The WSBI Latin American and Caribbean Regional Group meeting held late last year gave us a chance to look at how the digital wave sweeping over banking can help our work around financial inclusion.
Organised on 11-12 October by our friends Caja de Ahorros de Panama, the event, called the GRULAC, brought a diverse set of panelists from Panamanian authorities, central banks and supervisory authorities from the Americas, fintechs and an expert from the Inter-American Development Bank who presented a new study on savings for development.
It was a chance for members of WSBI to dig into this year’s GRULAC theme – 21st century banking – and ask the question: What does that mean?
For WSBI members as well as the entire banking landscape, it means 24/7 banking: always on and always working. It means serving our customers better through innovation. It comes as a global phenomenon sweeps the planet – millions of people every month buying smartphones. Old technology used in banking are being swept aside by “quick touch” apps while face-to-face “high-touch” wilA world with ‘24/7 Customer Service, presence anywhere, anytime’ presents policymakers and regulators with as many challenges as it does for the banking industry. Digital financial services raise specific risk and trust factors and traditional responses may not be adequate in the “new normal”. Policymakers, regulators and supervisors worldwide have the responsibility to guarantee that all financial services providers, whatever the distribution channel they use, operate on a level playing-field, to ensure that the relevant prudential and supervisory measures are in place to guarantee the security of transactions and the soundness of the institutions involved.
They also have the responsibility to make sure that long-term trust and protection of financial customers is specifically addressed. Stakeholders, policy-makers and regulators must provide an enabling regulatory environment that boosts financial inclusion and access, also with the aid of innovation and technological solutions, rather than hampering it. Better regulation should mean proportionate regulation. The ‘one size fits all’ approach does not workl become even more important. It’s a brave new world.
Whether its bricks, clicks or flicks, we succeed in this ‘New Normal’ by learning, changing, advancing. Success is a lot easier to learn from than failure. Sharing what works among colleagues is powerful and fast. It can pay dividends on the policy and regulatory front in the markets where we serve.
At WSBI, we can do much to help this success sharing process. We support capacity building for members though a worldwide platform for knowledge sharing. That’s a main reason for WSBI meetings like GRULAC. We also share knowledge through the recently launched WSBI-ESBG Online Community. We look for ways to share the savings and retail banking story vis-à-vis international policymakers and stakeholders involved in defining the retail banking environment.
As mentioned before, technology has changed the way we look at our lives, and that includes how we pay for things, how we save and how we work with a bank. On the first point, customers expect something different, something more. Supported by rapid changes in technology, today’s consumers expect the industry to change too. Customers, especially the Millennials and an increasingly Internet-savvy public, demand more and more connectivity, convenience and the new forms of freedom their smartphone provides. Second, the rules have changed. After the crisis, the Basel provisions led to more robust rules to ensure banks have the capital to withstand turmoil that can arrive at their doorstep. We are making loads of progress on the digital front, but we need support from policymakers too.
How do we address this? Local and regional regulators should provide “access to the same financial products to all in the same way rules apply equally to all”. When fair and equitable rules are in place, our model thrives. When it thrives, our financial inclusion and access target is reached.
Policy has an important role, but we have work to do too. It is imperative that banks improve the accessibility for customers through innovation and technology.
As the WSBI Bangkok Resolution released in 2016 says, there is a pressing need to embrace digitisation, which brings us even closer to our customers while triggering breakthrough solutions in areas like payments. It should be made clear, however, that digitisation is not an end in itself and that the human factor –including the ability to promote and sustain trust in the formal financial services system – should not be pushed aside.
Now that 2017 has arrived, we must hold a mindset that values being better prepared, more demanding upon ourselves, more critical of how we do things, and well informed. WSBI provides a valuable platform to help members to do just that.
>> See the latest News & Views: January 2017
>> See WSBI-ESBG conference on innovation
>> See WSBI-ESBG position on financial inclusion