December 5, 2020

Why the Smart Money’s On Smart Banking

The Changing
State of Play

The banking industry around the world, particularly in Western countries, has long been seen as traditionally conservative, resistant to change —and rightly so. And even though online banking has been increasing in popularity over recent years, it has taken a pandemic to reshape the industry. With many bank branches around the world forced to close for a large part of 2020, there has been a sharp, swift switch to mobile operations.

However, for several years now, it has been fintech-based enterprises — particularly in China, home to the likes of Ant Financial, the operator of the hugely influential Alipay — that have taken the lead in terms of financial innovation, far too easily managing to draw customers away from traditional banks by offering attractive and highly convenient, mobile-based wealth management and payment services.

Such companies seem certain to have a long-term impact on the industry as a whole. How traditional banks react to them has always been the crux of the matter. Now, the impact of COVID-19 is forcing their hand, accelerating the digitalization of the finance industry worldwide.

Smarter Banking

In China’s financial services industry, smart
banking has developed rapidly. With the highest rate of ecommerce penetration in
the world, the nation offers some of the most fertile soil for mobile payment
platforms. As such, there is much for a global audience to learn from the
Chinese experience.

Huawei has played an important role in supporting
the digital transformation of banking and finance. As a key provider of the 5G
technology
that enables efficient online operations — offering low latency,
far faster speeds, improved connectivity, and broader coverage — Huawei has
enabled the industry is poised to unlock the power of big data through
intelligence, to provide more services to customers, bringing them a level of convenience
never before seen.

In the intelligent finance arena, for
example, we’ve deployed an all-flash
storage solution
with Greece’s Piraeus Bank to support the ‘reboot’ of the
Greek economy. The Bank of China is using a HUAWEI CLOUD platform to
boost smart financial services, and Huawei is helping Ghana Commercial Bank
implement its mobile money strategy.

Indeed, in developing countries such as Ghana and Kenya, the digital transformation process is already well underway. Just as with the rapid penetration of cellphone use, compared with fixed lines, these countries have essentially skipped an evolutionary step: There were very few physical bank branches to begin with, and many citizens were already unable to access banking services. Instead of building physical banking infrastructure in bricks and mortar, Kenya simply shifted toward a model relying on online transactions and services instead. This phenomenon is explored more closely by in an ICT Insights article by Brett King, renowned thought leader, co-founder and CEO of mobile financial service provider Moven, and author of the critically-acclaimed book Bank 4.0.

How We’re Creating New Value

For both banks and fintech enterprises, the
intelligent era creates a wealth — pun intended — of new opportunities as well
as inevitable challenges. As in many other domains, data will
shape the future of the finance industry. The massive amounts of data that
banks and financial institutions will be able to amass — and use smartly — will
allow them to provide highly personalized services that accurately meet an
individual customer’s unique needs.

Data
analytics is also an effective way to detect and prevent fraud, leading to
improved security and rebuilding the trust in banks and financial institutions that
has eroded since the financial crisis of 2008.

With
so many services shifted online, we arrive at an inevitable, final question: What
will become of physical bank branches in the post-pandemic period? Certainly
the closure of branches enforced by social distancing measures, along with
growing familiarity with online applications and processes, will lead to many
customers adopting new habits.

Does
that then mean the end of bank branches? Not necessarily. But branches will have
to become smart and focus on the key areas — such as opening accounts, servicing
VIP customers, and providing
specialized services — where they will count, supported by a platform that
combines Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, and cloud.

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