There has always been a cultural tension between IT and businesses.
An EY study found that while chief technology officers (CTOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) saw their role as driving business transformation and corporate strategy, just 14% of their C-suite peers perceived them in this way.
This is somewhat bizarre considering just how much of a role technology is playing in our daily lives and its ability to create new business models.
However, this gap has been created because many CIOs and CTOs – particularly in corporates – have been often misunderstood and have been put into situations where they are unable to realise their full potential. I have heard of one case where the CEO was more interested in their CTO's opinion on whether to get an iPhone or a BlackBerry, than whether to invest in digital outsourcing.
Sadly, in some organisations the technology C-suite are treated like Jen from the TV comedy series The IT Crowd.
Yet some in the technology C-suite in the rapidly growing fintech sector are bucking this perception. They are not only realising their full potential, they're in the front seat in driving their firm's go-to market strategy.
Since the global financial crisis of 2008, the financial services landscape in the UK has seen significant change. From the rise of challenger banks to the introduction of Open Banking, which is attracting exciting new fintech start-ups – we are set to benefit from fresh new financial services products that are more relevant and convenient.
These companies realise that the traditional model of creating a financial product and selling it to anyone that will buy it is no longer sustainable. Instead, they are putting their customers front and centre – building the people, technology and entire business models around the customer experience.
However, bringing these new products and services to market requires a new approach.
This is when technology comes to the forefront. Rather than playing the supporting role we often see in traditional financial services providers, fintech companies are using technology to shape the customer experience and the final product.
Traditionally, running a financial technology company required significant investment in building technology infrastructure. Yet as we have seen with recent start-ups, pioneering CIOs and CTOs are taking a leading and strategic role by developing technical canvases built around the customer experience. No longer are they simply building servers, implementing support manuals or, dare I say, deciding what phone the CEO should get.
Instead, the technology C-suite are turning to best-of-breed providers that offer the best performance. This can range from their cloud provider to the chosen database architecture. They are using their technical expertise to identify and marry great solutions together to push the boundaries of what's possible in the back-end to deliver a front-end experience. After all, the customer does not need to see the power of these solutions – they just need to 'feel it'.
A good example of how this approach can deliver a better customer experience is with the incorporation of application protocol interfaces or APIs. For instance, by incorporating an API of a company information provider with a business loan application, a fintech provider can offer a faster, more tailored service to its customers.
This is because the traditional customer onboarding process for products such as lending involved multiple forms, paper files and manual compliance checks and in-personal identification checks. It could take as long as a month for a business loan to be processed and approved.
However, this process has long been considered archaic, time-consuming and, overall, a poor user experience. Furthermore, the accuracy of pricing financial risk through such an uncoordinated approach can be poor. As a result, some lenders are compensating for the risk with higher fees or more restrictive terms than are necessary – such as the rise of payday-style business loans.
Meeting compliance and legal regulation is often the most time-consuming stage due to the vast number of documents and volume of data that needs to be collected and analysed.
In recent years, challenger banks, for example, have gone to market with new technology to significantly modernise and optimise their client onboarding process. The speed and ease of the process can really transform financial services and the improved customer experience is giving these firms a competitive edge.
In today's technology driven world, the technology C-suite can be a real partner to the business. I have been fortunate enough to be recognised in this way, which has encouraged me to pursue new innovations that will push our product even further.
The evolving role of the CTO and CIO in the fintech sector is just one great example of how – when they are given the opportunity to realise their full potential – they can not only lead in delivering digital transformation, but also enable business leadership.
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