UBS Think Tank: What Will Be Left of Banking in a Digital World

Markus Iofcea, head of UBS Y

Markus Iofcea, head of UBS Y

UBS Y, the think tank of Switzerland's biggest bank, has developed a vision of banking in 2040 that would put in question the lion's share of today's banking as we know it.

The disclaimer issued right at the start of the presentation said it all: the scenarios developed by UBS Y, the bank's think tank, aren't in tune with the strategy of the institution, said Markus Iofcea (pictured).

With good reason: the visions presented by the head of UBS Y at an event organized by the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) in Bern are so radical that they don't fit with the typical restraint of the company's views.

The Client of 2040

Of course, UBS Y has the support of the UBS top management. The think tank has the brief to develop scenarios of wealth management in decades ahead – that's what it was founded for by Dirk Klee, the COO of wealth management. UBS Y today is part of the bank's IT division.

Iofcea's five-strong team, all of whom are from outside of banking, are focusing on the client of 2040. He and she will have mastered the challenges posed by digitization, and the achievements are part and parcel of everyday life, Iofcea says.

Online at All Times

People in 25 years will not only be online at all times, but are literally part of the Internet. They will be wired up and have a second, virtual personality. The virtual personality develops independent activities according to the preferences of the real person: it is buying, guiding and investing the assets.

The customer of the future will have an evolutionary filter at his disposal, allowing him and her to filter the relevant information from within the barrage of information at hand.

Renewed Focus on Human Relations

The consequence will be that anything not instantly available is losing out. And everything that doesn't bring an instant and immediate added value will be equally unsuccessful. Experiences will count for much more than material goods and money, Iofcea believes. Digital man will focus more on spiritual matters and human relationships.

Everything will be ranked, including the virtual personality. High scores create a level of trust and give better access through the filter.

Trust Remains the Hardest Currency

Given those parameters, bankers in 2040 will have to provide their services instantly, flawlessly and under the constant pressure of being compared. The links between digital networks and the personal relationship with the client will both be of importance.

Trust however will remain the hardest currency in banking even in a quarter of a century.

That is, if the job of a banker still exists. UBS Y is thinking about banks without bankers – one of the possible scenarios according to the presentations in Bern recently.

«Bullshit Jobs»

The fully automatic robo-bank might well be part of the data-motorway preferred by customers in 2040.

Bankers of course wouldn't be the only ones to be out of work. Digitization will cost jobs across industries and render some work completely meaningless – the «bullshit jobs» – a likely vision in the eyes of UBS Y too.

Reason enough for UBS management to keep a close eye on UBS Y: no staff means no need for fancy management titles and no way of getting spectacular bonuses.

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