Thursday 08, February 2018 by Jessica Combes

Banking's new horizon


Tony Long, CEO of CPI Financial, shares his thoughts on the future of banking.


The future. It’s always interesting to imagine new possibilities and how things might change tomorrow, or many years ahead.

My first and only time in Dubai before joining CPI Financial a few months ago was back in 2005. The Burj Khalifa was still not above the foundations and construction of the Metro had not yet begun, yet the vision for Dubai was well under way.

Arriving here a few months ago from London, it seemed impossible to imagine just how much of a transformation had taken place so quickly, and the plans for the future here and throughout the region are every bit as ambitious and exciting.

Banker Middle East recently celebrated its 200th edition, recalling the events and progress that has been made over the last 18 years, and beyond the challenges of what life was like back post the 2008 crash and the more recent collapse in oil prices, it is incredible to think what the economies and the banking sectors of the Middle East have been through and achieved in such a relatively short period of time.

As we look towards the next 200 issues, it seems impossible to predict quite how much life will change again, other than to say that the pace of change will inevitably continue to accelerate as we speed towards new horizons.

The challenges facing the banking industry globally, and particularly in the GCC region, where some of the youngest populations in the world are shaping the digital economy are hugely exciting, if not a little daunting for some.

As the disruption of technology continues to disintermediate traditional banking services across the world, the evolution of new products and services will depend as much on the visionary leadership of our most progressive banks, as the demands of clients and consumers.

Innovation is completely our responsibility and our sole means of survival. There are two people in particular who have done more to drive true innovation than almost any others in the post-industrial age.

As Henry Ford allegedly said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”, and Steve Jobs went further in his belief that “It’s not the consumers job to know what they want”, when asked, “How much market research went into the iPad?”

So, as we enter the fourth industrial revolution, it is encouraging that as banking systems across emerging and developing markets leapfrog the legacy infrastructures of established economies, new products, services and routes to market are continually being created as vast swathes of unbanked populations move into the new digital economy.

Yet within all this frenetic development and disruption there is an even greater need to regulate a technology driven industry faced with all the challenges that rapidly advancing digital economies present. FinTech meet RegTech.

AI, robotics, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and cashless societies are simply the beginning of what will be an unrecognisable future much sooner than we think.

These are the biggest challenges in the history, and to the future, of banking.

Traditional banks are being threatened from all quarters in ways that have not been possible for the last 500 years and the agility with which the industry is able to develop and respond to these opportunities and challenges will have a profound and lasting impact of the future of banking as we know it today.

The media industry was one of the first to feel the full impact of the democratisation that the internet and digital technology has brought to people on a global scale, and publishers faced similar challenges to those which banks are facing today; how to stay relevant and add value in a market where barriers to access have got so low that everyone believes they can compete and new entrants are appearing from every direction.

Needless to say, we’ve seen a lot of these businesses find out just how challenging it is to build new brands and establish trust with new customers and many have disappeared as quickly as they arrived.

But some will survive and flourish as they find the right products and approach to consumers who are looking for a new relationship with their bank, and the future most certainly belong to those who are most able to adapt best (not necessarily fastest) to the changing dynamics of the global economy and the local markets they serve.

Our vision for CPI Financial is very straight forward. We have a single-minded approach to be the most respected financial media company in the region by adding tangible, unique value to the relationships we have with our clients and customers.

We will develop our media brands in whichever way best serves our customers’ needs to become a more valued strategic partner and we are proud to be headquartered in Dubai and share in its vision as we seek to expand our reach and influence into new markets throughout the Middle East.

There is no doubt that we are all living truly digital lives these days and whilst we will continue to invest in developing the platforms and channels that our readers are using and moving towards, we also believe that print is far from dead. The question is, ‘what is the role for paper?’

There is certainly a new-found interest in print media, as witnessed by the recent resurgence in book publishing and the number of new authors that continue to launch their work in print as the lead medium, albeit often purchased online.

For magazines, quality journalism, authority and integrity (along with the simple tactile pleasure of reading a magazine) will always attract readers who wish to reflect on what they are reading in a way in which the consumption of digital media is not always best suited.

There is much to be excited about in the future for banking in the GCC and the opportunities are there for all.

As media-owners we have learned one simple truth; that we have to develop products that serve our customers in the way in which they wish to be served, when they want to be served, and where they want to be served.

It’s not exactly rocket-science, but then once upon a time, neither was banking.