COVID-19 lesson for capital markets firms: use automation to build productivity

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Even with 90%-plus of its employees working from home, the capital markets industry has performed surprisingly well since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the crisis did expose some serious shortcomings in current operating models and some opportunities in digital and refining the remote working experience. 

  • Based on their experience over the past months, many capital markets firms now realize that they need a better approach to digital transformation. The crisis also raised questions around whether today’s operating models meet the needs of an industry that is rapidly changing.
  • The pandemic validated remote working as a viable option, and there seems to be a growing consensus that the days of all workers being on-site are ending. With this transition, however, operations will likely need to change to help improve employee efficiency. Controls will also need to be refined as financial institutions move to more seamless and automated processing.
Lessons learned for capital markets firms:
  • Back to business. While transitioning to a post-pandemic world may seem overwhelming, we recommend you begin by concentrating on your remote workforce’s productivity. Start by setting role-specific definitions for productivity and providing manager training on effective coaching. Roles such as sales, middle and back office may all need to evolve.
  • Reconfigure toward a digital supply solution. This could be an ideal time to reexamine business operations and deploy digital labor where applicable. Accelerating automation to enhance organizational resilience and reduce expense are low-cost options that can help you get started on automation beyond robotic process automation (RPA).
  • Sales coverage looks (and feels) virtually different. The point of engagement has already shifted from face-to-face lunch meetings to 24/7 connectivity and access to more services. Given what we’ve seen so far, the appropriate question is not how to embrace new technology adoption, but what can you do with this digital supply chain that you haven’t been able to do until now?
  • Distribution should digitize the entire trade life cycle. Many of our clients are reflecting on their experiences over the past three months to help them decide which parts of sales and distribution should be digitized. Executives now have a better understanding of customer preferences, including which customers will likely react well to straight-through automation and which will still want the human touch.

The bottom line: As markets start to return to normal, we expect expanded automation and more permanent work-from-home options. That’s not bad news. In fact, PwC found that 69% of financial services employers expect a majority of their workforce to work remotely at least once a week.

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Julien Courbe

Principal, Financial Services Advisory Leader, PwC US

Christopher Scarpati

Principal, PwC US

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