Digital Dangers

April 2022

Straight To The Point

Digital transformation is no longer something that’s on the horizon for banks. The global mobile banking market alone is estimated to hit $1.82 billion by 2026 with Digital transformation at the heart of that change. The pandemic rapidly shifted mindsets and expectations toward online experiences and the financial services industry is dashing to catch up.

Customer expectations, competition from digital first providers and Fintechs, and opportunities for reduced risks and increased cost efficiencies are all motivations driving the banking industry to rapidly adopt more digital tools and processes. Early indications show that embracing new practices and ways of working can help banks progress on their journey toward being more flexible, customer-focused organizations—all while improving profitability. 

Yet, while most banks understand the strategic importance of responding to digital demands, building modern infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight. Large, complex organizations have multifaceted technology stacks and modernized systems that need to be connected before they can become fully digitized. Importantly, digital adoption is much more than a technology implementation project, it’s a cultural shift that can fall flat if it’s not approached accordingly.

With this, two of Reference Point’s Digital experts, Rebecca Jones, and Joseph Lai joined forces to share some of the most common pitfalls they see banks experience in the digital adaptation process.

Not defining what digital means to you

Every bank may interpret the definition of digital differently and—even still—those within your own organization may have diverse viewpoints. To many, digital is about interacting with customers to provide service excellence. Others simply consider digital as technology implementation project. More and more organizations are approaching digital as a completely new way of working. Misalignment of business priorities and not fully developing and communicating a shared vision, can create lack of alignment, and easily thwart a project—causing the loss of precious time and money.

Skipping the ideation process

As you move forward with a digital agenda, a key tenant of success is establishing an ideation process that brings together a diverse team across disciplines and levels. Digital transformation should not be isolated to the technology department or even an innovation hub. Key business leaders, IT leaders, innovators and end users should convene to reimagine their organization of the future and build a strategic roadmap to get there. Digital projects that are built in a vacuum won’t secure the organizational buy-in or bring people along on the journey toward transformation.


“More often than not, banks jump into Digital Transformation without properly identifying the key business goals, the right stakeholders and their personas and focus only on implementation. However, lack of a proper ideation process can lead to large disconnects on the end customer experience, effectiveness of the business outcomes and a mismatch between the scope and timing.” 

– Joseph Lai

Forgetting to lean on experts

The most effective companies leverage outside facilitators for the ideation process who can not only facilitate a discussion, but leverage their expertise to challenge theories, set strategies and help the organization move toward implementation.


“Bringing in industry experts, design experts, and technology experts to facilitate a meaningful discussion that leads to common thinking and a clear strategy is key. It’s like building a house. Many of us could take the time to put one together bit by bit, but the results will likely be subpar. Instead, it’s best to find a skilled specialists who will not only, plan, design and build the house right, they will save struggles, time and money in the end.”

–Rebecca Jones

For example, Reference Point will host sessions with your cross-functional team to collaboratively determine their goals, and—through a third-party lens that understands customer experience, design thinking, IT operations, and data—we’ll create a strategy and roadmap to achieve your vision.

Choosing the wrong place to start

Once a bank establishes a clear vision for its digital transformation, identifying where to start is important. Often organizations choose projects that are too small or don’t have a significant impact, which can temper momentum. Projects that simply modernize a business application, data center or tool will end with the completion of the project. Enhancements and creating efficiencies will only take you so far.

Conversely, others choose large-scale projects that can overwhelm an organization. While banks must rethink everything from how they interact with customers and business models to how they work internally, spreading a net that is too wide leaves room for setbacks and frustration. Instead, consider a project with solid visibility that will have meaningful impact and demonstrate value. This will position the team for success, so you can continue the journey with great momentum.

Underestimating the cultural impact

Implementing new technology is the easiest part of a digital transformation. Culture is at the heart of the most successful projects. In many cases, organizations innovate, but they forget the humans behind the technology. It’s important for organizations to develop a strong change management program with Digital Ambassadors at the core. This will help embed the changes more quickly and deeply into the organization. 


Sources: Allied Market Research: Mobile Banking Market Size, Share | Industry Growth & Analysis by 2026 (alliedmarketresearch.com)

  • Joseph Lai

    Joseph Lai Partner, Technology & Data

  • Rebecca Jones

    Rebecca Jones Director


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    About Reference Point

    Reference Point is a strategy, management, and technology consulting firm focused on delivering impactful solutions for the financial services industry. We combine proven experience and practical experience in a unique consulting model to give clients superior quality and superior value. Our engagements are led by former industry executives, supported by top-tier consultants. We partner with our clients to assess challenges and opportunities, create practical strategies, and implement new solutions to drive measurable value for them and their organizations.

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