Recent conferences in Switzerland and Germany highlighted the topics that banks currently consider relevant. Striking in this context is the fact that banks are not only increasingly addressing innovations they themselves have developed, but that innovators themselves are being given the floor.
The Euroforum Annual Meeting on Banking IT 2013 took place in Zurich in mid-January. Next to heavyweights such as UBS and Credit Suisse, other Swiss banks such as Julius Bär, Vontobel, Neue Aargauer Bank and Basler as well as the Zürcher Kantonalbank were given room to present their developments. The event’s focus lay on technology, as a result of which IT topics were given center stage.
The general consensus among participants was that Swiss banks currently face great challenges that can only be overcome through a new degree of industrialization. Although the institutes differed in their ideas as to how and at which level they want to achieve this new degree, there was widespread agreement regarding the key fields of action for future development:
At the Handelsblatt Annual Meeting on Private Banking in Mainz in early March, it became clear that German finance institutes are grappling with similar challenges. In his opening speech, Dr. Ricken (Deutsche Bank) sketched the demanding business environment in which banks currently find themselves. According to him, in the face of sinking margins, rising complexity and increasing regulatory demands, banks must make use of the opportunities and potential of the market. In order to do so, Ricken argued that it is necessary for banks to focus on standardization and efficiency at the backend while simultaneously ensuring the individualization of banking services for clients through noticeable aspects of product design in the frontend. He pointed to the automobile industry with its platform concepts as a role model for the banking industry.
The conference on The Next Generation of Financial Service Providers organized by the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management in many ways reversed the view of the situation: The focus of this event lay not on established institutes, but on innovators. Starting with Google and PayPal, innovative businesses from the fields of Asset Management (trading, information) and Personal Finance Management introduced themselves at this conference.
During the panel discussion, established players in the form of UBS and Deutsche Bank were given the floor. While they confirmed the impression of a lasting wave of innovation in the financial services market, they contradicted the thesis that established institutes will experience equally long-term pressure. In their opinion, their institutes can make use of these developments by employing decisive action to select those innovations that had proven themselves.
The topic of the CIBI Innovation Day held in Munich at the end of March was “Industrialization – the Key to Client Focus”. The participants included banking experts and leaders as well as IT provider firms and innovators. The panel discussion featured both an external innovator as well as a representative of the banking world in the form of Google and the Hamburger Sparkasse.
The seeming contradiction between industrialization and customer focus was further discussed in the four parallel afternoon sessions. The topics of these sessions focused on industrialization and included the optimization of processes and of resource allocation in the context of bank management as well as omni-channel distribution and innovations in the field of payment transactions in terms of customer orientation. The key to the solution – according to the thesis presented in the session on the payment transaction market – lies in consistent customer orientation with the simultaneous use of the technological possibilities currently available. The standardization and automization of processes is an important prerequisite for a flexible and competitive product range in this regard.
The conferences thus confirmed the fact that finance institutes currently find themselves in a difficult environment. The opening of the conferences in order to allow direct participation by innovators could lead to the conclusion that innovators are today not so much part of the problem as they are part of the solution.