Why do seasoned private bankers not understand the Blockchain? It’s in their DNA, stupid!

Seasoned private bankers often do not grasp the idea of the Blockchain. It was not until I understood that I was using the wrong vocabulary that I could convey what the Blockchain was all about.

Have you even tried to explain the Blockchain concept to a seasoned private banker? Have you tried to describe the notion of a distributed ledger to this type of auditorium? And have you experienced the same result as I have over and over again: have you, too, just banged your head against a brick wall? I pondered the question why it was so much harder to explicate the concept to alleged banking experts than to first-year business students.

Use the right vocabulary

After numerous futile explanation attempts, it dawned on me. I was using the wrong vocabulary. Using the word ledger is counterproductive to the cause. When talking about a ledger, the traditional banker immediately translates that term into “bankbook” and that is the book in which the bank keeps all records of all customers adding and taking money from their bank accounts. It is thus the holy grail of private banking. Distributing the holy grail is inconceivable to many a private banker.

At that point it then hardly matters if you continue to explain that the users of the Blockchain are typically anonymized. It is almost futile to further explicate that, for instance, Bitcoin accounts are not tied to the identity of users and that anyone can create new and completely random Bitcoin accounts at any time, without the need to submit any personal information to any party. You have lost them already. Hence, what I found helpful in this situation is to refrain from using the term “ledger” altogether. Instead I call it distributed data base or distributed accounting system.

Give them a hands-on example

A friend of mine and design thinking pioneer, Michael Lewrick recently recommended me to do a hands-on exercise in particularly tough cases. Individually assign a random yet different number to every one of the ten bankers that are sitting in a room with you and have each of them note down their number and favourite colour on a separate sheet of paper. Have them pass on the paper to another participant and everyone repeats the exercise. Do so altogether ten times. In the end, everyone holds a list of 10 numbers and favourite colours in their hands. At this stage you can ask a) “What is Bob’s favourite colour?” – the others shouldn’t be able to tell as Bob’s identity has been anonymized. Yet you can also ask Bob, whether the correct colour is listed on his sheet – which should clearly be the case. And b) you can ask someone to now commit a “fraud”, i.e. to change the favourite colour of one participant – which should be nearly impossible unless the tasked fraudster does so on ten sheets of paper with the nine remaining group members agreeing. This exercise nicely explains some of the key features of the Blockchain and monies based thereon.

It’s worth trying

These two measures combined, using audience specific language and a hands-on exercise should therefore do the job. It certainly deserves a try. The Blockchain concept is too important as we could afford leaving private bankers behind. Happy explaining!

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

The IBank

The personal balance sheet
The personal balance sheet

The number and diversity of Fintech offerings is soaring. As banking clients increasingly often enjoy not only a better user experience, but also cheaper rates at Fintech firms, their willingness to be locked-in with one or two universal banks diminishes. Henceforth clients will gradually assemble their own individual “banks”, comprising a range of offerings from different Fintech companies. Those firms which will be able to provide an overarching structure to seamlessly wrap the multitude of Fintech offerings will experience their heydays.

Modern production technology allows what would have been inconceivable only a few decades ago. If we want, we can have products of mass production tailored to our needs nowadays. Dell made only the beginning when first assembling PCs to our requests on a large scale. Today we order our tailored sneakers at Nike ID, wear a unique t-shirt from Spreadshirt and eat M&M’s sporting our very own initials. Yet, the trend of mass customization did not stop in the manufacturing sector. We can already observe its ramifications in the financial services industry where Robo-Advisors offer retail customers to tailor their client portfolios. But this is not the end point of the evolution. It is the mere beginning which will eventually lead to tailored banks.

The personal balance sheet

Like it or not, every single one of us carries his or her own very personal balance sheet: On the asset side, we have liquid asset positions such as the cash that we have in our wallets, the money on our current accounts, our savings accounts or money market instruments. Our personal investments may comprise medium term notes, bonds, stocks, mutual funds, pension savings and/or alternative Investments. Finally, we may possess highly illiquid real estate investments such as our primary residences, vacation homes or even property that we rent out.

On the liability side we may also have a variety of items. Current liabilities may include unpaid bills, credit card balances, taxes due, installment loans due in the short run, consumer loans, car loans, student loans, mortgages due within one year etc. Non-current liabilities may include any consumer, car or student loan that is due after one year. Last but not least, we may have mortgage debt for our primary residence and/or vacation homes and/or rental property.

Hence, as individual as we are as human beings, as individual are our personal balance sheets. Yet, what we do have in common is that we willingly or unwillingly manage these balance sheets. We carry out treasury functions on our personal balance sheets by paying bills and installments, transferring money from one account to another, by investing in shares or by redeeming mutual funds etc.

The Fintech Alternative

So far many consumers in the western world have ties to one or two banks, oftentimes universal banks, that cater to all of the needs resulting from these treasury transactions. Yet, the service offerings of universal banks are increasingly rivaled by Fintech firms that offer a narrow, yet highly specialized service or product.

If you have a little cash to spare, Fintech firms such as Creditgate24, LendingClub or Crowdcube, have offerings for optimizing liquid assets. To manage longer term investments one can turn to providers such Wealthfront, Moneyfarm, Nutmeg, Addepar etc. On the liability side, too, there is a vast array of Fintech companies jockeying for position. Current and medium term liabilities may be optimized by using Affirm, Borro, Lendable, Prosper etc.

In order to transfer money from one provider or account to another the consumer can chose among dozens of payment providers such as TransferWise, LiquidPay, Paypal and the likes. For trading purposes the client may want to turn to eToro or Robinhood. Even donating money becomes easier and less burdensome with Fintech providers such as Elefunds.

These new type of financial services providers that found their niches on specific links of the value chains of universal banks typically not only promise their clients a better user experience, but also lower costs. What is thus foreseeable for the near future is that clients will no longer accept to be locked-in with one or two banks, but that they will make use of a range of financial service providers. Eventually every user will assemble his or her very own bank, the IBank* as I call it.

Assembling the IBank

The IBank will comprise a selection of services provided by specific Fintech companies handpicked by the individual client. This can happen dynamically and on an ad-hoc basis or on a more permanent base. The client – or an overlaying algorithm for that matter – may decide on a case-by-case basis which payment service would be optimal for a specific transfer. On a more longer term basis one mortgage provider may be chosen until the renewal of the mortgage is due.

What is important to note, however, is that clients will make use of tailored “banks” which may be as personal as their individual balance sheet. The challenge and opportunity in this future banking world will be to provide the glue that seamlessly keeps together these services provided by different providers. Those providers who manage to assemble and maintain an overarching structure that smoothly integrates the multitude of service offering of Fintech providers will have a bright future in finance services world which is being ever more atomized.

*IBank like “I bank” – not to be mistaken with the iBank offerings by Barclays, The Bank of Georgia, Fransabank, BCU and so on.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

Wenn Manager erkennen «Ich kann nicht mehr»

Jobangst, Digitalisierung, politische Umwälzungen: Das abgelaufene Jahr war heftig. Die Erschöpfung ist gross – auch bei Topmanagern. Was ihnen zu schaffen macht und wo sie Hilfe finden.

Ein Auszug aus dem Text:

Volltext: hier

Do you work for a bank in decline? Four criteria to check

Back to the Future 1985, (c) Universal Pictures
Back to the Future 1985, (c) Universal Pictures

In 1984, one year before the sci-fi classic “Back to the Future” was released, the professors Danny Miller and Peter Friesen from McGill University in Montreal published a seminal paper on corporate life cycles. Both works contained clairvoyant features for the future.

Building on an empirical sample of firms the paper titled “A longitudinal study of the corporate life cycle” describes how companies can be classified into five life cycles from birth to decline. The authors applied five dimensions to accomplish this task: strategy, structure, environment and decision making style.

Fast forward 30 years. The year 2015 which was vividly described in “Back to the Future Part II” has just passed and an entire economic sector, namely the banking industry, appears to be in the doldrums. Many banks seem to be in decline.

Do you work for a bank in decline? Let’s have a quick lock how Miller and Friesen verbatim characterized a declining firm along the four dimensions thirty years ago (emphasis added):

1.   Strategy

“Firms in the decline stage react to adversity in their markets by becoming stagnant […]. Firms seem to be caught in something of a vicious circle. Their sales are poor because their product lines are unappealing. This reduces profits and makes for scarcer financial resources, which in turn cause any significant product line changes to seem too expensive. So product lines become still more outdated […]; the firms just muddle through.”

2.   Situation

“[…] There is a tendency to attend to what the owners want, that is, to preserve resources, rather than cater to the needs of customers. The market scope of declining firms is quite narrow […]. Failure in one major product line simply cannot be counterbalanced by success in others as might happen in more diversified companies […]. Shrinking markets can be extremely competitive and firms that rely totally upon them may find themselves in deep trouble. Performance thus tends to be very poor. This may be caused partly by the simple structure.”

3.   Structure

“The locus of decision-making power is at the top of the firm. In fact, even routine operating decisions (these predominate in declining firms which shy away from strategic decisions) are executed by higher level managers […]. While managers who are close to customers and markets may be well aware of the problems that exist, their information does not seem to filter up to those with enough authority to do anything about it.”

4.   Decision-making Style

Decision making is characterized by extreme conservatism. There is little innovation, an abhorrence of risk taking, and a reluctance even to imitate competitors’ innovations, let alone lead the way […]. Sometimes it is due to the temperament of the top managers. Occasionally, it results from funds shortages stemming from previous declines in performance. But almost inevitably, key contributing factors are ignorance of markets […]. Managers fail to delegate and there is little in the way of participative management. Thus the top executives must spend most of their time handling crises. They just haven’t the time for much analysis. So they take very few dimensions into account in decision making […] and employ very short time horizons.”

Resonating with today’s banking industry

This rich description of a declining firm crafted in the year 1985 may resonate with many people across the globe working for banks in the year 2016. If it rings a bell with you, your bank may well be in decline. However, not all hope is lost: in their empirical study Miller and Friesen also showed that 42% of the firms in the decline phase progressed to the revival phase. But don’t get your hopes up too soon: Miller and Friesen describe the survivor bias as one of the major shortcomings of their study. Their empirical study only contained surviving firms. Those which did not make it through the decline phase were not included in their research.

Unfortunately, it appears as if Miller and Friesen’s 1984 description of declining firms had quite some clairvoyant features for many a bank of the year 2016.

Source:

Miller, D., & Friesen, P. H. (1984). A longitudinal study of the corporate life cycle. Management Science, 30(10), 1161-1183.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch,www.heg-fr.ch

Feel free to check out further posts on www.schueffel.biz

Bundling: The Next Big Fintech Race

Moneyshelf ad

Bundling will be the next big Fintech topic after unbundling and platformization. Just as consumers got used to buying different food items at one single supermarket long time ago, they will expect one-stop-shops for financial services. Those “bundlers” that manage to seamlessly offer cost-efficient and dynamic bundles are well poised for success in this next race in the Fintech arena. Some important lessons can be learned from previous bundling attempts, such as Deutsche Bank’s “Moneyshelf”.

In 2002 Deutsche Bank started an immensely ambitious e-commerce project. The objective of the project by the name of „Moneyshelf“ was to establish a financial super market. The goal was to create a one stop shop for virtually any financial product a retail client could wish for – across any provider existing. The underlying idea was to provide off the shelf financial products from any makers and brands. The reasoning behind it was that consumers would also frequent supermarkets to conveniently buy various products across brands and manufacturers. A modern consumer would visit a single supermarket to purchase bread, sausages, apples, beverages, canned food and cleaning liquid. He or she would no longer go through the ordeal of visiting a bakery to buy bread, a butcher to shop for sausages, a local market to get some apples and then drop by yet another store to buy beverages and food before visiting the local drug store to buy cleaning liquid.

Creating a financial supermarket

In order to use such a financial supermarket the client was requested to deposit his access information to any other banking service with the Moneyshelf platform. Moneyshelf would then let the client consolidate and manage all of his or her accounts in one highly user-friendly frontend. In the background online banking interfaces programmed by Deutsche Bank developers would ensure the interoperability. Moneyshelf promised a quantum leap in transparency and price efficiency. A client who would have a securities account with bank A and be invested in mutual funds from fund provider B could then not only shop for a more cost-efficient securities account, but also a better performing and less costly mutual fund und would only be a mouse click away. All of this was paired with features such as personal financial planners which offered insights on the clients’ spending and financial behavior and a rich offering of financial information and possibilities of analysis.

Deutsche Bank ahead of times

Moneyshelf as it was envisioned by Deutsche Bank was offering the client a tremendously versatile platform to choose among a vast range of providers and products such as current and savings accounts, mutual funds, brokerage services, mortgages, even life insurances. Deutsche Bank sensed that clients would become more tech savvy and consider the threat to be very real that Deutsche Bank may soon be disintermediated as far as their retail segment was concerned. With the emergence of online brokers and their strong growth Deutsche Bank feared of getting skinned and decided to take the bull by the horns. Hence, should a client decide to do business with a different bank, then Deutsche Bank would make sure that it would at least get a share of those revenue streams bypassing them.

The bone of contention: depositing client data

In the end this business model failed big time. The other banks, especially the rather dominant German savings banks warned their clients that it would be a violation of their contractual obligations to deposit account access information with any third party, including Moneyshelf. The savings banks maintained that they would not only refuse any liability in case of fraud, but that they would reserve the right to cancel the banking relationship with the client altogether should he or she access the account via Moneyshelf. Moreover the marketing campaign for Moneyshelf which depicted procreating animals was not very appealing to a largely conservative German retail banking segment.

Bundling as the central value propostion

Yet, Deutsche Bank got something right: the topic of bundling. As much as Fintech is about unbundling of banking services, a convenience loving customer does not want to sign up with Fintech Firm A to buy DJI stocks, with Fintech company B to convert some FX and with Fintech enterprise C to set up a financial plan. The levels of user experience and thus user expectations have never been higher than today. Hence, the emancipated banking client of nowadays would expect all of these services offered by one single provider and being accessible via one user interface (UI). Banking platforms such as N26, Moven, Bankin’ and Simple prove that the theme of bundling is highly topical as they oftentimes put together the services of a range of Fintech firms and offer them seamlessly through one UI.

The sophisticated future of bundling

However, the future of bundling will be much more sophisticated than that. Clients will expect not only expect cost-efficient but dynamic bundles. For instance, whereas payment provider A may be ideal for one money transfer from country X to country Y, it maybe payment provider B for the next transaction. Clients will not care which contractual obligations the platform is tied to, but the customer will expect the most cost-efficient Fintech firm to take over the task at hand. The same goes for stock brokerage or financial planning. The client will rightly demand to execute via the most cost-efficient broker and to set-up the financial plan with that one Fintech firm he or she sees most suitable. It will be the task of the platform owner or “bundle”, to tap into the Fintech eco-system to always find the most suitable service provider. The bundler must to put together these services for the consumer seamlessly and in a highly transparent fashion.

The race for bundling is on

The race for the best bundler will be open to Fintech firms and incumbent banks alike. This time, however, banks will no longer have a head-start for two reasons: first, a range of highly professional financial data aggregators such as eWise exist nowadays which can provide the necessary services off-the-shelf. Secondly an overhaul of EU legislation will update the rights and responsibilities of account information service providers, permitting intermediaries to obtain the account access information from clients. This change in legislation will come into effect in 2018 and it will be the starter’s gun for a European bundlers’ race in financial services.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

Moneyshelf ad

Fintech will never die

fintech-will-never-die-cropped

On March 10th, 2000, the burst of the so called Dot-Com Bubble started. After nearly doubling within only one year and peaking at 5048, the NASDAQ index fell as much as 78% in the aftermath of that day. Clearly, estimates vary, but it is said that the astonishing sum of USD 1.7 trillion were lost in less than a year.

Shedding the “e-“ prefix and “.com” suffix

The vanishing assets were the most obvious and immediate consequences of this remarkable period. Yet, the burst of the Dot-Com Bubble had also other ramifications. Expressions, names and language changed rather abruptly. While the “e-“ prefix was widely adopted for products and firms before March 10th, companies were now shedding the “-e” attribute faster than an Alaskan Malamute its winter coat during springtime. The same happened to the “.com” suffix. All of sudden no firm wanted to be associated with eCommerce any longer; bricks and mortar became fashionable again. Even email turned into mail and – to make it distinguishable – to what was previously termed mail, postal mail became snail mail.

Absorbing Dot-Com technology

Yet, the eCommerce and Dot-Com technology did not disappear. On the contrary, the innovations made in the years leading up to the bubble burst prevailed. Web technologies have never been as pervasively applied as today. A Web sales channel or at least an information outlet has become a standard for most enterprises in the western world. Hence, Internet technology did not disappear with the burst of the Dot-Com Bubble. Rather than that, it was absorbed, transformed and adopted by the majority of firms and turned into a business standard.

After the burst of the Fintech bubble

The same will happen to Fintech. It is safe to say that we will see a Fintech bubble burst in the years to come. Turning into an outcast in the eyes of investors Fintech will then disappear as a label. However, a good share of the innovations brought forward by Fintech firms will then be absorbed by other players, such as by incumbent banks, insurers and software companies.

In 1996 Wesley Willis released his album “Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die”. The Rock ‘n’ Roll that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s has ever since been absorbed, transformed and adopted by other musicians around the world. In that sense Rock ‘n’ Roll is truly immortal. The same will apply to Fintech.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

ARBEITSMARKT – Selbst Top-Jobs sind in den kommenden Jahrzehnten bedroht. Die Finanzbranche macht da keine Ausnahme.

handelsblatt_logo_small

Nr. 168 vom 31.08.2016 Seite 030

Sie sind, mit ihrer Mischung aus hochkompliziertem Denken, Intuition und mitunter leidenschaftlich verteidigten Grundsätzen, sozusagen die Theologen des Kapitalismus: die Ökonomen. Kaum ein Berufsstand im Bankbereich genießt so hohes intellektuelles Ansehen. Nirgendwo sonst spielt akademisches Denken im Geschäft eine vergleichbar große Rolle. Aber wie wahrscheinlich ist es, dass auch im Jahr 2033 Banken noch Ökonomen beschäftigen? Nach Meinung von Patrick Schüffel, Finanz-Professor im schweizerischen Freiburg, wird dieser Job zwischen 2023 und 2033 mit einer Wahrscheinlichkeit von 43 Prozent vom Computer übernommen. Ein Beispiel dafür, dass der digitale Kollege, der uns in den letzten Jahren mehr und Routinearbeit abgenommen hat, künftig auch intellektuelle Aufgaben übernimmt.

Schüffel stützt sich bei seiner Prognose auf eine Arbeit von Carl Benedikt Frey und Michael Osborne mit dem Titel “The Future of Employment”. Darin haben die beiden Wissenschaftler, gestützt auf offizielle Jobbeschreibungen der US-Regierung, 702 Berufe untersucht. Sie prüften mit einem mathematischen Modell, das auf Basis bisheriger Trends Prognosen erstellte, die Wahrscheinlichkeit des Verschwindens von Jobprofilen. Ihre Schlussfolgerungen sind dramatisch: “Nach unseren Schätzungen sind 47 Prozent der Stellen in den USA einem hohen Risiko ausgesetzt. Das heißt, die entsprechenden Tätigkeiten können irgendwann in der Zukunft, vielleicht in zehn oder 20 Jahren, automatisiert werden.”

Schüffel hat gezielt die Daten für die Bankbranche für das Jahrzehnt bis 2033 aus der Studie herausgezogen. Die Ergebnisse zeigen eine große Bandbreite. So liegt die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass Verkäufer im Wertpapierbereich überflüssig werden, bei nur 1,6 Prozent. Auf der anderen Seite sind “persönliche Finanzberater” mit 58 Prozent Risiko in hohem Maße bedroht. Noch schlimmer sieht es für Leute aus, die lediglich per Hand Daten erfassen: Mit 99 Prozent Risiko hat der Beruf kaum eine Überlebenschance. Dasselbe gilt aber mit 98 Prozent auch für Buchhalter und Kreditsachbearbeiter. Zum Teil enthält die Aufstellung allerdings kaum erklärbare Differenzen: Finanz-Analysten sind nur zu 23 Prozent bedroht, Kredit-Analysten dagegen zu 98 Prozent.

Das letzte Beispiel zeigt die Grenzen derartiger Prognosen. Letztlich handelt es sich um Gedankenspiele, bei denen der eigentliche Wert weniger in den Prozentzahlen liegt als darin, Denkanstöße zu geben. Ein wichtiger Punkt ist dabei: Arbeiten, die allein eine hohe abstrakte Intelligenz erfordern, gelten als durchaus ersetzbar. Je mehr hingegen soziale Intelligenz und Kreativität gefragt sind, desto weniger Chancen hat Kollege Computer. Daher sind Verkäufer schwer zu ersetzen, auch wenn sie vielleicht weniger abstrakte Intelligenz brauchen als Ökonomen.

Soziale Kompetenz als ein Ausweg Ausschlaggebend für die Einschätzung der jeweiligen Berufe ist daher, wie die damit verbundenden Aufgaben eingeschätzt und gewichtet werden. Besteht die Aufgabe des Ökonomen vor allem darin, eine Konjunkturprognose für das nächste Quartal abzugeben? Dann hat der Kollege Computer eine gute Chance, ihn abzulösen. Schon heute gibt es Unternehmen wie etwa Now-Cast, bei denen selbstlernende Software kurzfristige Prognosen übernimmt. Oder besteht die Aufgabe der Ökonomen eher darin, Daten zu erklären und Rahmenbedingungen für die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung zu analysieren? Da tut sich der Computer schon schwerer. Viele Bank-Ökonomen arbeiten zudem de facto in der Kundenbetreuung. Sie unterhalten sich mit Großkunden über ökonomische Fragen.

Das dient nicht nur dazu, harte Schlussfolgerungen, etwa für Investitionen, logisch abzuleiten. Anleger, die ihre Entscheidungen unter hoher Unsicherheit treffen müssen, suchen versierte Gesprächspartner, mit denen sie die Last dieser Unsicherheit teilen können. Bei dieser Aufgabe ist das persönliche Gespräch durch nichts zu ersetzen, nicht einmal durch Videokonferenzen, geschweige denn den Computer.

Das Beispiel zeigt, dass der Computer viele Berufe nicht ersetzt, sondern sie verändert und die Gewichte verschiebt. So gibt es etwa bei freien Finanzberatern in den USA den Trend, Anlage-Entscheidungen tatsächlich Computern, den sogenannten Robo-Advisern, zu überlassen. Kernaufgabe des Beraters ist dann nicht mehr, dem Kunden einen angeblich heißen Aktientipp zu geben. Vielmehr muss der Dienstleister helfen, eine Einschätzung seiner finanziellen Situation und Risikobereitschaft herzuleiten. Diese kann dann Grundlage für die maschinelle Verwaltung eines Depots werden.

Heute schon gibt es auch Firmen, die vom Handel an den Kapitalmärkten leben, ohne einen einzigen Händler zu beschäftigen. Die Aufträge werden vom Computer erledigt. Aber die jeweilige Software entsteht in Zusammenarbeit von Computer- und Kapitalmarktexperten. Für viele Banker dürfte gelten, was Frey und Osborne als Schlussfolgerung ziehen: “Damit Beschäftigte das Rennen gewinnen, müssen sie kreative und soziale Kompetenz erwerben.”

ZITATE FAKTEN MEINUNGEN
Nach unseren Schätzungen sind 47 Prozent der Stellen in den USA einem hohen Risiko ausgesetzt. Carl Benedikt Frey, Michael Osborne Professoren in Oxford

https://www.financial-career-bw.de/news-events/news/detailansicht/artikel/welche-bankjobs-der-computer-uumlbernimmt/

 

Is Your Banking Job Gone Soon?

BankingJobsGone

Fintech is steaming ahead at an incredible pace. What robots used to be for the automotive industry, algorithms have become to the banking industry.

Common wisdom had it that one’s job would be secure if one was well educated and kept up-to-date on the job. Now, however, we are increasingly facing a situation when even highly sophisticated occupations such as personal finance advisors as well as accountants and auditors will fall prey to digitalization.

The Future of Employment

In their 2013 study “The Future of Employment” Karl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated the probability of computerization for 702 professions based on three factors: perception and manipulation tasks, creative intelligence tasks and social intelligence tasks.

Applied to Banking

Of those occupations examined by Frey and Osborne I have extracted those that I find relevant to the banking industry. The percentage figure displayed indicates the likelihood of that profession being computerized in “a decade or two”, i.e. between 2023 and 2033.

Occupation: Probability of Computerization

Sec., Commod., and Fin. Services Sales Agents: 1.6%
Financial Managers: 6.9%
Management Analysts: 13.0%
General and Operations Managers: 16.0%
Financial Analysts: 23.0%
Business Operations Specialists, All Other: 23.0%
Managers, All Other: 25.0%
Financial Specialists, All Other: 33.0%
Economists: 43.0%
Customer Service Representatives: 55.0%
Personal Financial Advisors: 58.0%
Administrative Services Managers: 73.0%
Loan Interviewers and Clerks: 92.0%
Accountants and Auditors: 94.0%
Credit Authorizers, Checkers, and Clerks: 97.0%
Tellers: 98.0%
Loan Officers: 98.0%
Credit Analysts: 98.0%
Brokerage Clerks: 98.0%
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks: 98.0%
New Accounts Clerks: 99.0%
Data Entry Keyers: 99.0%

Source: Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. A. (2013). The future of employment. Oxford, UK: Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, A.Dip.C., M.I.B., Dipl.-Kfm.
Professsor
Institute of Finance
Haute école de gestion Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4
CH-1700 Fribourg
patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

Luxembourg is on a FinTech Journey

PwC Press Release, 21 April 2016

According to the PwC Luxembourg Report, the Grand Duchy is an emerging FinTech innovation hub

FinTech, a game-changing alloy of technology and finance, blends innovation-focused technology companies with traditional financial sector players. The merger of these two different business approaches, the tech and the traditional one, is the bedrock of the future financial sector landscape. Luxembourg, with its modern financial institutions, is well positioned to take reigns of the FinTech revolution.

Adapting to change: rising FinTech awareness in Luxembourg

With its vibrant ecosystem of financial institutions, technology companies, R&D centres, and a highly diversified and specialised economy, Luxembourg is an emerging FinTech innovation hub. “The country already provides factual support to innovation by encouraging private and public funding, and by building up a true start-up support ecosystem: the government put FinTech as one of the six key domains of the Digital Lëtzebuerg Strategy launched in 2014, aimed at turning Luxembourg into a digital nation, and mandated Jeremy Rifkin to examine and advise on how the Grand Duchy can leverage its FinTech potential” says Gregory Weber, FinTech Leader at PwC Luxembourg.

The Grand Duchy provides an attractive ecosystem not only for FinTech companies, but for business in general. Adding its innovative and responsive regulatory environment, Luxembourg is the epitome of a FinTech aware business environment. Local market players seem to perfectly understand that by embracing the FinTech business model, the Grand Duchy is on the right path to further strengthen its recognition and reputation among investors, clients and the start-up community.

Internet, mobility, social networking and the rise of price comparison websites have changed the game over the past decade and have created a new generation of customers who demand simplicity, speed and convenience in their interactions with financial providers and even with their peers” highlights Gregory Weber. Traditional market players have started adapting to new market demands. The need to meet changing customer expectations with new offerings (resulting in an increased focus on the client experience) is top-of-mind for 86% of Luxembourg respondents when asked about the most important impact of FinTech on their business.

Business at risk: 26% of the traditional financial sector in Luxembourg may be lost to FinTechs

According to the survey, nearly all (94%) respondents from the traditional financial industry believe that part of their business is at risk of being lost to standalone FinTech companies. Incumbents believe that more than a fourth part (26%) of their business could be at risk due to further development of FinTech, though FinTech companies anticipate that they will be able to take over only 10% of incumbents’ business (compared to 33% globally). “In this regard, the asset & wealth management industry is feeling particular pressure from FinTech companies” adds Gregory Weber.

On the other hand, insurers in Luxembourg may be underestimating the threat posed by FinTech with an estimated share of business at risk of only 10%, compared to 21% for global insurance participants.

However, not only are traditional financial industry providers concerned about losing part of their business to FinTechs, they are also aware that their ways of working and product offerings will be challenged and possibly transformed.

Blockchain: high on the agenda in Luxembourg, but still underexplored

Blockchain represents the next evolutionary jump in business process optimization technology. If blockchain gains wider acceptance, it could lead to significant changes in back-office roles, as ownership could be transferred without the need for intermediaries and reconciliations would disappear once there is a shared ledger that all parties agree on. “In Luxembourg, the majority of respondents (60%) recognises blockchain’s importance and is much more willing to respond to blockchain when compared to global respondents (except for asset & wealth managers). However, none of the respondents declares being extremely familiar with the technology. Only 17% believes being very familiar with it while one in five Luxembourg industry players is not familiar with blockchain at all” highlights Gregory Weber.

The ability to collaborate, at both a strategic and business level, with a few key partners could soon become a competitive advantage of Luxembourg financial industry.

How is the Luxembourg financial sector dealing with FinTechs?

Almost half (44%) of Luxembourg financial sector players believes that FinTech is integrated at the heart of their corporate strategies. However, more than 50% either does not have a fully aligned corporate FinTech strategy or FinTech does not have any role or impact within the strategic corporate agenda.  There is no clear industry-wide trend in terms of how traditional players deal and engage with FinTechs. More than a third (34%) engages in joint partnerships with FinTech companies, 31% buys and sell services to FinTech companies, 14% rebrands purchased FinTech services (white-labelling), 14% launches their own FinTech subsidiaries, one in ten establishes start-up programs to incubate FinTech companies and 7% sets up venture funds to fund FinTech companies. Surprisingly, 21% of Luxembourg participants does not deal with FinTech at all. When both parties (traditional financial and FinTech companies) are asked about the biggest impediments when dealing with one another, incumbents name regulatory uncertainty (68%), IT security (45%) and differences in operational processes (45%). FinTechs, on the other hand, are mostly concerned about different management culture when dealing with incumbents (67% of respondents) and IT security (50%) is also a concern.

While the responses from Luxembourg participants are generally aligned with the global ones, the required financial investments for Luxembourg FinTechs when dealing with traditional financial companies (50%) clearly stand out. Globally, this issue is FinTechs’ smallest concern, raised only by 28% of survey participants.

FinTech is re-shaping the financial sector at such a pace that those players that stay behind today might not even recognise the sector in five years. With their potential, Luxembourg players, however, have all the capabilities to stay at the heart of the FinTech revolution. The golden rule: start embracing FinTech now” concludes Gregory Weber.

 

Legend:Gregory Weber, FinTech Leader PwC Luxembourg – Nicolas Mackel, CEO Luxembourg for Finance – Jonathan Prince, Co-Founder Digicash Payments SA – Romain Godard, Partner PwC Strategy& – Patrick Schüffel, COO, Saxo Bank AG – Nasir Zubairi, Entrepreneur/Investor

Notes to Editors:

About the report :

The 2016 PwC Global FinTech Survey gathers the view of 544 respondents from 46 countries, principally Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Heads of Innovation, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and top management involved in digital and technological transformation, distributed among five regions.

The Luxembourg-focused cut was based on the responses of 36 respondents from the financial industry’s major market players.

For a copy of the report and to see the full results, please visit www.pwc.lu