New Jersey Bankers Association - New Jersey Banker Magazine, Issue 1, 2022

28 For several years the financial services industry has undergone a massive digital transformation that has helped to reshape the very nature of how consumers engage and access basic banking services. Technological breakthroughs and strategic partnerships have created more affordable, flexible, efficient, and inclusive offerings. Financial institutions willing to push the boundaries and be bold enough to reimagine the financial services landscape are behind each of these advanced offerings. Online accessibility and speedy options proved to be crucial to consumers’ financial wellbeing as hardworking families struggled to make it through the ongoing pandemic in 2021. The investments made by tech-forward institutions in previous years enabled them to offer a suite of products and services that initially catered toward features such as efficiency, but during the pandemic became necessary. As we look to the landscape of the financial services ecosystem for 2022 and reimagine what is in store, it is important we understand and act on the relevant lessons of the past year to grow moving forward. Financial institutions must continue to invest in the future to prepare for it by building and creating internal infrastructure that supports emerging technologies and developing innovative capabilities. However, investing in internal systems does not necessarily mean doing everything on your own. For smaller institutions, especially community banks, it is not always plausible to deploy all valuable resources, but institutions do need to ensure they have modern, efficient, and adaptive systems that propel them forward and create opportunities to partner with other techforward companies. Much of the innovation driving the industry forward today is due in part to the partnerships between financial institutions and technology companies. For example, partnerships in the lending space have continuously enabled lowercost loans for more hardworking families that would otherwise not qualify for traditional credit products, either because the size of the loan was considered too small for legacy institutions, or technology surrounding underwriting wasn’t utilized to reach borrowers who have been considered “thin-filed.” These loans have provided access to affordable and responsible credit that was previously nonexistent. Fintech based solutions and partnerships continue to fill gaps in the market, expanding solutions that many desperately need. The payments space has equally benefited from increased investment in technology, and consumers, and small businesses have reaped the rewards of faster settlement times. Pushto-card capabilities or joining The Clearing House’s RTP network has provided a suite of near instantaneous, or real time payment settlement capabilities. Fast access to cash has helped consumers take more active control of their financial health by more effectively managing their bills and avoiding the need for high cost, predatory debt traps that keep consumers in cycles of debt. As we look ahead, we can already see the making of future offerings, even if they have not yet fully developed or become mainstream. Not surprisingly, the industry is very focused on the developments in cryptocurrency and the role these assets will play in the industry moving forward. While it may still be too early to fully comprehend the impact and role digital assets will play in the future, the writing is on the wall, and the playbook is clear: financial institutions must start investing resources into the future, or they will be left behind in the next wave of responsible financial innovation. The digital era of financial services is upon us, and all who have not already begun developing their systems and offerings accordingly are already late. To survive in the next era, financial institutions must think boldly, invest in the future, and be willing to chart a new course. The future is here now; financial institutions must invest and act accordingly if they want to play any part in it. Phil Goldfeder With more than 15 years of experience in both the public and private sectors, Hon. Phil Goldfeder leads the Public Affairs department at Cross River. In this role, Phil spearheads all aspects of the bank’s external affairs, government relations, marketing, community affairs and investor relations. PHIL GOLDFEDER, SVP GLOBAL PUBLIC AFFAIRS, CROSS RIVER THE FUTURE IS HERE, NOW “THE DIGITAL ERA OF FINANCIAL SERVICES IS UPON US, AND ALL WHO HAVE NOT ALREADY BEGUN DEVELOPING THEIR SYSTEMS AND OFFERINGS ACCORDINGLY ARE ALREADY LATE.”