The bank of the future holds many layers of mystery and unimaginable scope for change. In some parts of the word on screen consultants already provide tailor made financial advice and voice recognition software along with fingerprint controlled touch screens to identify a customer. This kind of innovation is essential if UK banks are to move forward following recent reputational damage, including rate rigging and corruption.
At present there are all sorts of alternative spaces constructed to extend the café branch culture to the financial services industry. BNP recently opened its new concept store in Paris, in which customers can enjoy the swish interiors and chat to experts via video links all at the same time. Banking over coffee in a modern space is an attractive option.
In contrast, picture the conventional British bank, a minefield for beleaguered customers, often forced to queue up like elephants to speak to a teller sitting behind bullet proof glass. Thankfully there are signs that the customer experience is about to improve swiftly due to technological innovation.
The UK crawls behind other countries such as the USA in terms of technology, within all areas of the financial and mortgage industry. Modern techniques are gradually entering the banking industry from all different angles. Last month the Payments Council emerged, the first industry wide initiative enabling customers to move cash to friends, family and businesses as easily as sending a text message. The service is so far proving popular as numerous financial institutions, representing 90% of UK current accounts have agreed to use the service, which will result in a faster and simpler payment process for customers.
The use of pin numbers, passwords and signatures could soon be a thing of the past as the rise of biometrics will radically alter the future for bank customers. These methods are often the norm within security and government related businesses which use fingerprint, handprint and eye scans as a way of checking identity. Voice recognition technology is another smart new technique to help in the identification process, as demonstrated by Coutts bank, which already uses this method. It may not take long until personal identification numbers and signatures become obsolete.
Increasingly people are changing their shopping or banking customs due to the adoption of a smartphone. Banks and building societies that do not prioritise mobile technology will simply not progress as fast as their competitors. The use of bank branches is dropping rapidly and it is important to recognise the fact that banks have got to adapt. By 2016 mobile banking will be the first port of call for people interacting with their bank as increasingly people prefer to do their basics of banking online or on their phone.
There is no doubt human contact is still valued strongly, yet the future of banking should focus on driving knowledge towards the digital channels by means of online and mobile phone initiatives and innovations.
Paul Hunt is managing director of Phoebus Software