Digital Financial Services: Challenges and Opportunities for Emerging Market Banks

25 Sep 2017

The digital transformation that has upended industries from retail and media to transport and business-to-business commerce is now sweeping the financial services industry, through the wide dissemination of digital financial services. This was inevitable, as ubiquitous computing power, pervasive connectivity, mass data storage, and advanced analytical tools can easily and efficiently be applied to financial services. After all, money was already extensively (though not exclusively) created, used, stored, processed, and delivered electronically.

Immediacy and personalization have become the norm for consumer goods and services. Consumers have rapidly become accustomed to making purchases with a touch of their finger wherever they may be, receiving tailored recommendations, choosing customized products, and enjoying delivery of almost any item directly to their front door. Businesses failing to adapt quickly to these technological developments can fail dramatically, and many have already done so, including Tower Records, Borders Books, Blockbuster Video, and countless travel agents and brick-and-mortar retailers. Consumers’ new
expectations apply to digital financial services as well.

Technology has transformed business-to-business and within business interactions, too, enabling reconfiguration of design, production, marketing, delivery, and service functions through distributed supply chains, freelance design, outsourced manufacturing, and contract warehousing and delivery. These reconfigurations are mediated by online marketplaces and distributors, and assisted by back-end support operations and data analysis that together drive better risk assessment, faster fulfillment and more efficient customer service.

The same types of disruptive market innovations and reconstituted value chains are now emerging in the form of digital financial services. This poses distinct challenges for incumbent providers such as banks, finance companies, microfinance institutions, and insurance companies, as financial technology—or FinTech—innovators enter their markets. Incumbents, too, can benefit from these developments, which will enable them to broaden financial access, introduce new products and services, and serve customers more efficiently by deploying new technologies internally or in partnership with external innovators.