This approach extends all the way down to branch level, where HSBC wants its staff to be less specialised (like a teller, for example), something it calls the "universal banker". Branch staff are expected to push digital channels over traditional channels and to educated customers on how to do things online.
Ironically this amounts to branch staff becoming agents of their own downfall. I recently saw this in a Nationwide building society branch, where I was encouraged to do a BACS transfer myself online and the staff walked me through the process, instead of performing the transaction for me. I will now do all future BACS transfers from the comfort of my own home.
Adams also admits that the HSBC retail bank lacks diversity at board level, not just in terms of age, gender and race, but also in terms of technical literacy and openness to innovation.
"This is a personal comment but yes, within that five year window I would expect to see some changes [at board level]," Adams said. "I would hope that when I am sitting in the boardroom at the retail bank that we would have a more diverse, innovation and customer experience set of people, more comfortable working at a different cycle speed.
"For me it's not a nice to have, I think if we don't start to see those improvements in five years then we will be behind."
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