In the years leading up to 2030 we had been moving towards a gentler, more human financial sector, says Solange Rouschop, CEO of ABN Amro Private Banking Belgium. Concerns about the environment, equality and purpose have changed the industry beyond recognition. Add to that a massive wave of digitization and the financial sector of 2030 looks little like that of 2022.
If there is one trend that dominates the financial sector in 2030; it is undoubtedly the impact of ESG on business operations. Attention to the environment, to the social role of financial institutions and to governance are now deeply woven into every layer of almost every bank. It took a while before we realized how important, for example, our environment and our surroundings are, but it is now abundantly clear that we must work towards a complete net-zero portfolio. We are not there yet, but the way forward is very well defined and irreversible.
CEO ABN Amro
The “S” in ESG has become equally dominant. It was long a tick-the-box exercise, but the shortage in the labor market has forced the entire sector to deal with this much more consciously. Because of the aging population, this shortage is becoming increasingly acute. Diversity is therefore an absolute necessity and not just a chapter in your next annual report.
At the same time, we are now thinking a lot more about inequality in society and everyone realizes that we, as a business sector, have a role to play there. Banks are now intrinsically convinced that they have an impact on our society and that conviction is no longer based on regulations alone. The urge for ever more economic growth has certainly not gone away, but more and more we acknowledge that we will have to find another form and another modus operandi for this growth to be sustainable.
A second major trend that has changed everything is digitalization. Literally everything is digital, simply because customers expect it. Digital is everywhere, it works, and it does what it is supposed to do. Passwords and logins no longer exist, all access is now based on biometrics, face scans and voice recognition. Artificial intelligence has made its appearance in every business process. For the transfer of value, we largely use the blockchain and tokens. This puts intermediary players, such as banks, in a difficult position. And not just the banks: in 2030, the stock exchanges still exist, but whether that will still be the case in 2050, I am not entirely convinced. The gatekeeping function of banks to help identify criminal money circuits has expanded, but that process is now largely digital and automated, with no manual intervention.
Blockchain and digital currencies have become so important that many more MiFiD-like rules have been developed around them. After all, an unregulated system alongside a regulated, traditional system is a situation that nobody wants. With the rise of digital coins, cash is now on its last legs
If there is one trend that will dominate the financial sector in 2030, it is undoubtedly the impact of ESG on business operations.
As for our clients, the target group we work for has largely remained the same compared to ten years ago. Most of them are still at least 45 years old, but they have also become more diverse, with more female and more multicultural entrepreneurs. There are exceptions (crypto millionaires under 30) but most private banking clients still need time to build up assets, and their age is a reflection of this. The most important thing for a bank is how to stay relevant for them. Our reputation, our digital capabilities and our presence are the important levers in this respect.
Innovation has also become increasingly important over the years. An important rule in this regard is that innovation is not just the work of clever programmers. Innovation must be part of your culture, and operational people must also be able to identify opportunities. This means that the technological knowledge of your workforce must be higher than it used to be and that you have to know how to integrate that knowledge into your business. People who can do that are scarce and therefore highly sought after, not only in the financial sector.
So, as a bank, you have to be attractive to your employees even more than before. We need to give our people development opportunities, look after their wellbeing and have an eye for inclusiveness. Being able to offer purpose has become a critical attribute. Why do we do what we do? You must have a ready-made answer to that question.
In addition, flexibility has become paramount. People must be able to work more or work less when they feel like it, and they must be given the space to realize their own projects alongside their job. Technology also plays a role in this. Employees are approached in a hyper-individualistic way, with a program tailored to their specific needs. If they want to study, they can. If they want to work more, they can. If they want to work less, they can.
Finally, we see that in the financial sector there is still room for successful niche players, but at the same time, the number of consolidations has only increased. The type of consolidation is, however, changing and is no longer limited to banks only. It is perfectly possible for a bank to enter a partnership with, say, a telecom player. This creates completely new platforms, which of course also attract the attention of the regulators.
We need to give our people development opportunities, look after their wellbeing and, here, inclusiveness is a clear necessity.
About the interviewee
Solange Rouschop graduated from Tilburg University in 1995 and started working that same year as a trainee at ABN Amro, where she has spent her entire professional career. From 2000 to 2010, she worked for the bank in Asia before returning to Belgium to become the Director Products & Business Development for Belgium and Luxembourg. After this, Solange Rouschop traded Belgium for the Netherlands and became global head of Investment Services & Sustainability for ABN Amro Private Banking. Since 2017, Rouschop has been CEO of ABN Amro Private Banking Belgium.
30 Voices on 2030: The new reality for financial services
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