Making forecasts for the New Year is fraught with danger: 12 months ago for example one would not have predicted Brexit or the election of President Trump.
But it is that time of the year again and here goes. Prominent buzzwords in 2017 will include open banking, PSD2, open APIs, AI and again, Brexit.
The neobanks will continue to generate a disproportionate amount of PR activity and hype; expect them to grab more headlines about shaking things up and how they will teach the incumbent banks how to optimise customer experience.
In practice, they will struggle to attract customer numbers but do not be surprised if we see more M&A activity such as the sale of Fidor in 2016 or strategic stake building similar to BBVA/Atom.
The ATM will celebrate its 50th birthday in July in a blaze of publicity – expect to see black and white images of celebrated UK sitcom star Reg Varney using Barclays’ first ATM in Enfield in 1967 – the writer will be one of the few on Timetric’s staff old enough to know who he was and appreciate just how big a star he was.
Barclays will reinforce its tradition for innovation with increased use of voice recognition software and cardless ATM withdrawals. And we might finally see UK banks catching up their international peers, belatedly, by rolling out remote cheque deposit via smartphone.
Challenger brands in the UK such as TSB and Halifax will continue to punch above their weight with market share gains. Unless something extraordinary happens, first direct and Metro Bank will continue to top the UK banking league for net promoter scores.
Bank dividends might even come back into fashion in 2017: in recent years, save for the likes of RBC, Scotiabank, ANZ, NAB, reporting bank dividends has been a novelty. Bank of America attracted headlines by doubling its dividend to a princely $0.08; its dividend pre-the crisis in 2008 was a whopping $0.64.
Expect to see real progress with actual real life uses of blockchain with loyalty and rewards programmes one example where progress will be made.
In the US, Lord knows if the incoming President will dare to enact some of his wilder pledges such as abolishing the CFPB and repeal Dodd-Frank.
A full repeal looks improbable, impractical and foolhardy. A safer bet would be to forecast modest amendments that will relieve some pressure on community banks.
In a seasonal spirit of optimism, the suggestion from this desk is that Trump will be nothing like as bad in practice as his enemies suggest and not as radical as his supporters claim.
In a similar spirit, fingers are crossed at this end that election results in 2017 in France and Germany do not cause major economic and political nightmares.
One might even witness urgently needed rationalisation in Italy’s banking sector but that may be taking optimism to an extreme.
Further branch closures programmes are inevitable: with 65 branches per 100,000 adults, Spain remains vastly over-branched. Italy (48), France (38) and the US ditto when compared with the UK (25), Sweden (20), Germany (14) and the Netherlands (13).
On a less optimistic note, the UK government will remain the largest shareholder in RBS but we might see some light at the end of the tunnel if RSB can finally strike a deal to dispose of Williams & Glyn.
The sector will however remain hugely exciting and fun to cover. A very merry Christmas to all contributors, press officers, freelancers, PRs and subscribers and best wishes for 2017.