Essayist Brett King shares his vision of a future that is already at hand, in which banking will have to completely change its vision of the business: the important thing will no longer be products or distribution channels, but the customer experience.
“A futurist is a person who is never wrong…in the present.” This ironic definition cones from someone who is often defined as a futurist: Brett King.
King was one of the star speakers at the recent MoneyConf conference held in Madrid. He also presents Breaking Banks, a popular podcast about the future of the financial sector, has written several books on the topic, has created his own fintech, Moven, and travels the world giving conferences. All of them revolve, to a greater or lesser degree, around the same question: What will banks be like in 10 or 20 years?
King began his speech by talking about mobile phones and rocket ships; the first, from Apple, the Iphone and the second, from SpaceX. Steve Jobs’ telephones and the rockets of Elon Musk, who is also the founder of Tesla, are similar, in King´s opinion, because both rewrote the rules of their sector by designing new products. They didn´t take an established norm and apply new technologies to it; they began with a clean slate.
Given these acts of courage – and the risks they imply – King criticized the often too conservative attitudes of large banks: “Faced with all this innovation, some of them focus on the design of the offices.”
The problem is not what the branch offices look like, but the behavior of the consumer: bankers should be aware that customers are not going to return to the practice of making frequent visits to bank offices, “unless we take away their mobile phones. And that’s not going to happen.”
Ross McEwan, managing director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, once said that the bank´s most crowded office was the London tube between the Reading and Paddington stations at seven in the morning, when customers check their bank balances on their mobile phones.
Banking must change its point of view altogether, to stop focusing on products and channels and concentrate on customer experience. “If you want to be a leading bank, you have to be a technology company,” King said. The future, he said, belongs to the technological giants – he predicted that the Chinese company Ant Financial will be the world´s biggest bank halfway through the next decade – and to the banks that copy, acquire or collaborate with fintechs. It´s neither cheap nor easy, but the alternative is irrelevance, he said.