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Adapt or Die – Can Banks Survive the Coming Platform Revolution?

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The global banking sector is teetering on the edge of a profound transformation. Traditional benchmarks for banks are at their lowest point in history, with the sector’s value compared to other industries plummeting. This disparity isn’t just about present profitability; it’s a reflection of the uncertainty that surrounds future profit growth.

Despite recent efforts at improvement, banks are grappling with shrinking profit margins. Over the last 15 years, these margins have diminished by more than a quarter, and the outlook suggests another sharp decline—20 percent—in the coming decade. Alongside these challenges, there’s a pervasive sense of unease about the impact of regulation and increasing competition from various sectors.

Yet, the most formidable threat looming over the horizon is a global trend—a wave of new challenges emerging from diverse industries, each leveraging cross-industry platforms similar to those powering giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, and Spotify. These challengers boast economic models that outclass traditional banks, causing the market to question the sector’s ability to adapt.

Redefining Banking

The retreat of the universal-bank model has already begun, driven by economic forces and technology. Investors increasingly favor radical specialization over the traditional one-stop-shop approach. The banks of the future will find their strength in fragmentation, breaking up into four specialized platforms, each designed to cater to distinct customer needs. This restructuring will endow banks with a structural advantage in the evolving landscape.

Competitive Arenas and Business Models

In the emerging banking epoch, five cross-industry competitive arenas will shape the future: everyday banking, investment advisory, complex financing, mass wholesale intermediation, and banking as a service (BaaS). These arenas encompass the spectrum of services offered by banks today, but they will undergo profound redefinition to align with evolving customer demands. These transformations hold immense potential, with projected revenue growth ranging from three to 30 times in the next decade.

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Everyday Banking

This arena encompasses the gamut of day-to-day financial services, from traditional banking products like checking and savings accounts to credit cards, personal loans, and payment processing. Additionally, it includes e-commerce ecosystems, loyalty programs, discounts, advertising, and peer-to-peer marketplaces, reshaping banking into a seamless and even enjoyable experience. SMEs will gain access to financial management tools within this arena.

Navigating Uncertainty

While the contours of banking’s future are emerging, they are not without uncertainty. The regulation and technological advancements surrounding digital currencies and data remain unpredictable variables. These factors could redefine the competitive landscape, with data potentially transitioning from a highly regulated, controlled asset to a more accessible public utility.

Multilocal Banking

Banking operates in a “multilocal” fashion, shaped by regional variations in regulation, culture, and customer expectations. The landscape’s evolution will differ significantly from one region to another, influenced by these local factors. As a result, banking’s future will not be uniform across the globe.

The Path Forward

Successful banks of the future will be defined by their ability to function as networks of platforms. While not every bank will capture all ten platform opportunities outlined, many will participate in multiple platforms. To embark on this transformative journey, banks must identify the arenas and business models that align with their strengths, align organizational resources for forthcoming shifts, develop and test platform business models, redefine their purpose to encompass environmental, social, and governance impact, and cultivate an entrepreneurial culture, protecting experimental projects from conservative pressures.

The banking sector is poised for profound transformation, a metamorphosis that promises not just survival but prosperity for those who navigate it adeptly. The future of banking will be an interconnected web of platforms, shaping a new era of customer-centric financial services. As this evolution unfolds, customers, employees, shareholders, and regulators stand to benefit from an elevated quality of financial services, marking a promising era for all stakeholders in the world of finance.

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