The branch is dead, long live the branch!

My thoughts from the Future Bank Summit 2015.

Earlier this week, Carton House in Kildare played host to the Future Bank Summit where those charged with driving and understanding innovation in banking in Ireland today gathered to exchange ideas and hear from international market leaders on what they are doing to transform the industry in the years to come. Panellists and attendees came from all walks of banking, including hardcore techies and lifelong bankers (and a sneaky recruiter)

“Starting from a position of a deficit of trust”

The overriding theme from the day was that those in the banking domain have gained significant self-awareness in recent ‘quiet’ years. The knock-on effect is that it looks like things are going to change and the customer is very much top of the agenda. Throughout the day we were treated to presentations and panel discussions around the many facets of the banking world (payments, retail, lending, etc.) and how technology and customer strategy can work together. It was a treat to hear presenters from Ulster Bank, AIB and Bank of Ireland on how they are moving forwards with little discussion around the faults of others and past issues. In particular it looks like Ulster Bank are really embracing the customer agenda by appointing Maeve McMahon as Director of Customer Experience and Products. This being an ExCo level role is a real sign of how committed the bank is to delighting the customer. In Maeve we may well have the Sheryl Sandberg of the Irish banking world! Maeve replaced Jim Brown as a presenter on the day due to his recent resignation and I doubt any attendee was left disappointed.

“Banks are not welcome in shopping malls, they are seen as a traffic killer”

The biggest surprise of the day came from Slawek Koziol of mBank (Poland). Slawek presented, in great detail, the journey of mBank from its relatively recent online origins to becoming a force to be reckoned with on the high-street.  To put it simply, mBank have re-defined retail banking as we know it. As the banks in Ireland have looked to the branch network as a source of cuts and cost saving, mBank have transformed how their branch network operates successfully and profitably without cashiers and a focus on delighting the customer with its use of technology alongside traditional financial advice. Further information on mBank and their journey is available here. mBank

“Digital for us is a cultural journey”

It became apparent later in the day that AIB’s lab in Dundrum Shopping Centre processes more transactions than any other branch in its network, even though it was never designed to operate in this way. The original idea was to showcase technology and online services.

As KBC looks to further develop their hub network and Bank of Ireland likely to roll out a number of branches similar to their recently opened Grand Canal Square presence, it looks as if this is a space to watch closely. We all know the banking market is changing. It is no coincidence that Accenture have worked closely with mBank and Bank of Ireland to develop and execute their digital strategies. Whoever is brave enough to embrace this change will ultimately win the race to acquire the elusive lifelong high value customer.

“Innovation amongst peers is imitation”

It is hard also not to mention Oisin Browne of The City Bin Co. Oisin in his time with the company has made his way from ‘the bin truck to the boardroom table’. He described in detail (attendees hanging on every word) how he has leveraged Social Media channels to position his company at the forefront of not just their own market, but that of consumer brands in Ireland. He strongly urged banks to no longer measure performance within their industry but to that of the best consumer brands globally.

“Regulation is a retarding force”

As the banking world looks like it will continually see disruption as a result of technology and innovation the one fear common across the board is the impact of regulation. This is the only vaguely negative takeaway from the day. The IFS 2020 Strategy and a risk of failure as a result of onerous regulation make bankers and hackers uneasy alike.

Credit is due to iQuest for arranging such a varied panel with representatives from banking, technology, government and business which kept things lively throughout the day.

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