Hello, and thank you for stopping by to read my blog. I hope you, your friends and family are safe and keeping well. The world today is a victim of social distancing; despite these circumstances I’m fortunate in that I regularly engage with executives at our clients, especially in the banking industry.

We are witnessing a defining moment in this industry.

The questions with which we almost always begin any conversation are: what will the extent be of the impact of the pandemic? Is the worst still to come?

What will be the shape of the recovery curve? Will it be a V shape, a U shape, a W or even and L shape? When will we hit rock bottom?

Of course, these questions don’t have easy answers. But I think this is a defining moment, because despite the uncertainty some senior execs are beginning to create certainty for themselves.

We can take a clue from the damage that the pandemic has already done in the last quarter, and we can start to make some decisions. We know and acknowledge that the road to recovery is not short – it will take a few quarters if we are lucky but could very well stretch to a few years.

By thinking like this, the executives are creating certainty. They are looking reality in the face and starting to work with what they see in front of them.

My colleague Alan McIntyre puts it quite pragmatically. He says that today all banks wish …

  • They were more digital;
  • They were more data driven;
  • They had a truly variable cost structure;
  • Their end-to-end digital sales were more secure;
  • They were using more automation than people;
  • And they weren’t buried under legacy IT debt.

So how you feel about this wishlist? When I talk to my banking customers, it really resonates with them. Now that banks are coming to terms with the new normal, they are realising that this wishlist can become a To Do list instead.

An even more powerful question to ask is: when the recovery comes, what will the banks wish they had done?

As one of the executives I spoke to said: “ We say we are customer-centric. In times like this we wish we could stop worrying about the quarterly results and focus more on what our customers really need. And when this is over, we can look back and be proud that we were true to our purpose.”

That’s why I think this is a defining moment for banking. The differentiator is not whether banks start using automation or launch new products in the market etc. The differentiator will be the ability to be “human-centric”, to empathise with clients, be responsive to their needs, and make it easy for them to consume the bank’s services. So that when this is all over, it’s not a case of banks wishing …

  • They had struck the right balance between long-term relationships and short-term imperatives;
  • They had changed their mindset to win-win rather than the ‘gotcha’ approach of selling customers more products;
  • They had got creative about building financial bridges across the crisis.

Alan McIntyre has co-authored some really fascinating research around this subject. You can find it here.

What do you think of the conversations I’ve been having? Do you think we’re missing something? I’m always interested in hearing other perspectives. You can reach me at jigyasa.a.singh@accenture.com