By Simona Stankovska, freelance journalist previously of the Financial Times
We know that change can be good for us, such as losing weight, getting a promotion at work, or finding our perfect relationship, however, we all still fear it. After all, as the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, then why fix it? But, if I told you that in 10 years’ time your life would be exactly the same, can you honestly say you’d be happy?
Now, transfer that thought to your bank. Most of us have been banking with the same bank for many years. No matter how many overdraft fees we pay, or the hours that we spend on the phone waiting to speak to a customer services representative, we remain loyal. But, was is it that’s keeping us so attached; could it be fear of change that’s stopping us from getting the service that we need, want and deserve?
But, as former President of the United State of America, Barrack Obama, put it nicely in his speech in Chicago in 2008: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.”
So, what are we waiting for?
It seems that the Financial Technology (Fintech) industry has listened. Technology, and thus banking is evolving. According to nordicstartupbits.com, in 2016 there were more than 1,362 Fintech companies in 54 countries around the world with the USA, India, UK & Ireland, Israel, and Germany having the most Fintech start-ups, with more than $25.8 billion invested in these “challengers”.
And, it looks like this phenomenal growth is sustainable. The Fintech industry is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade; changing the world of financial services entirely.
Experts have even gone as far to predict that Fintech will slowly edge out traditional financial institutions, such as banks and building societies, as a result of their wide range of attractive, easily accessible and revolutionary products. Fintech is also leading the way for financial inclusion, news that will be welcomed by the world’s large unbanked population, who do not, or cannot have access to a bank account.
According to a survey in 2016 from The British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and Ernst and Young, the use of bank branches fell by 6 per cent in 2015, as more customers turned to phone and internet banking services.
This is where, veteran banker, Chairman and CEO of Customers Bancorp and Customers Bank, Jay Sidhu says, banks need to disrupt themselves or someone else will. He adds: “Your biggest problem is your biggest solution.”
This points to a new wave of digital technology that traditional banks need to adopt in order to keep up. HSBC have recently introduced voice activated security, where your voice is your password when phoning through to speak to a customer services agent. Santander are looking to go one step further with the “voice banking”, where customers will be able to make payments and transfer money using their voice.
Mr Sidhu, who created mobile offering Bank Mobile – a US challenger bank, says that the days of 20 years of banking experience are gone, it’s now about the 20-somethings. He believes all companies need to listen to young entrepreneurs and adopt a mobile-first strategy, he told RFi Group’s Global Digital Banking Conference attendees.
Never-the-less, speakers at The Economist’s annual Finance Disrupted conference, in London, are still sceptical about this new trend, and believe that there is still a purpose for traditional banking.
Stephane Dubois, Founder and CEO, Xignite, said that if each of the large challenger banks in the UK were to meet their targets, they would be bigger than the three largest banks in the UK, which he just doesn’t think is going to happen. He said that no matter how much consumers moan about their bank, they are still unlikely to change banks. Plus, traditional banks, in spite of their problems, still embody safety and security.
Mr Dubois, and the rest of the panel, which was made up of Claire Calmejane, director of innovation at Lloyds Banking Group; Rich Wagner, CEO at Advanced Payment Solutions; and Mark Cliffe, chief economist at ING Group, agreed that there’s room for compromise, and that banks can learn from the challengers, and challengers can learn from the banks.
Ms Calmejane said that her team at Lloyds are looking at possible opportunities for collaboration.
Could this mean that we see the larger banks buying smaller, independent, digital-only banks in order to adopt their technology?
Who knows. It does seem, however, that millennials are opting for digital solutions. So, maybe change is good? Go on, give it a try; what’s the worst that can happen?