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Digitization is exceedingly in a process of growth – and thereby fundamentally changing the way we think, act and interact. This transformation has not bypassed the financial industry, either. The fintech sector is gaining more ground and poses great challenges for banks.

Fintech is an abbreviated term for financial technology. It often refers to a new company that digitizes a product or service provided by banks and then offers it either directly to end consumers or to other financial market participants. Fintech companies usually seek out niches in which they can use modern technology to generate added value, new experiences, increased efficiency and cost savings.

Digitization and the usually rapid-fire developments that accompany it may cause alarm and be viewed as a threat. Nevertheless, digitization also offers opportunities that should not be overlooked! UBS has positioned itself ideally. We took the right steps at the right time. Our IT department is working intensively and in close collaboration with the business divisions to develop and test new ideas and technologies. Innovation labs have been set up at our Zurich, London and Singapore locations to facilitate this work. However, it is important to understand that the Silicon Valley motto “Move fast and break things” does not apply to a global financial institution such as UBS. A long-term vision is crucial, because our clients want to be certain that we are acting cautiously, prudently and appropriately. UBS is currently the leading multichannel bank in Switzerland and also the leading wealth manager worldwide. Our clients and their needs are our main priority. With the advent of digitization, we are being given new opportunities to understand clients better since their wishes and needs are more transparent.

Three Mega Trends

UBS has defined three mega trends that will revolutionize the industry. Firstly: We want to design our services in such a way that they will be immediately accessible to customers using any medium and at any location. Secondly: Big data – a large amount of data that we want to use quickly, systematically and purposefully in order to be able to recommend even more attractive investment solutions to our clients. Thirdly: The interaction between people and companies is changing as social media influence the way in which people interact. These new opportunities are also shifting client expectations and requirements.

Clients have access to a flood of data and find themselves faced with an information overload. Information and knowledge, however, are not one and the same thing. As a result, the expertise of a banking advisor is more vital now than ever.

Many things can certainly be accomplished online, with the range of online banking services growing steadily. Even new bank accounts can be opened online now. Nevertheless, the human factor is still required. When it comes to complex financial questions, large investment amounts, or any situation requiring sophisticated and holistic consulting, technology alone is unable to satisfy clients’ needs.

Being open to new and disruptive business models is essential. We must take a running leap aboard the moving train, because digitization is affecting not just the financial industry. The biggest obstacle is more than likely a cultural one. People are creatures of habit and usually have reservations when faced with change. Companies should involve their employees in change processes in a meaningful way and communicate openly with them.

Swiss Fintech Innovations

Switzerland has long been criticized for having failed to capitalize on the trend towards digitization. To remedy this, among other things, renowned banks and insurance companies founded the “Swiss Fintech Innovations” association in March 2016. The aim is to make Switzerland an international leading center for digitization and innovation in the financial industry. The association strives to strengthen Switzerland as an educational and scientific hub and promotes fintech companies based in the country.

The question is not about choosing to embrace digitization or not. It is really only about who can leap on to the moving train fast enough.


For German version of the blog post, please click here.

About the author


Thomas Ulrich is the Regional Director and Head of Wealth Management for the Zurich region at UBS, as well as president of the Zurich Banking Association.

UBS, a partner of Greater Zurich Area AG, provides financial consulting and solutions for affluent corporate and institutional clients around the world, as well as for private clients in Switzerland. The Group’s operational structure comprises our Corporate Center and five business units: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS has its headquarters in Zurich, and is present in 54 countries and all the key financial centers. The bank employs around 60,000 staff worldwide.

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