Established banks should see disruptive technology companies as a major threat, members of the finance industry agreed this morning at an Australian Information Industry Association event in Sydney.
"When I worry about the future," said Insurance Australia Group (IAG) CTO Michael Gindy, "I worry about the Googles and Paypals and others because they have the market share and they have the attention of a younger generation more than anything else."
"The world needs banking, it doesn't need banks," said Murray Howe, Suncorp executive manager of digital strategy and innovation, quoting Bill Gates.
"From Bill Gates' perspective, it's about societal need," said Howe. "What are each of us as individuals looking for that we go to a bank to get? It isn't because we love going to banks."
Banks should fear technology companies, said Alvin Singh, co-founder of online financial management startup Pocketbook.
"If I was a banking CEO, those are the guys I'd be worried about, because they're the guys who are the newcomers and the disruptors."
Technology companies are usually started by engineers and may have a greater focus than banks on user experience, Singh said.
"The reason why an engineer builds something is because they want to see people use it," he said. "If you look at why banks are around, they're just there to make money."
"If you've got the hearts and minds of the users, that's everything."
Tyro Payments CTO Andrew Rothwell said that while it's difficult to predict which companies will survive the next five years, he believes the company that builds a product providing "the ultimate consumer engagement experience will win."
Gindy warned that holding onto legacy technology and old views of customers could spell doom for established institutions.
"How do you get rid of that technology debt and be fit for tomorrow?" he asked. "There's an investment required--there's no doubt about that. There's a vision required and there's some courage required to stay the path."
Older institutions must also realise that their customers' values are changing, Gindy said. The new generation of bank customers place the most value in convenience and personally customised services, he said.
"They opt in and share information in a way we don't normally share. Privacy is not their [highest] concern."
Suncorp's Howe said that "the bank of the future in 10 years' time is going to be the one that is able to truly unlock the value of data in a way that is meaningfully different and give a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace."
But changing the ways of an institution as old as Suncorp can be a major challenge, he said. Suncorp, like other major financial companies, runs as "a performance engine" that is "designed to perform, to weed out irregularities, to weed out uncertainty."
However, he said "that's exactly the kind of thing you need to discover unmet need."
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