The competitive threat posed by companies like Apple, Google and Amazon is potentially as great as that of the traditional players in the banking market, says ASB CEO Barbara Chapman, as banks face the same disruptive forces that have already radically altered traditional business models in industries like media, publishing and retail.
Speaking at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle event, Chapman says that new entrants to banking have the potential to redefine the payments space as consumers abandon traditional credit and debit cards, and interact in new digitally-enabled ways.
"While it may be unlikely that we'll see a full-service Apple or Google Bank, at least in the near future, these and other big technology companies have deep pockets and a desire to diversify into new markets," says Chapman. "They have the resources, the technology, and can build or buy the capacity to spearhead into financial services."
She says banks must face up to the prospect that a technology-based upheaval similar to that which has redefined the publishing and music industries is a likely outcome for financial services - and plan accordingly.
In September, ASB opened a branch-based 'Innovation Lab' to experiment with the future of banking with its customers. The Lab trials different technologies and hardware prototypes developed by ASB, including gesture-based, interactive 103-inch plasma screens operated by Microsoft Kinect motion sensors, and a new generation of touch-enabled ATMs with the potential to merge traditionally separate ATM, Internet, and teller-based platforms.
Chapman says that only two per cent of ASB customer transactions are now performed in a bank branch, as customers increasingly conduct their finances from PCs, tablets and mobile phones.
"If I had to name the one area that will continue to have the most fundamental impact on the banking business model, it's the shift to 24 hour connectivity and banking via mobile devices," she says. "What used to be done in a bank branch is now being carried in customers' pockets."
At ASB, mobile banking is growing at four times the rate that Internet banking did at the early stages of its lifecycle.
"Earlier this year we passed a significant milestone with the number of customers doing their banking through a mobile device overtaking the number of people using traditional Internet banking," says Chapman. "And this occurred just over two years from the launch of our first dedicated mobile app."
Chapman says that customer experience is new benchmark by which the relevance of banks will be measured in the future.
"As a bank, our customers are comparing their experiences with us to some very innovative, customer-focused organisations like Spotify and Air New Zealand who offer world-class customer experiences," she says. "These companies are providing brand experiences that people genuinely love and they are the new benchmarks against which we must compare ourselves.
"We can't shy away from this and we are placing an enormous amount of effort and resources into ensuring that customers have positive and seamless experiences, no matter how they choose to engage with us."