Debate: who will dominate the new world of banking?

Will the banking revolution open the door to smaller banks? Or have big banks got what it takes to keep up? We asked both sides to have their say.

The world of banking is changing rapidly.

Branches are closing at pace and apps are becoming the go-to choice for millions.

So what will our changing habits mean for the banks themselves?

Will the big-spending banking giants continue their utter domination of the market, or will their smaller, more agile rivals finally flourish?

We put the question to Atom Bank, the headline-grabbing new kid on the block, and household behemoth Barclays.

Here’s what they had to say.

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Katy Ringsdore, head of internal communications at Atom Bank

Katy Ringsdore, Atom Bank (Image: Atom Bank)Traditional banks are burdened by their size, with outdated technology, complicated operations and a legacy of poor corporate governance.

This has left many customers disengaged through poor customer service and complicated processes which, despite what people are told shouldn’t bog down the way you interact with your money.

Digital banking is a revolution that is blurring the worlds of money and tech to create a more customer-focused experience, saving people valuable time by allowing them to manage their finances on the move.

No one wants to stand in a queue at the bank anymore. 

As much as we may dislike the fact, we all need banks in order to function.

But that doesn’t mean we should settle for whatever is being offered by the main providers.

Digital banking takes a new approach – keeping costs low without the need for expensive branches and huge numbers of staff, so we can offer much better rates to customers.

And collectively we are helping people to have a more positive relationship with their finances.

We are making it easier to check bank accounts on the smartphones and tablets people take with them everywhere, we help people to fit banking into their everyday lives and make setting up a savings account, and checking on a mortgage application as easy as possible.

We aren’t hiding from the fact that a young, tech-savvy generation has helped in the birth and development of this new form of banking, but it’s not just the younger generation that is driving it forward.

The user-friendliness of mobile technologies and the artificial intelligence that digital banks are using in their platforms means people from 19 to 90 can have round-the-clock access to their finances.

Digital banks have got themselves into a good position almost in isolation so far, but there are regulatory pressures that are hindering further development in some areas.

This is all set to change though, on the not-so-distant horizon is the Open Banking initiative, which is set to blow apart traditional views of the UK banking industry.

Open Banking is a Government initiative that was born out of a report by the Competition and Markets Authority that discovered what we had all feared – the older and larger banks do not have to work hard enough for customers’ business.

The reforms to be introduced early next year will allow customers to shop around more easily by sharing their data safely and securely with other banks and third parties, allowing customers to compare the products right for them and switch within minutes whenever a better deal arises.

Ultimately, digital banks are here to disrupt the industry status quo and bring customers back into the centre of what a bank does and how it thinks – you can’t retain and attract customers in this day and age by treating them as an afterthought.

Technology develops and improves daily, and by being nimble and digitally based, online-only banks adapt to provide the best services and best products they possibly can.

The development in biometric technology means we are also able to adapt quickly to ensure customer money is safe.

This is the future of banking, and we are really proud of the values we hold and the products we offer that make banking less expensive, more transparent and far easier to use.

So we urge you to give it a go today, you could have opened an account in the time it has taken you to read this article!

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Raheel Ahmed, head of customer experience at Barclays

Raheel Ahmed, Barclays (Image: Barclays) It’s important not to conflate size with agility.

Being a big bank isn’t a burden. In fact, it’s a real privilege to look after a financial need for nearly one in every two adults in the UK.

The great scale we have in serving 24 million UK customers can also be used for public benefit, we have done more than any bank to embrace the digital era, and that means we’ve been able to make the big investments in new technology that make a real difference to people's lives.

The proof of this is there for our customers to see – they were the first to be able to pay someone using Siri, first to enjoy the security of voice biometrics when they call, and first to tap a contactless card.

Scale also means we can lead on important social issues such as making banking more accessible for people with disabilities.

When we launched talking ATMs for people with visual impairments, and online sign-video translation for sign language users, the entire banking industry had to sit up, listen and follow suit.

Having scale also means we can be a connective force for the UK economy in the digital age.

We are present in every community, having conversations with people in branches about how we can help them to go digital or stay safe from fraud, and creating dozens of new Eagle Labs where people can start and grow a business with access to 3D printers and laser cutters.

I relish the fact that the digital era means we have to work hard for every single customer.

That’s exactly how it should be.

We know we are just at the beginning of the digital revolution, with far more change to come, and we stand ready to continue supporting millions of people through it.

What do you think? Will digital banking open the door to new players or will the big-spending banks maintain their grip? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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