Is technology banking’s big opportunity?

We’re in the midst of a digital revolution. Some say it’s the third industrial revolution. You can see it everywhere, if you look. This is changing customer expectations — and that means the way businesses provide services has changed and will change more. That’s as true for how you order a taxi, as it is for how you do your shopping or book a holiday. Everyone now expects — in fact, demands — services that are easy to access and fast. The same applies to banking. Banks can’t rely anymore on customers coming to us. Customers expect us to be with them, whenever, wherever and however they want.

That’s our challenge, but also our great opportunity — to create experiences in banking that are just as rich as those you find elsewhere in life. That’s why we’re investing so much in building the capacity to deliver our services digitally, finding ways to redefine how we meet customer expectations.

“The banks that will ‘win’ (in customer terms)… they’ll find ways to make things quicker, more convenient, safer and more customised”

As with other industries, though, simply digitising what we do now is far from good enough. To take full advantage of the potential that today’s technology creates, we also have to reimagine how we provide those services. Think for a minute about Google; Amazon; AirBNB; Uber — there were plenty of businesses providing services in a roughly similar way to each of those before these brands appeared.

What made the difference was that these players perfected their use of technology to make the experience significantly better than the existing providers. And customers flocked to each. The banks that will ‘win’ (in customer terms) over the next few years will be the ones that do the same. They’ll find ways to make things quicker, more convenient, safer and more customised — finding innovative ways to bring age-old services into the digital era in a way that makes life easier for our customers.

That’s the first step. The second is finding ways to redefine what a bank does for its customers.

For instance, one of the main things a bank does is safeguard lots of information. Our customers put an enormous amount of trust in us to protect that — and their interests. That’s a heavy responsibility. But feedback shows it also presents a broader business opportunity if we can find ways to use that information, responsibly, to generate clear benefits that work for both sides.

Customers tell us they would like us to use it, for example, to tailor-make products for them; to help them make the most of their spending, saving or investing; and to create services that will add real value to their lives. Things like, offering instant loan decisions; rewarding them with ways to save money based on their own tastes and needs or our buying power; or providing opportunities specifically related to their financial situation.

“Modern day banking isn’t about technology, it’s about helping people achieve their ambitions”

Of course, privacy and information security will be central to making that successful. Banks have built their reputations on keeping their customers’ money safe. Now we must do the same for the currency of the 21st century – personal information.

The most important thing will be giving customers’ choice about what information we hold for them; what we do with that information; and how we allow others to work with us to provide them with value.

This isn’t — and in my view will never be — about technology, though. Fundamentally, and ironically, what technology is forcing banks to do is become human again. We have to bring our customers on this journey, keeping them at the heart of what we do — taking everyone forward, and ensuring no one is left behind. Modern day banking isn’t about technology, it’s about helping people achieve their ambitions.


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