Paying with Google: An Exciting Prospect, Again

Paying with Google: An Exciting Prospect, Again

Last week in the Google I/O developer conference, Google made a number of interesting payments-related announcements. I would encourage anyone interested in this to look at the full video online, but here are some highlights and my takeaways. Google has discussed:

  • Google Payment API, which enables merchants to let their customers check out via any cards stored with Google. When the customer is ready to check out, they hit a "Pay with Google" button and are presented with the available payment options – any cards they have in their Google account they may have registered to pay for apps and services in Google Play or YouTube. Importantly, it also includes cards registered via Android Pay. Google is piloting this API over the the next few months and is partnering with the leading payment service providers, such as Braintree, Stripe, Vantiv, ACI, Adyen, First Data and Worldpay, to take it to market. This will work in-apps, via the browser, and via Google Assistant.
  • Google Shopping API to integrate into Google Home, and ability to build Purchase Actions with Google Assistant. In the example shared by the executives on stage, customers can talk via the Assistant to Panera, request an item, and pay for it via a card stored on the Google account while authenticating with their fingerprint. They also showed how the Gmail Send Money function can now be triggered via a voice command, bringing P2P payments capability to the Assistant. In the future, there are plans to onboard other P2P providers.
  • Loyalty enrollment, engagement and redemption support for in-store merchants. Participating merchants will allow customers to save their loyalty programs directly to Android Pay, get notifications of available offers via Android Pay, and redeem via Smart Tap, a service for which Google partnered with First Data and its Clover platform.

At the foundational level, Android Pay continues to make international inroads. It is already available in 10 markets, and is launching soon in Brazil, Canada, Russia, Spain, and Taiwan. Also, one of the most important features (in my view) is something that is already available today, yet perhaps didn't get enough acknowledgement in the market when launched – the push provisioning API. Issuers that integrate push provisioning API allow their cardholders to add cards into Android Pay directly from their mobile banking apps. More importantly, the user can get all the benefits of Android Pay without having to download and set up the Android Pay app itself. Certainly, that's one adoption barrier less to worry about. Bank of America, bnz, Discover, mBank, USAA, and Westpac are among the first banks that have integrated push provisioning API.

This is not the first time that Google made interesting announcements around payments – back in 2011, Google Wallet generated a lot of excitment among all of us following mobile payments. It appears that the latest API-driven approach with Android Pay as the foundation makes 'paying with Google' an exciting prospect again.

Internet of Things: Why Banking and Payments Professionals Should Care

Internet of Things: Why Banking and Payments Professionals Should Care

There is little doubt that Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming many industries, from manufacturing to insurance. Celent's Insurance practice has been at the forefront of IoT research since 2014 and has published many insightful reports. At first glance, IoT’s impact on banking is less obvious. And yet, in a new research report published this week, Payments and the Internet of Things: Opportunities and Challengeswe assert our belief that IoT also matters for banking, and especially for the payments industry.

At Celent, we have been writing about “contextual commerce” — taking shopping to customers wherever they are (e.g., ordering something directly from a social media platform rather than a merchant’s site). IoT takes contextual commerce to an entirely new level.

We believe it is helpful to think about the IoT evolution in terms of three large stages of development – see the figure below. Each of these stages represents a qualitative step up in the complexity of how transactions are conducted and what is required of payments.

Wearables and objects with user interface (e.g. a fridge with a screen or an Amazon Dash button) allow customers to place orders and pay in ways other than a plastic card or a computer screen. But the customers are still in control – they decide what they want to buy, find the goods and services that are right for them, and initiate a purchase transaction. Going forward, we expect connected devices to play an active role in orchestrating a commerce transaction — realising that the user needs something, suggesting where and how those needs can be fulfilled, preparing a transaction, and potentially executing it. Think of a car keeping a parking meter topped up until you finish your meeting. Ultimately, we will see the emergence of semi-autonomous economic agents capable of acting independently, including making and accepting payments, to optimise their own, their owners’, and their clients’ objectives. Think of a self driving car paying other cars to get out of the way if it's passenger is in a hurry.

For the payments industry, IOT poses a number of challenges, but also represents a big opportunity. For Banking more broadly, IOT can also help achieve better customer engagement and improve cross-selling as well risk and collateral management. That is, of course, unless we have a major consumer backlash against technology’s intrusion into their privacy. As always, creating genuine value for customers, rather than doing something just because technology is available, will be what differentiates successful banking IoT propositions from expensive failures.

Celent Banking research clients can download the report here. If you are not a client, but interested in the report, please drop us a line at info@celent.com.

The Great Filter for Digital Challengers

The Great Filter for Digital Challengers

It seems like almost weekly I’m hearing something about a new challenger or digital-only bank brand.  The velocity of news is substantial, but despite years of hype, it seems this class of institution is still largely treading water.

It reminds me of The Fermi Paradox.

The paradox was originally posed as a question by the physicist Enrico Fermi about the apparent contradiction between the probability of life in the universe and the complete lack of evidence to support it. With so many supposed earth-like planets, why haven’t we been able to find success stories?

One of the proposed theories is the idea of a Great Filter in the evolution of life.  The theory goes that as life evolves it must overcome leaps in species advancement, one of which is a Great Filter that almost always stops its progress.

In the universe of banking there’s plenty of “new life,” specifically challenger banks looking to compete with traditional institutions (I won’t compare them to advanced species for obvious reasons). Despite major fanfare within the industry, however, these challengers have largely struggled to adapt and grow. Like life in the universe, could there be “great filter” keeping these new entrants from flourishing?  I’d say there are a few contenders.

Technology

What old technology lacks in flexibility it makes up for in stability.  It seems that for emerging providers, what’s made up for in flexibility is lost in stability. Simple, for example, has had its share of technical issues over the past couple of years. In late 2014, a systems upgrade lead to a number of glitches, including bill payment going down, online banking being inaccessible, and the safe-to-spend feature showing incorrect balances.  Some accounts were locked for more than 24 hours.  The transition process to BBVA also presented issues with integration.  Systems had to be rebuilt, and customers had issues with using debit cards, not being US citizens, and just recently, losing their accounts (Simple said it wasn’t able to transfer everyone before its relationship with The Bancorp Bank ended).

Monzo (formerly Mondo) out of the UK had multiple issues inside of a week.  It had outages with its third party card processor, and then a few days later customers reported not being able to properly view their balances or display transactions.

Traditional financial institutions have long known that trust is an asset, whether it’s trust to keep money safe or trust to keep data secure.  Technology has been built around establishing reliability.  Challenger banks and neobanks may be opening themselves up to risks associated with applying concepts of agility to the complexities of banking, and this may be a strong enough filter for reaching critical mass.

Revenue

In addition to trying to provide an amazing customer experience, almost all challenger banks share the same commitment to fee transparency.  In recent years, many traditional banks have used fee income to supplant lower than usual net interest margins.  Fees have been (often rightly) perceived as punitive and opaque.

The quest for fee relief is admirable, but ultimately emerging challengers need to make money to fuel new investments. For some that’s been an issue. The neobank Moven, after struggling to find a significant core audience in the US or overseas, decided to pivot and start selling its underlying front-end technology to traditional banks, most notably TD Bank. Customers Bancorp recently put BankMobile up for sale, citing profitability concerns stemming from limitations on debit interchange once the bank’s assets exceeded $10 billion.  BBVA also recently reported a total of $89.5 million in goodwill impairment from the acquisition of Simple Bank in 2014.

Challenger banks are fully committed to reimagining financial services, but many haven’t yet reimagined the business model. Banks that are furthest along are the likes of Knab in the Netherlands and Fidor Bank in Germany (acquired by France’s BPCE Group) which have applied subscription-based pricing for consumers.  Similar to Netflix or Pandora, the idea is that consumers will pay for value.  What’s clear, however, is that the complexities of financial services require a scale of investment that presents a bigger barrier to entry than for other platform-based offerings (i.e. movies and music).  If consumers are paying for value, then the question is whether a challenger can persuade consumers that they’re receiving enough value to validate a subscription before it begins to hurt its financial viability.

Acquisition

When confronted with barriers to organic growth, some challengers have found it easier to be acquired. When BBVA bought Simple, CEO Josh Reich said that BBVA would provide them with the resources to grow faster.  Many took this as an admission that customer growth was slower than expected. When Fidor was purchased by the French banking group BPCE, the German bank said that the sale would “…allow Fidor to continue its international expansion…” as well as “…improving our overall financial sustainability.”

The question is: do challenger banks need traditional institutions? Well, they certainly need trust, and customers, and data, and  with the pressure to grow and invest in innovation, it’s obvious that the financial incentives of joining a large organization can be attractive.

Challenger institutions have been an important part of the banking ecosystem.  Most notably, they’ve moved the ball forward on what “good” looks like throughout the industry, better assimilating modern concepts of UX and UI design into their front-ends.  At the more extreme end, however, these challengers  were heralded as the white knights that would save consumers from pernicious traditional institutions with outdated technology.  So far that hasn’t been the case.

In the explanation of Fermi’s Paradox, humanity (or a challenger bank) is left with three possibilities, depending on where the Great Filter occurs: we're rare, we’re first, or we’re in trouble. Rare is the challenger that’s made it through the Great Filter.  First is the challenger within a pack of new institutions which has grown because of conditions that have only recently become favorable.  In trouble is the challenger that hasn’t yet reached the Great Filter.  There’s plenty of life in the banking universe, but it remains to be seen who will make first contact.

Finovate Spring: A Focus on the Practical

Finovate Spring: A Focus on the Practical

Finovate Spring 2017 has just finished up in San Jose; go to the Finovate blog at http://finovate.com/blog/ for an official list of the best in show winners. My focus isn’t on individual companies, but rather the broad themes that I picked up from 59 presenters over the course of two days.

Themes

1. Practicality
There were few gee-whiz, wildly futuristic presentations. Practicality ruled: companies focused on improving processes and delivering better outcomes. Solutions weren’t necessarily sexy or mind-blowing, but potentially more useful in terms of delivering reliable if unspectacular results.

2. Employee Efficiency
What’s more practical than making employees more efficient? Very little. Presenters automated processes, improved learning, and took the drudgery and time out of many manual tasks.

3. Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
One way to make employees more efficient, and increase that efficiency over time, is through AI technologies like Natural Language Understanding and Natural Language Generation. To improve those, apply machine learning over time.

4. APIs / AsAService
Another way to bring new ideas to market quickly is to tap into others who’ve already built the solutions. APIs are a key way of accessing many of these pre-built products, some of which were offered as a service (think Family Office As a Service, etc.)

5. Customer Experience
In line with what banks have recently been telling us, improving the Customer Experience was top of mind for many customers. Whether making an interface more aesthetically pleasing, eliminating friction, or speeding feedback, a keen focus on enriching interactions was evident throughout the event. I’d point out that the vast majority of solutions focused on the mobile experience, so much so that it almost doesn’t merit its own mention (but, since this didn’t used to be the case, it’s worth being explicit).

Observations

1. The presenting roster was down to 59 companies from 72 last year in San Jose. While more digestible, frankly, it made many observers wonder whether this was an early sign that the fintech frenzy is moderating.

2. Other technologies that didn’t make the headlines but were present include Analytics, Biometrics, and Lending / Mortgages.

3. I’m always interested in the dogs that didn't bark. Two technologies completely absent from the roster: Apple Watch and Blockchain. Others that were surprisingly underrepresented included Voice, Payments, Branch, and Financial Inclusion. As is my practice, I jotted down a few words associated with each presentation; the results are below.

If you’d like to discuss what we say at Finovate, please be in touch and we’ll arrange some time.

Congratulations to All Celent Model Bank 2017 Award Winners!

Congratulations to All Celent Model Bank 2017 Award Winners!

Many of us at Celent just came back from a busy and exciting week in Boston. Undoubtedly, the highlight was attending Celent's Innovation and Insight Day on April 4th, where we celebrated achievements of the Model Bank and Model Insurer award winners.

The rain and clouds couldn't obscure spectacular views from the State Room overlooking the Boston harbour. And they certainly didn't dampen the mood of nearly 300 attendees representing banks, insurers and technology vendors from at least 15 countries around the world.

Craig Weber, Celent CEO, opened the day by presenting compelling evidence that financial services are more important than many celebrities. He was followed by an insightful presentation from Andy Rear, chief executive of Munich Re Digital Partners. The programme then split into parallel Banking, Insurance and Wealth and Asset Management tracks before reconvening again to close with a series of debates between Celent analysts on three topics: Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

During the Banking track we presented Model Bank awards, and discussed the winning initiatives and why they stood out from all others. As regular readers of this blog know, this year we introduced specific named awards with only a single winner for each award. I would like to offer my personal congratulations to all of our Model Bank 2017 winners:

Winner

Award

Alior Bank S.A., Poland

Emerging Technology for Consumers

Banco Original, Brazil

Consumer Digital Platform

Bank of America, USA

Risk Management

BMO Bank of Montreal, Canada

Process Automation

Capital One, USA

Emerging Technology for Businesses

CBW Bank, USA

Banking as a Platform

Citi, USA

Open Banking

Credit Suisse AG, Switzerland

Payments Replatforming

DenizBank, Turkey

Lending Product

Emirates NBD and ICICI Bank, India and UAE

Most Promising Proof-of-Concept

FGB, UAE

Corporate Banking Digital Platform

Idea Bank S.A., Poland

Small Business Digital Platform

India Post, India

Financial Inclusion

IndusInd Bank, India

Fraud Management and Cybersecurity

Millennium BCP, Portugal

Branch Transformation

Mizuho Financial Group, Japan

Consumer Banking Channel Innovation

National Australia Bank, Australia

Core Banking Transformation

OakNorth Bank, UK

Banking in the Cloud

Radius Bank, USA

Product Innovation

The Royal Bank of Scotland, UK

Employee Productivity

YES BANK, India

Payments Product

And of course, congratulations to Caixa Bank, our Model Bank of the Year 2017! The keynote presentation by Àngels Valls on how Caixa Bank has embraced digital was the highlight of the I&I Day for many of us in Banking – thank you! Finally, congratulations to Celent Model Insurer award recipients.

Each of the award winning initiatives is published as a case study and available to Celent research clients by following the links above. In addition, we also published an overall Model Bank 2017 report, which discusses how the Model Bank programme has changed over 10 years and reviews the content themes across all nominations in 2017.

We intend to run the Model Bank programme again later this year, so keep an eye on the announcements when the new submissions window opens. We have no doubt that you are all working on exciting things and hope that you will consider submitting your initiatives for 2018 awards. In the meantime, enjoy the case studies and let's celebrate the Model Bank winners of 2017!

Emerging Innovation in Banking

Emerging Innovation in Banking

Over the past few weeks we have been previewing various content themes we will be discussing at our Insight and Innovation Day in Boston on April 4th. I would like to finish this series of posts by looking at the new Model Bank category we introduced this year – Emerging Innovation.

When we added this category, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we certainly hoped to see the banks’ efforts at the “bleeding edge” of innovation. We were very pleased with the number and quality of such nominations, which spanned the gamut of the hottest topics today. Many of these truly outstanding stories are still in relatively early stages, but all are very interesting and pointing to the future of banking.

Model Bank nominations in 2017 showcased the banks’ efforts in the areas at the forefront of innovation in banking:

  • Innovative customer engagement: the most innovative banks go where their customers are; for example, banks are experimenting with ways to engage their customers directly from social media platforms via chatbots and other tools. They are also looking to introduce new channels, such as wearables.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): Model Bank submissions demonstrated the diversity of AI technologies and their applications:
    • Driving a virtual agent capable to have a written exchange with the customer via a chatbot, or to even hold a verbal conversation on the phone.
    • Powering a robot to support customer engagement in physical branches.
    • Deployed behind the scenes as a tool to help the customer service agents.
    • Helping determine the best marketing offer for the customer.
  • Biometrics: banks are stepping up their efforts to deploy biometric authentication in their bid to provide customers more convenience while ensuring security. They are expanding beyond fingerprints and are experimenting with other modalities such as facial and voice biometrics. And it’s also not just for consumers – banks are beginning to use biometrics in the corporate banking context as well.
  • APIs: we already spoke about APIs when describing Open Banking, but want to highlight this again, given the importance of APIs. While banks in Europe must open up because of regulation, leading banks around the world are not waiting for the regulators and are starting to provide API-based access to their services to others. And some banks are pursuing a “marketplace banking” strategy seeking to position themselves as a banking platform in the centre on which third parties can build a myriad of discrete services. 
  • Blockchain: given how many banks have started exploring blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies, we were hoping to see some nominations describing their efforts in this space. We were not disappointed and received initiatives ranging from collaborative efforts around cross-border payments and trade finance to “solo” efforts of a single bank using blockchain to manage employee incentives.

We will be discussing all these topics and more at our Insight and Innovation Day next week. It is also the time when we announce and award all the Model Bank winners, including our Model Bank of the Year. We are in the final stages of preparation and are very excited! The event has been sold out for weeks, so if you haven't yet registered you might be too late… If you have registered, we are looking forward to welcoming you there, although if your plans have changed, please let us know so that we could invite those on the waiting list. See you in Boston!

Needless Controversy in the Branch vs. Digital Debate

Needless Controversy in the Branch vs. Digital Debate

In a previous post I argued for the enduring importance of human, face-to-face contact in financial services. By the reactions I received, you’d think I was purposefully inciting controversy.

  • One influential industry observer thought I was irresponsible in advocating inaction.
  • Another wrote a lengthy and snarky rebuttal.
  • Others took issue with my comparing retail banking to other retail categories, as if there is nothing to be learned by studying the broader digital commerce landscape.
  • Others took issue with aspects of the surveyed retail deposit mix data I cited to demonstrate that branch deposits remain persistently common.

Honestly, I expected a mixed response: push back from those who are invested in advancing digital banking and agreement from branch technology vendors. We all have self-serving tendencies. But, I did not expect – nor intend – to precipitate such controversy. What is so heretical to my digital brethren’s ears that they would be so obviously offended with my advocacy that banks pay attention to both digital and in-person engagement mechanisms? That was, after all, the essence of my previous post which began with “Digital needs to be a top technology priority among financial institutions”.

Needless Controversy

I think part of the issue here was addressed in a previous post, Three Mistakes Banks Make. We are at risk by oversimplifying things that are inherently complex. In so doing, we fail to appreciate diversity of customer needs or preferences. Much of the digital/branch debate speaks to binary outcomes. Reality is much more nuanced.

This tendency reminds me of a well-conducted consumer research initiative that resulted in January 2016 news that for the first time, “mobile banking exceeds branch banking”. It made quite a splash in the press, for obvious reasons. The data is both relevant and important. It offers clear evidence of the growing importance of digital banking. But the common interpretation overstated digital’s current level of influence.

My issue is not with the research, but how it was interpreted. Many trumpeted the research as evidence of the final nail in the branch banking coffin. “See, the branch is dead!” was the nominal conclusion offered by most observers I think. However, a closer look at the data invites a different interpretation. The specific metric being graphed wasn’t explicitly cited in many references to the research. Too bad, because the graph compares the percentage of randomly surveyed banked consumers over time that use the branch or mobile channel in the past week. A graph showing past three month or past twelve month usage would be rather different. It would show that a much higher percentage of banked consumers visit branches. They do – just not in any given week, day or hour! Usage intervals are longer in the branch – shocking!

The enduring relevance of the branch channel is abundantly clear in Federal Reserve Board sponsored research, Consumers and Mobile Financial Services, conducted annually since 2011 and most recently published in March 2016. The graph below from the March 2016 report compares surveyed past 12 month usage among the general banked population (all respondents) as well as smartphone owners. This equally credible research suggests that roughly one year ago, twice as many banked consumers use the branch and ATM channels than mobile banking.

Both graphs present credible research. Only one fits a certain popular narrative.

The take away for most banks in my opinion is clear and transcends the silly, either-or debate: create and sustain a compelling customer experience across all points of engagement. As customer preferences continue to change, banks will need to continually adjust operating models. Easier said than done for sure. The needless controversy isn't helping banks get this job done.

Celent Model Bank Awards: Fraud, Risk Management, Process Automation and Flub-Free

Celent Model Bank Awards: Fraud, Risk Management, Process Automation and Flub-Free

It is my privilege to be part of the judging panel for Celent Model Bank Awards for 2017 for the following three categories:

  • Fraud Management and Cybersecurity – for the most creative and effective approach to fraud management or cybersecurity.
  • Risk Management – for the most impressive initiative to improve enterprise risk management.
  • Process Automation – for the most effective deployment of technology to automate business processes or decision-making.

A common theme across this year’s submissions for the above categories is the importance of agile technology, digital process automation, and consistent and focused practices across the organizations. A large number of the entries show that a streamlined and automated operational risk framework is critical to run a successful risk management program. Everything connects and has a consequence and unless banks can join the risk dots across their ecosystems, they will continue to spend at a very high rate with unsatisfactory and, at times, devastating results.

Improved data analysis and machine learning capabilities also featured prominently in the winning case studies. A central data platform, automated processes and improved insights have produced notable increases in efficiency, better control of costs, reduced resourcing requirements, reduced errors and false positives and have made it easier for the banks to adapt to their digital footprint, an expanding cyber threat landscape, and intense and complex regulatory obligations.

Hopefully, no flubs on the big day

Without exception, every submission is of a high-quality and we found it a daunting task to pick the most worthy award recipients. In the end, we are excited and confident about our selection of winners in the above categories, yet we are sorry that we could not recognize so many others that clearly also deserve recognition.

At the moment we are staying tight-lipped about who won the awards. We will be announcing all winners publicly on April 4 at our 2017 Innovation & Insight Day in Boston. In addition to presenting the award trophies to the winners, Celent analysts will be discussing broader trends we’ve seen across all nominations and will share our perspectives why we chose those particular initiatives as winners. Make sure you reserve your slot here while there are still spaces available!

 

Celent Model Bank Awards 2017: Banking Products Innovation

Celent Model Bank Awards 2017: Banking Products Innovation

This is the next article in a weekly series highlighting trends and themes from Celent’s Model Bank submission process. For more information on how the Model Bank Awards have evolved, see the first two pieces from my colleagues, Dan Latimore and Zil Bareisis

This week’s article focuses on Model Bank entries in the Products category. Part of the criteria for this category is that the solution needs to be in production and demonstrating business benefits. The Products entries for 2017 fall broadly into four sub-categories:

  • Payments Product — for launching the best consumer or business payments product.
  • Lending Product — for the most impressive consumer or business lending or collections initiative.
  • Open Banking — for the most impressive API strategy and results so far.
  • Product Innovation — for demonstrating the ability to launch multiple innovative products.

The majority of submissions in the Products category came from banks in developing markets, with only a handful from large global banks. The Model Bank award submissions came from Argentina, Germany, India, Korea, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, UAE, and USA.

The Products category submissions were impressive indeed:

Payments: The submissions in this area focused on modernizing existing banking and payments infrastructure. With consumer expectations growing for real-time transactions and unified information across channels, banks are layering new capabilities onto legacy frameworks. Capabilities include accelerated check clearing, enhanced mobile wallets, simplified fraud controls, and streamlined charitable donations.

Lending:  Possibly threatened by alternative lenders, banks in this sub-category are improving the speed and convenience of loans for micro and small businesses. Some entries focused on expanding application channels, both digital and physical. New digital channels include SMS/text, ATM and Facebook. Physical channels include the local coffee shop. All of the submissions featured faster loan decisions through advanced analytics and paperless (or almost paperless) loan closings.  

Open Banking: Open Banking APIs have moved beyond hackathons and proofs of concept to production implementations. While some banks are rolling out Open API development portals in response to regulations like PSD2, the Model Bank candidates in this category are using APIs to improve the customer experience. The submissions represented two approaches to Open Banking. The first is the use of open APIs to connect directly with customers and developers, enabling transactions including B2B payments, personal remittances, loan disbursements, and e-Commerce refunds. The second is the use of open APIs as the core foundation for digital-only banking models. Third-party developers then create value-added client-facing applications using the bank’s exposed API services.

Product Innovation: This sub-category features partnerships with both traditional financial technology and start-up Fintech firms to make banking more convenient, create new offerings, improve customer service, expand a bank’s digital footprint, and personalize marketing offers.  

Want to hear more about the Celent Model Bank winners for payments product, lending product, open banking, and product innovation? Join us for the 10th annual Innovation and Insight Day on April 4th in Boston. In addition to revealing the winners of all the awards, Celent analysts examine the trends that are driving innovation in Banking. I look forward to seeing you there.

Model Bank 2017: Small Business and Corporate Digital Innovation Themes

Model Bank 2017: Small Business and Corporate Digital Innovation Themes

This is the fifth article in a weekly series highlighting trends and themes from Celent’s Model Bank submission process. For more information on how the Model Bank Awards have evolved, see the first two pieces from Dan Latimore and Zil Bareisis. This particular article is focused on innovations in small business and corporate banking:  two critical market segments for financial institutions as they seek revenue growth and relevance in the evolving digital B2B marketplace. 

When evaluating this year’s Model Bank submissions that are targeted at small business and corporate clients, we identified a number of excellent initiatives in each of the five overall categories:

    Customer Experience

    Products

    Operations and Risk

    Legacy Transformation / IT Platform Innovations

    Emerging Innovation

For these two segments, the Model Bank award candidates come from Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Despite the wide geographic spread of the submissions we received, certain common themes became evident that are important to highlight, 

Enhancing client experience is paramount: Banks are intensely focused on how to deliver solutions to clients in ways that are convenient and easy to use in order to meet the emerging expectations of business users based on their consumer experiences with technology. Creating a consolidated point of access for all corporate banking services using portal technology that eliminates the need for multiple logins and security procedures was just one of the types of initiatives that were submitted.  Mobile and tablet access are becoming mainstream channels for employees of business and corporate clients to effectively manage their daily workload no matter where they might be located.

Improving digital channels is not enough to succeed: The initiatives that demonstrate significant quantifiable benefits to banks and clients are those that address the inefficiencies in the way that bank employees interact with their clients but also involve the elimination of paper-intense, manual workflows both for the client and the bank. From the use of videoconferencing technology to access experts in trade finance for advisory services to the replacement of faxed instructions with digitally signed transactions initiated on mobile phones, banks are finding innovative ways to contribute to their own efficiency while also improving client productivity. Another critical element of the digitization of these processes is speed. Automation enables faster decisions (for example for credit approval) and this provides business with a superior service and the ability to manage their businesses rather than managing their banking relationships. These initiatives drive revenue growth and loyalty because the bank’s services provide quantifiable benefits to clients that are seeking to leverage technology advances in order to more effective manage their working capital.

Reinvention in Small Business Banking: I was struck by several of the initiatives that represent an entirely new way of thinking about how to enable entrepreneurs and small business owners to succeed. Rather than tweaking traditional banking solutions that are designed for consumers or larger businesses, several of the banks submitted initiatives that reflect an entirely different way of meeting the needs of small business clients. Recognizing that the needs of entrepreneurs and start-ups fall well beyond the services that a bank traditionally offers (i.e. credit, payments, cash management), a few innovative banks have attempted to reinvent business banking by offering a complete, integrated package that combines traditional banking activities with non-banking services that extend beyond even the adjacent types of solutions that banks typically make available through partnerships (e.g. payroll services). The goal of these packages is to offer a business owner every piece of business functionality and technology they would need to grow their business. What makes these solutions especially impactful is that they are designed from a business owner’s perspective and don’t reflect a bank-centric view of how the client should manage their business. 

I hope this brief description whets your appetite for more discussion on our award winners in small business and corporate banking at the 10th annual Innovation and Insight Day on April 4th in Boston. I look forward to seeing you there.