David Murphy, Managing Partner, Financial Services EMEA & APAC at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient


Over the past five years, disruptor banks such as Monzo, Revolut and Starling Bank have upended the idea of a bank and have challenged the longstanding dominance of traditional players.

Through a digital-only approach, challenger banks have grown rapidly by exploiting poor customer service and lack of innovation in many parts of the industry. They have uprooted the need for bank branches by making the very idea of queueing in a physical location to transfer money or waiting on hold on the telephone for customer support seem unusual or eccentric.

As a result, the market share for current accounts of the big four legacy banks (Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest, HSBC and Lloyds) has lost ground, from 92% of all bank customers a decade ago to around 70% today. Research has also found that digital-only banks Monzo and Revolut are on track to triple their customer base to more than 35 million over the next 12 months.

In the face of new competition, many banks already realise that they can no longer rely on old practices and that they must digitally transform. However, transforming an embedded culture and organisational structure is easier said than done. It requires traditional banks to completely rethink their practices in order to meet shifting customer preferences and the emergence of new technologies such as banking apps.

At Publicis Sapient, we have outlined three clear models of digital business transformation in order to help banks compete against digital-only banks.



When transforming for the digital era, banks must gradually change mindset and infrastructure, working towards a more effective structure. This is fundamental to the future success of any cultural approach, as moving too fast can produce cultural backlashes that can hold back innovation and adoption of new ideas or practices.

Moving slowly is only one part of this approach. In order to ensure that company mindset truly evolves, banks must also revisit their ethos and structure, invest in communication and training, and create a clear and comprehensible digitalisation plan. As part of this, it’s crucial to eliminate silos and develop robust strategies for employees to get behind their new plan.

Fundamentally, the evolve approach requires banks creating a “movement” that facilitates change across the wider organisation. This requires banks demonstrating the value of digital transformation to employees across multiple offices and organisations.



The jump method centres on platform modernisation. In other words, this approach is less about incremental change, and more about ‘jumping’ in feet first. It involves creating a new shell onto which the existing business can migrate. In order for this method to be successful, a step-change in cost-to-income ratio and customer experience is crucial. By adopting new strategic platforms and ways of working, with continued but reducing connections to the existing business systems, this model requires a willingness to trial new approaches and, in turn, decommission the legacy systems.



Banks that follow the ‘attack’ approach try to recreate the dynamism of fintech startups within their organisation. This can mean creating either an internal innovation lab or going into a partnership with an external technology provider to create a separate, almost rival banking platform. Initiatives such as these allocate space to incubate ideas internally with considerable time and investment. They also overcome the cultural issues that big organisations come up against by building small teams in the company to develop new, competing platforms. However, they must be customer-oriented: new, self-contained enterprises within the business should focus on addressing a unique customer need rather than delivering a specific product.

When digitally transforming, legacy banks need to ensure that they implement a strategy that works best for their organisation. However, most banks when considering where to invest their change budgets should take a “portfolio approach” looking across their business lines to see where it is most effective to Evolve and look for opportunities to either Jump a business line such as Payments to a new platform or even create separate digital enterprise  through an Attack approach. Essentially, banks must take a holistic view on changing both cultural attitudes and structural problems.



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