Global Retail Banking – Prepare today or fail tomorrow

We live in a world of economic uncertainty and marketplace volatility. Weakening growth in the developed world, allied with a lack of political leadership is unnerving markets and business leaders alike. As this blog is published, the eurozone crisis rumbles on (or even worsens). Meanwhile, the political stand-off in America is adding to the sense that leading authorities will make a fatal miscalculation.

At the heart of all of this, still, are the banks. Despite the stress tests, there are too many unknowns for any complacency. How many toxic assets still sit on bank balance sheets? How far will slow economic growth or any rises to interest rates, cripple the banks’ loan books? What are the counterparty risks? How quickly could sovereign insolvency and bank illiquidity lead to a meltdown of confidence, a drying up of the interbank market and a second credit crunch? To what extent will regulation force restructuring in the banking industry? Which bank is the next to fail or to need government support?

Meanwhile, the picture in the developing nations and frontier markets could not look more different. By and large we are looking at an increasingly decoupled world where Asia (and other emerging markets like Brazil) are reaching a self-sustaining cycle with far less dependency on the USA and Europe. On-going trade surpluses are raising domestic demand little by little. Economic growth has recovered quicker and to much higher levels than in the developed world. Meanwhile, banks in China, India and beyond, cleansed a lot of their bad debts in the 1990s and capital ratios are in better financial shape than in the West. Despite occasional nervousness about bad loans (e.g. in Chinese local government), and a marginal weakening in economic outlook, the still strong GDP expansion means that, overall, banks in developing countries are looking forward to a decade of profitable growth.

With such macro-economic instability (and divergence), geo-political and balance sheet uncertainty, who’d be a forecaster? And yet it is vital to get our hands around the future. Yes, the exact future is unknowable, but it is possible to anticipate plausible outcomes which can then inform decision making today. Better to predict, assess probabilities and prepare than sit back and become the victim of future changes.

It is in this spirit that Jones Lang LaSalle we have written a report on Retail Banking, 2020. Using desk research, expert interviews and industry round tables across three Continents, we have taken a 360° tour of the horizon. We have looked at political, economic, technological and socio-cultural trends. Bringing this together, we have then analysed the knowns, taken a view on the unknowns and derived a plausible vision of where retail banking is going internationally, and what the knock-on effects will be for real estate markets. Read Global Retail Banking 2020 to find out more