Fintech Startups

Going Digital: The Transformation of Global Retail Banks in 2017

Will the future of retail banking be one of evolution or revolution? Over the past decade emergent FinTech companies have rapidly transformed the traditional retail banking industry through disruptive innovation. This has contributed to a completely new way in which consumers can now conduct their financial affairs online, threatening the status quo of traditional retail banks, and redefining a banking model which has been in place for generations. These new low-cost competitors have led to established international retail banks being forced to swiftly increase their pace of digital adoption, to stay relevant and stop mass client attrition to these agile financial startups.

Nowadays mobile banking, check imaging, and smartwatches are just a few of the latest financial service innovations assisting people with a variety of ways in which to spend, transfer, and manage their money.

Without a doubt, there will be more financial service innovations developed over the coming years by FinTech players who are trying to win the hearts and minds of bank customers, to convince them to switch accounts to their service. However, as for how much further current technologies can be advanced is not known precisely, and a subject of much debate. This means that for FinTech companies to continue their rapid growth, will ultimately come down to the reliability of the technology presently being developed, which either will directly affect their performance positively or negatively, and be a major determining factor on their long-term viability in a highly competitive industry.

However, as retail banks continue to come to terms with the vital importance of digitizing their services rapidly, they will likely find that when migrating to this digital world it could prove difficult for them, due to decades-old back office legacy technology systems. Although if these banks want to be relevant players within todays financial industry, they will need to ensure that they equip themselves with a complete new set of innovative digital solutions. Once this has been achieved, these banks should then continue a program of adapting to the digital era by nurturing their customer experience. This being achieved through constantly listening to market demands for convenient, simple-to-use, easy-to-understand banking products and financial services that integrate seamlessly into their customers’ lives.

Despite the varied amount of challenges that retail banks now face, they still possess an inherent competitive advantage over Fintech’s. This derives from banks larger customer bases, which provides them with vast amounts of customer and transaction data, plus them having years of built-up valuable know-how in the areas of payments, security, compliance, and financing. These competencies are exceptionally difficult to replicate by any financial startup firms because initially they will always be acting as financial intermediaries, and thus banks will continue to have a wealth of experience when it comes to the transactions carried out between their customers and merchants. This transactional data should be considered one of the greatest assets of retail banks today, and I believe will continue to be so for many more decades to come. This is due to the information obtained allowing retail banks to better understand their customers, and thus enable them to better provide their customers with value-added services, as well as to offer certain financial services in a variety of new innovative ways.

Lastly, my recommendation to global retail banks in 2017 is that they need to leverage opportunities enabled by digital technologies now, and this will be critical to their future chances of success. What I mean by this is that most banks were taken completely by surprise, as to the rapid emergence of FinTech companies and they now need to go on the offensive by developing innovative financial technologies of their own to disrupt the industry.  This will ensure that banks are back at the forefront of providing people worldwide with new financial service solutions, and which I am certain will start contributing to traditional retail banks regaining market share which they have been hemorrhaging during this digital era.

By Luigi Wewege, CEO of Vivier and author of the book: The Digital Banking Revolution.

February 22, 2017.

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