innovation in bankingInnovation in banking is required now. Retail banks can no longer assume that the growth and returns that they once enjoyed will continue. Amid a host of banking competitors – including new market entrants, forward-thinking incumbents and non-banks – banks need to differentiate themselves in ways that are not easily copied. To restore confidence and realise strong future returns, banks must set the stage now.

Here are some stories from a few (five) years ago that illustrate potential innovations in banking (thank you to IBM’s Business Value Institute for this material). Some are with us today. What do you think banking will look like 5 years from now?

Samson lives in Soweto and works at one of the big factories near Johannesburg, South Africa. With Soweto’s high crime rate, he is pleased to make small payments free of charge from his account using his mobile phone. Samson can now keep less cash in his pocket, finally making banking affordable, safer and convenient for him.

Luis, in his San Diego office, reads with interest an e-mail from his online bank that shows him how to better manage his finances. It provides a series of steps he can take to improve his credit rating over the next four months, and outlines the potential savings on his outstanding loans and credit debt.

As he walks past a new electronics megastore in Bangalore, Anil receives on his mobile wallet a credit offer to buy a flat panel television. Interestingly the offer is from a U.S.-based bank taking advantage of the booming consumer credit market in India.

Heather, at home in London, is delighted that her bank finally lets her transact across different financial products – even different institutions – through the bank’s own portal. No need to visit multiple sites to check account balances or transfer money among institutions. And, it’s easy to optimize bonus points earned through her personalized loyalty program.

All of these people share one thing: their banks were giving them useful tools that were tailored to meet their particular needs. These futuristic scenarios demonstrate how retail banks can step beyond the expected; for example, by doing more than just improving the speed of existing processes and offerings.

Today, banks are pushing the limits of organic growth, and of growth via mergers and acquisitions. Increased competition and more discerning clients around the world mean it’s more important than ever to stand out in the marketplace. So, how can retail banks differentiate themselves and continue to grow?

To distinguish themselves, banks must look beyond new product introduction and spread accountability for innovation throughout the organization. Shareholder value will be created by those that nurture the capabilities that support ongoing innovation, not just within bank walls, but also by looking outside the institution for new ideas, including partnering opportunities.

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