Strategic Treasury

Disrupt or Be Disrupted What does the future hold for banking? The author highlights three key areas in which banks should be aiming to disrupt rather than be disrupted.

Disrupt or Be Disrupted

Paula Da Silva

by Paula da Silva, Deputy Head of Transaction Banking & Head of Working Capital Management, Merchant Banking, SEB

When I think about the future of banking, I feel encouraged. No matter the area – retail banking or corporate transaction banking – it’s easy to see giant leaps forward ahead that will both change the view of banking and make banks as intermediaries between lenders and investors all the more important. I see three key ways to disrupt rather than be disrupted.


Huge advances have been made in digital banking, yet it’s only the beginning. Many talk about Know Your Customer, or KYC. But I think in terms of KYCB: Know Your Customer’s Business. When you grasp customer needs, you can meet those needs digitally.

In transaction banking, there’s only an interface for the actual transaction. The client logs in and looks at a screen to make an additional payment or check balances. This happens all day, every day. But what about the rest of the process? Banks are good at transaction processing. We exchange enormous amounts of information with our clients through a vast amount of channels, but it is unsynchronised. We should rather spend time and money analysing the data and suggesting measures to improve our clients’ processes, but make it automated.

Let me give you an example. A sales person from a client is making a trip to Mexico to meet a prospect. Before setting out we have uploaded upcoming trips from our clients’ travel agency and compiled information necessary for the client on this trip. The client can then upload information from the trip on sales or other expected events. Based on this joint pool of information we can offer advice. We can suggest carrying out X, Y and Z cash management measures to deal with these events.

You see this kind of process-improvement thinking everywhere. If you book a hotel on you will get a suggestion on your next Facebook log-in of other hotel bookings for your next journey. But this does not happen often today in banking. However, with knowledge about your customer you can digitally tackle the next step for transaction banking customer needs.


If you make an insurance claim, you can follow that claim online. If you send a package to the other side of the world, you can see exactly where your package is at any given time. This is a great service that companies provide for customers to use for their own benefit, and in fact prefer to work on themselves. The same can be true for transaction banking.

Think about clients making a payment, transferring money, opening an account. Nowadays, if a customer has a question after using one of these services, they contact a call-centre and get help over the phone. This type of customer service can be inefficient and ineffective. Advancements in online self-service capabilities offer a host of benefits: real-time service with more time to focus on customer needs and advice for bankers and more time to deal with more important matters for corporate treasurers. What I would like would be to be able to talk to clients when something extraordinary has happened, rather than fixing daily operational issues. Clients could basically upload their financial and risk policy, and we could monitor it for them and act upon it. For example: “We always exchange INR for USD or we always confirm L/Cs from market X”. They would receive notification of any deviation via their device of choice for corrective action.


The first two areas – digitalisation and self-service – are intuitive. Tie advancements in these two areas into a context of benefiting society: you’re now talking about ecosystems.

When innovating, we should, like other forward-looking innovative companies, try to think about all interested parties in the value chain. For example, paying for coffee at a coffee shop with your phone. Such a transaction is simple, user-friendly, and better for the entire payment chain – the consumer, the coffee shop, the credit card company, the phone manufacturer etc. That is a service that will most probably catch on. A product that only helps, say, the coffee shop to sell more, for example a new gizmo to carry around in addition to your cash and credit cards – this is a less innovative new product and could easily be disrupted by products that fit together and give incremental benefits to all participants in the system.

We have a lot to learn from other industries. But banks, as intermediaries between lenders and investors, sit in the middle of these digitalisation processes. As intermediaries, banks have the ability to analyse and add value to business processes, and to disrupt the old ways of working. This is what is exciting to me.

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