Opening bank accounts without humans will be a reality soon

Technology futurist Brett King says machines will make payment, credit and business decisions

Published: Feb 12, 2016

Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.

Opening bank accounts without humans will be a reality soon
Image: Getty Images

Technology futurist and businessman Brett King painted a unique picture for the financial services world across large economies: One where technology and smartphones will take payment, credit and business decisions for customers.

“The world of machine to machine interactions will dominate commerce – machines will make payment, credit and business decisions in real time. We will have to eliminate humans from the regulatory procedure of opening a bank account,” King, the CEO of Moven, a New York-based mobile banking startup, said at the ongoing Nasscom India Leadership Forum in Mumbai on Friday.

King reiterated that one of the biggest shifts in the financial services world would be the banking experience which millions of people will have in the next 10 years. “Their banking experience will be over a mobile phone. At least 80 percent will have never and will never visit a bank branch,” says King.

“So we will double the size of our banking population in 10 years and half of them will never visit a bank.”

Banking in India is expanding and adapting to changing technologies, but faces real challenges. Current banking guidelines for new banks mandates them to set up one-fourth of their branches in unbanked areas, in the country’s rural hinterland, to aid financial inclusion.

Several banks in India, both private and public, are trying to strike the balance of opening new branches across the country, while building technology platforms to boost internet and mobile banking operations.

King has spoken about disruptive technology and changing customer behaviour in his 2012 book Bank 3.0, which showed that the gap between customers and financial services players is rapidly widening, leaving massive opportunities for new, non-bank competitors to totally disrupt the industry.

King also articulated upon the use of technology towards security and documentation processes. “If you are a bank today, the single riskiest thing you can do is where a human identifies another human being [for security and regulatory needs]. The use of technology would be 10 to 15 times more accurate,” King added.

“We will see paper and signatures disappear, because signatures are not accurate, not unique and cannot be protected. This will be most disruptive in the banking space. Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are better than humans will ever be in banking,” he said.

He argued that there will be more technological changes in the next 20 years than the human world has seen over the past 250 years.

The biggest disruptive factors in coming years would be artificial intelligence, experience design, smart infrastructure, and autonomous vehicle driving and gene-editing and health care.

He said that jobs which do not add “experience” value would be destroyed. Thus bank tellers, lawyers, accountants, call centre operators, all jobs will be disrupted by AI and experience design.

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