As platforms become the new normal for how business is done, financial services companies must seize the opportunity to build a new digital value chain.

More than a quarter (27 percent) of the executives we surveyed for our Technology Vision 2017 report say that digital ecosystems are already transforming the way their organizations deliver value

27 percent of executives surveyed report that digital ecosystems are transforming the way their organizations deliver value. 

The mandate for leaders is to capitalize on new relationships, building a network of digital partners that will not only enhance their existing business, but also allow them to forge their way in newly emerging digital ecosystems. 

Ecosystems of customers

The disruption consumer-facing companies are experiencing is evidence of this demand. Ecosystems of customers are aggregating around several new digital platforms, and businesses are more motivated than ever before to take advantage of these entry points. Communication platforms like WeChat and WhatsApp, and artificial intelligence (AI) intermediaries like Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri represent distinct ecosystems delivering unprecedented access to customers—and businesses are flocking to them.

Hyatt Hotels, for example, uses Facebook Messenger to let guests do everything from booking and checking existing reservations to ordering room service during a stay, while Capital One bank developed a “skill” for Amazon Echo’s Alexa that allows people to check their accounts and pay credit card bills using the Echo device.

These platforms give companies rapid access to pools of customers and, in the process, can drive more sales, improve customer service or create a better customer experience.

But in doing so, they also transform businesses’ value chains in a way that challenges traditional thinking.

Value chains transformed

Leveraging these new entry points, businesses are no longer driving customers to many of the traditional touchpoints they have used to build strong relationships, like their own apps, website and even retail locations. Rather than fighting this change, forward-thinking companies are taking steps to strengthen their future roles within this context—like making APIs a key part of growing their brand—something financial services companies need to consider as well. 

“As the way people interact with technology becomes a primary point of competition and distinction, financial services organizations face a new imperative to add AI to enhance critical customer interactions.”

BBVA Compass recognized the power of an API, and put it to use to solve a common delay problem in processing financial payments. Instead of being limited to payments processed through the traditional Automated Clearing House approach, with delays as long as 24–48 hours, BBVA partnered with Dwolla. Via BBVA’s API Market, this partnership enables real-time payments to BBVA Compass/Dwolla partnership users, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Not just for consumer-facing companies

This trend isn’t restricted to consumer-facing companies. Consider other industries that are transitioning to digital ecosystems, like connected healthcare, precision agriculture and autonomous transportation. These vast market shifts will bring new digital value chains—and every business, including those in financial services, must find where they fit into a disrupted industry. To get there, each organization must decide which ecosystems to join and what role to play.

Take Qualcomm Life and Philips, two companies building healthcare platforms. Rather than compete for the entire value chain, the companies recognized the strengths in each other’s platforms and entered a strategic partnership to create a more holistic approach to connected medicine. Now, patients and providers using the Philips HealthSuite have access to the range of connected medical devices running on Qualcomm Life’s 2net platform.

Companies like Philips, Qualcomm and General Motors are building new value chains that will position them as the foundational leaders of emerging, transformative digital ecosystems. Financial services businesses of all types must begin taking note of these partnerships—and better yet, forging their own. The competitive advantage of tomorrow won’t be determined by one company alone, but by the strength of the ecosystems each company chooses and its plans to help the ecosystems grow.

In my next post I’ll explore the digital transformation of labor and how it will affect financial services companies.

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