News & Views - Savantor

The changing landscape of retail banking

Thursday, 31 July 2008

The world of retail banking seems a gloomy place at the moment. With large losses dominating the headlines, Barclays cutting contractor rates, fraud increasing alarmingly, contactless cards seemingly drifting off into the distance and recession on the horizon there are enough challenges to exercise the mind without Tesco leading a charge of supermarkets into the banking arena. At the moment Tesco seems to be the only supermarket making waves but if they are successful then the other players are unlikely to be far behind. However, although they have the advantage of no legacy systems it may not be easy for a non core player to run a full retail bank including deposit, lending and payment services with all the variations necessary with the cost efficiency an established major player can do. It will be interesting to see how a retailer managed bank will succeed and how customers will view performing branch banking in a supermarket.

Retail banking is changing rapidly and it seems that non banks are increasingly showing a lead. Another little niggle is the increase in online shopping and the way that companies like Amazon, Google and PayPal are gaining ground on the banks. Earlier this year PayPal started to offer advanced payment facilities linked to users’ online accounts. Consumers are finding traditional methods of payment increasingly unnecessary online when all they need to do is tap a password into PayPal and buy right away

Banks are often not comfortable at the leading edge of technology, indeed several have a stated policy of being a ‘fast follower’ and that maybe where the banks find themselves being pushed in the next few years. This may not necessarily be a problem as long as they have operational processes and IT infrastructures capable of rapid response to market changes - and achieving that may be the biggest challenge they have to face.

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