Inside European banking’s great digital experiment
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Inside European banking’s great digital experiment

Bank chief executives in Europe are increasingly obsessed with their new or rebooted digital arms. These businesses promise to fend off new competitors and capture a next generation of clients, while piloting front- and back-office innovations. They could even offer the best chance of expanding in the eurozone, making banking union a reality. But will these investments merely play into the hands of the new rivals and hasten the banks’ decline?


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The rapid death of the high street is the latest manifestation of disruption from digital providers in consumer industries. Traditional banking brands, until recently, have appeared better protected than retailers. No online challengers have achieved real scale. The big banks themselves have either bought or launched most of the more successful products. 

But just as supermarkets are still grappling with the idea of launching their own internet challengers, are the conditions now right for banks’ digital offshoots to really take off? 

Benoît Legrand, ING’s chief innovation officer, talks in Copernican terms about the wider shift from branches to mobiles and laptops, and the greater freedom of choice that follows. 

“Banks were thinking that they were the centre of the universe and customers revolved around them,” he says. “Now the power is shifting from the institution to the customer.”

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