6

Is Traditional Banking Unbreakable?

NEW YORK – It is a rare industry nowadays that is not at risk of being upended by digital technology. Amazon, having swept away bookshops, is now laying siege to the rest of the retail sector. In transportation, Uber is outrunning traditional taxi companies, while Airbnb is undermining the foundations of the hotel industry. Meanwhile, smartphones are transforming how we communicate and revolutionizing the way we discover and patronize businesses.

So it is no surprise that banking and financial-services companies are not safe from the immense transformations wrought by technological innovation. Indeed, for the last decade, digital startups have been penetrating areas traditionally dominated by the financial industry. But there is reason to believe that finance will prove resilient.

Today, money can be sent to the other side of a country – or the world – simply by tapping an app, without ever interacting with a traditional financial-services company. Migrants’ remittances alone, which the World Bank estimates will total $586 billion this year, represent a tremendous growth opportunity for companies competing with banks to move money.

Meanwhile, would-be disrupters are offering opportunities to save and invest – the very heart of traditional banking institutions’ operations. Startups such as Acorns – an app that automatically allocates a proportion of everyday purchases to a pre-selected investment portfolio – are making rapid inroads into a very competitive marketplace.