Banks manage to risk, rather than opportunity

Survey reveals key differences in Asian financial institutions'' views about themselves, their customers and regulators.
A recent survey, conducted by the International Institute of Banking and Financial Services on behalf of Unisys, has revealed that although there is plenty of rhetoric about changes driven by new technology and business practices, to date this has not been converted, large scale, across the financial services industry.

Perhaps, the survey authors suggest, the financial services marketplace will need to see a steep change in leadership perspectives before the opportunities of the "new economy" are fully taken advantage of.

Titled 'Risk and Reward รป Views of Financial Services Industry Executives on Their Issues and Drivers' the survey was built from over 400 interviews conducted across 23 countries in Asia Pacific, Europe and the United States. A wide range of organizations and senior management personnel were polled and at the same time a panel of industry analysts and observers were asked the same questions to gain an external view on the issues.

The survey results suggest that the attitudes in financial services and perhaps that of banking particularly, continue to manage to risk rather than manage to the opportunities of the new economy. Institutions clearly believe that they are good at managing risks; are deemed conservative and prudent; that they treat all customers the same, and are accepting of responsibilities for the financially excluded and unbanked.

From a geographical perspective there is no evidence that one continent behaves in a broadly similar manner to another, each finding itself influenced by different sets of circumstances. Key differences in the perspective of Asian financial institutions are perhaps no so surprising.

According to the survey results the perceived rapport between customers and organizations in Asia Pacific is slightly superior than in North America or Europe. Attributes of the Asia Pacific market include higher levels of financial literacy, less customer apathy, increased levels of trust, a stronger preference for ongoing relationships coupled with lower levels of industry arrogance. Respondents in Asia Pacific also felt more strongly that organisational size matters and accepted the notion that customer wealth does influence customer treatment.

Regulatory bodies in Asia Pacific are generally thought to have a more helpful and less intrusive approach towards financial services organisations they govern compared to their North American and European equivalents. Perhaps, the survey suggests, this goes hand in hand with the lower levels of media hostility encountered in Asia Pacific.

Asia Pacific respondents were generally more upbeat about the benefits promised and delivered by new technology than respondents in North America and Europe, but also a majority of Asia Pacific experts did not believe the internet was going to become a channel used by the majority of their customers.

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