Hannah Wallace, head of FinextraTV, took to the stage at Sibos 2022 in Amsterdam to interview Manish Kohli, global head of global payments solutions at HSBC, about the latest payments innovations, what is impacting the financial services industry on a global scale and how banks can support the evolving needs of the customers.
Kohli looked back on the Covid-19 pandemic and highlighted that he felt proud that banks were able to continue running at the pace and scale that they did – in “contingency mode.” He added that “we all demonstrated resilience and that raised the bar of how we now define what good looks like, and that’s become a regulatory expectation.”
In 2020, resilience came before with digitisation. Kohli described this period of the most recent crisis where banks were able to “develop new business models and do them at a fairly rapid pace to keep the flow of goods and services going. That has been an irreversible trend and as I look forward into the future, I do feel that trend is only going to accelerate and more customers that continue to operate traditional business models are also looking at the successes of digitisation and are looking to emulate them.”
After resilience and digitisation, banks showed adaptability and flexibility. Wallace posed a question to Kohli about the transition from work from office to work from home and how it forced financial institutions to change multiple policies, procedures and made them digital ready in a day. Banks changed their minds about processes overnight, but the technologies that made this possible have been around for years, and in some cases, decades.
In Kohli’s view, the single most impactful technology was APIs. APIs became more than a method of communication between clients and new business models were created. “Our clients are going through a once in a generation change and we’re seeing change across existing business models and adoption of more use cases.” Alongside this, there is a renewed focus on automation and centralisation of smarter treasury models and platform companies now looking to offer financial services as an extension to their core capabilities.
The pace of innovation has led to challenges emerging, and while historically banks have been built on analogue business models and batch-based systems and dealing with high-value payments at a high volume in blocks of transactions, rather than micro-payments, Kohli believes that there is a disconnect between the pace of innovation within the industries that they serve and the pace of innovation within the banks.
“That has caused a little bit of a dislocation and we're now seeing banks collaborate and partner. If I look into the future, I'd say that while banks are going to continue to invest in building proprietary capabilities to meet the needs of the industry, I can speak for ourselves that we alone will not be able to make the right investment and at the right time. That is why we will continue to look at fintechs and partnerships in a very different way.”
Wallace highlighted that collaboration had been a common thread across the four days of Sibos, and Kohli expanded on this point, explaining that with the entrepreneurial spirit that fintech firms have is a good match for a traditional bank’s capital, capacity and history with customers. “These are not conflicting capabilities, and it is encouraging that some of the rhetoric of banks vs. fintechs have died down and it’s become more about collaboration.”
As a concluding question, Wallace asked Kohli to summarise where how banking will evolve in the near term amid economic uncertainty. “History has taught us that the relevance and the role of banks will become more and more prominent. For banks to deliver on this, we must mirror the pace of innovation of the industries we serve, especially the new economy and digital customers.”