Banking and capital markets CEOs are positively optimistic about their growth prospects in the year ahead; 40% are very confident that they’ll achieve revenue growth over the coming 12 months, up from 31% last year.
These are the main findings from the report ‘Setting the bar higher’, which is part of PwC’s 20th Global Survey of 1 379 CEOs globally and highlights the threats to banks prospects. 206 banking and capital markets CEOs from 60 countries participated in PwC’s 20th annual Global CEO Survey.
Costa Natsas, banking and capital markets leader for PwC South Africa, says: “Financial services organisations are striving to get to grips with a new competitive era in which the bar for customer expectation and innovation has been raised, while costs have to be cut further and faster than ever before.”
Apart from the 40% of banking and capital markets (BCM) CEOs that are very confident about revenue growth, the survey shows a further 45% of the industry CEOs are at least somewhat confident.
Rising interest rates and fiscal stimulus
The scope for this optimism includes further rises in interest rates in the US, along with a move away from the near zero rates that have prevailed in many other developed markets, which would give an immediate boost to long subdued net interest income.
Yet, even with these more encouraging prospects, target returns are under pressure. Amidst concerns about over-regulation and geopolitical uncertainty impacting growth, poor returns and rising capital and compliance costs mean that the focus on cost savings increases. According to the report many BCM CEOs believe that costs have to come down by at least 15-20% within many banks, and possibly as much as 30-40% if they’re to remain competitive and attract investment over the longer-term.
According to PwC’s recent African Banking Survey, cost effectiveness remains a challenge as banks operate in an uncertain environment where regulatory costs increase, funding is scarce and revenue streams are disputed. Overall, banks in Africa have a cost-to-income (CI) ratio of 50 to 55%, in line with ratios observed in developed economies.
CEOs of banks operating in South Africa do not foresee a significant reduction in CI ratios over the next three to five years, despite the fact that many other banking CEOs accept that bringing costs down to below 50% and closer to 40% may become necessary to remain competitive in the long term.
Technology’s crucial role in being ‘fit for growth’
A massive 84% of BCM CEOs believe that technology will completely reshape or have a significant impact on competition in their industry over the next five year.
What it is certainly set to do, is to play a crucial role in bringing costs under control while still driving growth. This includes opportunities to simplify legacy systems, increase the deployment of robotics and adopt fully integrated Software-as-a-Service (SaaS-based) models.
PwC’s estimates suggest more than half of the activities people are paid to perform can be automated by adopting advanced robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) – either now, or surprisingly soon.
The leap forward in automation, robotics and blockchain not only offers cheap and reliable ways to run routine processes, strengthening efficiency and productivity, but it also frees up staff to focus on higher value openings. And as operations become more automated, the value of skills that can’t be replicated by machines is increasing.
In Africa, new technological developments such as fintech start-ups are transforming the way in which banks run their businesses. Emerging technology is reshaping the social landscape into a more mobile and customer-centric world where consumers are redefining their expectations in terms of engagement and price ratio.
Even though fintech remains a small market in Africa, investments are expected to rise significantly from $200-million in 2014 to $3-billion by 2020.
Workforce to be re-engineered
Diversity and inclusion are moving up the agenda as banking and capital markets CEOs look to broaden their talent pool and bring in the fresh ideas and experiences needed to foster innovation, and 74% of BCM CEOs have changed their people strategy to reflect the skills and employment structures they need for the future.
More than 87% of the industry CEOs say they promote talent diversity and inclusiveness, as they look to broaden their talent pool and bring in the fresh ideas and experiences needed to foster innovation.
Natsas adds: “Banking CEOs have a number of challenges to contend with – political and economic uncertainty on the one hand, and the pace of technological change and customers’ ever increasing expectations on the other.
“Yet banking and capital market organisations have people who are smart, analytical and good at problem-solving. Honing and harnessing these capabilities will enable organisations to get ahead of the curve in a marketplace that is opening up as never before.”