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As banks continue their digital transformation, it is essential that they take a top-down approach in order to fully integrate with a digital world. On top of aligning their products with the digital needs of customers, banks will need to update their operating models as well. From IT infrastructure to new product and services development, these institutions will need to undergo a full transformation to face the new digital market.

Industries across the globe have begun to promote digital initiatives within the organization. While many firms can get caught up in client-facing improvements, a complete internal overhaul is required to achieve sustainable digital integration. Short-term approaches like a new app address some issues but ignore the larger goal of a fully integrated, digital firm.

This process begins at the top. Executives must not just embrace these efforts, but become leaders for their company. According to 2014 A.T. Kearney analysis, digital banking requires a new type of CEO.


In just these past few years, the number of CEOs who believe in sponsoring digital initiatives has grown to almost 50%. The realization of the need for digital initiatives continues to grow at these institutions. Company leaders are an indispensable part of this integration process. Banks are no different. A bank executive today needs to be a digital native who knows the importance of inclusiveness from both an external perspective (between generation Y and previous generations) and internal (between IT, marketing, and business departments), as well as between the traditional and digital components of the firm.

Within the firm as well, there must be a clear emphasis on a 360-degree conversion to digital. Firms can often get distracted by the sexiness of front-end, consumer innovations compared to the often more tedious, time-consuming back-end transitions. Conversations like the ones taking place at the Oxford Polaris Digital Academy help institutions understand the importance of a fully integrated firm. This means training for everyone at the bank, not just those departments who are directly impacted by digital. It is up to banks’ leaders to increase the ambition of its employees to embrace these changes.

To promote these changes, banks need to find a balance between business-as-usual and disruption. CEOs need to personify digital culture from a position of leadership. By spearheading a digital culture in the firm, a foundation forms through which these companies must address digital transformation internally. After that cultural change is effected, banks can then tackle external digital transformation in a targeted and efficient way.

Digital transformation relies on banks embracing the new industry. Before the company can attempt to create stop-gap solutions for customers, they must first address the internal climate. Once a strong digital infrastructure is in place, they will have laid the groundwork for a fully integrated digital transformation.

About the Author

Mr. Marcu is a director in the Financial Institution Practice of A.T. Kearney focusing on supporting clients in the banking sector across EMEA markets. Over the last 11 years he has advised clients on multiple topics such as: strategy, restructuring and transformation, sales improvement programs, digital initiatives, cost optimization, strategic alliances and others.

Mr. Marcu is a leader of the A.T. Kearney global "Digital in Banking" initiative and an author of the yearly study on the status of the banking industry faced with the challenges of the increasingly digital world.


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