SG Opinion Tara Lacey
Industry Insights

Before starting digital transformation FSPs should understand their digital maturity

Tara Lacey is Director of SG Consult, a unit within Software Group providing consulting services to banks, microfinance banks, Fintechs, mobile network operators, impact investors, and governments focused on scaling digital financial services in emerging markets. She has more than 15 years of experience in commercial banking, SME finance and technology. Prior to joining Software Group, Ms. Lacey held the position of Senior Manager, Financial Advisory for Frankfurt School of Finance and Management’s International Advisory Services where she provided strategic vision and operational-level leadership, delivering 30+ client engagements in over 20 countries while based in Frankfurt and Nairobi.  

Hi Tara, thank you for being our guest on Software Group’s Blog. Could you please share more about SG Consult and how the idea started? 

Software Group has been advising financial services providers, developmental agencies and other stakeholders in the global fintech space since its establishment 10 years ago yet we never formalized our services into a consultancy practice. As the push to digitally transform and introduce new innovations, continues to rapidly increase along with the associated risk, we see a much higher demand for consulting services.

We, therefore, believe that in order to lead organizations through successful digital transformations we must offer complementary consulting services in addition to our software solutions. SG Consult leverages the expertise gained over the years as one of the first global technology companies supporting digital finance.

SG Consult helps clients by understanding their needs, drawing up business cases for digitization, and preparing financial models for building up self-sustaining services. We provide reliable and secure technology platforms that enable banks, mobile network operators and various businesses to offer their customers a vast array of financial solutions, across multiple channels, anywhere at any time.

Our team of experienced, real-world professionals provide practical perspectives and solutions to traditional and non-traditional financial service providers on how to transform their business and operations to drive profitable growth, differentiated customer experience and operational efficiency.

What are the services offered by the unit?

SG Consult provides strategic consulting services for the financial services industry in the digital age.   We innovate with our clients to create viable and scalable digital ecosystems. Our approach is customer centric to ensure adoption and regular use of financial solutions that impact the lives of customers.  

We offer a range of key services starting from scoping and assessments (country scoping, payment diagnostics, ICT and institutional readiness, and roadmaps) to strategy (digital business, innovative channel strategies, cost benefit analyses) and digital product development (product innovations, go-to-market strategies).  

In which regions do you provide these services?

Given our global footprint and experience we provide consulting services in all regions. In some regions, for example, Africa and in countries like Egypt where the government and other stakeholders are supporting and working to advance digital financial inclusion we see a high demand for advisory services.

Could you please share some customer success stories?

We are currently working in partnership with Microfinanza  MFR (MicroFinanza Rating) to carry out GSMA Mobile Money Certifications.  This certification is a global initiative to bring safer, more transparent, and more resilient financial services to millions of mobile money users around the world.  The CEO of Dialog Axiata recently emphasized how the Certification led to tangible improvements to specific internal processes, and their CEO’s explanation of how the Certification goes above and beyond local regulatory requirements, together giving “a very strong combination”. Further, CEO of CGAP, endorses the Certification (via the Code of Conduct) as a means of enhancing consumer trust in mobile money services, describing it as a great way to ensure operators are reaching the bar.

On behalf of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Software Group uncovered opportunities to develop a more inclusive digital economy through digital financial services, especially in terms of outreach to rural, unbanked areas. We identified and developed pilot projects in 2 countries – Georgia and Mongolia – to increase the usage and adoption of digital financial services, especially for women, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in rural areas.

We have for years been carrying out ICT and core banking assessments for several MFIs and banks including the Sogebank Group in Haiti, the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, and for both MFIs in Timor Leste, among others.

Please share more about the customer needs that the unit is solving and the benefits for the organizations?

Rapid technological change is challenging financial service providers to keep up with digital advancements and adding a whole new layer of complexity as they try to stay ahead of competition and innovation.  

To succeed, financial service providers need to first understand their own status quo and business objectives before beginning their digital transformation journey. This is called understanding an organization’s “digital maturity”. By asking people across the entire organization to assess the company’s maturity in several areas (strategy, operations, technology, culture, and the customer), a financial services provider can identify where transformation or improvement is needed and where investment is required. 

We are helping to solve the pain points that financial service providers are facing in all of these areas. For example, they can be related to developing new product innovations or carrying out an ICT audit to ensure the effectiveness of a bank’s digital technology and alignment to their digital banking strategy.

Customers benefit from our experience and the expertise gained from delivering more than 450 successful consultancy and software implementation projects in more than 65 countries. An intensive backstopping/quality assurance and monitoring process from our 9 worldwide offices will ensure the highest quality in the execution of the project. Through our staff and associated consultants, customers gain access to best practice and lessons learned for creating viable and scalable digital ecosystems.

What are the plans of SG Consult for expansion and reaching new customers?

We are currently growing our consultancy practice by leveraging our local and regional presence and our close partnerships with other technology and consultancy companies.  We are also anticipating new opportunities that come from the deployment of Mojaloop, the interoperable payment platform that Software Group developed in partnership with other technology companies. We want to support all types of digital financial services providers to be able to leverage Mojaloop to rapidly expand the scale and scope of the services they can provide.

In the future, we will explore the potential to set up an innovation lab to test new models and technologies with partner financial services providers and governments to co-create fintech, Regtech, Insurtech, Smart City solutions.