Analysis

Disruptive digital technologies in the financial services industry

Emerging technologies, similar risks

From customer service chatbots to software robot bankers, disruptive digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and blockchain are changing the financial services industry. To get a clearer picture of the adoption and acceptance trends of these technologies, see the results of a Deloitte-sponsored survey.

Disruptive digital technologies: Gaining traction in the financial services industry

Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and blockchain are expected to take the financial services industry to the next level. But to what extent are these disruptive digital technologies gaining acceptance and adoption throughout the industry? To find out, Deloitte sponsored a survey of executives in the banking, capital markets, wealth management, and insurance sectors of the financial services industry. The result: Respondents indicated that they’re enthusiastic about AI, robotics, and blockchain, but many expressed some wariness over risks inherent in disruptive digital technologies.

In short, companies are caught between a steep learning curve and the imperative to keep up with innovative competitors, even as many respondents admitted a need for additional understanding of new technologies.

Some executives worry that there’s a chasm between perceptions about the capabilities of new technologies and the reality of what they can accomplish.

Is your company ready to embrace emerging technology? Learn more about emerging financial services technology trends below.

Artificial intelligence

Financial services companies are using AI in a wide range of settings. Along with the customer service chatbots mentioned above, they’re also deploying AI to automate loans and insurance underwriting. Among the three disruptive digital technology categories that are the focus of this survey, financial services executives expressed the greatest familiarity with AI.

By the numbers:

  • 41 percent of respondents were “extremely” or “very” knowledgeable about AI. 
  • 53 percent of those familiar with AI said their institutions are developing or have already launched commercial deployments or pilots of AI applications.

Risk quotient

AI is an emerging technology that carries risks. Poorly designed decision-making systems can generate errors and raise potential regulatory problems. Survey participants were wary about the technology’s cost and its potential to misfire. And some reported that they’re holding off until AI’s future clarifies.

47% of financial services execs said it would be extremely important or critical to implement AI in 5 years.

Robotics

Robotics encompasses a broad spectrum of technology and, according to the survey, it’s making deep inroads into the financial services industry. Robots come in many forms, from physical devices such as customer service robots in retail settings to software robots that take the controls of business applications. Software robots are part of the growing field of robotic process automation.

By the numbers:

  • 21 percent of respondents are not considering robotics
  • 39 percent reported that their companies have initiated proof-of-concept programs or commercial implementations.
  • 40 percent said their institutions are considering robotics.

Risk quotient

Implementing robotics involves a range of risks, which includes poorly designed automation that can increase processing errors. What’s more, displacing human workers can impact morale. It can also create gaps in roles and accountability as organizations transition to automated systems.
Respondents at institutions that are holding off on robotics programs cited a range of barriers, including cost and a failure to establish a strong case for how the technology can help.

45% of executives surveyed stated that their firms are considering new applications for robotics.

Blockchain

Blockchain is at the forefront of emerging technologies that financial institutions believe could profoundly impact the way they do business. Many financial institutions are using blockchain to build a variety of platforms—such as payments and trade finance—and are beginning to engage with established cryptocurrencies.

  • 35 percent of respondents said they were “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about blockchain.
  • 40 percent indicated that implementing blockchain at their institutions will be extremely important or critical in five years. 
  • 13 percent stated that blockchain implementation will be extremely important or critical in the next 12 months.
  • 23 percent of respondents familiar with blockchain said their institutions have launched or are developing pilot programs using blockchain applications.

Risk quotient

There is a wide range of risks to consider when evaluating blockchain. Here are two common blockchain risks:

  • Value transfer risk: The peer-to-peer framework exposes participants to risks that would otherwise be managed by a central intermediary.
  • Smart contract risk: Smart contracts can potentially encode complex business, financial, and legal arrangements on the blockchain. But aligning them with the many permutations, exceptions, and constraints that prevail in the real world is challenging.
43% of respondents said their institutions are working on or have already launched blockchain pilot programs or commercial applications

Harnessing disruptive digital technologies

According to the survey, financial services companies have embraced disruptive digital technologies, and many firms are proceeding with a sense of urgency. One respondent described it as the imperative to “move faster than the future disruptor.”

But unknowns are inherent in new technology. Firms confront a wide range of risks in determining which technology to acquire and how to put it to use. Among those risks, executives were quick to list integration challenges, resource constraints, and the impact on current processes when prompted to think about barriers to adoption.

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