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The finance industry – A look at trends and predictions for 2021

By Tim Blok, CTO, Onguard

The wholesale shift towards remote working has proved to be one of the many challenges that has stood in the way of the finance industry in 2020. While there is light at the end of the tunnel for Covid-19 thanks to the initial rollout of the vaccine, 2021 looks set to be a year of continued uncertainty when taking other factors such as Brexit into account. Numerous hurdles are therefore on the horizon for finance professionals in the coming year, and there is a greater focus on innovations such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) and their role in solution-driven technologies. But how crucial will these technologies be in 2021?

The role of automation and AI

With the office-based working rulebook rewritten in 2020, the resultant move to remote working has had wide-reaching ramifications for the finance industry. With many finance professionals having now adapted to working from home, it is expected that many will look to continue to do so in some capacity in 2021. With a smaller workforce in the office, this potential shift places more strain on applications, software, and solutions. It is therefore more important than ever for financial institutions to look to automate more processes where possible, while also remaining conscious of ensuring these systems maintain high levels of security.

Focusing on efficiency and a drive to cut costs also creates opportunities to pursue automated processes and systems. People are generally the largest costs to a company, and utilising automation in the right way can ensure that finance professionals provide the most efficient value to the organisation. The economic effects to come in 2021 due the pandemic will place greater importance on the need to be as efficient as possible.

Whether we even realise it, AI and machine learning is rapidly impacting our everyday lives in a variety of ways, both professionally and personally. However, when considering how best to implement these technologies, financial organisations need to carefully consider issues around transparency, particularly in how AI comes to a conclusion. In 2021, an increased focus will sit with uncovering and defining the ethical aspect of AI deployments, and it is likely that new regulations will be implemented in the coming years in order to shed some light on this.

Forms of communication

Tim Blok

Tim Blok

While a focus will most certainly sit with processes that can ease the working day of the finance professional, 2021 will also see the development of collaborative tools for effective employee communication. With some form of Brexit on the horizon, bringing with it changes to data regulations and security, it will be even more crucial for finance professionals to maintain clear communication to ensure everyone is up to date. With organisational culture moving to the forefront for many due to 2020’s shift to remote working, for those who collaborate across the globe it’s likely that the coming year will bring renewed focus on the concept of communication etiquette, such as suitable times to contact employees in different time zones. An ethical and considered approach to communication will prove vital next year.

With many people now more isolated than ever, a consideration of mental health will be key, and a personal and customer first approach should be the go-to for finance professionals while communicating with customers via video conferencing technology. Technology will also play a key role here with new applications such as application programming interfaces to help better serve customers.

Cloud-based programmes that facilitate real-time collaboration have so far been under-utilised for internal and external communication, despite many support tools having already shifted to the cloud. Driven by the shift to remote working, we’ll see these evolve more quickly, and there is certainly scope for these kind of programmes to be more widely adopted by organisations in 2021, providing the basis for work to be completed with the input of all parties in a live environment.

Adapting to technological advancements

At the core of future developments in 2021 is the realisation of the benefits that technological advancements can provide the industry. The new year will see the increased centralisation of solution-driven technology, with the benefits of AI and automation being highlighted. Technology has now advanced to a level where it can take full responsibility for entry-level roles within the organisation, easing the day-to-day demands on the finance professional and enabling them to oversee a process without being involved in the lower-level tasks within a project.

In addition, technology can help lay the foundation for effective remote working in 2021, and a responsibility will sit with organisations to ensure that their digital infrastructure is in place and set up efficiently to support this. As finance professionals look to 2021, technology will no doubt assist in almost every aspect of how they work, and the industry must take advantage of its potential.

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