European Women in Finance : Sarah Carver : Aiming for digital transformation


The road to digital transformation

Sarah Carver, the new Head of Digital at Delta Capital talks to Shanny Basar about taking risks, embracing change and lending support.

Sarah Carver, the new Head of Digital at Delta Capita likes a challenge. She changed jobs during the pandemic and started a digital art business in order to learn to code when she was on maternity leave with her  second child.

Carver joined the managed services provider, consultancy firm and strategic fintech investor last month from Capco Digital.

“I joined Delta Capita because of the team, culture and their clear sense of purpose to manage those parts of the financial services value chain that are non-differentiating,” she said. “Our parent company, Prytek, enhances our offering by providing technology solutions, which is the missing part from most consultancy firms.”

For example, Delta Capita recently secured a $150m capital investment to expedite delivery of its Capital Market Infrastructure Provider strategy to become a leading specialist owner/operator of non-core bank services. However, Carver highlighted that Delta Capita is technology agnostic and happy to partner clients with fintechs to meet their customer needs.

“Clients are looking for more modular technology which they can plug and play,” she says.

Financial services firms have been talking about digital transformation for the last few years but Carver explained that Covid-19 has accelerated that agenda from ‘nice to have’ to a core business requirement.“During the lockdown firms put a sticking plaster in place,” she adds. “Now they are looking at strategic solutions which are scalable and future proof.”

Cost is still an issue and financial firms are looking to take out non-differentiating services and spend on technology that either reduces cost or creates revenues.

Digital strategy 
Carver will be responsible for growing Delta Capita’s digital business and developing new market propositions. She will also help advance the firm’s mission for managed services to help organisations reduce costs by moving them away from their existing proprietary business operating models and toward a supply chain model.

Steve Vinnicombe, Head of Consulting & Solutions at Delta Capita, said in a statement: “The performance of financial institutions is being held back by a lack of customer intimacy, operational complexity and ever-changing regulatory obligations. It’s time to change.”

Delta Capita has compared the banking industry operating model to the airline industry in the late 1980s. The airlines owned the entire business value chain and performed many non-core functions including ticketing, luggage handling, ground services and catering. This model resulted in little to no recurring investment and poor quality services, customer dissatisfaction as well as some business failures. The airlines changed by adopting a supply chain model through integrating specialist providers of non-core services and functions which led to higher returns on equity.

“However, despite these clear lessons, and banking industry executives agreement on the topic, industry body research and advice from leading strategic advisory firms over the years – the industry still remains lethargic and little action has been taken,” said Delta Capita.

Carver notes her aim is to build out a diverse digital practice to include tailored market research and advising on digital strategies.

“I want to build a partnership model with clients, advising on how they can differentiate themselves and create new propositions and products and take them to market,” she added. “Financial services will look very different in the next five years with more hybrid models.”

Career path
Carver has more than 12 years consultancy experience in financial services across retail, commercial and investment banking, and financial exchanges. Before Capco she joined Accenture after graduating from Loughborough University. Her first project was at the London Stock Exchange, which she described as an “ideal first role” and then conducted projects for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York and London.

She became interested in technology when she worked on telemetry at a gas company and saw how software changed how they ran their business.  “I was attracted to consultancy due to the variety and the challenge as I like to try new things and constantly learn,” she says. “When I was on maternity leave with my second child I started a digital art business so I could learn to code.”

Her advice to women is to take risks. “When I was working at Accenture I moved to New York at one day’s notice,” Carver adds. “You have to make your own luck and capitalise on opportunities.”

Women should also make sure they take the lead role. “If you are doing a lot of work behind the scenes you should put yourself out there and walk onto the stage,” she said.

Carver believes that one positive outcome from Covid-19 is that it will level the playing field for women as the presenteeism culture becomes increasingly irrelevant and flexibility becomes the norm. She described herself as lucky to have a “superhero husband” because they have a true partnership and an equal division of labour.

However she argued that society needs a better balance so women do not have to start again after maternity leave. “We need to start giving messages about equality at a young age,” she adds. “People also need to see role models, such as Jane Fraser at Citi.” Last month Michael Corbat, Citi’s Chief Executive Officer announced that he plans to retire in February next year. The board selected Jane Fraser, currently Citi’s President and CEO of Global Consumer Banking, as his successor. Fraser has been at Citi for 16 years and in her current roles since 2019.

Carver concludes: “The reception to Fraser’s appointment shows that women are supportive of other women.”

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