Pedigrees, some stretching back centuries, are of little use to global banks unless they aggressively adapt to new financial technologies.
That’s long been true, but the pace of innovation means financial juggernauts now face what one top executive likened to a mass extinction event.
A revolution in financial technology — often shortened to fintech — has propelled an explosion of new entrants who are shaking up the sector. Established giants, for their part, are fighting to adapt, emphasizing that technology may be changing fast but banking fundamentals are not.
Stephen Bird, CEO for global consumer banking at Citi, said the current changes may be happening on an unprecedented scale, but his bank — established in 1812 — is set to make the transition.
“The benefit of being 200 years old is that we have a survival reinvention DNA and that is core to who we are,” Bird said during a panel discussion Wednesday at the annual Hong Kong FinTech Week conference.
“We think of it as we are living through an extinction phase,” Bird said. “It is not an incremental thing, it’s an epochal shift.”
Given the explosion in new financial players, he said, established banks will need a “tense and deep re-engineering” of processes to enhance speed, convenience and trust and get at what is most important: the customer.
Bird said Citi in the United States, for example, has gained an edge by developing new ways of doing things by actively listening to its customers through “co-creation.” Citi had 20,000 such sessions, which Bird credited with helping Citi achieve what he described as the most rapidly growing mobile base in North America.