More often than not, stories of banking industry disruption are cautionary tales, gloom-and-doom narratives in which there are few survivors. Banks are positioned as reactionary has-beens unable and ill-equipped to adapt to new market challenges.
They are dinosaurs in a digital age.
While it’s true that the unprecedented convergence of forces across the industry—new customer demands, technologies and competitors among them—is disrupting the industry as we know it, there is tremendous opportunity amid the transformation.
As Accenture explored in Banking 2020—our point of view on the future of banking in North America—there are “very real opportunities for banks that can get ahead of their competitors, provided they make the proactive investments needed to build the business.”
I’m always interested in the opportunity side of the banking disruption equation. Forward-thinking banks are differentiating themselves through continuous innovation such as beginning the digital journey, developing convenient mobile banking solutions and connecting with entirely new customer segments. None of this was even a thought just five years ago. This is an industry that’s on the move.
This is why I was so intrigued to read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by John Carney that offers a fascinating and fresh perspective on what banking disruption really means for big banks.
Carney posits that while all banks have faced a raft of pressures in recent years, the industry is weathering the storm surprisingly well. He writes, “One of the lessons of recent years is that the dinosaur metaphor is inapt for banks. They have proved more resilient than other businesses swamped by technology.” I couldn’t agree more.
As Carney explains, big banks have such a foundational position in the marketplace that disruption for them is ultimately about evolution, not extinction. Regional banks and smaller banks may not fare so well. This argument that banking disruption tends to run “over” big banks instead of “through” them, got me thinking about the reasons why.
Beyond their extensive networks and resources that enable banks to develop, fund and execute innovation as market dynamics change, savvy banks take advantage of other strengths.
Banks have a wealth of customer data to guide them in shaping the next generation of customer experiences, both inside and outside the branch. They are also coming to understand customers’ desire for more value-focused and less transactional banking relationships.
Such changes are still in their early stages for many banks. However, they signal big banks’ willingness to adapt to a new environment in ways dinosaurs never could.