We’ve seen a lot of advances in how we bank over recent years.
Of course, there are many different reasons behind this: some of these changes have been driven by dramatically changing external circumstances – for example the new regulatory frameworks that have been introduced in the wake of the global financial crisis.
The post crash environment – in which both the banking community and borrowers and investors have been understandably more wary of each other, has meant that the traditional relationships between banks and their customers have changed fundamentally in many ways. To their customers, big banks seem less infallible than they once were, and the trend now is towards more portraying a more socially and fiscally responsible image in an attempt to win back some of that trust.
But beyond this, clearly one of the biggest drivers of change has also been technology. We live in an age in which new technology has transformed many different facets of our society, but financial technology – or ‘fintech’ – is now big business. From cloud computing to mobile technology, blockchain to virtual currencies, the financial world has been transformed in recent years. So how will we be saving and investing in the years to come – and what role will technology play in this new generation of banks? Here’s our take on what to expect.
- Blockchain will be transformative
Blockchain technology has already made one financial revolution possible. Thanks to its decentralised, virtually un-hackable structure, virtual currencies like Bitcoin are taking full advantage of it and are flourishing. While more traditional banking institutions – and the central bodies that regulate them – have been relatively slow to embrace virtual currencies, it seems that it might be the technology behind them might be even more transformative.
The fact that it takes the power of financial management away from a central authority and instead spreads it across a wide network of linked computers means that it is a technology that lends itself to innovative new financial operators who want to set up their own, independent operations. Why? Well, firstly because it is super-secure – but also because it simply makes transactions faster and less expensive to process. Take something like customer identification – an essential part of any secure transaction. Blockchain technology can dramatically streamline how this is done, according to PwC:
“Blockchain systems could be far cheaper than existing platforms because they remove an entire layer of overhead dedicated to confirming authenticity. In a distributed ledger system, confirmation is effectively performed by everyone on the network, simultaneously.”
- The in-branch experience will be completely different
The days when a customer would go into a bank and do everything they need to do face-to-face over the counter – whether it’s transferring money or paying in a cheque – with a real human being, are now few and far between. Today, and increasingly in the future, the in-branch experience will be much more about interacting with technology. We already do it to a certain extent – whether it’s using an ATM-style terminal within the branch to pay money in, or using touchscreen technology to reserve an appointment with a human manager at a later time. Increasingly, the role of humans within a branch is being reduced to one of technical support – stepping in to help customers to interact with the technology only when and where they’re needed.
- Contactless tech and biometrics will transform cash machines
Put your card in, punch in a number, get your cash and walk away. Currently, the experience we have at cash machines isn’t a particularly rich one – but that is all set to change with the next generation of banks. Contactless payments have already begun to catch on at points of sale in shops, but it’s likely that the next generation of cash machines will also allow you to make payments and transactions wirelessly using your smartphone. Once again it is the huge advances in technology that is making this possible – we’re already seeing biometric authentication and iris recognition of ATM users happening in Qatar and India – and it’s clear that anything that will make it harder for hackers to break into cash machines will be a welcome development.