I have had the rare privilege of pursuing both CRB and CCPP certifications at Retail Banking Academy and I quite understand when my friends and colleagues see that as an overkill. My experience with Retail Banking Academy stemmed from how easily confounded banking executives, including those in the C-suite, became once they assumed leadership roles in Retail Banking. The trend became so profound that most banking professionals in my clime perceive Retail Banking roles as punitive or the last frontier before being downsized in the ever-volatile industry. My curiosity led me to the discovery that the challenge was lack of a coherent body of knowledge for retail bankers to hone their skills. When I enrolled for Retail Banking I after being introduced to the Academy by a senior colleague, it became evident to me how dangerously unequipped so many retail bankers are for the job they do daily. This reinforced one of the most poignant statements in the objectives of RBA, where it aims to make Retail Banking a profession like accounting or law.
My introduction to ethical selling, customer service and customer relationship management, channels, risk and financial management concepts among other topics as they relate to retail banking was an instant hit. I got hooked instantly. The engagement in the students’ forums was quite exciting and brought together perspectives from diverse climes and backgrounds.
I applied a product management concept l learned in articulating a strategy that was adopted by my bank in a groupwide product audit and rationalisation. The respect I enjoyed from my superiors and peers started soaring beyond my expectations, and there and then I made up my mind to certify as a Retail Banker. The curriculum was so relevant and compelling that I decided to put on hold my desire to understand cards and payments, both of which are very important factors in my line of business, and indeed my original intent for enrolling onto the CRB programme.
In 2015 I earned my CRB certification. However, the retail banking space was evolving rapidly in my own view. In my estimation, technology was reshaping business and customer engagement models. I became more convinced that the emergence of new technologies and the breath-taking convergence of payments, mobility and social media required a new approach, a new thought process and a new skill set.
Understanding cards and payments at a much deeper level became an imperative.
It has, as I expected, been an exhilarating journey and one of the best decisions I have ever taken.
The cards and payments landscape is changing at such dizzying speed that developing the required depth of knowledge will be an indispensable tool any retail banker will require to remain ahead of the curve. I will mention just a few of those changes under the following headings:
- Disruptive Events
- Customer Engagement Models
The payments landscape remains one of those most threatened with disruption. We have moved beyond FinTechs creating strong waves of disintermediation to whole new payment models such as distributed ledger technologies that are constantly interrogating established payments and remittance frameworks. Crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending platforms are questioning traditional lending practices and risk approaches. FinTechs like Transferwise are creating alternative remittance options for customers, with significant impact on traditional banks’ market share, while distributed ledger technologies are constantly evolving and offering speed and lower cost as they edge over traditional cross-border trade remittances and treasury management.
In the technology space, a sound understanding of the technology stack that powers your products is a key requirement. An understanding of the technology behind your product with respect to user experience, user interface and security will come in handy, especially if you are in the product management space of Retail Banking. It is also important that today’s Retail Banker understands CRM, the data sets or environments and the choices to be made for optimal results from a technology point of view. APIs and how they define the underlying structure of collaboration, and new payment forms such as NFC and QR code-based payments are a must know.
The influence of regulation with respect to interchange, APRs, and the sweeping implications of legislation such as PSD2 in SEPA, Basel 3 and the leverage caps and capital requirements it places on credit card portfolios all have a profound effect on profitability, and are pressuring banks and card schemes to revise their revenue models and offerings. The requirement for significant changes in existing infrastructure as some payment areas migrate to new technologies like EMV, and pressure from regulators through aggressive modifications in liability shifts for noncompliance, keep stakeholders on their toes constantly.
Mobile as a channel is becoming very important due to capabilities enabled on today’s devices. The more than cursory interest of the big four technology companies and other hardware providers in payments will significantly affect future customer engagement models. The new customer’s digital journey is heavily driven by social interactions on the web through social media channels, and the interactions between these activities and customer’s purchase journey are closing very quickly.
In conclusion, therefore, it is my conviction that the Retail Banking, cards and payments space is evolving quickly, and that practitioners of these professions must be ahead in terms of their skill sets and a deep understanding of the technology that drives their business. This balance will be of immense value in understanding the customer’s purchase journey and the factors that will increase stickiness or switching cost. The certifications have been of incalculable benefit to me, and I recommend having both as the way to go for all Retail Banking professionals.