2021 Trends for Financial Services

Published: January 4, 2021 by Stefani Wendel

2020 is finally over – been there, done that. And while it seems safe to say most everyone is all too eager to kick off a new calendar year, the reality is we’re still reeling – and will continue to reel – through the economic impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

As we inch closer to the one year marker of when many businesses were sent home – across all industries, including those tech-inclined and those less so – the understatement of the year is that the world has since changed as have consumer communication preferences, how businesses and customers interact, tweaked definitions of privacy, and new (heightened) expectations of evolving a positive customer experience with minimal friction and maximum security.

While last year’s predictions of entering a new set of Roaring 20’s may not have panned out the way we had initially imagined, many of the trends thought to evolve over the last 365 days did. As we all look toward a post-pandemic world, here are six top trends to keep tabs on throughout 2021.

1. Data

Data as a commodity and as a business differentiating factor has reached an all-time high. It’s doing more across the entire customer lifecycle and can elevate businesses to best prep for growth, especially as consumers begin to look for more financial products (whether looking for financial assistance as the CARES Act accommodation period ends, or to take advantage of the booming mortgage industry, etc.).

Data can also give more insights into consumers than ever before. Far beyond just credit scores and financial data, today’s data sets can reveal consumers’ lifestyle preferences, their preferred communication channels, their rental histories, and so much more. With alternative credit data and non-traditional data (including consumer-permissioned data), businesses can get a holistic picture of their customers’ payment behaviors. That streaming media service monthly payment may seem minimal, but now could increase your credit score through Experian Boost.

Experian is still making big strides in all efforts to use data for good. As of December 31, 2020, Experian Boost has “boosted” Americans’ credit scores nearly 47 million points. Additionally, throughout 2020, Experian worked with financial institutions and credit furnishers to continue to put consumers first and serve as the consumer’s bureau.

Coming up in 2021? Using data for differentiation, which can ultimately drive business growth. From instant prescreens to identifying your best customers (and offering them cross-sell and upsell opportunities to increase retention and customer loyalty) to helping customers that may be on the brink of financial distress and connecting them with management solutions to help them get back on their feet, data can help businesses – and their customers – get there.

2. Fraud and Friction (And the Reduction of Both)

With the pandemic, fraud saw increases across the board. Here are just some quick stats:

  • 200% increase in first-time online banking usage immediately following shelter-in-place orders (Aite Group, “Workplace Distancing: Adapting Fraud and AML Operations to COVID-19,” April 2020)
  • 652% year-over-year increase in records found on the dark web (Experian CyberAgent technology)
  • 50% increase in human farming – real people being hired for purposes of fraud – month-over-month in March 2020 (Arkose Labs)

And, unsurprisingly, consumer and business sentiments toward fraud are also evolving with these increasing trends. For example, according to Experian’s North America Trends Report, half of consumers continue to site security as the most important factor of their online experience. Additionally, there’s been an increase in the percentage of businesses who have recently increased or are planning to increase fraud budget from 76% in 2019 to 89% as of Sept. 2020.

More complex phishing schemes and increased fraudster activity is due in part to numerous industries having to shift to online processes and business transactions overnight. Adoption for mobile wallets has jumped 11% since July 2020, according to the 2020 Global Insights Report. Systems and technology that were not ready or not armed with the necessary infrastructure left critical access points open that could be exploited by fraudsters.

Fraud exists across the customer lifecycle, at every access point. And while fraud is complex, with Experian as your partner, solving it isn’t. Innovative technology enables businesses to prevent fraud by identifying credible customers and applying the correct treatment to the riskiest consumer and business accounts. We can help you develop a layered risk management strategy so you can focus resources on growing and protecting your customer relationships.

3. A New Administration – Changing of the Guards on the Regulatory Front

With the new year enters the inauguration of a new president and administration. Though there is still much to be determined, certain areas are drawing a lot of attention with this changing of the guards. The highlights?

The CFPB. Priorities and leadership could change. With COVID-19 top of mind, it is likely there will be aggressive agendas put forth to help protect the millions of consumers who have suffered economic distress and harm as a result of the pandemic.

Data Portability. With an increased consumer appetite to port their data, questions and concerns around data security – and how to verify for a third party asking for the data – are also on the rise. There are a number of issues facing financial institutions around data portability, one of the largest being defining the line between consumer account information and proprietary data.

All things privacy – state vs. national bills. The debate continues on how to move forward (whether privacy legislation will be handled by the states or at the national level), but for now it seems there is more progress at the state level. California was the first state to push through state-level privacy legislation in the form of the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Twenty-four states are considering legislation that would require consent before collecting or disclosing personal information with third parties.

4. Analytics + Digitalization – Smarter, Better, Faster

COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation for many. Some companies were ready, having already started making the headway in years prior, while others struggled – and some continue to struggle. The pandemic – and its corresponding recovery – is reason now, more than ever, to get some of your digital transformation priorities checked off of your list. Your customers demand it and your business needs it. Tackling analytics and digitalization not only brings your business up to speed, but improves your decisioning, enhances your offerings, and enables better platforms and data usage.

In addition to digitalization, artificial intelligence for credit decisioning and personalized banking can also be expected to be a top trend, especially AI that is ethical and explainable, as will the increasing adoption and implementation of cloud computing. As consumer experience continues to reign supreme, any and all technology to enhance and improve that experience – think chatbots and virtual assistants – will also likely increase in presence.

5. Verification & Identity

Identity has been a trending topic over the last few years, brought on by increasingly digital lifestyles and the intersection of personalization, frictionless transactions and adequate security. Identity verification and verification of other information such as income, employment and the like are increasingly needed in a today’s pandemic and tomorrow’s post-pandemic world.

Leveraged across the lifecycle and during critical customer interactions, the need is especially heightened for insights, data accuracy, and diversification of data sets – to name a few. And while it was already established that identity verification is not just for marketing services, there are now even greater needs for financial institutions to be able to confidently know that their customers are who they say they are.

Some areas to keep your eye on in 2021? Identity, income, assets and employment.

6. Redefining the Modern Mortgage

As has been a common trend, spurred by the disruption caused by COVID-19, the mortgage industry is one of the many to have a magnifying glass brought to its areas for improvement. Some of those areas include operational efficiency, digital adoption and transparency. In line with the better and faster needs that lenders are continually trying to pace with, the need for speed is hitting mortgage originations, with an ideal situation outlined as closing in 30 days or less. Creating operational efficiencies through faster, fresher data can be the key for lenders to more accurately assess a borrower’s ability to pay upfront.

Additionally, now, as most mortgage lenders are breaking previous origination records by a landslide (thanks pandemic), there’s new focus on other performance indicators.

With such impetus, the modern mortgage is constantly evolving, incorporating customer-centric facets including a seamless digital process, providing meaningful customer experiences and leveraging the latest and greatest technology to better future-proof the industry through scalable technology, while aiming to reduce costs.

For all your needs in 2021 and beyond, Experian has you covered.

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