7 Business Trends for 2021 by TriFinance BCB Leaders

Seven TriFinance leaders flag their business trend for 2021. From proactive career coaching to data velocity; thin clients; transformation of client experience; new business models for financials; sustainable employability; and the pivotal role of processes in automation projects: it is all there. Get inspired!

Left to right: Serge Vigoureux, Hanne Hellemans, Gerry Appeltants, Jean-Philippe Thirion
Left to right: Serge Vigoureux, Hanne Hellemans, Gerry Appeltants, Jean-Philippe Thirion

#1. ‘Data velocity’

Serge Vigoureux, BCB leader Management Information & Systems

Data velocity refers to the speed at which data are generated, collected and distributed. The first two elements in this definition are linked to velocity’s technological setup.

For the business, however, distribution is not only a technical issue. It should happen through a clear and transparent process (who receives which kind of reports, at which frequency or periodicity; who has access to which datasets; what will be the channel: mobile, push reports…), but business should be ready to make use of these reports.

2021 will be a year where business needs to align on relevant data in line with strategy. In BI it is not an issue to generate lots of data. Only the relevant data need to be reported. Business needs to agree on clear definitions across the organization concerning this data and on the definition of the generated KPIs. And they also need to be prepared for faster decision-making based on the data. Waiting on closings and lagging reports of the finance department is no longer an option.

#2. ‘Proactive career coaching as the main driver for retaining the most talented people’

Hanne Hellemans, BCB leader T&S Antwerp

Since last year, more people are asking themselves existential career questions. Adult education and coaching services are booming. As if we are going through a collective midlife crisis. Covid-19 has revealed that more people than ever are looking for purpose. Companies that respond in a reactive manner put the talent they badly need at risk.

I strongly believe that companies focusing on proactive career coaching will have a strong competitive advantage. Those companies will have the highest employability and the most motivated workers, that aim for real and sustainable value creation because they work in roles and projects which tap into their talents. Those companies will be able to attract and retain the most talented people.

Career coaching can no longer be a cosmetic measure or a last resort. It should be embedded in a company’s core processes, initiated early in the onboarding stage and continuously monitored. I am sure that in 2021 specialized HR tech companies will surface, providing the tools to do so.

#3. ‘Transforming customer and employee experiences’

Gerry Appeltants, BCB leader CroXcon

Last year, companies were pushed to drastically adapt their customer service delivery to the new normal. Challenges managing customer operations have never been greater than in 2020.

That’s why CIOs in 2021 want to get rid of siloed teams and systems, reactive service, inefficient processes, and data that is spread out across systems and teams. CIOs will need to digitally empower and enable employees with data and AI to extend their productivity, adaptability, and decision making in the face of rapid changes.

Businesses need teams and workers to function more autonomously, making decisions in the face of great uncertainty. They need access to data and intelligent tools embedded in their workflows in a seamless fashion.

Leadership teams will need to bolster IT capabilities in data science, human-machine automation and advanced intelligent workflow automation, and that all starts with the employee experience when onboarding them on day one.

#4. 'Careers in banking and insurance will change rapidly now'

Jean-Philippe Thirion, BCB leader Financial Institutions Belgium

Covid-19 accelerated ongoing trends in financial institutions, such as the digitization of core processes and the cultivation of a digital mindset to better serve customers. Banks and insurers will continue to reduce their branches. We expect a downsizing of branch and back-office staff by 15-20 percent in 2021.

Employability will evolve radically. The industry will have to reinvent the workplace, turning towards a fully digital way of working. Soft skills like entrepreneurship, empathy, flexibility and resilience become essential. The FI workforce will look completely different within 10 years. In 2021 we will see the first big steps in that direction.

In our weakened economy, the incumbent financial institutions are seeing a high business model risk for a while now. Structurally low interest rates, the emergence of strong ‘near-bankers’ & ‘near-insurers’ and new technologies spark a viability concern, especially in combination with customer behavior. The forces that drove financial institutions to where they are today will not bring them further anymore. Organizations must be transformed and business models reinvented to create new financial ecosystems.

Left to right: Wim Dierickx, Alexander Van Caeneghem, Kristoff Temmerman
Left to right: Wim Dierickx, Alexander Van Caeneghem, Kristoff Temmerman

#5. 'Thin clients are back'

Wim Dierickx, BCB leader Tri-ICT

Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of the Cloud for services or applications. Partially due to the health crisis, the global Cloud market is expected to grow from 233 billion USD in 2019 to almost 300 billion USD by 2022.

While software and services will be Cloud-based (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS), we see growing adoption in the domain of desktop virtualization. Your “PC” in the Cloud. Does not matter what device you are on, the desktop environment you work on is hosted (and managed) in the Cloud.

By the end of Q2, Microsoft is expected to announce ‘Cloud PC’, codenamed 'Deschutes', its desktop-as-a-service offering based on the current Windows Virtual Desktop service. Chances are it won’t be metered on user consumption but will be a ‘flat-fee’ service instead.

Desktop Virtualization may also be an answer to the challenges IT departments face in the domain of manageability and security. It will for sure trigger migration and adoption projects but also impact the way we work with a ‘desktop’.

#6. 'Automation, or putting the "P" back into RPA'

Alexander Van Caeneghem, BCB leader CFO Services

Automation remains a major trend in 2021. The question is not so much whether Robotic Process Automation will grow, as a concept and in adoption, but rather how the implementation will evolve.

Robotizing a process is taking the robot out of the human, and giving it a ‘life’ of its own. Mundane, repetitive tasks are not where we, humans, add our biggest value. As such, robotization can be deeply humanizing, by freeing up time for design, judgment and innovation, among other things. But in order for automation and robotization to allow us to become more human, we need a deep, cultural understanding of the organization and role of technology. Otherwise, we risk ending up deeply alienated.

Expect RPA’s ‘P’, as in PROCESS, to be pivotal. Beyond exploration, RPA will be re-calibrated to integration, governance and performance through process analysis, process transparency and process optimization. Only in close collaboration with BPM, RPA can spearhead digital transformation.

#7. 'Never waste a good crisis: embrace and create the new normal (and watch your back, cash is king more than ever)'

Kristoff Temmerman, BCB leader T&S Ghent

Covid-19 proved that rapid change is possible if the urgency is there. To stay relevant, individuals and organizations must embrace the new normal. Not easy for finance departments that also have to keep an eye on the bank account.

According to Etion’s Geert Janssens, companies can rise to the occasion by broadening their HR approach:

  • Monitor the impact on mental health
  • Invest in tailor-made sustainable employability and talent development
  • Retain talented personnel by sharing it. In the philosophy of TriFinance: lifelong employability and personal growth imply that you dare to think broader than your company when developing people.
  • Learn and coach employees in flexibility and help and train co-workers in adaptability. The latter not only includes (technical) competencies but even more mental resilience and viability.

My call for action for finance teams is to embrace this approach, not only in your teams… but even more in your strategic advisory role and your risk management approach. Will your company survive if not taken the above into account?