By: Amy Williams
Imagine a world without bricks-and-mortar banks – where mobile bankers come to you to sort out the complex stuff, but otherwise your banking app recognises your face and lets you into your accounts.
This is the future of banking. It’s no longer wrapped in the stigma of being traditional and boring – technology is disrupting the banking industry, and bringing a host of new jobs and necessary skill sets.
“Banks are very reliant on technology, so the technology department is going to be a key part of the organisation,” says Dr Claire Matthews, banking expert at Massey University, where she’s the director of academic programmes.
“There’s much less emphasis on cash transactions, because customers are doing a lot electronically and online so there’s less need for them to go in to a bank and get cash out,” says Matthews.
When we visit a bank branch, it’s generally to find someone who can help with a more complex task – setting up a home loan, for example.
Matthews says careers in banking can be as varied as specialising in personal finance, or combating online fraud, and making sure a bank meets its regulatory requirements.
She began her career as a bank teller in Palmerston North, when customers queued with cheques at their local branch. She held a variety of roles at branch and regional level in her 12 years working for Trustbank (now Westpac).
Although much has changed since then, Matthews says banks still offer good opportunities for people wanting to move up the ranks.
“Banking has been attractive in the past and I think it continues to be because there’s a level of stability in the organisations, and banks provide a fundamental service. They can offer some opportunity if you’re interested in going further.”
Enter the New Zealand Financial Innovation & Technology Association (FinTechNZ), which has reached the milestone of a year and attracted 116 members, including New Zealand’s major banks.
FinTechNZ’s general manager, James Brown, hails from corporate banking and made the switch to non-profit last year after seeing an opportunity to foster tech talent in the financial realm.
“Banking is more fluid and agile than it used to be – it has transitioned from pinstriped suits and traditional ways of doing things. Now large banks are working with start-ups,” says Brown.
The organisation aims to help fintech companies succeed both here and internationally in a global marketplace.
Brown says a career in banking and finance is more varied now than in the past, and people need to be agile, learn new skills throughout their career, and be able to work across departments.
“I would expect to bring different skills to the table. How do I think about my engagement with a customer, when my customer wants to speak to me through the app rather than face to face? How do I deliver products that the customer wants to access rather than me telling them what we do?” he says.
“You might have left school and gone straight to work in a bank, and potentially have been there all your life, whereas now it’s a lot more transient. People are now moving a lot more within a bank, and they’re actually moving outside more frequently.”
Brown sees a future in fintech, as many banks have whole departments dedicated to new ventures and technology.
And with such change, comes responsibility – the financial services sector also provides opportunities for those interested in financial literacy.
“There is a real opportunity [in fintech], but we shouldn’t fail on our responsibilities to educate people on the value of the dollar as they are growing up,” says Mr Brown.