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4 trends that fueled financial services transformation in 2021

RingCentral for Financial Services


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  • It’s well known that the global health crisis of 2020 accelerated digital transformation in financial services greatly.
  • Now, financial services organizations are examining the possibilities inherent in a work from anywhere model.
  • The combination of unified communications solutions and contact center solutions facilitates a digital-first approach to financial services communications.

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How has your financial services organization changed since 2019? If you are like the vast majority of companies, 2020 ushered in a new era of digital communications platforms, services, and processes. What was once forecast to happen in a decade happened seemingly overnight, as financial services organizations scrambled to service their customers in a new, digital-first reality.

When the global health crisis was just a few months old, Deloitte shared several examples of the sweeping changes that financial services organizations have made in response to an ever-evolving landscape:

  • In a matter of a couple of months, Goldman Sachs had seen a 25 percent jump in the number of active users on its institutional platform and a 300 percent jump in visits to Marcus, its retail arm.
  • Bank of America and Wells Fargo each transitioned 70 percent of their workforce  (around 150,000 workers each) to work from home.
  • Standard Chartered, meanwhile, increased the capacity of its VPN by 600 percent to support the 84,000 employees working remotely.
  • TD Bank built new functionality to allow 80 percent of its traders to work remotely.
  • Nationwide Insurance sent 98 percent of its workers home to work in a period of just five days, and the company has committed to making that change permanent.

In the same Deloitte report, William Demchak, PNC Bank’s CEO, summed up the changes at PNC this way: “The bank’s sales jumped from 25 percent digital to nearly 75 percent digital during COVID-19, condensing 10 years’ worth of changes into two months.” 

Fast forward to 2021. After nearly a year of the world trying to figure out how to work effectively while hampered by a global pandemic, the acceleration of digital transformation ushered in a new normal for the financial services industry in 2021. Let’s dig into some of the key trends that impacted the financial services industry over the past year.

Trends that drove financial services transformation in 2021

There are four macro trends that drove financial services transformation in 2021. Here’s a detailed look at them.

1. Consumers are doing more on their devices

Smartphones have transformed not only consumers’ communication but also how they go about many day-to-day activities. When it comes to banking and other finance-related activities, the phone may have once been a one-way channel where customers could call and get limited support.

But from connecting with text-based chat support over social media, to meeting with financial advisors over video conferencing, to banking apps that preclude the need to set foot in a branch, consumers are doing it all from their smartphones now.

To meet customers where they are, financial services organizations need to put mobile interactions at the forefront of their strategies. They also need to provide a high degree of availability and reliability in their digital communications channels and ensure these initiatives meet the high standards for compliance and security required in this sector.

2. Work from anywhere

As noted earlier, several large financial institutions have already shifted the majority of their workforce out of a traditional office setting and into a “work from anywhere” model. As pandemic restrictions ease, financial services organizations are likely to continue to embrace a hybrid work model.

According to Gartner, 74 percent of financial services workers have increased their remote work time since the start of COVID-19, and 72 percent only started working remotely after COVID-19. Most financial services workers seem to agree that there will not be a wholesale return to ‘business as normal’ once COVID restrictions are completely lifted. Gartner notes that 60 percent of workers in the financial services industry now agree that a lack of work flexibility would impact their decision to stay with an organization.

That is a sobering thought for financial services organizations, as the Great Resignation looms large in the industry. Compounding the issue is the uncertainty regarding COVID variants and surges, which is still confounding leaders’ plans for a return to the office. For example, with the upswing in COVID cases in the summer of 2021, almost three-quarters of senior financial services leaders revamped their return-to-office plans.

All these factors point strongly to the adoption of a hybrid work model for financial services. Of course, the nature of some jobs in the financial services sector will not allow for a work from anywhere approach. Nevertheless, many jobs in the sector do allow that kind of flexibility, given adequate security measures are taken and regulatory requirements are met.

Here are a few examples of financial services organizations that are embracing a hybrid work environment. Capital One announced in June 2021 that a “significant majority of associates will spend some of their time working in the office and some of their time working virtually.” The company will also support fully remote exceptions.

Citigroup announced in March 2021 its plans for hybrid work, with workers having two days per week for work from anywhere and three days in the office.

UBS fully supports a hybrid work environment. As written for TIME magazine in August 2021:

“We believe a hybrid approach will allow our people to have a better work/life balance, with the approach also making us a more attractive employer, appealing to a more diverse pool of applicants, such as working parents and those in continuing education. We also believe it will increase employee productivity and, as a result, improve the quality of our service to clients. Flexible working, by nature of its emphasis on technology and virtual collaboration, encourages an innovative mindset across our firm—which is a big part of our strategy.”

—Ralph Hamers, CEO at UBS

3. Power of platforms

Technology has advanced and converged into powerful platforms that enable collaboration and communication from anywhere at any time. Cloud technology, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning, and IoT are all technologies that have appeared on the scene to streamline workflows and business processes, no matter where those workflows take place. Though these platforms will not be replacing humans, they can be leveraged by humans to drive positive business outcomes.

Consider, for example, the power a connected platform confers on an insurance company. With a cloud-based communications and collaboration platform in place, agents can reach out to customers via the channel of their choice, including video calls, chat, or phone. With the potential to provide a seamless, omnichannel experience, insurers stand to benefit in terms of increased customer satisfaction, decreased customer attrition, and even increased employee satisfaction. A well-designed communications platform can help insurers:

  • Accelerate the claims process
  • Enable self-service capabilities for customers
  • Gain analytical insights into customer behaviors
  • Ensure regulatory compliance with strong security measures
  • Manage an ever-expanding remote workforce

As another example, consider how a unified communications platform (UCaaS) can profit mortgage lenders. Cloud-based communications platforms enable lenders and contact center agents to work from anywhere in the world, with built-in collaboration tools. Moreover, lenders can connect seamlessly with customers from anywhere via their channels of choice, which has the dual benefits of expanding the geographic reach of the mortgage lender and improving customer experience at the same time.

Video: RingCentral customer Texas Bank on the most critical communications capabilities financial services organizations need

4. Convergence of communications and contact center solutions

The fourth macro trend, and perhaps the one most directly impactful to the day-to-work of financial services organizations, is the convergence of communication and contact center solutions. That convergence brings employee platforms and customer platforms together, with significant benefits to employees, customers, and employers alike.

Combining UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) solutions and CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) solutions equips employees with the tools they need to be productive and efficient. Using a platform that combines message, video, phone, and a contact center solution that enables agents to quickly consult a knowledge base or internal experts leads to higher employee satisfaction.

For customers, the results are similar. Better customer experiences result from the ability to contact their financial services organization on any communication channel at any time and to receive a highly personalized experience that leads to faster issue resolution and greater satisfaction.

For employers, the benefits of UCaaS combined with CCaaS include reduced operational costs, higher customer and agent satisfaction, reduced churn, and simplified set-up and administration.

RingCentral for Financial Services
UP NEXT: 8 reasons to modernize your financial services contact center

Unified communications will allow financial services organizations to thrive in a new era

Financial services is up against some significant forces that are reshaping how employees and customers interact—and thriving in this new era requires unified tools that offer advanced capabilities to transform client experiences.

​RingCentral is a unified communications platform that addresses the needs of financial services organizations both today and tomorrow. Our UCaaS offerings combine seamlessly with our contact center solution to provide the ultimate communications and collaboration experience for employees and customers alike.

To learn more about the macro trends discussed here, please watch our on-demand session, Hello to transforming employee and client experiences in Financial Services, today.

Originally published Jan 20, 2022, updated Feb 10, 2022

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