Banking in 2035: Trust, climate risks and geopolitical rivalry shape a purpose-driven industry, forecasts study

A new SAS-sponsored study by Economist Impact predicts three potential futures for banking, examining the risks and opportunities ahead

As disruptive forces roil today’s financial sector, banking execs are scrutinizing the evolving role of banks in the most competitive market they’ve ever faced. What does the future hold? And how can they meet the challenges ahead to forge a brighter future – both for the industry and the greater world? Such is the focus of a new future of banking studyBanking in 2035: three possible futures, by Economist Impact and sponsored by AI and analytics leader SAS.

The first in a two-part study, the report presents three possible scenarios for the 2035 banking landscape. Through extensive desk research and expert interviews, Economist Impact’s analysis:

  • Snapshots the “megatrends” primed to resculpt the banking landscape over the next decade.
  • Uncovers risks and opportunities presented in different combinations of trends.
  • Highlights specific ways banks can evolve to support a more equitable, ethical and sustainable future.

In confronting quandaries like climate change, economic fragmentation, and pervasive economic and social inequities, the study is clear: Banks face a defining moment.

“The sector’s rapid evolution amidst prevailing uncertainty begs a fundamental question: What is the purpose of banks?” said Yuxin Lin, Senior Manager of Policy and Insights at Economist Impact. “How banking leaders answer this question – and the business decisions they make as a result – will redefine the entire industry.”

“Banks have the power to elevate not just our global economy but all of humankind,” said Alex Kwiatkowski, Director of Global Financial Services at SAS. “By embracing technology and innovation with intention, banks can pave a more purpose-driven path, where higher purpose and profitability go hand-in-hand. And if they don’t embrace this fully, a golden opportunity to make a genuine difference will be squandered, potentially with very serious consequences.”

Scenario 1: Can transformed banks regain public trust?

Since the 2008 financial crisis, banks have faced reputational trouble. In fact, financial services consistently ranks among the least trustworthy sectors, currently inspiring confidence in just over half (54%) of the public, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Flashing forward to 2035, Scenario 1 envisions a world where banks wield digital transformation to rehabilitate their image. Banks have strengthened data privacy and cyber fraud safeguards and championed consumer-focused regulation. Greater transparency and consumer protections buoy public trust, fueling open banking and partnerships that ignite lucrative new offerings. Digital platforms frictionlessly unify every facet of customers’ financial lives in personalized, customizable ways.

“Consumer trust, built over many years, can be lost in an instant,” said Stu Bradley, Senior Vice President of Fraud and Security Intelligence at SAS. “As digitalization accelerates, it is critical that banks create hyper-personalized engagement as they address rising risks. In balancing customer experience and risk, an enterprise decisioning approach – where fraud, risk and engagement decisions integrate holistically across the customer journey – can cut costs and streamline banks’ IT infrastructures, while boosting revenue and customer retention.”

Scenario 2: Might banks catalyze cross-industry climate action and power the green transition?

Addressing the climate crisis will require unprecedented global cooperation and collaboration. According to the United Nations, governments’ current commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions fall far short of what’s needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Averting the worst impacts of climate change demands quick, decisive action.

Scenario 2 foresees a global community committed to climate action in 2035, where decarbonization is a foremost consideration across energy, infrastructure and transportation. Cities have been redesigned for energy efficiency and climate resiliency. Cost-effective renewable energy sources and green technologies are the norm.

“Climate leadership in the banking sector will drive greater cross-industry progress toward net-zero emissions by 2050 – and it starts now with better analytics, modeling and management of climate risk,” said Troy Haines, Senior Vice President and Head of Risk Research and Quantitative Solutions at SAS. “In enhancing their ability to model climate risk scenarios and understand potential impacts to their balance sheets and capital, banks can help propel the green transition and advance worldwide climate resilience.”

Scenario 3: How will banks fare in a geopolitically fragmented world?

Even as the world tries to put the worst of COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, economic and market uncertainties abound. The pandemic’s aftereffects have magnified tensions between the world’s economic superpowers while overburdening developing ones, whose populations suffer outsized consequences.

Against this backdrop, it isn’t hard to imagine Scenario 3, which depicts a geopolitically contentious world stage in 2035, colored by divergent interests and a retreat of multilateralism among the world’s economic giants. Bilateral and regional agreements have supplanted the World Trade Organization. The global financial system has been fractured by rivals’ alternative payment systems and the rise of digital currencies.

“Deglobalization, accelerated by recent global events, will likely widen the staggering societal inequalities that plague us today,” said Theodora Lau, Founder of Unconventional Ventures. “Indisputably, banking and money are at the heart of it all. Each of us has a role to play in championing a more inclusive and sustainable future with our actions of today.”

Reimagining banking for the 21st century  at Sibos and everywhere

Lau, also a renowned author, speaker and industry commentator, will join SAS’ Kwiatkowski on the Meet the Experts stage at next week’s Sibos conference in Amsterdam. The duo will delve into the study at their joint session, Embedding Generosity Into the Global Economy, on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 12:30 p.m. CEST.

Attendees can also engage with SAS throughout the conference at Sibos Booth B115.

SAS will debut part two of this future of banking study in November. Banking in 2035: global banking survey report will explore the results of an international survey of banking industry professionals. In the meantime, learn how better insights beget better banking at

About Economist Impact

Economist Impact combines the rigor of a think-tank with the creativity of a media brand to engage a globally influential audience. We believe that evidence-based insights can open debate, broaden perspectives and catalyze progress. For more information, visit


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Banking in 2035: three possible futures is the first in a two-part study by Economist Impact, sponsored by SAS.