The Internet has transformed the economy, industrial sectors, and business life. People are better informed and more demanding. Consumption habits and decision-making criteria have shifted. Most businesses worldwide have been forced to cope with this information-driven revolution.
Banking, because it is highly regulated, has not evolved as quickly as other sectors, such as media and entertainment. Nevertheless, the Internet has spawned a whole new league of competitors in banking. These new players are free of legacies — obsolete and inefficient IT systems and costly physical distribution networks.
Some believe that Google, Facebook, and Amazon are unlikely to expand into banking. Yet it is unlikely that these companies will stay away from a sector that offers such a huge wealth of information and opportunities for other lines of sale.
Banks hold huge stores of information about their customers, and this is a crucial competitive edge. If banks can convert that information into knowledge, they can use it to offer customers goods and services that better meet their needs. But to do this, banks will need to develop a completely different platform concept from scratch — one that is able to integrate vast quantities of customer data seamlessly and without interruption.
Banks will also need to make a concerted effort toward innovation. Open innovation models are critical to organizations seeking to overcome their limitations and attract the best talent to work on better value propositions. Employees, customers, shareholders, and other bank stakeholders can and should contribute to the design of better content.
The financial services industry is moving toward an “ecosystem model” in which many small businesses — suppliers — have opportunities to achieve global reach within their areas of specialization. This model is similar to what Amazon has been doing by opening up its platform to a wide selection of suppliers who offer customers a large range of products and services. Although this phenomenon has yet to reach the banking world, it is inevitable that it will, given digitization and consumer demand. By expanding the range of products and services in this way, banks will improve the customer experience. Moreover, cooperation among all players — businesses and customers — will stimulate innovation.
Although this sea change poses a strenuous challenge for today’s banks, it also presents vast opportunity, as the market will be far wider in at least two ways. First, the market will be genuinely universal, bringing in billions of people who have no access to financial services today. Second, banks will be able to extend their offerings beyond the financial domain, embracing a potentially limitless array of knowledge-based products and services.
The financial services industry has become what I call the BIT (banking, information, and technology) industry — but this is merely a transitional phase on the journey to Knowledge Banking, which will provide far greater value, furnishing more and better solutions and effectively supporting global economic development. My company, BBVA, is a leader in this process, in which banks are swiftly evolving towards knowledge-based forms of themselves.
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