The Business Times

Banks Must Make Tough Choices Now

Banks Must Make Tough Choices Now

In order to succeed in the digital age, banks will have to make tough choices about what type of bank they want to become.

  • min read


Banks Must Make Tough Choices Now

This article originally appeared on The Business Times (subscription required).

Eight years after the financial crisis, retail banks are still struggling to function as thriving, profitable businesses with clear, focused strategies. Most are a long way from achieving the return-on-equity levels they produced prior to the crisis. On top of the macro challenges— tougher regulations, near-zero interest rates, and persistently sluggish economic growth—they must figure out what to do about a whole new class of competitors: fintech upstarts brandishing an array of disruptive technologies.

Many retail banks have chosen to fend off these new rivals by taking an "all of the above" approach to strategy. They're building digital platforms in their core businesses and setting up separate units, sometimes creating niche payment apps, for example, that could be years away from consumer adoption. At the same time, banks are taking stakes in a wide range of fintech companies, hoping to back potential winners.

Having such a diverse set of activities means that banks are not making necessary strategic trade-offs. Also, by worrying about fintechs, banks may be taking their eyes off a larger threat: major technology firms, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. These companies have begun to provide bank-like services to their massive networks of users, with platforms such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Amazon Lending. The speed at which this trend continues will depend, in part, on what national regulators allow.

Read the full article at The Business Times.

Joe Fielding and Seow-Chien Chew are partners with Bain & Company. They are based, respectively, in New York and Singapore.


Ready to talk?

We work with ambitious leaders who want to define the future, not hide from it. Together, we achieve extraordinary outcomes.