Office buildings in Toronto’s financial district

Almost four-fifths of operations leaders at North American banks say their banks won’t survive if they don’t update their technology to drive better innovation, according to a recent report by global consulting firm Accenture.

In fact, of the 80 bank operations leaders surveyed, 79% believed that in order to thrive in today’s digital age, the banks must provide better digital experiences that can compete with offerings from large technology and fintech companies.

Banks have been invested in using technology that improves operational efficiency for years; however, 69% of the survey participants say their operations hold customer data that could be used to develop new products, services and processes — and that this data is currently not being leveraged.

“There’s a wealth of unlocked value to be extracted from banks’ operational systems, but releasing and optimizing that value depends on the banks’ ability to use digital technologies,” says Alan McIntyre, senior managing director at Accenture and head of its banking practice, in a statement.

“The challenge lies in the banks’ legacy systems, which can impede a bank’s ability to improve operations and prepare for the future,” he adds.

Operations leaders know how important it is to enhance their firm’s digital offerings, but still struggle when it comes to implementing new technologies. Participants say the largest barriers to their bank’s ability to drive digital transformation is their complex legacy IT environment (38%) and the cost of modernizing those systems (39%).

“Banks can focus on the customer experience by combining key technologies they can implement today, without a major overhaul of their existing IT infrastructure,” McIntyre says.

“For instance, by using cloud, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, banks can plus-and-play new customer facing apps and processes within or around their existing legacy systems,” he adds. “We believe that this approach can, through revenue and productivity gains, increase a bank’s return on equity by as much as seven percentage points.”

Accenture surveyed 80 executives responsible for operations (middle- and back-office functions) at small, mid-sized, regional and large banks in the United States and Canada. The online survey was conducted in November and December 2017.