Long ago, houses in northern China were constructed with windows made of thin, semi-transparent paper. To protect their belongings, the residents had to be good meteorologists to ensure that they pasted up the paper windows in advance of bad weather. Waiting until the rains arrived was too late to act.

Storm clouds are gathering over the banking industry in the form of a fragmenting value chain, rapid migration to digital channels, encroaching financial technology firms, and open banking regulations. However, this year’s Accenture Technology Vision for Banking report suggests that banks still have a chance to protect their business before the heavy rains arrive. The report identifies 5 five technology trends that will allow banks to better connect with customers, move staff to higher value-added roles, and position their business for greater digital relevance.

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For example, banks can now use embedded AI solutions and Robotic Process Automation to personalize and elevate the interactions between customers and employees, rather than having the humans be governed by the machines. Thirty-four percent of the nearly 600 bank executives who participated in the survey are planning to use deep human behaviour analysis to better understand what motivates customers and design the customer experience accordingly. As human interactions become rarer in banking, the importance of each one going well increases. Human-centric technology design is also critical in a world where customers will increasingly interact with their bank through ecosystem platforms and channels not owned by banks. In many cases, banks will only have a fleeting opportunity to differentiate and brand their services to these customers. So in every interaction, banks need to be thinking about how they use technology to make both customers and staff more productive and loyal.

Another key trend identified in the survey is the rise of ecosystems that extend the banking value chain and shift core banking functions outside traditional industry walls. Banking executives are more likely than average (36 percent of bankers versus 31 percent of all survey respondents) to believe that it is essential to adopt a platform-based business model and engage in ecosystems with digital partners. Seventy-six percent of bankers agree that competitive advantage will not be determined by their organization alone, but by the strength of their chosen partners and ecosystem platforms where much of tomorrow’s transaction banking will take place. Consumers will expect their banks to be there regardless of who owns the platform.

The ancient Chinese were innovators. They soon began using oil to waterproof their paper windows, making them more robust and durable. Banks also need to be innovators to protect their business models as the competitive and regulatory rain clouds gather. The vast majority of customers want a mix of digital and human interaction, so the role of technology is to enable frictionless digital channels while also personalizing and elevating the human interactions to deliver an empathetic, memorable and differentiated customer experience. The rains are coming, and our Technology Vision for Banking is a guide to waterproofing the windows of traditional banking before it’s too late.

I invite you to read about all five trends in the full report: Banking Technology Vision 2017 | Technology For People: Banks’ Path to Becoming Their Customers’ Everyday Trusted Advisor and Their Staff’s Employer of Choice

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