Posts

Understanding industry needs and accelerating tech adoption: How IT services vendors are growing in financial services

Financial services benefited from emerging technologies over the past decade, creating a highly lucrative and exceedingly competitive market for IT services

While historically, financial services has been ahead of other industries in digital technology adoption, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technology-enabled transformations as IT services vendors and consultancies sought to address the needs of financial services clients, including the need to interact with customers and conduct business transactions through digital channels, as well as the needs of financial services employees, who began working remotely. Such changes in operating models drove an increase in advisory, application and infrastructure managed services work and accelerated revenue growth for IT services vendors beginning in early 2020.

With increasing pressure to embrace digital banking and digital payment platforms to address demand for cashless transactions across different economies and businesses, financial services clients look to transform supply chain, data analytics, management and workflow as well as address security needs and improve overall operations. These clients need to become agile, enhance their customers’ experiences, and modernize their information and communication technologies environments. For IT services vendors, capturing market share requires a fundamental understanding of financial institutions’ technology landscapes as well as a differentiated value proposition, pushing vendors to augment industry-specific capabilities through acquisitions.

Note: Includes financial services revenues for 16 of the 30 vendors covered in TBR’s IT Services Vendor Benchmark; not representative of a total global market view

Revenue growth in the financial services segment of IT services was also driven by vendors addressing clients’ needs around data protection, regulatory compliance and governance. Supporting adoption of next-generation technology solutions like blockchain to address topics such as commission tracking and recording, asset management, and AI-enabled hybrid cloud management is also a factor for revenue growth.

Leading IT services vendors leverage acquisitions to expand industry-specific capabilities and broaden client reach, particularly in Europe

Acquisitions enable vendors with well-executed strategies to access new portfolios, cultures and client bases, largely focusing on top-of-mind areas for digital transformation budget spending such as cybersecurity, AI and digital product engineering. As enterprises move IT workloads to the cloud, vendors are compelled to invest in both talent and technology to leverage newly accessible data for analytics and AI-powered insights. But as services remains a people business, we expect most vendors will continue to manage risk by assessing cultural and portfolio fit when selecting acquisition candidates.

Understanding industry needs and accelerating tech adoption: How IT services vendors are growing in financial services

Understanding industry needs and accelerating tech adoption: How IT services vendors are growing in financial services

Key insights

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technology-enabled transformations as IT services vendors helped financial services clients interact with customers and conduct business transactions through digital channels.

Financial services clients need to become agile, enhance their customers’ experiences, and modernize their information and communication technologies environments.

Capturing market share requires a fundamental understanding of financial institutions’ technology landscapes as well as a differentiated value proposition, pushing IT services vendors to augment industry-specific capabilities through acquisitions.

Check out our special report Top 3 Predictions for IT Services in 2022 for additional thoughts on the IT services market in the new year.

Register for our upcoming webinar on Deep dive: Management consulting and analytics services leading trends in 2021 for an in-dpeth chat on leading trends in the IT services industry, such as vendor performance across regions, service lines and select verticals and the evolving value proposition as pent-up demand for run-the-business awards continues

‘Get it right, be convincing and do it fast’: PwC’s Risk Proof upends risk assessments

As the New Equation was announced, PwC’s Cyber, Risk & Regulatory practice was ready

When PwC US Chairman Tim Ryan described trust within the firm’s recently unveiled “The New Equation,” he discussed a variety of business issues, including data, compliance, and environmental commitments, that increasingly challenge PwC’s clients and that “all come back to trust.” The firm, in Ryan’s explanation, can help clients build trust not only within their own organization but also as a client’s core characteristic. Ryan’s description of the importance PwC places on trust, highlighted as part of the firm’s US Analyst Day earlier this month, loudly echoed what TBR heard from the firm’s Financial Crimes team earlier this year during a briefing on the firm’s Risk Proof product offering.

Jeff Lavine, PwC’s Global Financial Crimes leader, told TBR in May that PwC’s Cyber, Risk & Regulatory practice helps clients quantify and measure risk; tell their boards, investors and regulators a convincing and compelling story; and move clients from checking the risk box to administering meaningful control over their enterprise’s risks. That extension of trust — from PwC, fully through the client and into the client’s ecosystem — perfectly syncs with the firm’s New Equation and suggests sustained alignment throughout the various parts of PwC, including the new Trust and Consulting organizations, will be critical to making the New Equation the kind of generational change Ryan anticipates.

Lavine and Vikas Agarwal, PwC’s Risk Products and Financial Crimes Unit leader, detailed for TBR the overall Cyber, Risk & Regulatory practice, including several distinct service lines, from strategy, to data analytics, implementation, and managed services. The Strategy service line takes a compliance and licensing perspective into advising clients on opportunities, particularly around financial technology (fintech). Risk and Controls, staffed by former regulators and experienced risk professionals, provides advice, testing and validation for clients’ risk practices. Operations, the largest of the service lines, provides anti-money-laundering and Know Your Customer (KYC) solutions, primarily based on open-source technology, which, according to PwC, helps the firm more rapidly deliver results. According to Lavine, “We go faster because we’re not a platform.” And Technology and Analytics focuses on implementing risk solutions.

With these well-established service lines providing a foundation, PwC — as part of the firmwide recognition of PwC Products — examined the opportunities for developing a robust, scalable and flexible product to bring the firm’s expertise to a wider market. PwC considered feedback from clients across the full spectrum of the firm’s engagements around risk, examined where white space existed in the current market, and analyzed which current risk trends and needs would continue beyond the next few years, ensuring PwC could build — and properly price — a sustainable and profitable product.

From consulting engagements to subscriptions: A better way to assess risk

Risk Proof, PwC’s platform approach to risk assessment, helps clients perform three basic but essential actions: quantify and measure risk; tell a more robust story to boards, investors, employees and clients; and transition from taking an administrative and reactive risk posture to exercising meaningful risk controls. With features common now in many PwC Products, such as customizable dashboards and interactive reporting, the Risk Proof platform also builds on the firm’s trusted brand around data, financial reporting, compliance and, increasingly, technology.

From a functional perspective, Risk Proof appears to be straightforward; from a strategic perspective, Risk Proof addresses what Agarwal described as critical for enterprises in increasingly interconnected and data-intensive ecosystems, stating that “getting a good risk assessment is foundational to a good financial crimes practice, for example.” While Agarwal may have been reflecting views primarily held by financial institutions required to meet financial crimes regulations, the overall sentiment that good risk assessment is foundational to good business practices stretches across every enterprise and all industry segments. And for companies seeking help around risk, PwC’s Risk Proof solution, in Lavine’s words, allows them to “get it right, be convincing and do it fast.”

Risk Proof also helps PwC. Currently, the firm conducts 15 to 20 risk assessments per year, using a methodology that, while thorough and expansive, requires considerable manual processes and runs up against data and audit trail limitations. In place of these risk assessments, clients can now subscribe to Risk Proof and access all the assessment, reporting and decision-making tools at a fraction of the traditional risk assessment engagement costs. While that opens up a wider market for PwC — those enterprises less likely or unable to pay Big Four rates for risk services — Risk Proof also cannibalizes PwC’s risk revenues.

For Lavine, even with that cannibalization, the firm benefits in the long run in three ways. First, PwC is acting upon itself, rather than being disrupted, which gives the firm some control over the pace and damage of any cannibalization. Second, the Risk Proof dashboard helps PwC better understand its clients, allowing the firm to make better-informed recommendations for other consulting or technology-driven work, ultimately boosting the total relationship value. And, third — rather neatly echoing Ryan’s point about trust and the New Equation — reducing a client’s spend on risk while increasing the client’s capabilities to assess, report and manage risk further enhances the trusted relationship between the client and PwC and between the client and its customers.

Demand for digitization to support European economies drives IT services vendor investment

Dramatic need to shift to contactless payments

Prior to the pandemic, demand for digitization services and deals in the European financial, public and retail verticals grew at a generous rate. Europe-focused vendors covered by TBR, including Accenture (NYSE: ACN), Atos (Nasdaq: ATOS), Capgemini, Deloitte and T-Systems, consistently expanded services and contracts surrounding related capabilities, such as cloud, blockchain and automation, feeding these healthy verticals. However, vendors and clients faced numerous challenges as the pandemic hit, such as the need to shift to remote work environments and the need for digital, e-commerce and contactless solutions. In 1H20 most vendors focused on client retention and headcount management, rather than entertaining expansionary strategies. Europe, which felt the impacts of the pandemic in its early months, was among the first to experience a need for digital alternatives, evidenced by accelerated demand for digital infrastructure, banking and payment solutions, benefiting IT service vendors and the struggling European economy.

As consumers faced pressures to go cashless, demand for contactless payment alternatives increased dramatically. While the financial and public sectors had been prioritized in 2020, as they typically make up a large percentage of IT service vendors’ revenues, the retail vertical contracted drastically as lockdowns and supply chain challenges impacted inventory levels. So, while tailoring contracts and generating solutions to attract clients in the financial and public sectors was imperative in the thick of the lockdowns, addressing challenges in retail will complement vendors’ efforts in other verticals as well. From an influx of credit card and debit card usage to increased demand for Apple Pay and other tap-to-pay capabilities, retail clients of IT service vendors were transitioning their client-facing solutions to meet the demand to go digital.

For example, in 4Q20 Atos announced it will use the Atos Codex Internet of Things solution to develop and run nutrition company Goli’s cashless and contactless vending machines, which will be deployed in numerous environments such as shopping malls and airports. The solution also leverages cloud technology to connect cashless payment alternatives and digital wallets to the network. Additionally, Atos holds shares in Worldline, a payment and transaction services company that offers a strong digital payments and contactless solutions portfolio, along with a collaborative partner network. In December Worldline partnered with P3 Financial Group to bolster the real-time digital commerce and e-payments ecosystem in much of Europe.

Other vendors have taken similar action; T-Systems Hungary drove real-time payments on a single platform for ACI Worldwide (Nasdaq: SCIW) in September, strengthening regional initiatives to meet expectations for safer and more secure vertical operations, and Capgemini partnered with SharpEnd and The Drum to develop CornerShop, a retail innovation store that is helping brands, retailers and shoppers utilize technologies to transform their shopping and customer engagements in preparation for the post-pandemic world. Further detail and analysis on the store are available in TBR’s 4Q20 Capgemini report.

Previous investments in emerging tech like blockchain paved the way

Going back about 10 years, digitization drew consumer attention in the mid-2000s, when in-house cloud computing caught fire and distributed ledger technologies emerged. Leveraging blockchain, cryptocurrency entered the market as a private payment alternative that offered greater security and cut out banks altogether. Bitcoin, arguably the poster child of cryptocurrency, quickly became an investment tool for many users, though its position as a go-to currency in the black market and, more importantly, its price volatility made its use an unpopular choice for the average consumer.

Changing regulations related to IT technologies, such as blockchain and digital assets, have challenged Europe-centric vendors despite the opportunity to capitalize as consumer preference shifts to digital. IT services vendors covered by TBR will likely face new contract and deployment challenges in the region, alongside pre-existing obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic. TBR believes a greater focus on digital and contactless payments, e-commerce, and digital banking and currencies from vendors will be an important aspect of economic regrowth in Europe and lead to adjustments in financial, public and retail verticals to better complement one another.

Know your consultancy: EY’s FinCrime practice and the future of compliance

Be the frictionless provider of FinCrime services

Ron Giammarco, leader of EY Global FinCrime Managed Services, described EY’s foundational principles for the financial crime practice in both technology and business model terms, noting that the firm has been committed to making every new offering cloud-native, but still deployable on premises. EY’s FinCrime practice, which was established 20 years ago, generates $1 billion in annual revenue, and there are over 30 clients on the firm’s FinCrime technology platform. To further its business, EY is determined to own the technology ecosystem, including all the intellectual property within the practice and every aspect of the relationship with clients.

In Giammarco’s view, EY should provide “frictionless” experiences for clients using its different platforms and solutions, with EY smoothing out any underlying technology or partnering issues. To offer those platforms, Giammarco noted, the firm has decided to acquire and partner as much as possible, building assets internally only when needed. In TBR’s view, these foundational principles reflect a shift in EY’s approach to technology and the firm’s overall ecosystem.

Embracing the business model shift and the substantial financial investment needed to be a technology company — at least to the degree EY is now — requires reorienting around the current competitive and partnership landscape, not the more siloed and opaque environment of several years ago, when digital transformation emerged as a challenge to the traditional consulting business model. Among the significant changes, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and SAS now list EY’s offerings within their own services catalogs, and EY expects those partners to not only provide technology support but also engage in sales efforts and the onboarding of new clients.

EY’s differentiation: Expertise, discipline and global standards

Within this changed competitive and partnering environment, EY has been challenged to differentiate from peers, an effort TBR has tracked across Strategy and Transactions, Blockchain and other EY practices. For Nic Bastable, leader of EY Global Financial Crime Managed Services Delivery, the firm’s uniqueness has coalesced around three main characteristics. First, EY has developed deep domain expertise, which continues to evolve. Bastable explained that every FinCrime interaction, even through a managed services arrangement, has eventually led to an analyst helping a bank make a financial crime risk decision, which has involved more than just following simple procedures.

EY has invested in its professionals, building career tracks for FinCrime analysts and providing ongoing training, which led the firm to have, in Bastable’s opinion, differentiated expertise. Second, within the complex environment of helping banks make decisions about risk, EY has exhibited tight operational controls — essential at the global scale of EY’s services and to meet clients’ needs. Third, over years of providing FinCrime services, EY has created a global standard operating model, distilling best practices from dozens of engagements, by thousands of professionals, across more than a million events. Underlying all this, according to Bastable, EY brought automation and efficiency to the firm’s operations and delivery, further differentiating the value of EY’s services.

In TBR’s view, while each of the core elements of EY’s FinCrime practice does not separate the firm from specialists or niche services providers, the combination, particularly with global reach and substantial scale, gives the firm a compelling story. Overall, EY’s FinCrime practice does not depend on setting itself apart from peers, especially as professional services firms rarely differentiate from one another; instead, EY succeeds through solidifying trust by offering domain depth and delivering.

PwC’s design of a Central Lending Platform concept for Singapore: Acceleration and digitization for struggling SMEs

A pandemic-induced national problem with a PwC-designed solution

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout, Singapore’s government sought to bolster the SME market, which employs 70% of the city-state’s workforce and generates 50% of its gross domestic product (GDP), in part through a risk-sharing program for loans to eligible SMEs. Early efforts attracted only 2% of the SMEs to apply for loans, which PwC attributed in part to lengthy loan application and approval processes exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown. The gap due to surge in demand and reduced supply provided an opportunity for PwC to design a Central Lending Platform to simplify the loan process, quickly connect SMEs to multiple banks in one single platform, facilitate faster access to capital, and provide Singapore’s government with analytics and data surrounding the SME sector and associated market share, including delivering insight into industry competitiveness to guide quicker and more meaningful policy decisions.

A platform to benefit Singapore’s banks and SMEs

PwC’s design of a Central Lending Platform provides a number of essential benefits for SMEs, Singapore banks and Singapore’s government, including the minimization of human efforts and errors in loan applications and processing; always-on, always available services; and the collection and assembly of previously uncollected data in a single, digital place.

According to PwC, banks prepared to loan to SMEs will rely on the platform for an “immediate eligibility assessment” of whether an SME meets the criteria developed by Singapore’s government. The digital platform will eliminate the need for banks’ loan relationship managers to check the completeness of documents, a process that PwC noted contributed to a 6- to 10-week waiting time from application submission to access to capital. Within three days of an SME’s application, banks will submit loan terms and conditions, although banks can submit loan terms and conditions ahead of the three-day window, and the applying SME can compare and evaluate. In addition, the platform should help banks more efficiently penetrate the SME market as well as accelerate the digitalization of Singapore’s banking sector.

In late August, PwC announced an initiative that can complement the Singapore government’s efforts to facilitate bank loans to small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). Given the confluence of technology, consulting and PwC’s continually evolving business model, TBR requested a discussion with the firm’s leaders working on this initiative. On Sept. 2, TBR spoke with Irene Liu, PwC’s Government and Public Services Co-Lead; Charles Loh, PwC Singapore Consulting Leader; Shierly Mondianti, PwC Southeast Asia Risk & Regulatory Consulting Manager; Andy Goldin, Southeast Asia Head of Advanced Analytics; and Lincoln Yin, CEO of Singapore-based financial technology (fintech) company RootAnt. This special report reflects the discussion and TBR’s ongoing analysis of PwC and its management consulting peers.

ICO as a ‘medicine show’: EY finds abysmal performance in wild west of initial coin offerings

Last December, EY Global Blockchain Leader Paul Brody recognized the breakout market for initial coin offerings (ICOs) and launched a longitudinal study, centered on class of 2017 companies that is fueled by this new way of raising money for software startups. One year later, as detailed in EY’s report published today, market valuations for the top 10 ICOs were off 55% — abysmal performance by any standard. Buried in the bad news for almost all the companies, one can find a few bits of success, particularly with companies providing blockchain infrastructure. The incredibly poor performance around incubation makes a strong case, to use a “Deadwood” metaphor, that snake oil salesmen made up most of those 2017ers. As this year comes to a close, around one-quarter of the initial ICO-backed companies have a product in the market, further evidence the breakout included a number of outright frauds. In addition, of the 25 companies that had products, seven devalued the use of utility tokens by allowing payment in fiat currency, facing up to enterprises’ persistent reluctance to conduct business transactions in anything but hard currencies. Curiously, paying in tokens, according to Brody in a discussion with TBR prior to today’s announcement, came across as only the second-biggest obstacle to commercial adoption, with the first being the desire for transaction privacy — a desire pure public blockchains cannot satisfy. In EY’s previous report on ICOs, issued last December, the firm anticipated the third-greatest objection, concerns over full regulatory compliance, an insight that tracks closely with EY’s tax and audit credentials.

Today’s report includes a few nuggets revealing the depth of EY’s study:

  • “Companies that have made meaningful progress toward working products only increased by 13% in 2018. 71% have no offering in the market at all. Typically, within one year of a traditional venture-backed software startup, you would expect to see a significantly higher percentage of the companies with a functional early stage product.”
  • “Seven out of 25 reviewed projects accept other currencies, rendering utility tokens less valuable. Some projects have altogether dropped their utility tokens to focus on functionality. To become a means of payment, utility tokens have to be stable. If it remains stable, the token is of little interest to speculative investors.”
  • “Globally, sources of funding will likely shift away from retail investors toward entities that can understand and manage the downside risks, such as venture capital and digital asset-focused investment funds.”

Will next year be better? The blockchain infrastructure companies will likely be surpassed by a second wave of ICO-funded companies, with most of these taking an asset-backed approach to token issuance, essentially creating a product that is enterprise-ready at a time when buyers are not convinced of the benefits of placing all their assets on the public blockchain domain. This then raises the question: Do new wave ICO-funded companies need to rip pages from Ethereum’s playbook or simply play within its orbit? Ethereum is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it certainly provides a solid foundation for many to learn from, especially around its “smart” contact functionality. Further advancing along some of the must-do steps EY pointed out in its December 2017 report, this second wave will more adequately address the need for clear justifications for blockchains and tokens; an ICO process more closely aligned to the initial public offering (IPO) process; enhanced security; and something close to legal compliance, or the regulators will simply begin enforcement substantial enforcement. In short, privacy trumps transactability.

The regulatory aspect piques my interest, in part because of the know-your-customer (KYC) aspects of post-ICO-linked financial transactions and recent efforts of EY, among others, to better incorporate emerging technologies into anti-money-laundering and KYC operations.

In this wild west, with its unregulated moral hazard, where does EY fit in?

My initial thoughts had the consultancy as the “Deadwood” preacher, known to all and trusted, but neither the law nor the bank. My colleagues convinced me EY will be more like the General Store, providing certified, trustworthy services and goods, helping clients mine for gold without shortcuts and faulty equipment that bring down the whole operation. Now imagine artificial-intelligence-enhanced, blockchain-powered resupply brought into Deadwood.

BFSI: An India-centric special scenario

Two up, two down

Four of the India-centric vendors share similar assessments of IT investments, predicting they will improve behind spend from larger-enterprise banking clients, with growth in digital implementations, mobility, and modernization of legacy IT infrastructures and applications portfolios. The divergence in performance in 2Q18 likely reflects one-time or short-term changes at large clients and not a strategic shift for any single vendor. From TBR’s quarterly analysis:

  • Infosys’ (NYSE: INFY) revenue expanded 6.8% in USD year-to-year to $2.83 billion during the quarter but was flat sequentially due to softness in its largest vertical, Financial Services. With 40% of large-scale deals in 2Q18 stemming from Financial Services clients, we expect vertical performance to rebound and bolster Infosys’ overall performance. While Infosys experienced softness among a few key accounts within Financial Services, the vertical continued to generate the largest percentage of sales, at 31.8% in 2Q18, as the company benefits from its platform-centric portfolio and “as a Service” solutions portfolio. In addition to Finacle-related deals, an uptick in demand among insurance clients, similar to the deal win with John Hancock, is driving McCamish platform adoption.
  • In recent quarters, Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH) has noted some acceleration in initial projects to map out blockchain implementations for banking and financial services clients. In fact, Cognizant has described the banking industry as the most mature sector regarding blockchain implementation, while insurers and retail companies are somewhat behind their banking counterparts and other industries are still in trial phases. Financial Services sales rose 4.5% year-to-year in 2Q18 as Cognizant’s slowly expanding pipeline of new business with banks and financial services clients began to translate into new revenue streams.
  • Banking, Financial Services and Insurance growth slowed for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to 5.3% year-to-year in 2Q18, from 6.9% in 1Q18, though TCS executives noted improving IT investment trends among U.S.-based financial institutions, saying they believe the recent slowdown in IT spend has “bottomed out.” TBR believes TCS’ open-based banking API framework enabling banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) clients to expedite digital transformations is resonating increasingly well. TCS’ massive, $2 billion digital transformation award with Transamerica (won in January) continues to spool up while growth among banking institutions in Europe and APAC remains strong.