Despite a high regulatory burden, US banks still must invest in innovation. And indeed, regulation can often spur innovation.
That sentiment was expressed by D+H CEO Gerrard Schmid during the keynote of the company's Connections 2014 conference this week in Orlando, Fla. Schmid mentioned the regulatory environment banks face, noting that in July Dodd-Frank celebrated its fourth anniversary. "I'm not sure how many people showed up for that birthday party," he joked.
However, he did also say that regulation can be the mother of invention: "Despite the burden, good things can come from regulation."
Schmid mentioned the auto industry as an example. Tasked by regulators with curbing emissions, the industry started manufacturing fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles. In the same vein, the banking industry can use regulatory requirements to become more efficient and agile and to create innovative products.
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But the other side of that coin is that innovation often is difficult for the industry to achieve, regulatory burdens or not. He said that many studies that poll banking industry executives find that most consider innovation to be important, though a majority feel that banks are not good at it. And rapidly changing technology makes it hard to predict what exactly it is that banks should innovate in. For example, he asked, "How many of you several years ago would have thought gamification would impact your business?"
Still, one thing that is indisputable is that consumers' dealings with forward-thinking companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and others affects what they expect from their financial institutions, he noted.
"Today’s customers are expecting more from their financial institution. New technologies are shifting consumer expectations like never before, and we are being held to new standards of convenience. We are competing against, not just other banks, but companies in totally different industries as well."
Schmid said banks are just starting to really look at cloud services, but they will be indispensable going forward in reducing costs as well as redefining the role of the branch. Banks also need to figure out how to effectively harness all the customer data they currently possess.
Ultimately, any investments banks make in innovation must have a practical business purpose in order to be successful, said Schmid.
"We often tend to think of innovation for innovation's sake, but rather we need to create forward-looking solutions that help solve problems in the current reality of the industry and the changing economy."