Scott Morrison, Chief Product Officer
Just as technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, make purchases, and obtain information, it is also transforming the way individuals save, spend, invest, and interact with financial institutions. Consumers have come to expect ease of use in nearly every business interaction. In response to these demands, the financial services industry is rapidly adopting new capabilities to enhance the user experience. However, trying to balance new technology with timely and efficient delivery can often present challenges to financial services companies.Throughout my 25 years in creating technology solutions for financial services firms, I’ve realized just how important it is to be selective in aligning investments in technology with the strategic goals of an organization. At Ascensus, our business objectives are anchored in our goal of helping Americans save for the future events of retirement, college education, and healthcare. We focus on infusing technology into all aspects of our business, from the consumer-facing online entities to how we interact with our institutional and investment partners. To achieve our business objectives, there are several new technology areas that we are actively leveraging in developing customer solutions:
The sharing of data between financial services systems has become pervasive with the widespread use of APIs and the adoption of open architecture standards. This ongoing trend has opened the data floodgates and taken information sharing to a whole new level. For today’s customers, being able to access checking, savings, and retirement accounts via aggregation platforms like Mint, LearnVest, and PowerWallet has become an expectation. Financial advisors demand immediate, secure access to client information and account balances. Financial services providers must extend their architecture to communicate and share data with their fund company partners, broker-dealers, and other third-party reps if they wish to stay relevant in this evolving landscape. In addition to satisfying user expectations, APIs are also being used in enrollment and transaction processing to make it easier for financial advisors to sell retirement and college savings products to consumers. By presenting the advisor with seamless access to our systems, it makes the sales process much easier and more efficiently broadens the distribution of the solutions provider’s specific products.
Cloud-based service providers such as Amazon Web Services are changing the game in terms of a financial services company’s approach to system infrastructure. The advent of Web 2.0 architecture is impacting the web design philosophy of players across the industry, as companies are equipping their websites with a cloud-based front end. This structure allows for the website to be up and running at all times, even when code updates are being performed. With this approach, the site no longer needs to be taken offline to perform maintenance, which benefits both the end user and the provider. Cloud-based web services also provide financial services firms with instant platform scalability. If any given day brings in a significant spike in traffic, the site operator seamlessly and instantaneously can access extra bandwidth to accommodate it, ensuring a smooth browsing experience for users at all times.
It’s no secret that the web-based services consumers have come to love and rely upon have relocated from the desktop computer to the mobile smartphone. More than 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone today and consumers are becoming increasingly dependent on them to get through their daily lives. Financial services providers are responding to this phenomenon by building their websites, apps, and other account services in a mobile-friendly manner. Allowing clients the ability to access their financial information, fill out applications, and interact with their advisor via their smartphone allows a company to be with the consumer from inside their pockets at all times. The high level of convenience that comes with these capabilities results in a happier end user. Ultimately, it’s no longer a question of “if,” but rather “how fast” financial services companies will incorporate new technology into their operations. However, decision makers who seek efficient progress would be wise to avoid chasing the hottest technology trend on the market and instead focus on what is best for your company’s short- and long-term objectives. Even in the internet era, it takes time for consensus design approaches and mature toolsets to emerge, and waiting for early adopters to shine a light on any technical flaws can save your business time and money in the long run. Instead, look at the more established trends taking over the industry, and evolve when the footing looks solid. By no means do I suggest being a laggard, but there are true efficiencies to be gained in waiting for a new technology to solidify its acceptance in the market. The three technologies noted above are accelerating in usage, and should be capabilities that financial services firms have on their strategic roadmaps.