The Covid-19 outbreak affected societies, institutions and individuals in many different ways. We witnessed the factors that radically transformed the business models of all sectors, from healthcare to education, from retail to production, from financial services to tourism.

17 June 2021

Nowadays, we have entered a new period where "recovery" plans started to be applied rather than "managing the crisis". However, will these recovery plans really be enough to turn back to pre-pandemic period or nothing will be the same because of this radical change? There are different points of view on this subject, too. For example, China is about 6 weeks ahead of other countries in this process. Looking at the latest news, according to April data, more than 90% of companies and more than 75% of employees have started to work actively again, but the economic activity is far behind this for now.

Times of crisis cause institutions and individuals to try, adopt and quickly adapt to innovations that they are afraid to experience in the comfort area as usual. In this period, a new norm has emerged, in which technology, advanced data analytics and digitalization are at the core of our business, daily lives and behaviors. The speed and proliferation of digitalization is very striking. Digital interaction points have become the first option compulsorily at the beginning, now they are all in almost every sector due to their ease of use. A few striking examples:

• Netflix gained approximately 16 million new members in the first quarter of 2020 (the expectation was 7 million) [1], Zoom was downloaded more than 100 million times and TikTok was downloaded more than 80 million times [2]
• The number of trainings registered on the online education platform Udemy increased by 425% between March and April. This increase is valid for trainings focused on both technical and social skills [3]

- There are also striking examples from our industry:

• In the UK, 12% of the adult population (~ 6 million people) downloaded banking applications for the first time, while cash withdrawals from ATMs fell by 60% in the same period.
• Similarly, also in Turkey the number of contactless transactions in March 2019 compared to the same period increased by 170% and 2.5 million contactless payment cards were also used for the first time [4]
• As two statistics that clearly show the increase in mobile banking usage, we can state that the transaction volume of money transfers and investment in the first 3 months of 2020 increased by 73% and 131%, respectively, compared to the same period of 2019 [5]

Now, institutions are trying to predict how permanent these habits will be to determine their investments. In the next period, institutions that offer rapid solutions to needs and changing expectations of their customers with an understandable, simple, more inclusive experience will differentiate further. Here, we anticipate that culture, adaptation and the speed of implementation of innovation will come to the fore as an important factor.

Innovation has always been a more prevalent and prior issue in post-crisis times. Just like, the FinTechs disrupt the financial sector in a transformative way in the post-2008 period.

Organizations need to prioritize the right investments and to create resources for developing creative business models and solutions adapted to the new normal in order to sustain their existence in the medium term as well as the actions for short-term financials. Institutions that are the pioneers of digitalization in banking and have come to the forefront in this process have been those who have designed a new experience from scratch with a completely innovative perspective, rather than choosing to make a few changes. Although it is a difficult decision to allocate current resources and time for the future; digital currencies, blockchain supported supply chains, and digital identity based holistic processes will come to the fore.

Every initiative to be taken into consideration in the innovation culture does not have to be revolutionary changes like in the examples listed above. Even a minor change in a routine daily work can radically change working models. For example, until today, remote working was applicable for only boutique institutions working in tech. However, during the pandemic process all institutions that have switched to working remotely compulsorily, today talk about the efficiency achieved by remote working and question the presence of physical areas.

The factor that triggers a new normal today can be the Covid-19 epidemic or the innovations like AI, IoT, blockchain, but tomorrow these factors may be completely different issues. As a result, although it is not possible to know precisely what the new normal will bring, organizations should focus on keeping the human and needs-oriented innovative perspective, quality and speed of the innovation alive to adapt changes.

(1) Statista, The Guardian
(2) Download rates of Google Play Store between 9 March — 12 April
(3) Udemy
(4) BKM (Interbank Card Center) Data
(5) TBB (Banks Association of Turkey) Data