The chief executive officer of ANZ has said that the need to talk to a person about buying a home is a “fundamental human need” and one that he envisages will play a role despite technological advances.
During the opening plenary session at the SWIFT International Banking Operations Seminar (Sibos) in Sydney on Monday (22 October), the CEO of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Shayne Elliott, noted that while technological advances are changing the way banks operate, he believed that the human element of a customer’s finance experience would remain of paramount importance.
Sibos 2018, which runs until 25 October in Sydney and is expected to bring together more than 8,000 representatives from across the finance sector, is this year focusing on enabling the digital economy and how AI and machine learning will change the face of banking.
Mr Elliott told delegates during the Q&A session that while he believed that open banking, the new National Payments Platform and innovations such as distributed ledger technologies and APIs will see “different kinds of banks emerging” in the near future, he also believed that people would remain a crucial component of the customer experience moving forward.
He said: “The only way to be better is if you are constantly adapting to your customer’s needs… Customers want a better experience and, increasingly, they engage with us in a digital way, using technology, but all the research that we’ve done says that a customer is actually still wanting to talk to somebody when they’re doing something that is of real importance to them.
“When they are making a life-changing decision about buying a home or saving for their retirement, or starting a business, or whatever it might be, [consumers] still seek affirmation and advice and direction by talking to a person.
“And that is a fundamental human need. I don’t know that that will completely disappear [moving forward], so I think [that] is a very, very important role.”
The ANZ CEO added that the bank was looking to be “bionic”, drawing a parallel to The Six Million Dollar Man “who was the best of humankind and the best of technology blended together”.
“That’s, essentially, what I think banking will be in the future. All we’re saying is that the technology piece at the moment is growing, but there will always be a role [for humans], and it’s about the banks that can get that blend from an operational and delivery point of view but also a customer experience point of view.
“Get that blend right and those are the banks that will succeed and continue to thrive in a fast-changing world.”
Mr Elliott’s remarks build on those he made about the broking industry earlier this month, when he warned the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics of the “unintended consequences” that may arise off the back of broking reforms.
The ANZ CEO said that remuneration reform is “worthy of discussion”, but he warned: “My only caution is that no system is perfect, and any system will have potentially unintended consequences.”
He continued: “I think the [broking industry and regulators] can sit down and consider improvements to that model, but as of today, we think they perform a valuable role that consumers actually prefer and choose to increase the amount of business they give to brokers every year.”
The comments echo those made by several futurists, who have suggested that brokers will survive digital disruption and become more crucial in the future as trust in finance deteriorates.
However, they counter those posited by APRA chairman Wayne Byres last month, when he forewarned that while most technological advancements in finance have previously “worked to enhance the market positioning of the major incumbents”, the future will “likely be different”.
Mr Byres stated: “New technologies have dramatically lowered barriers to entry. Cloud computing, for example, allows small organisations to operate innovative financial services without the need to maintain their own costly infrastructure and support staff.
“The advent of digital distribution and servicing removes the need for branch and broker networks.
“Open banking and comprehensive credit reporting will help new competitors to challenge established players. And, of course, regulators are making it easier to navigate the process of entry into the regulated financial system. Taken together, competition in the supply of financial services will only intensify.”
[Related: ANZ CEO chimes in on broker debate]