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Which bank of the future are you?

BNP Paribas said on Tuesday it wanted to be the ‘bank of the future’; it probably won’t be the last to do so, but it is certainly very far from being the first.

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The new 2017-2020 strategic plan for BNP Paribas proudly declares that it will build “the bank of the future”. In fairness, this isn’t the first time that BNPP has tried to pitch itself in this way, given that it has covered itself for a while now with the slogan “The bank for a changing world”, which is sort of the same thing.


But here’s a quick online tour to illustrate the startling ubiquity of the concept of the “bank of the future”. Catch them while you can, before any assiduous communications team decides that the occasional page deserves a change, or deletion.

For some banks, it’s partly about the buildings. BBVA handed the job of designing “the bank of the future” over to Continuum, which describes itself as a global innovation design firm. National Australia Bank was, remarkably, doing something similar as far back as 2006, with its “bank of the future” branch project. Deutsche Bank has done its own revamp of branches, with its “Deutsche Bank of the future” (see what they did there?).


For others, it’s about the staff. A glossy video from ABN Amro looks to woo potential IT employees with the exciting chance to “build the bank of the future”, while UniCredit Bulbank somewhat over-excitedly calls on graduates to “Join the Bank of the Future!” Credit Suisse notes more soberly a similar ambition, saying its aim is to build “the bank of the future”. RBC CEO Dave McKay got physical with his imagery in 2015, saying it wasn’t possible to build “the bank of the future” without people pushing and prodding each other.

UBS wants to find "tomorrow’s bankers", which must make a pleasant change from getting rid of today’s. It proclaimed that building “the bank of the future” was just as much about the franchise as it was about products and processes. For Citi’s Stephen Bird, the 2015 broadening of the role of retail bank head Jonathan Larsen was all about “designing the bank of the future”. Larsen left the bank at the end of 2016 – perhaps the future had already happened by then.

BNPP has some competition for future-proofed banking from compatriot Société Générale. Chairman and CEO Frédéric Oudéa has trumpeted the bank’s ability “to prepare the bank of the future”. In 2011, Swedbank concluded that “the bank of the future will be different”. ING’s investor day in 2012 was devoted to “Building the Bank of the Future”, which it said was about growing the franchise without growing the balance sheet.


Sometimes events overtake the future. Barclays’ “One Africa” strategy statement says it is “planning for the bank of the future”. For Barclays, that future now involves exiting Africa.

The consultancies are, inevitably, fully paid-up promoters of the meme. The mighty McKinsey trumpeted the opportunities from digitization for “the bank of the future” a few years back. One of Bain & Co’s Insights told executives all they needed to know about building “the retail bank of the future” in 2014.

Oliver Wyman has its own Insights, and in November 2016 they included how open-data environments are putting pressure on “the bank of the future”. Tata Consultancy Services has written a white paper called “Bank of the Future”, detailing the obsolescence of existing models. Not to be outdone, KPMG reckoned last year that EVA, an e-personal assistant, might be the face of “the bank of the future”.


And so it goes on… and on. Accenture thinks there are three steps to “building the bank of the future”: fresh eyes, understanding needs and being willing to change. Others pick niches. PwC made “the central bank of the future” the subject of its Project Blue. EY tacked towards capital markets, with its talk last year of a bright future for those brave enough to build “the investment bank of the future”. CGI has a “vision paper” on building “the transaction bank of the future”.

Deloitte opted for an unsettlingly apocalyptic but reassuringly jargon-based approach to the topic, with its call for folk to “surf on the tsunami of disruption and get ready for the new paradigm” when building the “bank of the future”.


What about the World Economic Forum, you are no doubt wondering. Fortunately, the idea has not escaped the notice of that august organization either, with a handy analysis in 2016 on “What will the bank of the future look like?” And anyone burning to know just what that future might look like in Belgium need not worry: Belgian banking industry group Febelfin has a white paper on that, called “The bank of the future”.

The techies are all over the bank of the future of course, and rivalling the consultants for variety. Samsung has a “bank of the future” finance solution that helps banks transform their branches into omnichannel advice centres. Microsoft last year posted a “look to the bank of the future” that argued that while this future might seem far away, it isn’t.


A year earlier, Dell published its white paper on “The Digital Bank of the Future”, focused on maximizing customer engagement, while Oracle picked a not dissimilar title for its guide to building “The Digital Bank of the Future” as it touted its digital banking platform. Hewlett Packard and Polaris wrote their own white paper on “Bank of the Future” for an Australian audience in July 2013.

The future has been around for a while now: visionary Citicorp chairman Walter Wriston was telling people in the 1970s that he had seen the future of banking, “and it’s called Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith.”

But when is the future? It seems a simple enough question – whenever now is, one assumes the future is not yet. Not according to Westpac, which declared that “the bank of the future is now”. The webpage is undated, which seems appropriate. “Who knows what the Bank of the Future will look like in 2017?” the bank asks.

Who indeed?


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