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If you think the future is purely digital, are you nuts?

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Arriving at the venue, I spot a good friend. We shake hands and hug. Then I see another friend I’ve missed. We hug and kiss.

1999?

2019?

2022?

The conference network disappeared in 2020, and it’s now trying to come back.

How I miss those networked days. Some say we don’t need them. Some say we can network online and do things online just as effectively. Some say home schooling is as good as school schooling.

Sorry, I don’t agree.

Humans need face-to-face contact.

After over a year locked down in my home, I’m yearning to escape. I want to get out and meet people; to talk and drink and chat and eat and just be with other humans. That’s a natural feeling, as we’re all social. What’s unnatural is being stuck in one place and not going out.

After a year of no conferences, no events, no concerts, no theatre, no restaurants … no nothing, we all need something. It’s irritating to not network.

Now, I understand we can Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Team and stuff. That’s all well and good, but it’s not the same. The eyeballs of a human online are not the same as the eyeballs of a human face-to-face.

The reason this is important is that I can see retailers toppling and falling, as are chains of restaurants and bars. I can see the rationale for closing branches and banks saying customers can self-serve all online. I can see the idea that you don’t need to catch a flight, rush to hotel, register at the conference desk and walk a conference hall.

I can see those things, but I don’t believe in those things.

I don’t believe in humans sitting in rooms watching screens. I’m a digital guy. I believe in digital. But, I believe digital augments physical; it does not replace it.

And this is the critical point: you cannot do everything digitally.

No matter how much I promote digital connectivity and service, I don’t believe that a purely digital play works. Whether you are a retailer, bank or other service provider, a purely digital connection does not cut the mustard.

You might say: so, what about facebook and twitter? but those companies began with a purely digital play and succeeded with a purely digital play. Yet isn’t it interesting to see Amazon opening stores and Apple running a network of stores?

100% digital? For a lot of life, that won’t work. To live a life, you need some percentage of physical. The question is how much?

This is important for banks to consider, as banking is all about emotion. Money is emotional. Money is psychological. Money is a critical factor in our psyche. Money is more than just digits and data. It may be transmitted and translated to digits and data but, bringing it down to each individual, it’s about how they live their lives.

This is why I believe banks will always have stores, or branches if you prefer. 100% digital doesn’t cut the mustard.

Customers will always want that physical access, even if it’s not needed. Psychologically, it’s reassuring to know it’s there. It makes you feel comfortable that the bank actually exists.

During this pandemic, I’ve realised that physical contact is critical. I need to network, I need conferences, I need to get out and I need to see people. Face-to-face and not on Zoom.

If you think the future is purely digital, are you nuts?

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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