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Don’t sound a digital-driven death-knell to professionalism just yet

by Lewis Panther | 18 Sep 2019
Chartered Banker Institute CEO Simon Thompson has declared those sounding the digital-driven death knell on professionalism are way off the mark.

The head of FINSIA’s partner organisation played down claims that there was no place for professionalism in an Artificial Intelligence powered banking system and highlighted how banking had adapted many times before.

Thompson, speaking to International Banker, said customer trust needed to be restored before the wholesale adaptation of digital-only platforms.

The fact that the roll-out of Open Banking is moving so slowly is evidence of this, he argues.

“While some argue that professionalism and professional bankers will have no place in a digital-banking future, I disagree,” he said. 

“Similar debates were held when mainframe computers and ATMs entered banking in the 1960s and 70s, when many aspects of wholesale banking and trading became automated in the 1980s and 90s, and most recently, when the dotcom boom in the 2000s led to the rapid growth of internet banking. 

“In each situation, banks and bankers had to acquire new knowledge and skills, and in doing so, develop their own personal capabilities as well as further their career prospects. 

“Core banking skills, though, coupled with an ethically professional mindset, always remained key elements to make sense of and take advantage of new technological innovations.”

He said the Open Banking era and the European Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) showed that there was still a long way to go when it comes to restoring trust.

The banking industry has been focusing on regaining customer confidence ever since the 2008 global financial crisis and a series of other subsequent scandals around the world, culminating in the Royal Commission in Australia.

The realisation that data is an incredibly valuable asset in financial, regulatory and reputational terms is seen as a major opportunity for a bank to become more customer-centric and to better react to the way customers evolve, he says.

“However, in order for customers to fully engage with the developing digital ecosystem and its inherent opportunities, they will need to understand and trust it.”

But this hasn’t happened so far - certainly not in the UK.

He adds: “According to a survey published by YouGov, and despite the initial hype around its launch, only 20 percent of retail bank customers had even heard of Open Banking as a concept. 

“The study further reported that just 9 percent of adults in the UK had thus far touched a piece of technology that had been enabled by Open Banking.”

But with Millenials and Gen Zs more likely to accept chatbots and other digital platforms, he recognises the need for professional bankers to understand the direction the industry is heading.

And it is that need to trust the banks are doing the right thing that is so important.

“Most importantly, banks will need to deal with the ethical and moral challenges that the new digital era and its supporting technologies produce,” he says. 

Read more from the Chartered Banker.


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