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Big four 'way ahead' on digital disruption

A former global bank adviser has flagged the competitive advantage of the major lenders as digital disruption hits the international financial system.

Speaking at the ASIC Annual Forum in Sydney on Monday, Mr Paul Schulte – a former adviser to the China Construction Bank, White House National Security Council, Credit Suisse and Lehman Bros – said “profound disintermediation” is afoot in the global financial services and investment banking sectors.

Unlike many banks worldwide – which are preparing for redundancies in their research and trading operations – the major Australian banks have been early adopters of innovative strategies on big data, automation and financial technology tools, Mr Schulte said.

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“Despite being one of the more heavily regulated banking sectors in the region, [the Australian banks] really are leading the way in financial technology,” he said.

“Banks like CBA, ANZ and NAB are way ahead of any regional bank [in responding digital disruption].”

The researcher and NYU professor said these three banks in particular have an advantage not only over the family-owned banks in emerging Asian markets, but also the established banks domiciled in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“A lot of banks already have the architecture, they have the data sitting around but they don’t know what to do with it,” he said. “They’re just not with the program.”

By contrast, the Australian banks have “changed their DNA” to be more adaptive to market disruptors such as Alibaba and peer-to-peer lending sites.

However, addressing the same audience, Jacob Hook, a partner at management consultancy Oliver Wyman, said that overzealous regulation in Australia may be thwarting start-up disruptors from threatening the banks.

“Heavy regulatory burden can fall much more heavily on start-ups,” Mr Hook said.

“It is important that we have innovation outside the incumbents.”

Big four 'way ahead' on digital disruption
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