More Than Skin Deep: Q&A With Senior VP Of Oracle’s Financial Services Global Business Unit Sonny Singh

Sonny Singh, senior vice president and general manager of the Financial Services Global Business Unit at Oracle since 2013, talks about legacy systems and how financial services are handling transformative technologies.

Global Finance (GF): Where is Oracle’s focus today?

Sonny Singh: While our origins were in database technology, today, we’re a broad-based enterprise technology company that delivers applications, platforms and infrastructure technologies globally. We have accumulated IP and built verticals in seven different industries: financial services, communications, utilities, hospitals, retail, health and construction. For each of these verticals we have global business groups focused on product strategy, engineering, M&A, sales, implementation and customer service. We have 22,000 people working worldwide across these verticals, and financial services is the largest, with more than 9,000 employees.

GF: How is the finance sector in taking up new technology?

Singh: Financial services were early adopters. They were first to truly use computing to enhance business. They invested aggressively and built their own proprietary systems before many of the transformative technologies like AI, Big Data, IoT and social media that are mainstream now even existed. Now, precisely because financial-services were early adopters, they have legacy systems that are devoid of these technologies.

GF: How do you solve the problem of being an early adopter?

Singh: To catch up and be able to evolve at a fast clip, systems need to have an architecture that can change very quickly, that’s modular. Our digital and data architectures are constructed this way. They can be absorbed in a progressive fashion into the financial institution’s business technology framework. We also make these components available through well-defined APIs, allowing the more progressive banks to operate in an ecosystem with fintechs and Big Tech. There’s an emerging ecosystem of financial service providers, and open banking for retail and corporate is an important aspect that banks need to think about.

GF: What are some of the drivers shaping technology adoption?

Singh: We see people get caught up by ‘buzz’ around certain technologies, or sometimes fear of missing out (FOMO), which can lead to fragmented technology adoption. We find that thoughtful evaluation is better for innovation. Banks also have to increasingly comply with more regulations. Regulations evolve and change, and as businesses address each regulation they end up with silos of data. Managing this data with a well-defined information architecture helps not only with compliance, but also provides opportunities to monetize the data in areas such as relationship pricing and personalized product offers.

GF: How are user expectations about technology changing?

Singh: The word “digital” has passed its prime as a differentiator. Being digital is expected, a given. We conducted a survey with 5,700 respondents in 13 markets, and 81% of their business interactions were already digital. Every company now has a digital interface, and customer satisfaction with digital at the basic level is very high.

However, once you get past the simpler transactions, such as depositing checks, to more complex transactions—loans or mortgages—satisfaction with digital plummets, with 30% of our survey respondents looking at alternatives. Simpler transactions are being addressed by digital experiences, while more complex processes are still being handled in the traditional way.

Banking used to have a strong human element. In corporate banking, where banks serve large corporations, technology is not pervasive across all the functions; there is still a lot of human interaction. However, when you step down to lower market tiers, B2B and B2C are very similar. This is where the banks need to drive digital transformation, reduce friction and deliver a better customer experience. The digital experience needs to be more than skin deep.