It can seem like major changes appear out of nowhere, but disruptive trends and technologies usually give us warning–if we’re paying attention. Most major advancements begin at the edges, outside of where we’re focused. Sometimes they stay there for decades, as 3D printing and virtual reality did, and sometimes they rapidly accelerate and reset entire industries.

No company or organization wants to realize too late that their current business model no longer applies–to be another Blockbuster or Kodak. How can forward-thinking leaders make sure their organizations don’t suffer the same fate as those companies? A good place to start is to pay attention to those trends and technologies that are now off in the distance. With that in mind, here are some areas leaders in banking should begin paying attention to today:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Advancements Are Fueling Fintech  

Early this year, an AI named Libratus did the unthinkable – it beat four of the world’s top poker players at “No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em.” Incredible advancements like this in AI directly contribute to the success of many fintech companies, and enable small startups to compete against much larger companies in some areas. The proliferation of “robo-advisors” in just the last few months is a great example. As AI technologies continue to improve, it won’t just be giant international banks such as JP Morgan and Wells Fargo that will be impacted, even small community banks should begin looking at ways to integrate AI into their services. In fact, a perfect example of this is ATB Financial in Calgary, Alberta which is now partnering with Finn.AI–a small artificial intelligence start-up based in Vancouver–to provide more tailored financial investment advice to its customers.

Chatbots and Automated Customer Interaction

What if your customers never had to talk with a human representative of your bank? Chatbots are bringing this possibility closer to reality. Instead of interacting with a person, customers can use a chatbot to find all their banking-related information, make purchases, and even make investment decisions. Most chatbots today are limited to platforms such as Facebook Messenger and can be a bit frustrating to use, but as they continue to improve, they could reshape the service expectations of tomorrow’s customers. TD Bank, for example, which only developed a chatbot this June is now partnering with Amazon’s Alexa in order to make it even more convenient for its customers to interact with their financial information.

Unexpected Competition

Imagine a long-time customer asking how your rates compare to the home loan offer they just received from Amazon. That scenario might seem absurd now, but given the recent trend of tech companies stepping outside their industries and taking on established incumbents, it’s not unthinkable to consider that you may one day compete against tech companies like Amazon or Facebook. Local banks certainly have some advantages over these large corporations, but their entry into the industry could cause many of the same challenges the arrival of Uber created for the taxi industry or ubiquitous smartphones did to camera manufacturers. To this end, N26–a German financial start-up–is now aiming to open an account for a new user in less than 8-minutes, and Robinhood, an online brokerage, charges no fees or commissions to its customers who buy stocks.

Rapid Advancements in Healthcare

Currently, life expectancy in the US is 79. How long you expect to live, and as corollary, at what age you expect to retire, can shape your financial decisions from your early 20’s onward. With the exponential advancement of many healthcare-related technologies today, and with new tools such as CRISPR (genomic editing), and new AI programs that can diagnose cancer and help develop new drugs, it’s time to consider the legitimate possibility of radical life extension and how it could impact your business.

Blockchain Technology

The blockchain might be the most disruptive technology on this list, yet few banking professionals are talking about it and even fewer are thinking of ways to take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Even the world’s largest banks were slow to take notice, but today they’re heavily investing in new blockchain-based platforms and services.  A recent report by Accenture suggests it could save the financial industry $8-12 billion by 2025. If you’re not familiar with the term “blockchain,” now is the time to check it out!

Thinking about the future can be uncomfortable, but to ignore and carry-on with business-as-usual in today’s fast-changing world could ultimately be far worse. To better position your organization for the future, we encourage you as a leader to pay attention to emerging trends and technologies, anticipate the possibilities they might create, and finally, take action to turn those possibilities into opportunities.

Jack Uldrich is a global futurist and the author of 11 books. Simon J. Anderson is the founder of Venture Foresight, a company that helps leaders be more future resilient. They are co-authors of Foresight 20/20: A Futurist Explores the Trends Transforming Tomorrow. Learn more about Jack at and more about Simon at