6 Financial Services Trends to Watch in 2022

Financial services organizations have always kept a pulse on new technologies, but the global landscape shift in 2020 rapidly accelerated the importance of committing to digital transformation. With very little warning, teams had to radically evolve operations to meet new employee and customer demands.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to answer some important questions around the future of financial services. Which changes are here to stay? How should brick-and-mortar locations operate moving forward? How is the industry landscape shifting? How can momentum from the past two years be preserved as digital solutions are made a more permanent part of everyday operations? What’s the right balance to strike between security and customer experience?

To help your team answer those questions and more, DocuSign has identified six critical trends in global financial services.

1. Banking customers have more options than ever

In the last few years, the industry has been flooded with new banking options. Challenger banks and neo-banks like Chime and Discover Bank have gained traction with their innovative technology and online-only services. We’ve also seen new banking options from established players in other industries. With the rise of embedded finance and banking-as-a-service, tech giants and retailers are joining the mix and redefining the banking landscape.

2021 alone saw remarkable banking activity. SoFi acquired Golden Pacific Bancorp, Amazon partnered with Affirm and Walgreens launched its own credit card services for members. It’s clear that the evolving marketplace is full of new ideas and if a bank wants to stay competitive, innovation is necessary.

2. Banking customers increasingly expect a mobile-first experience

Besides competition from new players in the market, banks also face pressure from existing and prospective customers who embrace digital-first transactions. This is not a trend that is exclusive to the pandemic. Branch usage declined by an average of 35% between 2015 - 2020. Today’s customers anticipate that 61% of their business with banks will be digital by 2024.

People are still banking, they’re just managing basic transactions on their mobile devices via self-service. The way to provide them with better service and retain their loyalty is to improve their in-app experience. Poorly designed digital experiences are a primary attrition driver for banks, and younger generations in particular favor mobile devices for activities like opening a deposit account. 

With these preferences in mind, it’s no surprise that banks rank customer digital experience as their number one business challenge and priority investment area for the coming year. Financial  institutions looking to elevate their customer experience should consider increasing SMS outreach efforts, improving self-service capabilities with embedded tools, simplifying complex applications with guided forms and adjusting to recent remote notary laws that allow new types of documents to be notarized digitally. The goal of these investments is not just to meet customers where they are now, it’s to anticipate where they are going and meet those expectations.

3. Financial institutions must adapt to accommodate a hybrid workforce

Another important audience to serve is employees. In conjunction with customer preferences to take banking outside the four walls of a local branch, employees are embracing work from more locations. Among financial institutions, 70% expect to pivot to hybrid work. As part of that shift, they need to thoughtfully consider how they foster collaboration and productivity across remote and in-person environments.

An easy place to start making that transition is the technology ecosystem. By connecting the pieces in that infrastructure and making the entire system easy to navigate, financial institutions can ensure that employees have a smooth interaction from any work location. In the past two years, teams got used to relying on Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google to keep employees connected. By adding integrations to these communication tools as well as key banking systems (like nCino), financial institutions can streamline workflows and keep employees connected from anywhere.

Any team preparing for the anywhere economy can start by examining their current internal workflows and identifying manual steps that can be replaced with secure, automated and connected digital tools. It’s the easiest way to prepare employees for success and improve internal efficiency for critical business processes.

4. Investments must be made in cybersecurity and fraud mitigation

Rapidly digitizing internal and external interactions introduces an organization to a series of new security vulnerabilities. But the time to be reactive is over; it’s time to look forward and innovate in a way that will refine, secure and de-risk the new systems.

FIs aren’t the only ones keeping an eye on the evolving security landscape. Today’s regulators know that the landscape has changed and will be keeping a tighter watch on financial institutions. For instance, starting this May, federally regulated banks must report all cybersecurity incidents within 36 hours. Near the end of last year, the FTC amended its Safeguards Rule to require FTC-regulated organizations to develop and implement detailed cybersecurity requirements. Open banking, already gaining popularity in Europe and gathering  traction in the U.S., will bring new regulatory attention to data sharing and security.

As financial institutions make plans to shore up security efforts, the DocuSign team has a few recommendations to keep in mind. First, incorporate various authentication and identification solutions (e.g. multi-factor authentication, knowledge-based authentication (KBA), and electronic identity verification) into your system to enhance security. Manage that system with a robust central administration that tightly controls access to sensitive documents and customer information. Finally, leverage advanced analytics to track activity in real time, detect potential threats and respond to incidents quickly.

5. There are opportunities to innovate in new revenue-creating areas

If any financial institution is relying solely on traditional streams of revenue, they’re going to run into trouble. There is increasing pressure from the public and CFPB for banks to slash or eliminate overdraft fees, crushing billions of dollars in revenue. Many anticipate that two years of pandemic-induced monetary stimulus may cause the Federal Reserve to raise the federal funds rate in an effort to combat rising inflation. As a result, financial institutions may see a decrease in their 2022 lending volumes.

Against this backdrop, it’s important for financial institutions to look for revenue opportunities in other areas. Embracing a more digital strategy is one step toward increasing revenue streams through cost reduction.The focus of digital efforts often has been on the retail side, but the commercial side is ripe for transformation as well.

Among business lenders, only 33% have a digital application process in place. For that group, the biggest challenge in document preparation is repetitive data entry. A digital application process, managed with a contract management tool, is an easy solution to that problem. These tools help financial institutions improve efficiency and lower cost for a commercial banking and lending business. From a process perspective, a contract management solution can integrate contract data with core systems, reduce workflow bottlenecks, simplify signatures and improve analysis with concept-based intelligent search functionality.

6. Increasing pressure to improve sustainability

There is more pressure than ever for financial institutions to go beyond superficial “greenwashing” efforts and demonstrate truly sustainable practices. There’s more information than ever for eco-conscious individuals to uncover information about resource consumption and simple lip service will no longer be convincing.

The push is coming from both customers and employees. Research shows that 54% of Gen-Z and millennial consumers would consider switching their primary bank based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. These can also be important considerations for prospective employees who are concerned with finding an employer with a mission that matches their personal values.

FInancial institutions need to incorporate sustainability into every part of their operations, starting with a reduction of energy and paper consumption. They can also explore products and services that contribute to broader sustainability efforts, such as green home improvement loans, sustainability linked incentives and ESG-focused investments.

Planning the blueprint for tomorrow’s financial services 

This year presents a significant opportunity for financial institutions to future-proof their systems. These six trends illustrate the direction the industry is headed and proactive financial institutions will evolve to meet expectations. To keep up with all the industry changes and customer demands, they’ll need a more powerful set of business tools.

Security and trust are always at the forefront of financial service providers’ priorities.  Embracing a digital-first approach, sustainability initiatives and streamlined processes for both customer and employee experiences will allow them to stay relevant and competitive in this ever-changing market.

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Lynn Sumlin
Senior Director, Industry Strategy & Solutions