, economic and political changes can be expected, and where it’s necessary to adapt quickly to these changes. The key challenge for financial services organisations is to deliver a better customer experience, while ensuring their platforms are secure and adhere to regulations.

Adopting a cloud-delivered, Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution is one way to make this a reality. This protects access to apps and data from all devices, enabling employees to work the way they want and service customers in a secure, reliable manner. For example, Citrix Workspace offers a secure digital portal that provides access to customer data, applications and workflows. It seamlessly integrates software-as-a-service-based applications with access to the large mainframe systems that have supported banking operations for decades.

The way forward for the BFSl industry lies in leveraging cloud-delivered solutions that consolidate technology, secure it with a zero-trust approach and bring it together as a singular experience for the customer. We need to make it as easy as possible for the employees of financial institutions and banks to do their work, so that they can provide a seamless, positive experience to their customers.