AutoRek finds itself at the heart of a movement, a shift in the way financial institutions conduct their back and middle office operations. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of automated solutions for manual tasks.
Over the last 25 years AutoRek has assisted nearly 100 leading firms to rid their business of manual intervention and end-user computing controls. Conversations over the last few years have revolved around ‘we would like to automate.’ In early 2021 the choice for many firms has been taken off the table – they must automate! The reason for this is contained in two words that if you have not come across yet, are coming to a Zoom call near you – Operational Resilience.
Having digested the initial shock of the pandemic in Spring last year, organisations had their crisis plans tested and at breaking point. Although there were no high-profile failures, data loss incidents or security breaches, business leaders understand now that improvements need to be made to strengthen future lines of defence.
Following a career in the Big 4 as a Director in Financial Services, Hugh Burden, Head of Revenue recognised the automation writing on the wall early and joined AutoRek in 2015. Since then, he has led several deals including Nationwide and Bank of England.
Here he gives his perspective on the year ahead.
What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?
I have had an issue with the term fintech for some time now as it has been colonised by those working in Financial Services technology that concern themselves with the front of house agenda. There was a time that going to a fintech conference would mean multiple conversations with the “head of customer journey,” “head of digital channels,” “head of customer acquisition” etc. Indeed, this is the area in which fintech essentially earned its stripes. While there has been an appropriate focus on the front end of the business, I do think this has come at the expense of focus in the back and middle office.
How has this changed over the past few years?
My experience and AutoRek’s success would lead us to believe there is a real focus on how technology can enable the less visible parts of the business. The application of smart technology and digital strategies to the Back and Middle Office, or BaMOTech as I like to call it, are providing the stable platforms for organisations to grow their business efficiently. As mentioned in the introduction, Operational Resilience will now come as a by-product.
Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?
As a fintech company, we look to utilise all aspects of new technology. Over the last twelve months, we have seen a shift in the way we work as everyone settles into remote working. However, it is fair to say this has not changed our culture, we are still the people led organisation that has technological innovation at its heart.
Central to everything we do are three pillars: 1) People First 2) Customer Success and 3) Agile Innovation. These pillars are built on a foundation of common corporate values which gave us the focus we needed to maintain our culture as we navigated through 2020 and now looking to 2021 and beyond.
What fintech ideas have been implemented?
In my opinion, one of the founding principles of the fintech revolution is giving the power of large IT transformation projects into the hands of end-users – without the large IT transformation project. This idea has been at the centre of AutoRek’s services for years. We understand that large organisations want to control End-User Computing for some time. This creates tension with the need for more agility, flexibility and crucially granularity requested by the people at the coalface. AutoRek delivers self-sufficiency to Finance and Operations teams while also satisfying the governance requirements of the IT world.
What benefits have these brought?
The benefits we deliver to our clients are in three categories. As we redesign manual processes to automated ones, cost saving is a key part of what we do. We offer complete control over the data, a full auditable record of all movements from when a transaction enters an institution to when it leaves. Finally, we give comfort from a regulatory point of view that you will have timely access to granular data required to fulfil your obligations.
Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?
Following a period of great uncertainty, we can clearly see that large Financial institutions are back making decisions. These decisions are now being taken through a prism of a new operating framework i.e remote working. If 2020 was about making it work, 2021 will be about making it fit for the future. We predict most firms will be revisiting their operating model to pull forward changes that were thought to be 5 years away, namely increased use of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Automation. How efficiently the industry designs these new technologies into their existing models could determine who succeeds and who fails.
Can these challenges be aided by fintech?
I think the adoption of new technologies from the back to the front end of large institutions will continue to play a key part.
I will be very interested to see how the sales profession responds in 2021. The profile of the ideal salesperson is also changing. Going for a coffee with a client or prospective client is effectively not possible. Again, the pandemic seems to have accelerated a defined path where there was a migration from the physical (meeting/event etc) contact to digital. The role of digital marketing will continue to rise in this arena.
That all been said if we do get back to normal, I will look forward to seeing everyone in The NED – I’m buying!