Leading in the 4th Industrial Revolution

Leadership has always been and will always be about people. People will always remain at the center of it all. Especially in times like these, leaders must lead with purpose, foresight, clarity, impact, growth of the people we lead and to bring hope. 

Leaders will have to bring hope at all times and be prepared for all times and situations, especially ones of uncertainty and the unexpected.Leadership is an exciting call and has never been this exciting! The most exciting part is the opportunity or what some will say is the non-negotiable ability to learn, unlearn and to re-learn.

The 4th Industrial revolution, we must note, has never been all about technology. It has always been about the insatiable aspiration to augment the human experience and to provide a better quality of life to the human race.If you consider the 6 dimensions of the 4thindustrial revolution, these are all human-centered:

  1. Smart Economy (competitiveness)
  2. Smart Environment (natural resources)
  3. Smart Governance (participation)
  4. Smart Living (quality of life)
  5. Smart Mobility (transport and ICT)
  6. Smart People (social and human capital)

As leaders, we need to declutter the 4th industrial revolution and see it as a tool to improve the human experience.The question then is “what have my team and I done to lead in the 4th industrial revolution?”

In the banking and financial services space, we need to give clients the opportunity to share their thoughts and use their voice on sharing and guiding our own efforts as institutions when it comes to research, development and banking innovation.

Prior to COVID-19, admittedly, banks had anticipated rapidly evolving client needs for innovation,however, globally, execution was very slow. The dawn of COVID-19 has significantly spurred counter-cyclical investments by banks to solve for unique and urgent challenges faced by clients. Some of these urgent challenges are:

  • The need for reliable digital and online services due to health and safety needs, lockdowns,curfews, and social distancing 
  • The need for cost-effective banking solutions in response to loss of income and jobs by clients 
  • Innovative support to businesses as a result of economic slump and reduced consumption 
  • Deepening ESG agitations for sustainability and equity … thisis forcing banks to embrace responsible banking to reduce the incidence of future environmental and health crises

The response by banks has therefore been the accelerated pace of innovation and Research and Development to unprecedented levels. In a recent research piece by Accenture North America, the following four trends were noted as emerging across the banking industry:

    1. The need for digital and personalised experience – COVID-19 has fundamentally transformed the role digital experiences play in people’s lives. For instance,90% of bank executivesprioritisecustomer input on how they want their experience to be personalised. We see this in the growing trend in the use of ChatBots; augmented reality (AR) and virtual tellers powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) via stronger internets such as 4G and 5G.
    2. The need for AI and human interaction working together seamlessly – 30% of bank executives are adopting or planning to adopt AI-based systems that simultaneously collaborate, interact and explore. Many consumers are already experiencing the use of natural language processing, image recognition and machine learning in some of their banking interactions.
    3. The need for connected client experience – COVID-19 has caused banks to create compelling experiences that span all the touch points in the customer journey faster than they have been doing before. These are also capable of evolving with customers’ constantly changing needs. 
  • The need to design for perpetual innovation in the banking industry as new innovation quickly become obsolete – 60% of bank Chief Executives agree that new innovations were poised to disrupt the banking industry and leaders must create new innovation strategies and partnerships to survive

Even with the insights shared by this research, it is clear that, as we march on in the continued journey that is the 4th industrial revolution, the human touch will always remain relevant. Indeed, 70% of bank executives indicate that the human touch will remain important in their strategy. Leaders in the banking and financial services space cannot afford to remain complacent or ignore the trends and the changing times.

We all need to start “at home.”, within. At Stanbic Bank, we are working to deepen the 4th industrial revolution agenda to improve the experience of our clients. We are helping our staff to acquire what is called “Future Skills.” We are refining our organisational structure to be closer to our clients to thrive in this rapidly changing world. We are continuously Investing in our systems to create capacity to collaborate with fintechs and bigtechs. We have enabled what is referred to as Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to allow developers provide innovative solutions as plug and play. 

Last but not least, we are investing heavily in AI, augmented reality, robotics, data science, behavioural economics, quantum computing, and the Internet of Things. In this “adapt por die” ecosystem, we do not want to be left to the latter fate, nor should any business or organisation. The success of one industry in our economy when it comes to leveraging the 4th industrial revolution for progressive change is the success of our entire country.

Indeed, to succeed as a nation, one of the key initiatives is to embrace and enable the youth to lead in this space. We see this coming to the fore with institutions such as Ba Isago in training provision for entrepreneurship and employability. At Stanbic Bank, we created the Acceler8 facility purposely for youth employability and entrepreneurship. Now, we need to support our youth to get on board and make the most of these platforms; we need to lead and support them at every turn, for they have the cognitive ability and agility to leverage the 4th industrial revolution to drive Africa’s industrialisation.

The digital revolution needs a different, more human kind of leadership; leaders who are emotionally intelligent, able to model and champion co-operative working, able to coach rather than command, and driven by empathy, not ego.Our bright young minds and hearts entering the vocational world soon demand it of us and we owe it to them; they are the leaders of tomorrow, and their potential success stands on the shoulders of how we lead today – in our homes, in our businesses and in our communities.

The world has never been in need of connected and strong leaders as we do today. We need to rise to the challenge. We need to lead

By Samuel Minta, Stanbic Bank Botswana Chief Executive