By William John Streitberg, Chief Information and Technology Officer, Hong Leong Bank Berhad
We are all very lucky to be living in one of the most interesting ages the world has ever seen, some may call it the information age, but I like to refer to it as the age of data and the age of customer. The world has been accelerating at an ever increasing pace since the first real handheld computer was put on the shelves in 2007, this device brought data to the masses and additionally started to create data on a scale never seen before.
Due to the variety and sheer quantities of data, the digital landscape is changing fast, it is honestly hard to keep up with it most of the time. With the age of data coming into full swing we are all seeing customer expectations and behaviours changing – their expectations are Choice, Fast, Anywhere, Anytime, Consistent and Free.
As the younger generations come through, this is going to become the standard for services. YouTube, games, search engines, social media, online shopping, communication channels, etc. are the ones that are setting the bar for services leading into the customer era. You only need to look at your children to see the change. We went through school using encyclopedias and pens, the generation behind us went through using search engines and word processors, and the young ones coming through today are all for short video and media files. A phone call is now face to face or a recorded message. We need to keep in mind that this journey has happened in the last 10 years alone.
With the advances in the ability to store, create, connect and consume data we are seeing major and significant advances in pharmaceuticals, genetics, energy alternatives, transportation, food processing, production techniques and above all else, global connectivity of people and things. Most, if not all of these advances are being driven by the ability to obtain, read, translate and decipher data from new sources on an unheard of scale. Data is probably now the most valuable asset on the planet, overtaking some of the old paradigms of oil and land-based consumables being the steadfast backbones of an organisation or country.
Data is not something that can be controlled and contained, it can be hindered but it is very hard to stop the flow
We now have algorithms churning all this data that can predict when a planes engine will fail, when someone is going to buy something, what a person’s chance of a given disease is, why a person is calling you, what sex your child will be, and the list simply goes on. As the data grows and the availability and consumption of the data becomes easier, we are also starting to see blurring of the lines between the old and new. Data is not something that can be controlled and contained. It can be hindered but it is very hard to stop the flow.
All this data is feeding the AI; Machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, intelligent applications, recommendation engines, etc. Yes, I do understand that data is only one component of the digital ecosystem and yes the power to process it is also becoming ever easier to obtain, but without something to process, the ability to process is irrelevant.
In this new and emerging world, if you are not able to harness, extrapolate, digest and utilize data that is available to you, you will simply be consumed by your competitors. Additionally, if you are not able to change the way you do business and identify new and innovative ways to monetize data and present it to your end customer Fast, Anywhere, Anytime, Consistent and Free, you will lose the Choice race. In most cases this means you not only need to innovate on the service you provide and the data associated with it, you need to innovate on your revenue streams. The days of the traditional paid electronic services will become less of a viable proposition to customers. You only need to look at shopping, payments, remittance and the technology paradigm itself to see this changing. The days of paying license fees for software use are being challenged like never before, as the Choice is there to have a product or a service that requires no payment, but with similar if not better functionality.
One of the largest disruptors to the status quo is the emergence of new businesses that are able to leverage data in new ways, yet provide the same service as the incumbents – cheaper and faster. I personally do not believe that the issue is about disruption of an industry. The industry will still be there, it will just change form. There was coal before oil, there was gas lighting before electrical, there was gold before gold receipts, i.e., “Modern Cash”, and so it goes on. People will still need to borrow money, they will still need to place their money into an account, they will still need to make payments, and to send money to far off places. Maybe this will not be a traditional bank account, but the company that is able to provide the service cheaper and faster, or as a free service based on an alternate revenue stream, is going to win over the customer sentiment and in turn share.