- Financial demands of younger generations will accelerate the shift to online banking, said a PwC associate director.
- Machine learning isn't ready to take over the management of all financial assets, but it could be in the future.
- Tech firms like Apple and Tencent are "racing" against banks to create a whole new marketplace-style financial market.
In a decade's time, there may not be a single bank branch, but that doesn't mean all your assets are going to managed by robots. Not yet, at least.
"I think the bank's going to be in the palm of your hand" in 10 years time, said Lucy Gazmararian, associate director, PwC Hong Kong, at CNBC's East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China.
To be clear, the shift is firmly underway with many financial institutions long having offered online-only services. But younger generations have grown up with decentralized digital banking, and they'll continue asking for new online services in lieu of traditional offline ones, Gazmararian believes. That means the shift toward all-digital banking may accelerate.
"I don't see much of a role for a whole stand-alone bank for much longer," she added.
Even if there are branches, they won't be "like today," said Jun Lu, head of Lufax Technology Center, on the same panel at East Tech West.
What exactly they'll look like is anyone's guess, but machine learning and the technology beneath cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, are revolutionizing everything from customer service to asset allocation. Even so, there will still need to be humans overseeing much of what financial institutions do for the foreseeable future, Lu said.
"Time's too short, we'll still have to wait to see" if robo-traders can take over completely, Lu told CNBC's Deirdre Bosa on Tuesday.
Big tech firms — Apple, Tencent and JD.com, among them — are another catalyst. They're "racing" against traditional banks to create individual products for consumers to choose piecemeal. That's what the future looks like, Gazmararian said.
"It's going to be much more of a marketplace platform structure," she said, "and everybody can be the aggregator of the products and services — and the winner will be the provider that does it in the most relevant ways for customers."