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A lot has happened since Efma's founding in 1971, but more is on the way

Publish date: 15 December 2021

Efma’s 50 years have witnessed incredible technological changes. We have been there with financial services companies every step of the way. 

In 1971 – 50 years ago to be exact – Efma was founded. The financial services industry looked a lot different back then. Wallets were still things you needed to carry in your pocket. Those wallets were filled to the brim with cash acquired from a real person at a real bank branch. Pocket-sized calculators were just entering the scene. So was the personal computer. These technological sparks of the 1970’s were the first signs of a financial services landscape that would change dramatically in the coming decades. 

In the 1980’s, they added magnetic strips to the back of cards, enabling merchants to accept payments with specialized computer equipment. Those magnetic stripes would become chips to be inserted before people are now merely tapping their cards or even their watches to pay for things. Those personal computers from the previous decade were now becoming mass-market items, thanks to Apple’s first Macintosh. As for the calculators, they thought it was innovative to put them on a watch. 

The 90’s pushed things even further from a technological standpoint, with one major invention changing the game: the World Wide Web. The internet was created, reshaping not only how the world and its inhabitants interact, but how everyone does everything. It also provided the foundation for the largest companies of our era that would indelibly reshape commerce, business, and our economies. It is impossible to overstate the impact of the internet. 

The aughts introduced smartphones to the world. Sure, cell phones were invented way back in the 70’s, but the iPhone was a true gamechanger. With the introduction of the iPhone – and all subsequent smartphone adoption – banks have become less something you visit in person, and more something you access via the mini computer you carry in your pocket all day long. 

The pace of change this past decade has been especially quick. Apps abound that take full advantage of smartphones. Splitting a dinner tab is done with a couple of taps on your phone. Same goes for sending money across the globe. Remember writing a check? Or visiting a Western Union to wire money? Those are slowly drifting from memory for many. Financial services are now digital and mobile. 

People are no longer just storing money with banks. They are putting it in digital wallets that come from Big Tech or Fintech. Those same phones that have delivered unprecedented levels of convenience have also produced mass quantities data previously inaccessible for financial institutions. Banks and insurers now sit on a trove of customer data that is creating ever-personalized banking experiences. That data? It sits in the cloud, an innovation that has transformed how banks and insurers store the incredible amount of information they collect on a daily basis. 

The trends I just described barely begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the technological transformation the world has experienced. The financial services industry has come a long way these last 50 years. There are few industries that have been transformed by digital like our own. Every step of the way, Efma has been there with its members: inspiring, connecting, and facilitating. As the world’s largest association of financial institutions, Efma has helped moved the industry forward. An innovative idea confined to one corner of the world can remain isolated without the requisite network to carry it to others. That is where Efma has been critical. It has served as an outlet, a resource, and a network to share and promote the ideas that underpin success in the industry. 

As Renata Petrovic, Head of Open Innovation at Bradesco, aptly puts it: “Efma provides this incredible hub for sharing, innovation, and learning. A business leaders’ network that facilitates mutually valued connections between decision-makers.”

Where will the financial services industry go next? Will people return to bank branches once more, this time in the Metaverse? Will voice banking take off, as many banks anticipate? Will we all be paying in Bitcoin by 2030? It is anyone’s guess. 

One thing is clear: Efma will be there every step of the way. Shekhar Krishnamurthy, Head of Retail Banking Strategy at Emirates NBD, noted: "Efma has taken the opportunity over the last year to reimagine and reinvent its proposition. To provide a more value added, more flexible and tailored offering." Our new offering will provide what a 21st century financial institution needs to thrive in today’s world. We will continue to be a trusted, objective resource for our members.

We are there to "Help members come together. Offer a safe space and facilitate those collaborative sessions, whether it is through masterclasses or workshops, or simply just connecting two people together," as Manroop Khela, Head of Specialist Business Units at Santander UK describes us. 

Most importantly, we will unite our global network, foster collaboration, and promote innovation in the industry, just as we have been doing every day since 1971. 

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