Where Will We See You Again?

When the leaves start falling, it usually means one thing for Celent analysts – the conference season is getting into full swing and it’s time for us to hit the road big time.

The team is already busy at SIBOS this week, with BAI and AFP coming in a few weeks. Personally, I am looking forward to speaking on customer authentication at Mobey Day in Barcelona on October 5-6, as well as attending Money20/20 in Las Vegas on October 23-27.

Such high profile events are always great places for catching up with our clients and other industry experts. They are also perfect for getting up to speed with the latest developments in the industry, or, as my colleague Dan Latimore says, “soaking up the zeitgeist”. Dan will also be joining me at Money 20/20.

This year, we will be keeping an eye on (amongst many other things):

  • Which of the latest initiatives look most promising to (re-)invigorate mobile payments? Will it be Apple Pay and Android Pay on a browser, the networks’ partnerships with PayPal, 'Merchant' Pay, or something new that will get announced at the events?
  • Adoption of and developments in payments security technologies, from EMV to biometrics, and from 3DS to tokenization.
  • Innovations that drive commerce and help merchants, from bots to APIs that enable deep integration of payments into the merchant’s proposition. Also, creative application of analytics, whether to help merchants increase conversation rates, extend a loan, or deliver the most relevant and timely offer to the customer.
  • Where will blockchain fit into payments world? Ripple continues to gather momentum with cross-border payments, the UK is exploring the use of distributed ledger technologies as backbone for a domestic payments system, while IBM is partnering with China's Union Pay around loyalty. What other payments-related innovations can we expect from the blockchain community?

What will you be looking for? If you’ll be in Barcelona, Orlando, Chicago or Vegas, we look forward to seeing you. If you haven't registered, now's the time. And because of your relationship with Celent, you are entitled to an additional $250 discount off the Money20/20 registration fee. Combined with the Fall Final special you save a total of $725. Simply enter promocode Celen250 when you register here.

The Evolving ACH Landscape

We’ve been tracking blockchain, distributed ledgers, etc for a number of years, and we’ve always been enthusiastic with the promise…but pointed out that it isn’t quite there yet, at least for payments. An announcement today caught our eyes:

"The Innovation Engineering team at Royal Bank of Scotland has built a Clearing and Settlement Mechanism (CSM) based on the Ethereum distributed ledger and smart contract platform."

In the Finextra article announcing it it says:

"The test results evidenced a throughput of 100 payments per second, with 6 simulated banks, and a single trip mean time of 3 seconds and maximum time of 8 seconds," states the bank. "This is the level appropriate for a national level domestic payments system."

So first the positives. That’s significantly higher throughput than any other test we’ve seen so far, by a fair margin. It’s also faster than many other systems.

But…

We’d perhaps take issue with “appropriate level” though. Not a criticism of the test or the technology, but more a reflection of the task.

100 payments per second sounds an awful lot to those not in payments. With 86,400 seconds in a day, that’s 8.4m transactions a day. UK Faster Payments in August was running at around 3.2m transactions a day. Yet of course payments don’t flow uniformly through out the day or even day by day. Anecdotally, we’ve been told that c.70% of Faster Payment transactions are sent between the last settlement of the day and the first one the next day, a window of c. 16 hours. But realistically few of those will be made at, say, 3am. The actual window is therefore closer to 8 hours or less for those 70%. That means, even if they are running evenly, it's approximately 110 transactions per second.

The system will be scalable, so it would seem feasible for Faster Payments to be replaced by what was tested. However, in fact it perhaps highlights the real issue. On an average day, it would cope. It’s planning for the unaverage day that’s the issue. The UK ACH system, BACS, highlights this well.

BACS processes on an average day roughly 15m transactions. Given the operating window for the actual processing (10pm to 4am), that’s actually c. 700 transactions a second, significantly higher that the test through-put. But systems have to be designed to cope with worst case scenarios, referred to as peak days. These occur when month ends meet quarter ends meet various other things such as Public Holidays. The BACS record peak day to date is 103.7m. That’s a staggering 4,800 transactions a second.

What do we learn from this?

The technology being tested has evolved rapidly, and is continuing to do so. The volumes now being processed are rising rapidly. Yet today the technology probably isn’t ready for a national payment system quite yet, with the exception of some smaller countries or for specific lower volume systems such as high value. Furthermore, it's important that the systems are tested from a peak day plus a comfortable amount of head room on top (nobody wants to operate at 99.99% capacity!)

But compared to as little as 18 months ago it, the conversation has shifted noticeably from could it replace to should it replace, signifying the very real possibility that it will happen in the near future. Coupled with APIs and PSD2, the payments industry could look radically different in less than a decade.

 

 

US EMV Migration: Looking for the Silver Lining in the Clouds

It would be easy to assume that the migration to EMV in the US has gone terribly. The press is full of stories about slow transactions, inconsistent customer experiences and slow merchant adoption. Whilst not living this day-to-day, I also experienced this frustration first-hand on my trips to the US earlier this year; I wrote about it in a previous blog.

And yet, while the end customer experience clearly must improve, real progress has been made. Back in June, Visa reported "over 300 million chip cards in market and 1.2 million merchant locations." In August, MasterCard announced that "80 percent of its U.S. consumer credit cards have chips" and reported seeing "1.7 million chip-active merchant locations on its network, representing nearly 30 percent of the U.S. merchant population and a 374 percent increase in chip terminal adoption since October 1, 2015." Of course, these numbers would be far more impressive if the liability shift was happening in October of this year rather than last. However, EMV migration does not happen overnight, and in the market as complex and diverse as the US, it was always expected to take many years, especially considering the early reluctance and skepticism of the industry, and the additional complications in debit.

One of the challenges for merchants is getting their new EMV terminals certified, which can take a long time, especially when there is a backlog of demand. To alleviate the problem, in June both Visa and MasterCard have relaxed terminal certification requirements by reducing the number of tests, giving acquirers more freedom and responsibility in the certification process, allowing standard configurations and providing more resources to value-added resellers (VARs).

Also, recognising that it's not always the merchants' fault that they are behind with EMV implementation, both networks introduced measures to minimize chargeback costs to merchants who have not yet transitioned to EMV. For example, MasterCard has "checks and blocks to ensure that chargebacks follow the liability shift guidelines", such as not allowing chargebacks on fraudulent ATM and fuel transactions, where the liability shift has not yet taken place. Visa has taken a step further and announced that from July 22, Visa would "block all U.S. counterfeit fraud chargebacks under $25", while from October 2016  "issuers will also be limited to charging back 10 fraudulent counterfeit transactions per account."

Of course, there is a risk that rather than incentivising merchants to speed up EMV adoption, these changes to the network chargeback policies will reduce the pressure on merchants to migrate. Verifone, one of the largest POS companies, has reported lower revenues for Q316, partly as a result of "lingering EMV adoption issues", and has stated that their "outlook for Q4 now assumes a significantly slower EMV rollout." Not surprisingly, Paul Galant, CEO of Verifone, has emphasised the company's "relentless execution" on "the long-term vision for Verifone to transform from a box shipper to a services provider."

Nobody is under illusion that EMV migration in the US will be over any time soon. However, we must recognise that real progress is being made. Changes introduced by the networks, as well as new liability shift dates, such as for MasterCard ATM transactions coming into effect in October this year, should help keep the momentum going. And while the consumer adoption of various contactless pays, such as Apple Pay and others, has yet to "set the world on fire", perhaps they will end up giving another reason for merchants to invest into chip terminals? After all, for the optimists amongst us, every cloud has a silver lining.

Accepting Nominations for Model Bank 2017

It is my pleasure to announce that we are now accepting nominations for Model Bank 2017. The nominations window will be open until November 30.

Our regular readers should be familiar with Model Bank. We began the program in 2007 and are celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Celent Model Bank is awarded for best practices of technology usage in different areas critical to success in banking, and is the main award that a financial institution (FI) can win from Celent. The award is only available to the FIs, although we are aware of and appreciate the critical role the technology vendors play in the success of those initiatives, as well as our program.

The essence of Model Bank program hasn't changed throughout the years – FIs themselves select and submit their various technology initiatives to us. We judge those initiatives on three core criteria – business benefits, degree of innovation, and technology or implementation excellence. The winners receive their awards during Innovation and Insight Day, Celent's flagship event, and the case studies of winning initiatives are featured in Celent reports.

Yet, every year we continue to make subtle changes, as we seek to improve the Model Bank program and ensure it stays relevant in the fast-changing world of banking. This year, we revised the categories in which we will be judging and awarding the initiatives.

For 2017, we are accepting nominations in five categories:

  • Customer Experience
  • Products
  • Operations and Risk
  • Legacy Transformation
  • Emerging Innovation

This year, we also created a page on our website dedicated to Model Bank. On that page, you will find more detailed descriptions of this year's award categories, and links to the nomination form as well as various PDF documents, containing the list of previous Model Bank winners, an example case study, and the PR guidelines for winners. You will also find answers to an extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions about the program, how to apply, how we judge the initiatives, what happens if you win, etc. We strongly encourage you to spend some time going through various FAQ pages. Of course, if you still have any questions that are unanswered, please contact us at modelbank@celent.com.

Last year we received well over a hundred nominations and awarded 19 initiatives. Yet, we know that the pace of innovation and change in the industry hasn't slowed down, so we hope and expect to see lots of exciting initiatives this year again. We look forward to hearing from you. Just don't forget, the deadline is November 30, 2016.

Good luck!

Challenging the Status Quo: Fintechs and Corporate Treasury Services

The rapid rise of Fintech firms offering non-bank financial services is triggering what some consider “creative destruction” in banking. Recognising that technology is a key enabler for efficient treasury operations, an increasing number of Fintech firms are creating specialized solutions for corporate financial management.

Four key external forces are supporting the rise of non-bank financial services:  Economic influences, demographic changes, regulatory environment, and technology evolution.

Non Bank Financial Services

A confluence of economic influences has lowered the barriers to entry for Fintech startups. Most significantly, global interest and investment in Fintech firms has risen dramatically over the past five years.  However, only a small percentage of Fintech investment is targeted at serving large corporations, a sector ripe for investment and innovation.

As baby boomers retire, financial management staff is getting younger reflecting the demographic changes influencing Fintech growth. Accustomed to intuitive, easy-to-use technology tools accessible from anywhere, younger staff expect more in the way of treasury technology than Excel spreadsheets to streamline, digitise, and automate financial management functions across treasury and finance. This is especially true with respect to payments, one of the hottest areas in the Fintech space.

While the regulatory environment for traditional financial services firms continues to become more complex, Fintech firms benefit from an almost complete lack of regulation. Regulators acknowledge the need to oversee the safety and soundness of Fintech firms but also recognise that excessive regulation can stifle the development of more efficient financial services. Thus, regulatory bodies are working on frameworks to strike the appropriate balance between innovation and protection.

Fintech firms excel at leveraging the technology evolution to create a differentiated customer experience. Rather than serving the breadth of corporate customers’ treasury management needs, Fintech firms can cherry-pick narrow segments for their offerings.  Newer technologies such as web, cloud, mobile, big data, and artificial intelligence allow Fintechs to develop new value propositions at a lower cost than traditional development approaches.

As discussed in the new Celent report “Challenging the Status Quo: External Forces Supporting the Rise of Non-Bank Financial Services,” Fintechs are unbundling traditional corporate banking services, leveraging emerging technologies to offer new, innovative treasury solutions. But recognizing that universal banks have unrivaled experience meeting the complex needs of corporate customers, many Fintech firms are collaborating with banks through a number of different innovation models. This report is the fifth in an ongoing series of reports commissioned by HSBC and written by Celent as part of the HSBC Corporate Insights program.

Register now for the upcoming joint HSBC and Celent webinar on this topic featuring Nadine Lagermitte, Global Head of Financial Institutions at HSBC.

Corporate Onboarding: Starting the Relationship Off on the Right Foot or Putting Your Foot In It?

Just for a moment, imagine that you are a corporate treasurer, forced to find a new lead transaction banking provider because one of your incumbents is either getting out of the business, prefers to work with companies that are smaller/bigger/borrow more money or has closed down its operations in several countries where you do business. You have gone through the effort of creating a complex RFP and sent it to 3 or more banks and after an exhaustive search and extensive contract negotiations, you have made your decision and it's time to start the onboarding process.  You are excited to move your banking activity to a new provider that has done such a masterful job of convincing you of their superior products and solutions, their investments in leading edge technology and their world-class customer service.  And then reality hits….the onboarding process kicks into high gear.  You understand that banks are facing increasing regulatory scrutiny in the areas of KYC and AML because even your current providers are looking for regular updates for compliance purposes.  But you hope that the process has been streamlined since the last time you established a new primary transaction banking relationship.  After filling out reams of paper documents, fielding multiple calls from different areas of the bank asking for the same information you have already provided, pinging your bank relationship manager for status updates on a weekly basis, and wondering out loud more than a few times…. "why did I choose this bank?"….the onboarding process is finally complete ((except for some of those more complicated host-to-host integration pieces) and it only took twelve weeks from start to finish.

As described in a recent Celent report titled Onboarding in Corporate Transaction Banking: Prioritizing Investments for Reducing Friction, transaction banking providers have lots of room for improvement when it comes to starting the relationship off on the right foot. Our thesis is that improving the onboarding process from a client-centric perspective should be one of the most important priorities for transaction banking. Whether establishing a new relationship or assisting a client in expanding an existing one, implementing transaction banking services in an efficient, timely, and transparent manner can be a key demonstration of a bank’s commitment to client-centric innovation.

Even with significant technology investments over the past decade by banks to improve components of the onboarding process, it is common to hear frustration on the part of corporate clients about its manual nature, the increase in the amount paperwork being requested by banks, the length of time it takes to be able to use the account or services, and the lack of visibility into the process. It's easy to blame the regulators but the bottom line is that most banks are investing in components of onboarding to check off the compliance box and in some cases, are actually adding friction to the onboarding experience for clients rather than removing it.

20160801-Onboarding Report slides_WORD-READY

But there is hope.  The current generation of KYC industry utilities, document management technology, business process management platforms, and digital channels presents an opportunity for banks to reduce friction in customer onboarding.  The fundamental question is with so many opportunities for improvement, how should banks prioritize?  Well, let's get back to our imaginary corporate treasurer.  How would she prioritize?  What would she say if we asked how the onboarding process could be improved so that instead of frustration at the start of the relationship, there is a sense of confidence that she's chosen the right bank?  Clients have experience working with several or many different transaction banks, and just as they compare the different digital channels and service quality of the banking solutions they use, they also can offer a view of how a bank’s onboarding capabilities stack up against its competitors. Corporate treasurers indicate that more self-service capability, shortened timeframes, better coordination across the bank, and enhanced visibility are all high priorities for clients.

We think that banks need to have two guiding principles for enhancing the onboarding process: 

  • enabling both internal and external visibility to eliminate the onboarding “black hole,” to reinforce accountability of all parties, and to allow for more effective collaboration
  • focusing on improvements with direct client impact, for example, reduced number of interactions, reduced requests for information already on file, digitization, consistency across geographies wherever possible, clear and concise documentation, and aggressive SLAs for onboarding

There are a few banks that get it:  they not only ask for client feedback about onboarding but they listen and adapt.  They make it a high priority because they recognize that the "digital journey" isn't just about retail banking anymore. If anything, the digital experience is even more critical for corporate clients who look to their transaction banking partners to enhance the efficiency of their treasury operations through digitization.  If you can't demonstrate your commitment to innovation by offering a client-centric digital experience during the onboarding process, then your are selling your investments in digital banking solutions short. And that's putting your foot in it for sure!

 

 

 

 

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