In banking's brave new world, nothing is really new. However, it is better.

Working on a variety of technology conferences has been interesting this year as the themes and topics jumped out at me: information leverage through Big Data analytics, personal finance management (PFM), social media, mobile and tablet computing, cloud computing, biometric security, agility to adapt to regulations and such like – all the things that are regularly discussed in technology conferences across the industry.

As I went through these details the organisers asked: “Aren’t these all the same things we spoke about last year?” We then took out last year’s agenda and sure enough, everything was pretty much the outline given above. Then I realised that most of this type of technology has been discussed for the past five, 10 or even 20 years in some way or other.

The same but different

You may not think so, but Big Data was the dialogue of teradata in the 1990s; mobile WAP (wireless application protocol) was being debated in the 1990s; internet banking with easy use was being discussed in the 1990s; biometric authentication was all the rage in the 1990s; and so on. The difference is that these things have matured today, so that they are far easier to deploy into mainstream banking.

The consumer can now create and program their own bank profiles using widgets and apps that in the 1990s we called object-based architecture and component-based systems. In other words, we are just seeing evolutions of basic architectures becoming increasingly simplified through the generations.

That is why many say that cloud computing is just mainframe-based systems provided over the internet. It is not anything new, it is just better. Put it that way and you can see a lot of things that are not new, but are simply better. For example, microwave cooking is not new, it is just a faster way of cooking. HD TV is not new, it is just a better way of watching TV.

Customer control

So the real point is that there is not necessarily a radical newness to the things we see in banking today – PFM, social media, mobile and tablet computing, cloud computing, biometric security – but what we see is a radical evolution of how these come together into the hands of customers. The customer is now far more in control of these capabilities, as the technology becomes simpler to operate, manage and deploy.

And as the customer is in control, it turns the relationship between the bank and the customer on its head. Whereas banks used to think about how to control channels, restrict data distribution, and secure processes, the evolution of technology has meant that there is no control, restriction or security anymore. 

Device explosion and ubiquity of access mean that the evolutionary process has left many financial institutions struggling to keep up with change. But they are, they do and they will. It is just harder to do today than it used to be, as change evolves so much more rapidly than it ever did before.


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