THE number of jobs in the banking sector will shrink by an order of magnitude in the next two decades because of technological change, one of NAB's most senior executives has said.
The comments by NAB's head of personal banking, Lisa Gray, were made as new data showed that consumers' demand for credit was flat in the past year, with home-loan inquiries historically low.
''Today, most of the banks have tens of thousands of employees,'' Ms Gray told a Trans-Tasman Business Circle gathering in Melbourne yesterday. ''Into the future, potentially through technology, there will be handfuls of thousands of people but really they're adding very significant and different value for customers as well.''
The big four banks - ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac - employed a combined total of about 142,000 people before a swingeing round of redundancies this year.
The number of staff would fall, Ms Gray said. ''Not in the next few years but over the next couple of decades as there's more use of technology both at that personal mobile digital level, also, though, as organisations such as ourselves continue to invest and streamline the way day-to-day transactions are done. Then there's more opportunity to be having people focus on more value-added conversations with customers.''
Meanwhile, the consumer credit ratings agency Veda Advantage has shown that credit demand in the three months to the end of July was flat, despite surges in car loans and credit card applications. The head of consumer risk at Veda, Angus Luffman, said the company's credit demand index and its regular surveys showed ''a far more circumspect consumer since the global financial crisis''.
''In regard to mortgages, there was a stimulus that came out of the GFC, as everyone knows, so we saw a really strong growth.
''That spike in growth peaked, and then the moment the stimulus was taken away the growth trailed off.
''Most [home loan] inquiries have now flattened out after a long period of decline over the past couple of years,'' Mr Luffman said.
Ms Gray said that, economically, the NAB forecast ''a continued slowdown''.
''We're seeing a continued uncertainty, and that just moves around day by day, never mind week by week.
''We're seeing consumers and businesses respond to that in a very prudent way. Lending growth at the consumer, household, level is the lowest it has been for decades.''
Ms Gray said there was nothing wrong with businesses and households prudently managing their debt.
''That causes, though, problems for an industry that has for decades not focused on how do you necessarily help people manage their money more prudently but has in some cases benefited from when organisations and individuals have not managed their money prudently.''