banking sector has been radically affected by technological
change, especially automation, to the extent that the industry
is nearly unrecognisable compared to twenty years ago. People
are beginning to ask themselves, "What is a bank?"
are now far more likely to transact business using a cashpoint
machine than facing a teller across the counter. Speed, efficiency
and convenience seem to be the key factors in retail banking
these days. As competition between banks increases, the ability
to provide new and more flexible products and services distinguishes
winners from losers in the market. Banking by telephone is
set to become the norm for most personal clients within the
next decade; the customer need never enter his or her local
there is a price to be paid for these changes. Thousands of
jobs have been lost in the banking sector, and more are likely
to go. The image of banking has become tarnished; along with
many complaints about impersonal service and computer error,
many people dislike the more obvious sales role of banking
staff. So, have banks allowed themselves to be seduced too
quickly by the promise of technology? Or, do we customers
expect too much of our bank these days? Do we need to change
our thinking and accustom ourselves to a different view of
what banks can and cannot do?
Another issue in banking is the question of globalization.
It is not so many years ago that the term "global player"
was on the lips of bankers in many countries across Europe,
a proud boast in the faces of less adventurous provincial
rivals. European banks made expensive purchases in the United
States and elsewhere, some more successful than others. Cultural
differences and ill-considered strategies have since shown
that there is more to the process than simply putting a logo
on a letterhead. While it is certainly true that banks need
to follow their customers and to be present in emerging markets,
some have felt that they would prefer to be national banks
with an international presence, rather than truly multinational
where does banking go from here? The industry is changing
so rapidly that it would need a brave man to answer that question
with any degree of confidence. Two things are, however, certain.
Firstly, the information revolution that is taking place in
all sectors of the industry will continue to have far-reaching
effects within financial institutions. Secondly, as a result
of those changes, a bank of the twenty-first century will
bear little resemblance to its historical forebears founded
six hundred years ago.
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