When I first started working in the financial services industry it was as a bank teller during my summer holidays from university. At the time, I felt I knew quite a lot about banking or at least could describe the primary business. My father was a retail banker, so I’d grown up being very familiar with branch banking. I’d been in the enviable position of a child who could ask any question without repercussions, and had learned a lot about behind-the-scenes retail bank operations.
Of course, years later I realise that my student-self understood only a small fraction of what was involved in banking and the challenges of offering financial services in a highly regulated and competitive industry. In the intervening years, the banking industry did not seem to change much. Banks still offered the same basic services that they had for centuries—safekeeping of funds, payment facilities, and loans—while other industries such as telecommunications and even transportation appeared to change more significantly. When the dinner conversation would switch to latest cool product launched by Sony, 3M, or Apple that would enhance consumer lives, I would be at a loss to offer a banking equivalent.
This view changed for me with the advent of home banking (through early examples leveraging Minitel in France to online brokerage and banking solutions of firms such as E*Trade in the US and HomeLink in the UK), and improved even further with the arrival of mobile solutions (bringing products such as GetCash from RBS and USAA’s mobile virtual assistant). I started looking at banking innovations in a new light.
The recent Accenture-EFMA Distribution and Marketing Innovation Awards highlight the extent of innovation that is currently taking place in the banking industry. While cash-strapped banks have been understandably cautious over the past few years regarding new spending, the industry has been under increased pressure from customers to offer innovative solutions. Meanwhile, bank shareholders are looking for better returns and non-traditional financial services providers are making inroads.
Banks must continue to innovate to remain relevant and not lose ground. With much of the media attention on customer-focused mobile solutions, we cannot forget the wide range of enterprise digital and process innovations that are enhancing employee effectiveness and helping manage costs. These days at the dinner table I find there are lots of examples of cool new developments in financial services that I am aware of that rival those in other industries, and many more being implemented every day.