It takes a village to transform a Financial Services Business

Efi Pylarinou
6 min readNov 30, 2021


Reflections from a Microsoft Cloud for financial services webinar

The journey for every financial services business that was not originally built on the cloud and with a native data business model, is a deeply transformative process that takes a village to see it through.

Digital Transformation journeys start in one area with a plan to penetrate the entire business. We have been calling this approach, microservices or modular. With the ample software offerings around, speed to market of the modules, and speed of integration of the modules into the new business model, is what matters.

Fintechs disrupted banking by first focusing on the engagement layer and then building cloud-first financial software for each one of the unbundled financial services and products. Now we are at a more advanced and competitive re-bundling phase, for several reasons including the forced COVID19 effects, the growth of Big Fintechs, and Embedded Finance.

We realize that scattered projects of Digital Transformation do not work anymore and digitization can’t stop at the engagement layer. It must go deep into the core of the business, all the way to the bone structure.

It must include the Business logic and the Data layer. In financial services, this means, all the way to the core banking and CRM system and even to the Cloud layer with its computing capabilities.

The real-time automation and communication of all these processes is a huge challenge not only because of the archaic IT infrastructures and architectures in financial services but also because most software service providers are not full stack or focused on Interoperability First.

Real-time Interoperability between all layers of the financial services business, is key. It is actually the only way to transform the business to its bones. Partial transformation will not work anymore because it won’t maximize the potential to offer personalized customer journeys and to enable employees to maximize teamwork and get rid of the limitations of batch processing.

An approach that rethinks the foundational layer is the only way to solve the industry-wide challenge of `Our Customer and Business Data is not serving our customers or our employees`.

An example of a member-owned US Credit Union that gets this, is the Navy Federal Credit Union. Their current strategy is loud and clear and in full alignment with a data-driven and cloud-native approach that empowers the Credit union employees to provide holistic customer journeys to their members. They are a Microsoft client leveraging the new Microsoft Cloud offering for financial services. They were part of a recent Microsoft webinar focused on the Microsoft Cloud offering for financial services (webinar on-demand here).

While I attended the webinar, in addition to the specific capabilities of their offerings, it became clear to me that it takes a village to deliver and implement a Digital Transformation all the way to the bones of the business. After the webinar, I spoke to Tom Feher, a 20yr Microsoft veteran Director of Financial Services to understand more about the Microsoft development journey of the Cloud offering for financial services. Microsoft is ubiquitously present in our personal and professional life through their various software offerings Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Azure, and Microsoft Power Platform; so Why and What led to this enhanced offering for the financial sector?

`The market spoke and we listened and proactively responded to the challenging new normal` said Tom Feher as he shared with me several client frustrations. At their core, they are all challenged around finding ways to enable their teams to work well internally towards the demanding new business outcomes. Microsoft financial services clients are focused on solving challenges around working efficiently internally, with partners, and with clients. Tom emphasized the need and the increased market recognition for a common data model sitting on a cloud with computing capabilities like Azure.

Microsoft Cloud for financial services is a growing village serving businesses of all sizes. They emphasize the ease of integration into any of the Microsoft environments of one’s choice with intelligent dashboards appearing in Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Dynamics 365. Tom highlighted their emphasis on growing their partner ecosystem towards easy customization of the end-to-end digital transformation journey.

Partners currently include specialists at the engagement layer like Backbase and Finastra, at the product layer like Mortgage365 and LoanDepot, and at the Data layer, like Basecap. And of course, Microsoft Azure with its cloud computing capabilities and AI/ML expertise.

The key is the ease of connecting these parts with low-code connectors and being able to access it either internally or with clients, at any of the Microsoft software environments you already use and prefer.

The webinar covered a Loan Retail banking use case deploying the Collaboration manager that can be customized as a loan management solution. The Collaboration manager allows employees in a no-code or low code way to bring together all loan processing workflows. Data of all parties involved are aggregated from various systems via the connectors. This not only helps the employees but also enhances the customer experience as it delivers relevant data in an omnichannel way.

Microsoft Cloud for financial services offers a variety of intelligent dashboards that aim to improve customer experience but also make internal teamwork easier. In the example of using the collaboration manager for lending, the intelligent dashboard can go deep into the details of a specific customer (life events, assets/liabilities, stage of loan, documents) but can also enable an overview of all outstanding loans of a financial services provider through various lenses (by type of loan, term to maturity, etc.).

These intelligent dashboards are easily connected to any of the Microsoft software that retail banks already use and are familiar with. The cloud offering includes technologies for customer onboarding and accessible unified customer profiles. It enables streamlining of personalized customer engagements, and at the same time the required protections for the accounts and the payment flows. It lowers the cost and time of integration amongst partners and with the customers.

Microsoft Cloud for financial services Capabilities:

  • Customer onboarding for any consumer banking need
  • Unified customer profile with intelligent data aggregation
  • Banking customer engagement with intelligent personalization
  • Collaboration manager for lending workflows
  • Account protection against all types of fraud
  • Purchase protection to protect merchants against online fraud
  • Risk assurance and support to support risk, audit, and compliance
  • Regulatory compliance assessments for regulatory compliance, cybersecurity and privacy

The journey for every financial services business that was not originally built on the cloud and with a native data business model, is a deeply transformative process that takes a village to see it through.

Partner with tech enablers that get this. Find partners that will adapt to make it happen whatever it takes. Partners that are part of the village with a central focus to raise a child, the transformed financial services business.

Efi Pylarinou is a Microsoft Ambassador and this is a Microsoft-sponsored post. Opinions are my own.

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Efi Pylarinou

№1 #Finance Global Woman Influencer by Refinitiv 2020 & 2019. Top Global #Fintech Influencer, Futurist, #AI, #Blockchain +: 30yrs FINANCE —