Businesses that have survived this brutal year will likely be swept along by the following waves of change

As we bid goodbye to this turbulent year, what can businesses look forward to in terms of improving their corporate agility and resilience? 

Embracing technology in a sustainable and bespoke way seems to be the undercurrent of 2021 goals, and 10 key trends have been predicted by KPMG.

  1. Continued shift to an online lifestyle

From shopping to attending classes to holding birthday parties and even having Karaoke sessions… with this migration to an online lifestyle, it is key for brands to rebuild a sense of community in the climate of safe-distancing. 

In all digital interactions, customers have a greater need for personalization, trust and empathy, KPMG’s data indicate. Customer insight and engagement through digital marketing will be critical. In the new reality, expect to see initiatives at most organizations shift from customer experience to digital experience.

  1. Evolution of hybrid work arrangements  

After almost a full year of working from home, we can expect this trend to evolve into a hybrid work arrangement where employees split their working hours between home and the workplace.

For example, in Singapore, KPMG’s data point to the possibility that 84% of CEOs will be downsizing their offices in the future, indicating that the hybrid work arrangement is the new reality as far as the usual length of office leases goes.

  1. Focus on employability

The future of work has largely been impacted by the pandemic, and the demand for digital and human factors is driving growth in the professions of the future. Specialized industry skills and disruptors will play a key role in job mobility.
Corporate learning needs to adapt to mobility, in addition to the focus on skills. Job corridors with clear learning paths will be required to ensure job mobility and employability.

  1. Establishment of digital banks

2021 will see the establishment of Singapore’s first digital banks. Neobank challengers with innovative solutions will disrupt traditional banks, increasing the need for traditional banks to push boundaries and be more digitally-focused to serve customers.

In the view of KPMG analysts, this is a positive move for the market as digital banks will raise the bar for an improved customer experience journey.

  1. Heightened emphasis on cybersecurity and personal data protection

The shift to digital channels and heavier reliance on technology will necessitate more focus on cybersecurity and personal data protection next year and beyond it.

The first four predictions are what will drive the surge in digital identities, which are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Sophisticated cybercriminals will continue to employ innovative tools to breach systems with the intention of committing digital fraud and identity theft.

Organizations, especially financial services institutions, will need to gear up and take steps to comply with evolving data protection regulations in their countries of operation. Implementation of technology risk management and incident response will play a vital role to mitigate cyber breaches.

  1. Public transport digitalization

The future of public transport payment systems in 2021 will be fully-cashless, using e-payment methods for the convenience and safety of commuters. Costs used to maintain cash transactions will be reinvested to improve customer experience and services of the public transport system.

  1. Emphasis on sustainable financing 

To thrive in the new reality, the financial services industry will need to have an integrated Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategy to serve their communities, markets and customers. This ESG integration needs to be holistic and end-to-end, from how the organizations operate, to how customer interactions are framed, to how strategic and commercial activities are assessed.

We can also expect to see an increase in green financing towards green initiatives for sustainable development priorities including rooftop solar power projects and green buildings.

  1. Convergence of standards in sustainability reporting 

The rising awareness on the importance of ESG towards a company’s financial performance is making investors and other stakeholders see a need for companies to be transparent on how they are managing sustainability. 

In Singapore, to encourage publicly-listed companies to move towards integrated reporting, the Singapore Exchange will be announcing requirements on the improvements needed for sustainability reporting by 2021, while the Monetary Authority of Singapore will release its guidelines on climate risk, a material area for certain companies before mid-2021.

  1. Building supply chain resilience 

For the supply chain industry, building business resilience will be the key focus in 2021, even though the universal focus has always been on efficiency and productivity.

Companies are expected to evaluate the different options for building resilience in the medium- to long- term next year via various technologies such as cloud computing; AI and machine learning; blockchain; Internet of Things and more.

  1. Need for confidence building 

In the wake of multiple waves of reinfections during the pandemic, a top agenda in every region will be confidence building to revive tourism and lifestyle business sectors.

While governments have been working in tandem with local banks, private enterprises and regulators to extend assistance, there will be a need to consider regional and global opportunities to make an impact towards stabilizing the economy and restoring consumer and investor confidence in the new reality beginning in 2021.