So - do you Zopa? Or Prosper? Or Lufax?
Today, if you need to borrow a large amount of money, the answer might be "yes". For the first time in decades - even centuries - anyone needing a loan has an alternative option to simply asking a bank. And it is new technology that is driving this unexpected solution: to safely and securely borrow money... from complete strangers.
In 2005 Zopa became the first company in the world to offer peer-to-peer loans - a simple online transaction that rewards savers for lending their money to approved borrowers. But only recently, despite competition from high street banks, has Zopa flourished in Europe - lending a total of £530m last year, with aims to reach £1bn in 2016.
And yet Zopa is just another success story to emerge from the explosion of Fintech - the cutting edge financial technology and software that is turning the worlds of banking and global finance on its head. Startups using apps, smartphones and Big Data to offer consumers alternative payment systems, wealth management, crowdfunding and other core banking roles.
For the incumbents of the traditional finance sectors, it presents huge competition - in a time when technology changing the very nature of what it means to be a bank. As consultants Deloitte revealed in their white paper The Transformation and Reconstruction of Banks in the Digital Era, the modern banking customer now expects anytime, anywhere connectivity - with access to tailor-made services based on predictive analytics.
The result? If the traditional big banks do not evolve, they could become irrelevant - with new players in the market ready to steal away up to $4.7 trillion worth of business, according to a recent study from Goldman Sachs. In the UK, for example, online- or smartphone-only banks such as Atom, Starling, Mondo, and Tandem are gaining traction in the banking landscape, offering traditional but also highly personalisable services in the palm of your hand. While in the US, online giants such as Google or Amazon are already moving into finance.
And yet while Fintech innovation is disrupting the world of finance, the technology also has the capacity to enhance or inspiring banking IT solutions. And financial institutions can reap the rewards of innovation too - not just in enabling banks to offer the more flexible, anytime-anywhere service customers require, or innovate on big data. But also make their core processes more efficient - and most importantly, lower costs.
One example is Blockchain tech - the 'distributed ledger' technology that enables cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to work. Several large banks (and, of course, startups) are already investigating how they can utilise blockchain applications to optimize and secure payments and other processes.
To embrace this brave new financial age, however, the banking industry needs to build managed ICT systems that can cope. To reshape their IT platforms from traditional closed systems to an open, agile infrastructure - one that can support essential banking tasks and innovations, but also handle the real-time Big Data processing that will offer customers the insights they need.
Take, for example, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (or ICBC for short). With assets of US$3.62 trillion (as reported in March 2014), over 4.7 million corporate customers and 43.2 million individual customers, it is the largest bank in the world, and was ranked first on Forbes' Global 2000 list of world's biggest public companies in both 2013 and 2014.
However, its size means that the challenges facing modern banking have never been more acute. For the ICBC, it meant safeguarding systems of enormous complexity. Alongside over 17,000 branches in China alone, as well as over 1,900 agents, ICBC also hosts innovative Internet-based services, including online banking, telephone banking, and even WeChat banking.
But these new services - and any to come in the future - have to work in conjunction with the many layers of older systems that have built up over decades. And the task of making this underlying "legacy architecture" co-exist is vital to innovation and market responsiveness.
With this in mind, ICBC turned to Huawei in 2014 to help build a system that focused on its core business as a commercial bank. But a system that could also run ICBC's data systems and the huge range of services they offered - from Customer Relationship Management (CRM), finance management and risk management to customized services including customer analysis and precision marketing.
The result was a quick deployment of what Huawei calls "omni-channel banking" - an ICT ecosystem that virtualises many processes via the cloud, enabling banks to reduce more traditional in-house operations that are expensive and time-consuming.
But reshaping IT systems with more flexible open-platform architecture comes with other benefits too, such as reaping the rewards of real-time Big Data analysis when the Internet Of Things starts to flourish over the coming years. As well as offering the 'anywhere, anytime' convenience customers demand.
But this omni-channel approach also lends the flexibility to respond to the fast changing market. As consultants Accenture outlined, new competition is one of the key challenges facing banks in the coming years: "Lower barriers to entry for financial technology and solutions have resulted in increased innovation and potential competition," the Accenture 2016 report stated.
"This development is prompting new solutions and highlighting the need for fundamental change."
All of which has lead to an explosion in banks investing in agile ICT segments. Alone in 2014, FinTech investment has increased threefold from $4.05 billion to $12.2 billion.
As Kenny Liu, President of the Financial Services Sector in Huawei's Enterprise Business Group says, the only answer is using innovative ICT solutions to help financial institutions deploy future-proof digital banking systems.
"Huawei leverages SDN, big data, cloud computing, and mobile technologies to reshape banks' existing ICT architectures across platforms, data, and services," he says. "This enables flexible distribution of IT resources, helps banks extract valuable insights from data, and improves the financial services experience for customers."
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As financial products become easier to develop, banks can spend more time exploring value opportunities and less time planning.
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