Lending is an age-old practice of business but money's transformation from commodity money, to fiat cash and finally into today's crypto-currency form, is creating new challenges for financial institutions that some say are too slow to embrace the digital age.
For investors, it would be prudent to consider digital as a key differentiator in the financial services industry. That is, they should figure out which banks are doing an excellent job in positioning themselves by providing electronic and mobile solutions.
Banks need to be technology-savvy to attract customers, especially millennials and those from Generation Z, who display vastly different habits from those of older generations. That will require disruptive innovation and financial technology-types of offerings.
Millennials, at nearly 75 million, are the largest generation in the United States, and they spend more than three hours a day on their mobile phones and more than six hours daily on social media. The more time that they spend in the virtual world, the less time they spend in the real world, such as using ATMs or at other brick-and-mortar locations.
The younger crowd can make empowering choices by researching widely available data on the web, and that can make the market for financial products more efficient as consumers are better able to compare offers.
Almost half of millennials (47%) said that the most important thing when looking at a new credit card is low to no annual percentage rate, according to Capital One's latest Platinum MasterCard Credit Confidence Survey.
And 43% said that little to no annual fee is the most important factor when looking at a new credit card.
"Just like people like to monitor their steps or activity on their phones, millennials can stay on top of their finances just as easily" said Stefanie O'Connell, a millennial money expert.
"They have unprecedented access to tools and technology that enable them to build a financial future on their own terms," she said "Millennials should take advantage of digital tools and leverage them to their advantage and not be afraid to take those first steps towards establishing credit."
In Capital One's recent survey, 27% of respondents said that fraud protection is the No. 1 thing to look for in a new credit card, while 20% said that access to mobile and online financial tools and various types of rewards are their top considerations.
These preferences reflect the industry's plans to increase tech spending this year, with security, data analytics and mobile banking ranked as the top three categories for higher spending, according to the American Banker.
Wall Street is assigned the task of analyzing risk when it comes to global markets and financial instruments.
But the rise of FinTech is causing the banking industry to be at the highest risk of disruption of any industry, according to a three-year study by Viacom's Scratch.
The consulting firm's study also found that differentiation is crucial for millennials, with 53% saying that they don't think that their banks offer anything different and nearly 33% saying that they are open to switching banks in the next 90 days.
Other key findings from Scratch's study included that about 70% of millennials said that in five years, the way consumers access money and pay for things will be totally different.
In addition, one in three surveyed said they won't need a bank at all in five years.
And 73% said that they would be more excited by a financial offering from Alphabet's Google, Amazon, Apple or Square than from a traditional bank.
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As more financial institutions create digital and mobile storefronts to stay close to customers, there are indications of which banks are doing the best job of incorporating FinTech into their product and service offerings.
For example, InformationWeek's Elite 100 ranks the nation's most innovative users of business technology.
Of 100 companies in various industries, InformationWeek's rankings identify 16 organizations that belong in the banking and financial services sector.
In the near future, perhaps consumers will make deposits by texting, emailing and swiping their smartphones, actions made possible by money being transformed from physical cash into a ubiquitous, crypto-currency that simply resides on our digital screens. In banking, there is a race toward disruption and the question is, who will get there first, banks or tech companies?
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.