Banks are living through an "extinction phase" as they look to survive the asteroid that is digitisation and the new competitors it ushers in, warns Stephen Bird, global CEO, Citi.
Within 12 years time, 80% of financial firms will either go out of business or be rendered irrelevant by new competition, changing customer behaviour and advancements in technology, according to a forecast this week from Gartner.
Speaking at the Hong Kong Fintech Week conference, Bird offered a similarly dramatic assessment of the state of the financial landscape, insisting: "It is not an incremental thing, it's an epochal shift, more dramatic than electricity or the automobile".
However, despite the dinosaur-redolent language, Bird suggests that his bank's great age is a strength: "The benefit of being 200 years old is that we have a survival reinvention DNA and that is core to who we are."
Bird was speaking on a panel with Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Finance, Jessica Tan, COO and CIO of Ping An Group, and Benjamin Hung, regional CEO of Standard Chartered Bank.
Hung suggested that despite the digital revolution, what customers want is still the same as it has always been. “It is about how they want to manage, protect and grow their money,” he said. “What has changed is how these needs are being met in the face of the changes in technology.”
Meanwhile, Tan offered a glimpse into the power of AI to revolutionise services. “In China last year, we processed 11 million car accident claims. Of these, 98.7% were paid within a day, 60% were done with self-service, where the users submitted a picture of the incident and got the payment settled automatically.”
She added: “It took us three years and 10,000 people working on it to train machines to recognise 25 million different car parts and identify real from fraudulent claims.”
Jing, boss of arguably the biggest player to have emerged in financial services in the last decade made clear that blockchain technology is here to stay, arguing that it is revolutionary in how to provides trust and should not be ignored or associated just with cryptocurrencies.