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Explore how digital technology is transforming the way businesses operate

Accenture’s Banking Industry report shows how digital technology is transforming industries and changing the way businesses operate.

Overview

The CEO Briefing 2014: Banking Industry report, written by Accenture and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), provides a blend of macro-economic, strategic and global business insights. Drawing on the views of more than 1,000 C-level executives—including 115 from the banking sector—the report explores prospects for the global economy, and how digital technology is transforming industries and changing the way businesses operate.

Survey results indicate that bankers are confident overall, especially for emerging markets, predicting strong and stable growth, but that they realize their companies cannot be everything to everyone. Respondents acknowledge that they need to adopt digital technology, including cloud computing, mobile technology and data analytics, to meet the industry’s new customer-centric approach.

Given the growing regulatory constraints, the industry needs to tread carefully as it explores new ways of delivering services and alternative business models. Still, if banks are to continue expanding their markets and preventing new market entrants from stealing their business, they need to use technology and innovation for more than just cutting the cost of errors and reducing operational risk.

 

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Background

In an industry where any positive signs contrast with the tumult of recent years, bankers are in an optimistic mood. However, re-regulation is forcing sweeping changes across the industry at a time when banks need to adapt to an era in which the customer is in the driver’s seat.

The question is whether banks have the bandwidth to handle these demands while also capitalizing on the growth they see in emerging markets and fully embracing the digital technologies that many believe could transform the sector. This is becoming more urgent as corporations in other sectors such as retail, telecommunications or software enter segments of traditional banking.

While economic data and industry experts point to continuing challenges for the sector—from stagnating returns, to changes in consumer behavior and competition from new players—a sense that the worst is over appears to be driving an upbeat mood. Many survey respondents are positive about their prospects, with more than 70 percent expecting increases in profits and revenue in the coming year.

Analysis

In terms of opportunities for expansion over the next few years, the continued growth of emerging markets will benefit the industry as a whole. According to Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts, by 2017 these markets will account for 31 percent of banking-sector assets. Survey respondents from the banking industry express more confidence in emerging markets than other respondents. Some 62 percent predict strong and stable growth for these markets and 75 percent believe that changes to monetary policy in the developed world will not damage the outlook in these markets.

However, in the post-crisis era, banking executives have realized that their companies cannot be everything to everyone. Many banks have refocused on traditional service delivery, concentrating on deposit-taking and simple commercial and household lending.

A critical tool for banks adopting the industry’s new customer-facing approach is digital technology. While 45 percent of all respondents surveyed say cloud computing is “extremely” or “moderately” important to their business, this rises to 53 percent of those in the financial sector, with fully 30 percent saying this technology is “extremely important” (compared to 19 percent overall). Respondents also favor mobile technology slightly more than other industries, with 52 percent of bankers citing it as important compared to 47 percent overall. As for data analytics, 61 percent of financial sector respondents claim it to be important, 8 points more than the overall survey average.

Meanwhile, fewer firms will dominate risky, sophisticated capital markets activities, which will be increasingly walled off from traditional banking and government-guaranteed deposits.

Recommendations

In this difficult environment, it is perhaps surprising to find that many in the banking industry believe they will do well in the year ahead and appear unconcerned about their industry’s dramatically changing landscape. However, this may also explain why banking respondents’ approach to technology has tended to be defensive, focusing on increasing efficiency rather than prioritizing growth.

While strengthening their base as they recover from a difficult era is essential, banks must also explore new ways of delivering services and alternative business models. Some innovation is already taking place, particularly in emerging markets where institutions are working with telecom companies to provide mobile banking services.

But further opportunities lie in rethinking the way that banking services are delivered—perhaps there is even a future in which bank accounts are portable or in which digitally personalized investment services are available to the masses.

Given the regulatory constraints, the sector clearly has to tread carefully. Still, if banks are to continue to expand their markets and prevent new market entrants from stealing their business, they need to use technology and innovation for more than just cutting the cost of errors and reducing operational risk. In the new landscape in which demand is rising in emerging markets for financial services—and meeting changing customer and client demands in mature markets is a priority—banks that want to be successful had better move quickly.


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