Digital Transformation: US Community Banks Claim Lending Is “Ripe” for Digitalization

Finastra research reveals that just one in ten financial institutions are “not currently seeking to integrate fintech solutions, indicating that 90% are actively pursuing new fintech partnerships to improve their offerings.”

A key pain point is “the automation of digital workflows, with respondents saying only 29% of their commercial and consumer lending workflows are automated, indicating that more than 71% of processes remain manual, marking a clear opportunity for effective fintech partnerships.”

The research, “conducted by East & Partners, finds that banks view new customer acquisition and strengthened retention as the key considerations for fintech provider selection.”

Three out of four banks “prefer fintechs that can clearly demonstrate black and white revenue gains stemming from streamlined processes, leading directly to increased share of wallet and retention.” It is important “that fintech partners do not have too disruptive an impact on operations and customers, with 65% of respondents indicating that guaranteeing minimal impact is a priority.”

Lending process automation “remains a major area for improvement, with significant room for growth in approvals, closing, origination, and servicing.”

As noted in the update, 11% of respondents “say they utilize automated approvals, while just 10% offer automated loan closing processes.” Even fewer respondents “have succeeded with origination and servicing automation, at 7% and 6% respectively.”

The research was “conducted amongst 783 interviewees at 260 banks in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and the Americas, as well as 393 interviews with North American community markets banks and financial institutions.”

The findings “explore the current appetite in the marketplace for fintech investment and integration, and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).”

Other insights include:

  • Economic uncertainty is affecting fintech investment – When considering the current economic climate, applying digital transformation to manage risk is mixed, with under two thirds (62%) of financial institutions actively investing. Almost 40% of respondents have delayed fintech implementation plans and instead adopted a “wait and see” approach, indicating that, with more economic clarity, opportunities for fintech collaboration remain.
  • Fintech integration comes with challenges – Interoperability constraints (47%), legacy system upgrades (36%), and automating manual processes (31%) were identified as the main challenges teams face when integrating fintechs into their product offerings, highlighting the need for flexible software solutions powered by open APIs.
  • ESG is a growing area of focus – Of the 69% of respondents focusing on ESG priorities, attaining senior management alignment on sustainability initiatives (59%) and reducing carbon emissions (36%) are they key drivers for fintech partnerships, representing a clear growing area of focus.

Isabel Fernandez, EVP Lending at Finastra, said:

“In an environment characterized by uncertainty, high inflation, fluctuating interest rates and recessionary risks, banks are under an increasing amount of pressure to drive operational costs down while continuing to improve how they serve their customers. Our survey demonstrates the recognition from banks that they cannot navigate these waters alone. They are instead opting to partner with fintechs, with a preference for plugging into a platform of integrated fintech solutions, to help them to adapt quickly while reducing costs.”

As noted in the update:

“The research also shows that ESG is continuing to expand throughout a bank’s internal operations and external offerings. At Finastra, we champion the idea that finance is open. Whether through our open platform for collaboration and innovation – – or our belief in open technology, mindset and culture, we are helping banks future-proof their offerings and drive a better future for the communities they serve.”

East & Partner Global Head of Markets Analysis, Martin Smith remarked:

“Major inflection points in recent years have had, and are still having, a dramatic impact on how financial services is evolving. This is forcing institutions to reconsider how they manage risk, increase their agility, and fast-track innovation to evolve with new demands. We partnered with Finastra to better understand and showcase how banks are adapting to this environment. We believe that despite the challenges facing global banks, the industry’s focus on collaboration and driving ESG initiatives forward, highlighted by the research, will ultimately have great benefits for financial institutions and their customers, today and in the future.”

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