Let the good times roll again: The role of technology and M&A in powering up your bank

We’ve had the boom, we’ve had the bust, and then a decade of painful re-stabilisation. Now, the banking and capital markets industry stands on the cusp of a tech-powered resurgence. How can your business get out in front?

The Big Bang market liberalisation of the mid-1980s unleashed 20 years of financial innovation. Return on equity (RoE) of 20% or more became routine. But the Global Financial Crisis put an end to all that. Soaring capital and compliance costs have made a lot of once highly profitable businesses no longer viable, including much of financial innovation. Average RoE in most developed markets now barely covers the cost of capital [1], and all too many banks are trading below book value as a result. The industry cannot limp on like this indefinitely. The good news is that it doesn’t have to.

Technology-led innovation powers growth

The technological revolution that has transformed other sectors – retail, media and communications being amongst the most prominent – has been slower to make its mark in Banking. For much of the past decade, the demands of new regulation, de-leveraging and restructuring have left most Banks with little time or money to focus on much else.

Yet as investment in new technology begins to pick up, a fresh wave of innovation and value growth is emerging. Harnessing automation, blockchain and artificial intelligence won’t just enable your business to drive down costs, but also serve more customers and target valuable new segments. We are already seeing investment banks reaching into retail markets, and services that would once have been reserved for large corporates being extended to increasingly smaller enterprises. In turn, sharper customer intelligence allows your business to target and tailor solutions more precisely than ever before. 

Fit for the future

As I outlined in an earlier blog, the other big breakthrough – the equivalent of the liberalisation that paved for the way for the innovations of the 1980s – is the availability of ultra-adaptable and accessible ‘plug-and-play’ technology platforms. For example, shifting core legacy banking systems to the cloud makes it easier to connect with clients and scale your operations to meet changing demand. In turn, integration layers such as application programme interfaces (APIs) allow you to quickly and easily link up with multiple partners to offer a range of best-in-class services [2], just as large online retailers have been able to do in their ‘marketplaces’.

Deal-driven transformation

So what is the role of M&A in contributing to this strategic and operational transformation? Consolidation in the pursuit of scale will continue. Yet, merging two businesses running on outdated technology simply creates a larger business running on outdated technology that is even more fragmented.

If the key priority is to reignite innovation within your business and modernise your operational platform, then the real value of M&A is securing the required technological capabilities at the necessary speed while acting as a catalyst to transform business and operating models. Historically, many change programmes have struggled with compelling investment cases. Linking transformation to the M&A agenda can provide the right conditions to accelerate change. 

Driving growth and transformation across banks, likely targets include challenger banks and FinTech businesses, along with tech businesses from outside the sector. We’re also seeing deals that target talent at a time when banking organisations’ need for tech expertise is now as big as financial acumen. Further openings include joint ventures with some of the big technology players. 

Once you have the platform you need to compete, that would be the time to acquire larger organisations as you’ll be able to serve their customers more effectively at less cost. You will be a frontrunner in the accelerated consolidation of the banking industry. 

Value creation

The key to thriving in this dynamic environment is a clear plan to manage your initiatives and maximise the value of your M&A strategy:

Strategic blueprint

Where do you want to be and how are you going to get there? In our view, this blueprint and its execution are best developed through a Value Creation Plan underpinned by clearly outlined suite of initiatives such as operational change through technology innovation, performance improvement, second wave acquisition of less efficient peers and then, most importantly, business integration to gain the necessary scale in the area of your core expertise. This framework provides all-important clarity in identifying opportunities for value optimisation, matching this against potential targets and ensuring the full value potential is realised.

End-to-end orchestration

As my colleague Chris Samson outlined in an earlier blog, the deal targeting and integration shouldn’t be left to chance. Success demands end-to-end orchestration, from identification through to realisation, with a dedicated conductor, the deal value architect, to bring it all together.

Create a compelling equity story

Communicate your vision to investors to help secure the necessary funds and ensure your share price reflects the potential. The Value Creation Plan enables you to show where the value is coming from and whether it’s being delivered.

Window of opportunity

M&A offers a fast and effective way to transform your capabilities and break out of the cycle of stagnation and slow growth. Yet the window of opportunity will be brief. If you wait for a competitor to establish a decisive lead, then you could quickly become prey in the follow-up wave of strong groups acquiring weaker peers.

Our integrated M&A value creation platform brings together a group of deal value architects, who work with you to determine strategic priorities, identify opportunities and help you to initiate the optimum operational change to your business. Banking has always been among the most innovative industries and we are pleased to be working with Banks and other Financial Services organisations on this journey back to growth.

Find more information on M&A value creation here.

[1] Average RoE is around 9.5% in the US (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/USROE) and 7% in the EU (https://www.bankingsupervision.europa.eu/banking/statistics/html/index.en.html)

[2] A key catalyst for the move to API-enabled banking is Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2)

Contact us

Joerg Ruetschi
Deal Value Architect, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7393 3597
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