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The Future of Retail Banking in a Digital Age

Technology has fragmented banking. Traditionally, lower urban populations, poorer transport systems and localised economies meant that banks were the ideal provider for most financial services: a wholesale market for financial products and expertise, broken up and sold to local customers through a distributed branch network. The seven traditional services of retail banking – Lending, Deposits, Security, Advisory, Investments, Payments and Currency – could all be offered under one roof. Additionally they could be combined to create new products with higher margins when the opportunity arose.

The development of those services, the ways in which they are delivered or the addition of new services are now being stifled by the physical infrastructure and overhead of a bank. Traditionally the procurement of those services required human interaction, guidance and customer maintenance over time. For the majority of the twentieth century the almost linear rate of technological change sustained that status quo. Banks grew significantly and built internal architecture around the established provision and combination of those services. Consequently banks had and have a vested interest in maintaining their branch networks in the face of rapid technological change because by doing so they maintain the industry, the services they are acquainted with and the network, expertise, scale and distribution advantages they have developed within that particular framework.


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