The influence of digitization on a bank's most important resource
A guest contribution by Dr. Zeno Staub, CEO of Vontobel, which appeared on September 13, 2018 in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ).
The most important production factor in the financial industry is still people. Only people have a consciousness that includes intuition and creativity for new things as well as empathy as an indispensable building block of trust-based cooperation. Robots and artificial intelligence are tools that make humans stronger and more competitive, but in the end they are only successors to the hand ax, they are not a new species. But people who master these new tools demand a specific and more developed social interaction in the context of a company, i.e. in line with a specific corporate culture.
Vontobel CEO Dr. Zeno Staub
For a long time, digitization was seen only as a means to increase efficiency in processing and other back-office processes. Now technology has arrived with a bang in differentiating and value-adding processes in the front office and in direct customer contact: ensuring best execution, optimizing data analysis in the investment area, quantitatively controlled investment and risk management processes and now ever new forms of customer interaction that are tailored and interactive in real time thanks to technology.
Successful digitization requires people
Understanding and structuring clients’ needs remains at the heart of asset management. This is followed by the mapping and implementation of the resulting requirements on the capital markets, performed out of conviction using active approaches that are based on the insight that only independent analysis and independent thinking create added value. The collective journey of clients and their financial advisers, in which assets and purchasing power are borne and developed over time, is characterized by constant communication, transparency and systematic monitoring of success. In all of these steps, the technology can either help to improve the achievable results, make customer interaction and thus the client experience simpler, more individual, independent of time and place, or increase the effect or efficiency of the specialists involved.
Technology will soon perform any repetitive, purely rule-based, mono-thematic task better, more immediately and faster than humans.
As a result, the required team composition for success in the asset management business is changing. Technology experts, data scientists, and specialists in user experience are becoming increasingly indispensable components of a successful team. They support, supplement and strengthen the investor and the consultant, but they do not replace them. These profiles are not only scarce today, they first emerged in other sectors and were developed to the point of excellence there. It is a challenge for financial companies to attract these profiles, learn from them and achieve maximum constructive team interaction.
Digitization as an impulse generator of a changed culture and leadership within the company
Technology will soon perform any repetitive, purely rule-based, mono-thematic task better, more immediately and faster than humans. Translated into our industry, customers will want and be able to have the one-size-fits-all passive portfolio digitally at no cost. Providers who want to offer their customers real added value and stand out from this alternative need employees who master technology as a tool and who also make the difference in combination with their very own, inimitable human qualities: creativity, social interaction, conscious opinion-forming and many more. These people need an environment that is supported by a strong, meaningful corporate purpose.
Structures must support agility, speed and innovation.
They demand entrepreneurial freedom and are prepared to take personal responsibility and to do extraordinary things. They command their environment, they demand precedents and friction. They are willing to give a lot—out of conviction. They want to be successful, because they know that people who master these new digital tools can build very powerful business models. This also requires a lot from the company management at all levels. Defining, determining and jointly developing strategy, goals and directions replace the definition and distribution of specific tasks and substeps. Structures must support agility, speed and innovation; the redundancy and decentralization so hated by the industrial efficiency mantra makes it possible to deal with a fast-moving, complex environment. An exciting business world, with many opportunities and people at its center.
About Dr. Zeno Staub
Dr. Zeno Staub began his career at Vontobel in 2001. Beginning in 2008, he strategically reoriented the Asset Management business area and successfully positioned it in the market. Since 2011, Staub has been the CEO of Vontobel.
Vontobel is always looking for people who master the technology as a tool and, by using it in combination with human qualities that can’t be duplicated, make a real difference.