Low-code solutions give users with limited technical knowledge the ability to quickly create software. This can be particularly beneficial when trying to get customer-facing employees involved. While some financial services organizations have been using low code for years to provide better digital experiences and increase productivity and efficiency, this concept might be less familiar to others. Microsoft’s Power Platform is one of the most popular low-code solutions out there today. It allows financial services organizations to harness the power of their data — and newer tech such as AI — to streamline processes, automate tasks, and access the insights they need to work better, smarter, and faster.
During an episode of the Hitachi Solutions Exchanges podcast, I talked with Peter Garadis and Landy Wingard about how we’re seeing low code come to life and the importance of data governance that comes along with it. This transcript has been edited for readability.
Brad Koontz: There was a recent Forrester report that came out where they were talking about the biggest innovations and areas for investment for financial services firms. They called out three hot topics. The first is natural language processing. The second is AI for the enterprise, and the third is privacy and security. If you think about today’s headlines, everybody inside and outside of tech is talking about AI and, more specifically, ChatGPT.
Landy Wingard: Absolutely, and we’re talking about data and operational efficiency, information, and knowledge management too.
Peter Garadis: I think much of what’s behind this is making it easier for people to find what they need in a safe and secure way. Those are all trends that support the theme of trying to serve people in a more trusted way and omit the challenges often associated with scattered information.
Brad Koontz: What are some ways we’ve been able to introduce ideas, like a low-code platform such as the Power Platform, to our customers to cover some of their strategic initiatives?
Peter Garadis: When it comes to low code, the beauty of it is that it really empowers — puts decision-making around what information somebody needs — in the hands of that individual user. For years we’ve talked about the “swivel chair problem” — where people go from one place to another to piece together the info they need. Power Platform affords that capability to business users. It’s very easy for them to build an app or to stitch together information across disparate sources.
Having the right info helps you better understand customer actions and having an app can automatically trigger outreach. So, if you can detect — based on client behavior — something that somebody does, it can help the firm more proactively engage clients on a topic that’s important to them. Now the client feels like the firm’s looking out for them and understands what they might need at that moment.
Landy Wingard: I agree, and I think there’s also a theme around reducing effort and friction within the organization. By leveraging Power Platform for process efficiency and reducing end-user effort, the organizational impact translates to the customer side of reducing effort as well because it helps create better experiences. Whether you’re looking at onboarding processes, account setup processes, or other processes that aren’t necessarily exciting or fun, you can really bring in some efficiency there.
And I think if we streamline those processes and leverage that information a little bit more efficiently to create a better experience on both sides, then we will have happier customers, which is what we want.
Brad Koontz: So, you’re driving customer retention through better experiences to the end customer. How about on the asset management side? What are we seeing that’s unique and can utilize low-code platforms?
Landy Wingard: We’re seeing a lot of legacy systems out there, legacy business process management platforms — that cross different domiciles and have different regulatory consideration — from consolidation. This creates silos of information. Things like account setup for routine transactions, account changes, account closings, account openings, credit information, credit downgrades, credit upgrades, beneficiary changes or investment policy, and IPS type changes. You know, things that must be done routinely but are also audited.
The Power Platform is able to extend and connect information, improving the speed at which a lot of these routine processes happen and reducing the overall cost. I gave you a couple of different use cases above where we see the benefits trickle into the middle and the back office, but also into the front office. As you start dealing with customers, the different individuals really streamline those processes.
Brad Koontz: Yes, it really gives you an opportunity to apply design thinking to business process improvement, right? You’re talking about legacy, end-of-life systems for some of these institutions and they don’t even have a business process platform. This is a great opportunity to apply low code to this problem.
Landy Wingard: Absolutely. There are a lot of companies using point systems. Some even use spreadsheet-type systems to track and manage this information. This results in holes in the processes — like approval processes — and a lack of clarity around who has the ball on certain things.
The ability to streamline information, establish a good process within a platform to keep things moving, and have visibility into where something is within the process at any given time and where decision points are, helps alleviate bottlenecks.
Oftentimes there are associated SLAs (service level agreements). So again, it all ties back to the customer eventually. We want to keep things moving from a regulatory and customer perspective — to keep the customer happy.
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Brad Koontz: Yeah, that’s a good point you make about regulatory challenges. What have you seen in the marketplace related to regulatory pressures? I know in the current environment, there have been several bank failures, specifically in recent months. And that is getting people’s wheels turning a bit. How do you see low-code platforms helping address these pressures?
Peter Garadis: I think one of the big benefits of Power Platform is speed and responsiveness. So often with regulations there’s a surprisingly good runway, although it can still be a long and daunting project for a firm to align new processes to new regulations. It’s ideal if you can take a risk-based approach to mitigating potential regulation.
For example, there’s a lot going on in the crypto space right now. There are questions around potential regulation. If a firm could use something like Power Platform to quickly identify who in their client base is into crypto, that could be a big benefit for an individual advisor. If the advisor wants to engage their client on the topic of crypto holdings, they could use Power Platform to identify who in their portfolio they should reach out to at the firm level.
Whether it’s a CFO, COO, or Chief Compliance Officer, they can do more analysis of the full client base and better understand their risks and exposure. Then, if they want to develop a system or process for managing crypto clients, Power Platform becomes a very effective tool to give them a broader picture so they can make more informed judgments. It gives the firm visibility and transparency and an efficient way to identify risk factors so they can then design and execute programs to mitigate regulatory changes.
Landy Wingard: Peter, you bring up a good point on crypto, but it really applies across any type of security or investment vehicle. Firms must align with suitability requirements and report that back, so they need to understand what they’re recommending, why they’re recommending it, and if there are any fee differences around products and services. To be captured and understood, the Power Platform can help supply a way to aggregate that information, as well as to keep an eye on it. It can supply any supervised reporting that needs to be done from an overall compliance and regulatory perspective.
Brad Koontz: Landy, this reminds me of a project you and I worked on for a global bank a few years ago. If you think about these institutions, they have so many different regulatory bodies they need to respond to at any given time. And as institutions get larger, the problems get more complex. It was great to do that early project and prove it out — even though at that time we didn’t have artificial intelligence, which would have been a big win for that customer.
Landy Wingard: That touches on one of the big tenants, too. Power Platform is highly flexible and gives the organization a great deal of agility. You need that when you are dealing with regulatory bodies, as well as internal policies that are always changing.
The pendulum is swinging again towards more regulation. Anytime you have disruption — like with what is going on with the banks — that tends to bring about more scrutiny, more regulation, and more change. So as organizations are looking at deploying these systems, we say they “can’t pour the concrete when rolling it out.” Things are going to change, and we need to be able to move and have a great deal of flexibility there.
I also think the infusion of artificial intelligence and other decision-making tools adds a lot of value by helping us keep an eye on anything we need to be keeping an eye on — in a proactive way. That’s as opposed to how we did it traditionally through forensic reporting.
Brad Koontz: I did have one more question before we wrap up here and it’s an important one. As we think about organizations rolling out a low-code platform to their teams, one of the things we’ve noticed as a consulting organization is the need for governance, the need for centers of excellence. So, tell us a little bit about what the approach to those two items is in relation to Power Platform.
Landy Wingard: I think the way we engage is pretty broad and depends on the different customers. We do specific projects and replacement of legacy systems like we were talking about earlier. Some projects start with “Hey, we want to go in and replace systems A, B, or C or collapse those into a single platform, modernize those systems to improve the velocity of the information.” We also do broader engagements with clients across a number of point systems and processes. We call that Digital Factory — where we go in and tackle processes, forms, and automation across the entire organization or within a specific line of business. We get in there and help prioritize and implement solutions. From a benefits perspective, it reduces a lot of technical debt.
Overall, we’re adding agility to the organization and enabling a lot of organizations to scale. If you look at the drivers of those engagements, regardless of what kind of information or process we’re tackling, we’re embedding data governance as part of the project. We make sure we understand all aspects around governance as well as security, privacy, and the information that aligns with any existing data initiatives that are going on. We can actually go in and facilitate and help put those programs in place as well.
Peter Garadis: And, when governance is critical to augmenting, Digital Factory is a good example of the distributed nature of Power Platform. The power that the platform gives end users and line of business users is fantastic. It’s you letting people innovate or creating access to information they need to do their job better in a very quick and easy-to-use way.
On the other hand, you want to ensure those individuals are aware of the protocols a firm has in place to manage any risk related to data privacy and security. Or maybe it’s protocols around account opening — there are a lot of requirements for what’s needed.
I think governance becomes really important and part of our process by ensuring you can combine the needs and interests of the end user – what they want to be able to do — and ensure it works from a compliance, legal, and risk management perspective or even a product offering standpoint. There are other stakeholders in your firm that have a way to provide parameters for how much an end user can do so that you’re providing freedom and innovation, but at the same time, you’ve got some guardrails in place.
Landy Wingard: I think when Power Platform was first released there was a process organizations had to go through to understand how it could help them — building use cases and envisioning how it could impact the organization. There was also a lot of excitement, but it didn’t take long for that excitement to move into anxiety as organizations released it into the wild. That’s because although it tapped into innovation, there were business stakeholders who recognized the need for governance as well.
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If you’re ready to unlock the potential of the Power Platform and low-code development for your financial services organization, we have a team of dedicated Power Platform experts whose goal is help customers determine when they should and shouldn’t use low code and how to get the most value from their low-code investments. Contact us today!