With a large part of the world in forced confinement, the damage from the COVID crisis19 is mainly economic. This unprecedented situation has forced us to review several paradigms including the integration of technology in our daily life. It is true that before this crisis we had already entered the era of the fourth industrial revolution, in which the fusion of technologies blurs the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological spheres. However, the current crisis will have an accelerating effect on the generalization of this trend to all sectors of activity because, on the one hand, several psychological barriers related to digitalization will vanish. On the other hand, technology will be leveraged to prevent the effects of an upcoming crisis. We are already seeing the beginnings of these changes with examples such as the generalization of distance education, the use of telemedicine, teleworking and the distribution of public aids by smartphones. Changes that should take years (if not decades) happen now in a matter of days!
These conclusions apply to the banking sector as well. Digital channels are already emerging as the preferred distribution alternative especially with restrictions in terms of movement and in terms of staff availability. While ensuring continuity of service and addressing customer expectations, banks should take advantage of this opportunity to experience a radical overhaul of their operating models in order to adapt them to the new market reality when the crisis ends. The reliance on digital technologies and the limited use of physical branches currently will fast track the transformation of the banking landscape in the future by favoring banks with stronger digital capacities. Other external factors may further accelerate this trend. During this pandemic, banknotes have become a burden because facilitating virus transmission (some central banks disinfect banknotes). It is for this reason that the World Health Organization recommends the use of contactless payment. On the other hand, regulators could relax their requirements for Fintech during this period such as in South Korea.
Contrary to what one might think, the transition to digital and agile banking is not primarily a technological challenge because digital solutions are available on the market and, above all, have already been successfully implemented in several contexts. The challenge lies rather in the bank’s ability to evolve the business model, to transform processes, to adapt the organization and finally to conduct change.