Banking Strategy: The Road Ahead
ABRAR UL MUSTAFA
A strategy is a plan. It is the overall aim of an organisation. It is a carefully crafted roadmap that may be followed to achieve the desired results and lead an organisation to the avenues of prosperity and profit. An avenue is a road we want to take to. It is the desired destination. The milestone we would want to cross. Careful planning is the key to reach the set avenues.
Keeping in view the ongoing banking scenario and the reasons behind the downfall of this great industry, let’s discuss new strategies in banking avenues. Let’s suggest, understand and choose novel strategic ideas.
1. Technology: Yes. Technological up-gradation is a plan that never gets out of fashion. Technology keeps changing like the weather. Any tech upgrade of last year is obsolete this season. Last year, we used to insert a debit card into a swipe machine to shop. This year we just wave our debit card over a POS machine, say hi to the equipment and the transaction is done. Needless to say that technology is the backbone of the banking system. The updated the technology, the better the banking. The strategies we form should adopt technology as one of the central elements of the strategic portfolio. Tech must be at the core of all strategic advancements. The strategists should think of any blueprint they want to put in on the lines of its technological specifications and doctrine. Test each strategy on the scale of technology.
It is important that we don’t remain reluctant to go for the concepts of Cognitive Technology. Cognitive Tech is the application of computers for doing those tasks that only a human being could do. These are the products of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Examples of AI that could be imposed in banking are Blockchain, Robotics and Process Automation. Blockchain is the process of systematically collecting data in blocks and giving it a chronological order and eventually obtaining insightful information. Blockchain is the same technological interface that lies at the spine of Cryptocurrency. Banks should wholeheartedly embrace these marvels of Cognitive Technology to usher new avenues.
2. Back to basics: Traditional banking was the best in terms of focus and specialisation. A banker had to appraise a loan applicant and lend. He had to accept people’s deposit. The difference between the interest earned and interest paid was his profit. As simple as that. The traditional banker was specialised in his business. Unfortunately, today, we have to lend, accept deposits, sell insurances, promote government schemes and what not. Today’s banker is caught between core business and these associated party products. A bank has been reduced to a departmental store where you find everything. And a banker has been reduced to a puppet in the hands of the administrators of social security products and owners of private insurance companies. It is the high time that banking be limited to core banking. Let’s do what we do best. We are masters of banking and not jacks of insurance trades. The model strategy would be to revisit our business model and revise what we are doing. We should go back to our basics and strengthen the basic pillars of our business in accordance with the current trends.
3. Collaborate to innovate: Today, the world has transformed. So has the business of banking. It is time to collaborate and develop networks. The strategy here would be to collaborate with FinTech companies, E-commerce marketplaces and so on. The idea is to make a shift from that traditional Brick-and-Mortar model to Banking as a Service (BAAS) model. Here, third-party financial and technological start-ups connect with banks. This is done with the help of technology, automatic linkages and collaboration. This model is promising as it is likely to offer personalised offers of various products to consumers. Nowadays, a number of banks in the advanced nations have adopted and collaborated with tech giants. This has been done under the concept of Logging as a Service (LAAS). To simply explain, LAAS is an IT architectural model wherein data and logs from different servers and sources are centrally ingested and analysed. In our discussion, logs and data from banks are collected and analysed so as to offer products to customers. This gives rise to a win-win situation for both tech firms and banks.
4. Open doors to Open Banking: In India, we have networked with Insurance companies. It gives us a commission. In many developed countries like the US, banks have been adopting the strategy of ’Open Banking’. It means linking with third-party service providers via Application Programme Interface (API). Here, customer’s data is shared with third-party service providers in a technical and systematic environment. This is of course done with the customer’s consent. Now what makes it different is the perfection in the identification of the customers’ needs. The data—comprising transaction pattern, account details, etc—is analysed and studied in such a way that the real product needs of a client are understood and proposed. It increases the chances of a sale. There is a spectrum of benefits in it: Customised offerings, Credit solutions, Futuristic Banking, Digital Agility, Wider client base and so on. Open Banking is the future of banking.
5. Alter to Attract: There was a time when Bank Deposits were the first choice when it came to investment. Today, the case is a complete opposite. Now, Bank FDs and RDs are the last choices. Mutual Funds and other investment options have diluted the attraction of Bank Deposits. It is the high time that we think of new strategies. Let’s alter our FDs and RDs in such a way that they provide better returns. We still enjoy the advantage of customer trust. These instruments are not risky. Let’s expand their returns by shaping the product bundle in contemporary ways. The strategy to open trending avenues is to make our deposits desirable investment druthers. Link them with the market like Mutual Funds or Gold Bonds. This, linked with the bank’s name, would make them a prefered investment choice and ensure competent returns.
6. Secure everything and everyone: Cyber Security issues, fraudulent transactions, skimming, phishing, calling scams and newest assaults have been robbing people of their hard-earned money. Cyber breaches are harsh actuality. Although, banks have been borrowing every trick in the bag to prevent it, but there has been not a hundred per cent success. It is required that cybersecurity is given all the more significance. No other strategic avenue is going to help unless and until security issue is resolved once for all.
Banking is such a vast industry. The need of the hour is to change the strategies and open new avenues. Being technically relevant, partnering with others, ensuring cybersecurity, switching to APIs, BAAS and LAAS, revisiting our core products, embracing Open Banking and making our investment options attractive, are the keys to unlock the avenues of business and prosperity.
The author is MBA, NET, IBPS. He works as Manager Scale-II in the Middle Management of a reputed PSU Bank. The views are personal