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The last two years have been a rollercoaster for the entire world, putting pressure on the society, economic models and industrial models for many sectors and players. The financial world hasn’t been spared.
Banks globally have played a crucial role in maintaining the economy by supporting several government and state initiatives. The banking industry also had to adapt to changes in consumer behaviors and provide responses to emerging needs in how we consume and use financial services.
Like any “exit from the crisis,” 2022 promises to continue the transformation of financial institutions around the world. The last 24 months have driven significant investments in new financial services capabilities and operating models. Let’s take a look at eight major trends financial services companies will face in 2022.
1. Economic Shifts
After 2020, which was marked by a global economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude, 2021 was characterized by economic recovery. The return to economic growth was gradual and happened heterogeneously throughout the world.
In 2022, it’s clear that central banks are focusing on fighting inflation and raising interest rates. This will result in a significant increase in financial movement (wealth management, brokerage, home equity, etc.), as well as opportunities for banks to grow profits after dealing with very low margins in years past. Banks that can be nimble and offer products and services that their clients want, while continuing to transform the back office will gain a competitive advantage.
There’s also downside risk: Some federal and local aid will come to an end in the coming months in many countries, potentially driving up delinquency rates and credit losses. This can create tension between banks and borrowers. And, it has a knock-on impact in many industries (construction, automobile, etc.). How banks respond to this is critical. Proactively proposing hyper-personalized solutions will help them build customer confidence and trust — and it could even keep employee churn low.
2. Demographic Shifts
In 2022, banks and financial institutions also must shift to meet changing demographic needs. For the last decade, the industry focused its time and energy attracting and retaining Baby Boomers with traditional banking models. Now, we’re probably facing the beginning of the next “Great Wealth Transfer.”
Where will this wealth go? The most likely recipients are Gen Xers – who have largely been the forgotten generation — stuck between inherited wealth decisions from aging boomers and banks that are focusing their energy to attract Millennials and Generation Z consumers with digital-native models. Even though Gen X trust their primary financial services provider, they’re also technologically savvy and conformable using digital services. This could lead to a shift in digital banking.
This demographic shift not only affects customers but also employees. Aging populations in developed economies as well as the COVID-19 pandemic have created the “Great Resignation.” Talent scarcity and the need to meet the values of Generation Z employees become front and center in bank hiring practices, talent retention and work environment accommodations.
3. The Year of the Human
Data and people are usually key elements to getting better outcomes in financial services. Humans are social; they want real-time, human-to-human contact and interactions. To be successful, banks should establish both digital and human interaction channels. According to experts, banking with empathy and banking with purpose were the most cited predictions for the sector in 2021 — and these will remain strong in 2022.
Bringing humanity back into the banking sector and putting empathy into action requires board and executive committees to think of new modalities and ways to do banking — often through technologies like cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Connecting physical and digital will create a “phygital” banking model.
This will require banks to repurpose and continue to redesign branch networks. There is no one universal correct answer however to what these new connected channels look like. To illustrate this think about French consumer banks. Here, the model is: we’re keeping the branches, but changing the role of the folks in them. We’ll equip branch personnel with new training, connectivity technology, and put local humanity into digital channels.
In Germany, we see a completely different model emerging, e.g., Commerzbank in Germany. This includes close one-third of the branches and will consolidate, bankers, advisors and the traditional call center into banking or “beratungcenter.”
4. The Year of the Empowered Employee
The Great Resignation that began in 2021 is expected to continue in 2022 and beyond. The pandemic has led to a shift in employee behaviors, expectations and how workers want to manage the work-life balance. And, while there are strong signs of a “return to work,” banks still face tight market conditions this year.
Think “fewer suits, more hoodies.” This doesn’t mean a focus on dress codes; it’s a mindset. And it’s the importance of work environments also reflecting how we live. Banks see the key competitors for top new talent — not as other banks — but Google or Microsoft or the tech start-up.
Traditional banks face competition from fintechs. They’re under pressure to attract and retain talent. This year, banks will need to make different efforts for employee experience. They’ll need to hire more people comfortable in the fintech environment — fewer suits and more hoodies. That also means skill development. There’s an acceleration in digitizing the modern workplace, more collaborative and multichannel. What seemed unthinkable for advisors in branches only months ago is now a reality: video-advising or remote working.
5. Environmental, Social and Governance Factors
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements are fundamental challenges for banks in an environment of low margins and increasing external operating and capital costs caused by regulations and headwinds from the COVID-19 crisis. Making this a priority in 2022 and beyond will have several benefits for the banking industry.
First, banks can acquire new customers, especially millennials, who are known to be socially and environmentally conscious. They’ll typically endorse banks, investments and funds that have a demonstrable social and environmental focus. Banks need to support advisors to better know their customers and match with green finance investments.
Second, banks need to retain and attract employees. New generations, especially Generation Z employees, are more likely to choose workplaces that demonstrate a commitment to people and that focus on inclusion, diversity and sustainability. Placing employees at the heart of the bank’s transformation toward more ESG-driven decisions will attract a younger workforce.
In addition, many banks have made it clear they intend to focus on green and sustainable finance. And a few have moved in that direction already. Expect initiatives in green finance to accelerate — and this means banks must be able to make better data-driven decisions to attract investors in all age demographics.
Finally, the banking industry’s carbon footprint is at the center of the equation. Banks are known for using extensive data centers to host servers for processing massive amounts of data. Moving to carbon neutrality means banks must adopt “green” technologies and instate appropriate policies on data retention.
6. The Rise of Immediacy
Financial services have transitioned from delivering products and services through physical distribution and traditional sales and marketing channels to a new customer experience that’s driven by digital capabilities, convenience, and alignment to customers’ lifestyles, needs and interests. As digital becomes mainstream, banks face a new paradigm where consumers expect immediate, contextualized and personalized solutions.
The notion of immediacy guides innovations for the consumer experience. Account onboarding, which typically was a complex process that takes days, moved to online during the pandemic. Peer-to-peer payments have also been at the forefront of many innovations that give consumers the feeling they have everything they need at their fingertips. The “buy now, pay later” model grew exponentially in 2021 to drive economic recovery.
Consumers also want the ability to interact with their advisors on their preferred channels. They want financial advisors to know them and be there at the moment of truth with the most personalized solutions. This trend will continue, spurred by technology innovations like automation, AI, machine learning, and the reinvention of internal processes and operational models.
7. Finance Models Get Real
Open Finance, which is an extension of Open Banking, is the next step to accelerate the creation of a broader financial ecosystem that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of banking services. Based on data-sharing principles, Open Finance empowers banks to offer a broader range of possibilities that are specifically suited to clients’ needs. And data sharing brings rise to questions of regulations and security.
Additionally, banks are exploring Banking as a Service and embedded finance; both models offer opportunities to embrace change and capture new customers. With these models, banks can take advantage of their digital investments and develop new partnerships outside of financial services. None of this is easy. Business executives are going to get these very clear goals to deliver digestible API layers and banking as a service. They want it to be as easy to open an account as it is to get an Uber. These executives know these are difficult, multi-year journeys — and you need to keep showing progress and continue to deliver financial targets and customer experience rankings.
8. The New Financial Ecosystem
Here, the initial hype cycle on all-things crypto gives way to tangible value creation via network effects and scale. Layer 1 protocols, which are the foundational blockchain network “rails” one layer above compute nodes, become paramount Examples include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Avalanche and Solana. Half-baked projects either consolidate or fall by the wayside.
The case for decentralized finance pressures banks to respond competitively to defi-value propositions. And regulators recognize that 1930s-era regulatory structures must adapt without compromising financial integrity. Inflation and related expectations fuel cryptocurrency and alt-asset maturity.
Industrial Revolutions have always been the result of technological advances that allow transformations in our societal and economic models. In the past two years, we’ve witnessed a technological boom that has enabled banks to respond to the modernization of their business models and new customer expectations. The alignment of new technologies foretell the start of a new industrial revolution. In 2022, major banks will continue to accelerate a future-proof technology strategy and an end-to-end digital transformation to preserve their competitiveness — and to prepare for the next wave of disruptors.
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