Building Societies Conference Day 4

Welcome to everyone joining us for this final day of the BSA Conference.  The theme is a business led recovery.  I am Mark Bogard, Chair of the BSA and Chief Executive of the Family Building Society and your Chair for today.

I would like to thank our headline sponsors DXC & Temenos, nCino, Salesforce and Target Group for their participation. I would also like to thank our other sponsors Sopra Banking Software and TCS Bancs as well as our virtual exhibitors. 

I remain of the view that whatever is predicted for the future – much of it will be wrong.

The last year has done a great deal to reinforce that view. 

But I find thinking about the future of financial services fascinating. 

Looking back over the recent history of that thinking, is almost more fascinating. 

On my first day of my first proper job in 1985, I was told to bring a pound. I had assumed it was for my lunch. It wasn’t. 

That morning, about 20 articled clerks were taken over the road by the senior personnel partner to an Abbey National branch. We handed over our pound, an account was opened for each of us and the partner explained that we were now in the queue for a mortgage. 

By 2000, Standard Life Bank were advertising that they’d give you an in principle decision on a mortgage in 15 minutes. So we’d gone from a queue that 22 year olds needed to join to 15 minutes in 15 years.  

But how much has really changed today in banking and financial services? 

In some ways a great deal, in others surprisingly little.

We have the internet, apps and online banking.

Digital is making a big difference to process efficiency for providers and to convenience for the customer.  

Open Banking is making slow in-roads and some aggregator platforms are making it simpler for consumers to buy from multiple providers.

But fundamentally how different is the overall structure of financial services?  

When I was at a big bank in the mid-90s, they were spending fortunes on consultants thinking about the future. There was lots of talk of burning platforms. Lots of comparisons with the airline and retail industries. Fear about the undiscovered country that was the internet. 

Today Ryan Air is worth nearly twice as much as British Airways. 

Tesco wanted to be one of 5 or 6 global retailers. Amazon is now worth about 70x as much. 

And yet the banking scene in the UK today is effectively dominated by the same players as it was nearly 40 years ago. 

Platforms haven’t burnt though some may still be smouldering. 

Challengers are trying to challenge but they are mostly a rounding error compared to the big players. 

Someone senior at the PRA told me once that they see the only real challenger bank as being the Nationwide. 

One of my kids opened an account with Monzo, because his friends were. It was an amazingly simple, quick process for him. But both my kids do all their actual banking with Lloyds. 

The point is that whilst a lot has changed, the banking scene in the UK is still dominated by the same players today as it was nearly 4 decades ago.  I cannot understand properly why. But that is our challenge. Our remaining, enormous opportunity. 

But nothing should change our fundamental values – the values we transfer across the generations – which help us make our futures rather than allowing others to make them for us.