Financial institutions — private banks included — may not repeat the remarkable surge in digital adoption witnessed over the past year, but their extensive deployment of and investments in digital technology are bound to persist. Collaboration tech provider Symphony expects a slight “deceleration” in growth this year, but asserted that there is no reversal of the broader digital trend.
Zeroing in on the operational pain points of financial services firms, Symphony’s workflow and communication solutions received a major boost since the early stage of the pandemic, as companies scrambled to put in place an infrastructure to navigate the remote working situation, while struggling to keep clients engaged.
With a slow “return to normal” unfolding at many FIs in Asia, despite recent hiccups, Symphony foresees that the sudden burst in the use of applications such as its own “is probably behind us”.
“There will certainly be a slight deceleration, as FIs better comprehend what they have implemented in the last year and make sure that it is fit for purpose,” the firm’s current president and chief commercial officer Brad Levy told Asian Private Banker.
“Things will slow down, but there will be more thought as to what they have and what they may need. The digital genie is out of the bottle.”
Levy is sanguine about the momentum for growth. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, he stressed, the speed of adoption and the engagement level on digital platforms have gone up and are still increasing.
Furthermore, there is a change in dynamic: firms are more proactive in pushing Symphony for new solutions, whereas in the past they needed to be persuaded to adopt new technology.
The experience of many FIs throughout the pandemic helped [us] better define the collaboration and workflow solution segment, said Levy.
There are implications for Symphony on a strategic level. The firm expects to deepen its general collaboration offering at an enterprise level to target specific markets within financial services — whether these are regional markets, or particular business segments and individual users.
Levy pinpointed an ongoing initiative around analytics and workflows for more complex instruments in FX markets. He added that digital assets too are an area of interest for Symphony.
On the other hand, industry players are under pressure to differentiate themselves from competitors, most of which are equipped with at least a minimum level of digital capability. But the bar is being set higher.
“You’re going to see the gap between the winners and the losers increase, or that different types of institutions will emerge because they can’t all do the same thing,” Levy argued.
The playing field for fintechs is no longer what it was back in the days — with fintechs, banks, asset managers, and other service providers interacting closely while potentially vying for the same client base. “There is so much connection and dependence now between them that it is hard to define the competition,” said Levy. “We will see more consolidation among fintech players, and firms need to find ways to compete, connect, but also co-exist.”
He added that the company is exploring potential acquisitions to increase its capabilities on top of existing offerings, and hinted that there could be a few deals happening within this year.
Symphony announced earlier that Levy will assume the role of CEO on 1 June 2021, replacing the incumbent David Gurle, who founded the business more than six years ago.