Bankers, credit union executives and other leaders of financial service providers have ranked AI, data use, and advanced analytics as their priority in 2019, according to a survey by the Digital Banking Report, the first time the leaders in the financial industry prioritized embracing technological innovations over customer service improvement.

Banks and other financial companies beef up their investments in digital technologies in response to the continually evolving demands of their customers. These leaders also stress the importance of open banking and APIs to their global operations. What’s more, the survey conducted across all inhabited continents also revealed the financial leader’s recognition of innovation as a significant trend in 2019.

Their shift in priorities also signals their desire to compete with fintech startups and small companies as well as big tech organizations.

More Attached to Tech Firms

In another survey, this time conducted by Deloitte in 17 countries, revealed that banking consumers have a more emotional bond with technology brands like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook than with their banks.

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Deloitte said the ability to mix physical and digital experiences of some of the tech companies is a good model that banks should follow.

Disrupt Institutional Banking

Meanwhile, an executive at Citi challenge fintech startups to disrupt big banks, pointing out that “opportunity is enormous.”  Naveed Sultan, Citi’s global head of treasury, said that if these tech companies can become part of a value chain to the point that they can provide better execution and service than banks and at better efficiency and scalability, the banks might turn over that activity to fintech and focus instead on the value-added space.

Sultan said he believes the financial world get better business opportunities for banks if fintech companies collaborate with them, especially on the institutional side.

Sultan disclosed that Citi is currently scouting thousands of fintech startups every year to collaborate with them. To prove its dedication to engage with fintech, the financial services giant has built four “innovation centers” in Singapore, Dublin, Tel-Aviv, and London. Sultan added that the focus of Citi’s investments is the improvement of four priority areas — client experience, scalability, operating model responsiveness, and innovation.

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