Why Banking Needs to Embrace Radical Change in Turbulent Times

Q&A: Brett King, co-founder of pioneer neobank Moven and author, argues that if traditional banks are to survive and prosper in the next decade, they must become the prime movers of innovation, driven by courage and guided by humanistic values.

Turbulent times loom as crises crescendo at home and abroad. Yet turbulence can catalyze positive change, too, when harnessed effectively.

Brett King — renowned futurist, co-founder of Moven, and author of breakout books like “Bank 4.0” — helps financial leaders across 200 countries navigate this volatility by illuminating the frontier technologies and frameworks reinventing the industry.

In the following discussion with Jim Marous, founder and chief executive of the Digital Banking Report, King unpacks critical forces disrupting the industry today. The potential impact of technologies, such as AI assistants and ambient computing, highlights the scale of strategic and cultural metamorphosis required for institutions to match consumer expectations and harness technological progress in the coming decade.

AI Disruption, Product Personalization and Purpose

Q: Let’s start with the big picture. What emerging technologies do you see most disrupting retail banking models over the next five years?

Brett King: AI sits center stage, and its implications span way beyond the hype. We’re entering Banking 5.0, an era of smart accounts powered by algorithms and predictive analytics. This could completely decimate traditional profit engines and product structures.

“We’re entering Banking 5.0, an era of smart accounts powered by algorithms and predictive analytics.”

Today’s mobile neobanks demonstrate far more unbridled creativity and spirited innovation aligned with consumer potential and well-being. Silicon Valley technologists clearly value and thus prioritize these dimensions in the experiences they create.

However, AI now holds the promise to redeem this imbalance – if governed conscientiously and implemented with sufficient oversight.

Q: Where do you see the widest gaps between consumer expectations and legacy banking capabilities today? And how quickly are those gaps widening?

King: Challenger mobile propositions demonstrate far more creativity across user experiences and money management insights. Take budgeting. The personal finance infrastructure outside banking dwarfs what most traditional institutions provide their own customers to nurture financial wellness. Personalization by the traditional players plateaued years ago as mobile apps hit maturity. Market share statistics confirm the scale of the exodus silently underway.

Over a third of U.S. consumers already access nonbank payment apps more frequently than primary bank channels. Europe may hit 50% next year. APAC and Latin American neobanks outpacing incumbents further prove the pace of expectations ratcheting up exponentially. My fear is that those who fail to embrace this reality face extinction-level losses.

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Algorithmic Accountability and Stewarding Progress Over Profits

Q: How do you recommend maintaining trust and oversight given the widely known risks of AI? What principles help preserve human dignity?

King: It’s pivotal that leaders take up technology stewardship as our era’s calling. I expect issues around algorithmic transparency and accountability will escalate, as these models directly impact people’s livelihoods with unprecedented intimacy. Financial hardship harms health: most current AI applications still lack meaningful safety guardrails or monitoring.

We know biased algorithms can create lasting devastation. We’ve already witnessed inappropriate denials of banking services due to scored determinations. With lending and fraud already targets for automation, the stakes will climb precipitously higher.

Institutions must emphasize inclusive design and rigorous preemptive governance, because technologies frequently just embody the values held by creators and the market incentives used to drive their development. So, we need sufficient policies to ensure financial innovation advances all of humanity’s interests, not just driving efficiency or boosting quarterly earnings using customers’ data as fuel.

Q: You often cite connectivity challenges specific to U.S. banking infrastructure. What shifts do you anticipate on this front?

King: Effectively competing hinges first on comprehensively modernizing the underlying payment rails and settlement flows through technologies like tokenization and instant money movement. Innovations like crypto offer glimpses of more decentralized possibilities, despite their volatility thus far.

The larger point remains that any society’s prosperity relies on continuously upgrading frameworks guiding rights, mobility, privacy, and access across identity verification, data sharing, and asset ownership. Fragmentary solutions or isolated use cases will prove to be profoundly inadequate.

Unfortunately, most incumbent institutions woefully lack this leadership vision, internal talent pipelines across technology, or the collaborative regulatory partnerships to catalyze this caliber of globally coordinated transformation. So, in the U.S., the combination of institutional inertia, entitled established firms actively stonewalling challengers, and severely outdated policy written by lobbyists has created a disastrous negative synergy.

The results speak for themselves in the delayed rollout of baseline innovations like ubiquitous instant payments, mobile identity verification, or cryptocurrency guardrails; every comparable developed economy has outpaced America by years, if not an entire decade. Courageous regulatory reform becomes the only antidote once systems corrode beyond patches.

Dig deeper:

The Promise of Ambient Computing and Immersive Experiences

Q: On a more positive note, where do you see the consumer impact from technologies like ambient computing and immersive XR interfaces in coming years?

King: In the near term, conversational voice represents the most transformative and scalable interface shift. Being able to ask your smart wallet questions or execute transactions via voice eliminates constantly grabbing phones. Beyond convenience, vocal interfaces also allow radically personalized guidance. It crucially expands cues for contextual engagement integrated into daily moments.

Ultimately, these “ambient worlds” offer immense upside potential for financial services if institutional priorities get reoriented completely around meeting human potential ahead of mechanical metrics that ignore welfare externalities today.

Q: Part of this transition relies on reforming policy frameworks. What shifts make the biggest global impact balancing oversight and progress?

King: Policy champions must lead change when bureaucracies resist progress. Parts of Asia and Latin America have adopted more unified digital economy blueprints and thus lead world innovation, expanding many rights and opportunities. Meanwhile, regions like the U.S. suffer from regulatory capture and rules preventing more competition and access. Change requires collective courage, reinventing rules made for eras gone by.

Realizing Exponential Progress Through Values-Based Leadership

Q: You often close your speeches calling on leaders to expand their “moral imaginations”. What excites you most about human progress when you envision a decade?

King: We undeniably stand at an urgent crossroads. The stakes have never been higher as compounding volatility collides with exponentially expanding innovation tools that concentrate power — for right or for wrong.

By 2030, we could witness greater positive gains in improving everyday citizens’ financial lives than in the past half-century combined if common purpose and principled technology stewardship lifts all boats. But possibility relies on transcending complacent constraints through clarity of vision and vigor for justice.

Justin Estes is an award-winning writer, strategist, and financial marketing expert with expertise in banking, investments, and fintech. His clients include the NYSE, Franklin Templeton, Credit Karma, Citi and, UBS, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Barrons and ThinkAdvisor as well as The Financial Brand.

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