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By Osman Faiz, Chief Information Officer, Singapore, Standard Chartered Bank
The banking industry has gone through many transformations over the past decades, and so have our clients and their banking needs. Bank branches used to be where these needs were met, where the ‘life’ of banking was: Tellers welcoming clients with a big smile, assisting clients with their banking requests, socialising with clients on the latest happenings, and clients feeling a sense of pride when visiting these bank branches, often taken as a symbol of their social status. Today, such a scene is less common.
Visiting a bank branch has not only become such a hassle that most people avoid, but the operating of a bank branch is becoming a balance sheet burden for banks. Clients’ needs have evolved to the extent that they do not need to rely on banks for their financial services. Just look at the rise in competition in the financial services space from technology companies over the recent years: Amazon providing loans to small businesses, Alipay over-taking Paypal as the world’s biggest mobile payment player, and the numerous technology companies venturing into the Fintech space.
The competition is greater than ever before. To come out on top, the opportunity lies in the ability to identify and serve clients’ unmet needs. The banker of tomorrow must be equipped with the instinct to anticipate and meet clients’ future needs. However, unmet needs or the next big hits are often not apparent at the start. The silver lining, though, is that with technology we have access to digital innovation that can help us unlock the next billion-dollar idea.
If we look at the technology transformation within the industry, we can broadly see it happening in 3 phases: 1) Analog banking in the past, 2) Data-centric banking in the current state, and 3) Intelligent banking using advanced AI in the future. Processes and service deliveries were completed manually by bankers in the past, with a heavy reliance on personal judgment in decision-making. Today, automation and data analytics have become key competencies in many banks to help bankers understand their customers better and make more informed decisions.
As we enter the third phase of transformation with advanced AI, we will be able to understand clients even better than the clients themselves.
Banks need to recognise that despite the advancement of technology, bankers will remain their core competitiveness
Bankers remain the heart and core of how we can get there from here, and bankers of tomorrow must live and breathe technology, to not only adopt and apply new innovation in the shortest possible time, but also the ability to co-exist, synchronise and integrate all these new technologies to fully understand their clients and offer the best products and services. To achieve this, they need to learn and continuously adapt to the ever-changing environment. In addition to excelling as masters in their banking domain, bankers of tomorrow must become technology engineers and architects who are able to learn and apply knowledge to continuously improve on the Data, Analysis, AIs, and other advance technologies.
While the banking industry is moving towards digital, it is fundamentally a service industry. Privilege banking services will become accessible to the masses, and customers will increasingly demand top services with a personal touch. Thus, bankers of tomorrow must remain ‘human’ at heart to their clients. Only then can they discover the next big unmet needs.
Banks on the other hand, should start identifying and recruiting talents who display these characteristics.
The current hiring model will need to be evolved to place higher importance on each candidate’s ability to embrace and manage new technology. Resumes that showcase entrepreneurial characteristics, along with specific past examples of learning, adapting, and applying new technology to boost business growth should be given greater emphasis. And candidates who are ‘human’ at heart are likely to serve with a purpose.
As bankers’ role expands to include being engineers and architects, the traditional training and development programs may not be sufficient. Bankers of tomorrow need to be trained in specific and advanced technologies that may or may not produce immediate results. Exposing them to advanced technologies could draw out their intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit to produce unexpected, positive results.
As bankers’ roles evolve, banks must also transform themselves. There needs to be a technology roadmap that identifies areas of opportunities for technology investment, and plans out the steps for the development of data lakes and advanced technological tools. The roadmap must provide guidelines for the creation of a conducive environment or sandbox for bankers to test and roll out new technologies.
Transformation is not an easy process, and often requires huge investments. However, all the intelligent technology is only as good as how these innovation solutions are designed and used with a ‘human’ touch. Banks need to recognise that despite the advancement of technology, bankers will remain their core competitiveness. And that in itself warrants the prioritising of investments to develop the bankers of tomorrow.