For many of us going to a branch office to pay bills, make deposits, even apply for a loan, has evolved over the years. There’s no denying that there has been a sea-change in financial services in the Caribbean region, one that has given us the ease and security of accessing online services in mere minutes from anywhere in the world. Many millennials have never seen, far less written a cheque, while fewer of us tend to carry cash. Online banking has become a vital part of our daily lives.
Now more than ever, with the onset of Covid-19, and the necessary move to mitigation, including social distancing has led to increasing demand by customers worldwide for online banking. Over the past few months, self-isolation has led to more of us purchasing groceries and paying bills online, while juggling working from home and in many cases overseeing online-schooling for our children. It’s been a clarion call for modern e-living.
Those financial institutions who were ahead of the curve have had to become even more innovative to meet customer demand in a short time frame. But change is in our DNA, so for many that jump has been welcomed, almost intuitive. A few years ago, in 2016, the launch of the Republic Bank Mobile App brought even more financial options to customers, including enhanced access, security and efficiency, with interbank transfers being just one of the many e-services. We have been able to offer Omnichannel banking, access to real time services through several channels whether via an ATM, call center or mobile app. Over the past few months, we launched a Covid-19 information center, accessible on our website, understanding that communicating effectively is a priority for all organizations now more than ever.
Future of Banking
But what is the future of banking? Will brick-and-mortar offices disappear?
In 2016, fintech start-ups were growing rapidly, providing only digitized services, in some cases, legacy banks cannibalized their customer base in a move towards being solely digital. Is this the new normal, the face of banking in the 21st century? For decades, global financial institutions have been embracing change, digitizing data, converting any currently manual or paper-based material into an online format. However, according to Simon Paris, CEO of Finastra, “digitalizing is a whole new way of thinking”. It’s a revolutionary step forward that will ensure offerings that are expeditious, secure and efficient. But change cannot occur in a vacuum; the reality is that legislation has to keep pace. In the European Union, for instance, Open Banking has led to the development of Second Payment Services Directive, among others, underscoring that a national or regional approach must be inclusive, holistic and strategic. Traditional, legacy banks tend to have a wider offering of services than fintechs, ensuring that loyal customers continue to benefit from personalized professional relationships that have been built over the years. For Republic Bank, developing that one-on-one relationship with customers across the country and the Caribbean is at the heart of our bank.
Demand for innovation
We are a blend of digital and legacy, because we live in a country and region where diversity abounds, not just culturally but geographically, socio-economically, even in terms of access to internet services. However, recognizing the demand for innovative services in a highly competitive arena, ensures that banks across the globe will continue to drive technology and inevitably, change to suit.