Looking ahead: 2021 Predictions and trends in the finance industry

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Looking ahead with 2021 Predictions

The finance industry has been hugely impacted by Covid-19, not least due to the move to remote working. Despite the recent promising vaccine news, 2021 looks set to bring continued uncertainty beyond the pandemic, with other external factors such as Brexit set to make an impact in the new year. It’s therefore of no surprise that a raft of pressures are on finance professionals, with a challenging and transformational year in the industry ahead. The need to adapt to new technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) has taken on a new significance, along with a renewed focus on solution-driven technology. But exactly how crucial will these new technologies be in 2021? We make some 2021 predictions in relation to the finance industry and crucial technology.

Automation and AI

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the foundations of office-based working, and the mass move towards a remote workforce has been keenly felt in the finance industry. With many finance professionals having now adapted to working from home, it is expected that many will look to continue to do so in some capacity in 2021. With a smaller workforce in the office, this potential shift places more strain on applications, software, and solutions, so it is crucial for financial institutions to look to automate more processes where possible, while also remaining conscious of ensuring these systems maintain high levels of security.

Being cost conscious and efficient will also help feed into more automated processes, and a greater level of control over cash flow management. People are generally the largest costs to a company, and utilising automation in the right way can ensure that finance professionals provide the most efficient value to the organisation. Efficiency is an aspect that will only become more prominent due to the economic effects of the pandemic that will last into 2021.

AI and machine learning are rapidly integrating into our everyday lives, influencing our decisions both in and out of the workplace. However, when considering how best to implement these technologies, financial organisations need to careful consider issues around transparency, particularly in how AI comes to a conclusion. In 2021, an increased focus will sit with uncovering and defining the ethical aspect of AI deployments, and it is likely that new regulations will be implemented in the coming years in order to clarify this.

Internal and external communication

Along with key technological developments that will help finance professionals perform their roles remotely, a key focus for 2021 will be on the development of collaborative tools to facilitate employee communication. With Brexit on the horizon, bringing with it changes to data regulations and security, it will be even more crucial for finance professionals to maintain clear communication to ensure everyone is up-to-date. With 2020’s shift to remote working shining a spotlight on organisational culture, for those who collaborate across the globe it’s likely that next year will bring renewed focus on the concept of communication etiquette, such as suitable times to contact employees in different time zones. An ethical and considered approach to communication will prove vital next year.

Many finance professionals have become accustomed to video conferencing technology to arrange meetings with customers during the Covid-19 pandemic, and a personal and customer first approach will be even more important in 2021, especially with many people now more isolated than ever. Technology will also play a key role here with new applications such as application programming interfaces to help better serve customers.

Value of cloud-based programmes

While many applications such as support tools have made the shift to the cloud, a so far underused application has been cloud-based programmes that allow for real-time collaboration, whether it be internally between finance professionals or communicating with customers. Driven by the shift to remote working, we’ll see these evolve more quickly, and there is certainly scope for these kind of programmes to be more widely adopted by organisations in 2021, providing the basis for work to be completed with the input of all parties in a live environment.

Embracing technology and solution-driven technology

At the heart of the predicted changes in the finance industry is the realisation of the potential of technology. Expect to see more centralisation of solution-driven technology in 2021, with a focus on what tangible benefits automation and AI can provide to the industry. Technological innovations have advanced to the point where they can take responsibility for the day-to-day demands of traditional entry-level roles in financial institutions. This development will enable the finance professional to take on the role of overseeing a process, without the need to initiate the granular aspects of a project.

Technology will not only play a role in applications used by finance professionals, but provide the basis for effective remote working, and organisations will need to ensure their digital infrastructure is set up adequately to help facilitate this working arrangement into 2021. With technology able to assist in every aspect of how a finance professional will work next year, it’s crucial that the industry harnesses and nurtures its potential in the coming months.

This was also published by Finance Digest and Finance Derivative.

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