- Consumer Digital Platform – for delivering an outstanding digital experience for consumers. The award is open for traditional financial institutions, digital-first, and challenger banks.
- Small Business Digital Platform – for delivering an outstanding digital experience for small businesses.
- Corporate Banking Digital Platform – for delivering an outstanding digital experience for corporate clients.
- Consumer Banking Channel Innovation – for the most creative use of consumer channels, or the most effective channel integration.
- Branch Transformation – for the most compelling branch transformation initiative, including branch format innovations and creative use of live agents.
- Product Innovation – for demonstrating the ability to launch multiple innovative products.
- Open Banking – for the most impressive API strategy and results so far.
- Payments Product – for launching the best consumer or business payments product.
- Lending Product – for the most impressive consumer or business lending or collections initiative.
- 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.
- Employee Productivity – for improving employee training or collaboration, incentivising employees, or enabling mobile agents.
- Payments Replatforming – for the most impressive project to improve payments back office, e.g. payment services hub implementation or cards replatforming.
- Core Banking Transformation – for the most compelling initiative to transform a traditional core banking platform.
- Banking in the Cloud – for innovative approaches to implement a banking platform, e.g. deploying in the cloud.
- Banking as a Platform – for creating an ecosystem of partners via a banking platform that connects and enables third parties.
- Emerging Technology for Consumers – for creative deployment of emerging technologies for consumers (e.g. AI, ML, API, biometrics, wearables, voice, blockchain, etc.)
- Emerging Technology for Businesses – for creative deployment of emerging technologies for small business or corporate clients (e.g. AI, ML, API, biometrics, wearables, voice, blockchain, etc.)
- Most Promising Proof-of-Concept – for the most promising experiment – pilot or proof-of-concept – with emerging technologies.
- Financial Inclusion – for efforts to bring financial services to unbanked and under-banker communities.
- Build out integrated portals to make invisible the organizational and product silos inherent in corporate banking.
- Simplify the user experience.
- Establish an omnichannel approach to providing consistent data and access to transactions across channels.
- Enhance authentication options, including biometrics.
- Expand self-service, including the ability to securely exchange documents and open accounts and new services.
- Define the Digital Strategy for Corporate Banking, Not Just the Digital Channel Strategy. In the current environment, attempting to implement a successful strategy for digital channels in the absence of an overall digital transformation strategy for corporate banking is short-sighted.
- Understand How Attended Digital Channels Fit into Clients’ Daily Workflow. Product management and strategy executives at many institutions are driving prioritization in channels based on a set of assumptions about client preferences that may not be valid. Mapping those client digital journeys from onboarding to servicing to managing exception situations for each client persona is critical.
- Reexamine the Role of Partners. In reality, the delivery of services through attended channels has always involved multiple partners, whether the bank has developed an “in-house” solution or offers one or more off–the-shelf vendor solutions. As demands for “non-core” banking functionality grows and technology evolves to enable easier integration with multiple partners, the importance of the bank maintaining control of the user experience layer that is seen and touched by the client becomes even more critical.
Personal Financial Management – PFM – has been a worthy goal pursued by many providers, yet consumers continue to ignore its possibilities. Rather than trying to incrementally expand the share of 10-12% of PFM users, banks should instead focus on the next stage in the evolution of personal finance: Personal Financial Experiences, or PFE.
We’re big fans of PFM (Personal Financial Management)…conceptually. We think that it has the potential to help people better control their finances and live happier, less-stressed lives. And yet, despite numerous efforts over the years, traditional PFM has not gained significant marketplace traction. It’s too cumbersome and inconvenient, while crucially often serving up bad news – and who wants that? At the same time, banks have recently begun to focus wholeheartedly on the customer experience of their clients, seeking to improve and coordinate the various interactions that consumers have across multiple and diverse touchpoints.
The convergence of these two trends is PFE, defined as A coordinated set of customer interactions that pushes and provides customers relevant, timely information and advice to enable them to live more informed and proactive financial lives. PFE gives customers the ability to access whatever level of financial detail they want, but focuses primarily on context and appropriate accessibility.
A variety of companies – both banks building their own, and vendors focused on developing white-labeled software – have created a wide range of PFM approaches. Most have historically required a fair degree of intentionality on the user’s part, and treat PFM as a discrete activity – a separate tab or a standalone app, for example. PFE changes that. Users will experience PFE without ever having to call it up; it will just happen to them via an alert on their mobile, an idea from a branch representative, or an unexpected landing page on their laptop. The “E” stands for Experiences, plural. PFE isn’t just one touchpoint; it encompasses the wide variety of interactions that a consumer has with her financial institution. Today’s Digital banking will, in fact, become PFE. When banks move to the end-state of PFE, customers will no longer have to choose to manage their financial lives (or by not choosing, default to unmanaged ad-hocracy); instead, financial management will happen in the background, facilitated and orchestrated by the bank, as part of the overall relationship.
Three key principles provide the foundation of a robust set of Personal Financial Experiences.
1 Automatic: Users don’t have to put much conscious thought or effort into entering the data or even asking for guidance. The system gathers that information and proactively provides nuggets of advice and discrete, concrete calls to action.
2 Intuitive: There is no learning curve. Just as kids can start using a new mobile phone out of the box without reading any sort of manual, PFE will be intuitive and user-friendly. PFE becomes normal digital banking.
3 Relevant: PFE will deliver only the information needed at the appropriate time. No longer will a user be confronted with a huge dashboard of charts and dials confusingly presented. Relevance and contextuality will rule.
The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player; it built on and refined pioneering work done by others. So, too, is PFM the first step in the journey to PFE; we’re not there yet, but we’re well on our way, helped by advances in technology and the incremental changes that FI tinkerers continue to make. We’ll be exploring this concept in greater depth over at celent.com; please check back in, or reply to this post, if you’d like to learn more.
AI is becoming increasingly interesting to bankers. Last year I wrote a blog about “Assistant as an App”, looking at how concierge apps like MaiKai and Penny are offering up AI-driven financial management services. My colleague Dan Latimore also recently posted a blog on AI and its impact.
The emergence of chat bots within popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Kik, and WeChat similarly has the potential to shift how customers interact with financial institutions. Chat bots offer incredible scale at a pretty cheap price, making adoption potentially explosive. Facebook messenger, for example, has almost one billion active users per month. WhatsApp (soon to launch chat bots) has about the same. These apps offer some extremely high engagement, and with app downloads decreasing, users are spending more time on fewer apps. According to Tech Crunch, 80% of the time spent on a mobile device is typically split between 3 to 5 apps.
Chat bots give the bank the ability to automatically appear in almost all of the most used apps in the world. The opportunity with digital assistants is immense, and given the nature of bank transactions, it’s not hard to imagine chat bots becoming a widely used engagement method. Most of banking is heavily rules-based, so the processes are often standard. Frequent banking requests are pretty straightforward (e.g. ‘send this person X amount of money’ or ‘transfer x amount from savings to checking’). Bank-owned chat bots are also more built for purpose than some of the multi-purpose third-party products on the market, making the functional scope targetted. While chat bots are still very early days, it won't be long before these kinds of interactions are accessible and the norm. Bank of America already has one; many others have plans or pilots.
This video (skip to 7:30) shows what an advanced chat bot might be able to accomplish. The image below from the Chat Bot Magazine is another conceptual banking use case. The possibilities are compelling.
But while the opportunity with digital assistants is enormous, banks must be aware of how this affects their current ongoing digital strategy. For example, if chat bots overcome the hype and become a long lasting method for accessing financial services, then what effect will that have on traditional banking apps? Will chat bots make it foolish to invest large sums of money in dedicated mobile apps?
For all the promise this technology brings, banks need to be aware that this could be a step towards front-end disintermediation. The threat of tech companies (or other large retailers) stepping in to grab banking licenses and compete directly with incumbents was short lived. The more realistic scenario was always relegating core banking functions to a utility on the backend of a slickly designed user interface created by a fintech startup. The incumbents lose the engagement, even if they are facilitating the transactions.
Are chat bots a step towards front-end disintermediation, or are they an extension of the bank’s main app? If you believe that chat bots are a stepping stone (or companion product) towards a world where the best UI is no UI, and where AI evolves to the point of offering significant functional value, then banks could be at risk.
This isn’t a call to hysteria by any means, nor am I calling chat bots wolves in sheep’s clothing, but banks need to be aware of the potential impact. As voice or message-based interactions become the norm, they will have an effect on a bank’s dedicated mobile app. In this environment, the mobile app will need to evolve to become something different; non-transactional.
Chatbots will only further fragment the customer journey, requiring an even clearer understanding of how consumers are choosing to handle their finances and make transactions. Banks need to start thinking about how chat bots and AI fit into a long-term digital channels strategy, one that doesn’t handcuff the institution into a no-win proposition of competitive disadvantage versus wilful disruption.
No one downloads a banking app from their store of choice for fun, nor do they open it up to amuse themselves. Instead, bank apps are used to accomplish specific tasks – check a balance, pay a bill, send money to a friend. Despite the undeniable utility of these apps, institutions struggle to persuade their customers to use them; adoption rates, depending on the specific measure, hover around 50% and have been stuck for a while at that plateau. Furthermore, while it’s undeniable that many customers want a better customer experience, and at least some of those customers would like more and better features, digital executives struggle to find the ROI of investment in their apps. Of course, there’s the argument that it’s analogous to malls that put up Christmas and other holiday decorations – consumers just expect it, and there’s not an explicit ROI – but that’s the subject of another post.
What if consumers could perform their basic banking tasks without ever having to open up their banking app? They could say, “Siri, what’s my bank balance?” or “Alexa, pay the water bill out of my main checking account.” While we’re not there yet, consumer desire for convenience (aka “seamlessness” or the “frictionless customer experience”) knows no bounds. My experimentation with Siri and Alexa, together with my preliminary research into Artificial Intelligence in banking, have led me to hypothesize that this scenario is a lot closer than many bankers might imagine. In the obligatory Uber example, the payment is invisible; what happens when the consumer makes this happen in all other sorts of interactions?
How are you prepared to offer your customers this new level of service? Do you have APIs that will let this happen? And is there a strategy to go beyond simply fulfilling a request and offering more insight, advice, or perspective than simply what being asked for? Like European banks facing the challenge of PSD2, all retail institutions can look at this as a moment where they’ll be relegated to the background or one where they can revamp their service models to build better, stronger, and deeper customer relationships.
The fall conference season is a business time for us in the industry research business. I’ve finally recovered from a hectic week in Geneva, where I met with over 40 banks, technology companies, and consulting firms to discuss what’s happening in global transaction banking. This year’s Sibos theme was “Transforming the Landscape”, organized around four themes: Banking, Compliance, Culture, and Securities. A selection of Sibos session recordings is available on the Sibos website.
With my research focus of Corporate Banking, my discussions focused on three key topics.
- SWIFT’s global payments innovation (gpi) initiative: SWIFT announced that it had successfully completed the first phase of the gpi pilot, surprising some bankers with SWIFT’s ability to meet the first milestone so quickly. The initial objective of gpi is to improve the speed of cross-border payments (starting with same-day) and improve transparency with new end-to-end payment tracking. SWIFT staffers roamed the exhibition hall with iPads demonstrating the gpi’s new payment tracker. It remains for banks to integrate the new payment type into their corporate digital channels and to determine product pricing.
- PSD2 and UK Open Banking: Technology providers, especially those that offer core banking systems along with payments technology, are working closely with regulators and industry groups to enhance their product offerings to accommodate the third-party account information access and payment initiation provisions of PSD2, along with the UK’s Open Banking API Framework. Looking beyond mere compliance, both providers and banks are developing value-added services to capitalize on the significant disruption arising from opening traditional banking capabilities to third-parties.
- Blockchain in Corporate Banking: After publishing a Celent report on use cases for blockchain in corporate banking earlier this year, I was heartened to hear “real world” blockchain announcements from the big tech companies, touting their banking collaborations. Swiss bank UBS is working with IBM on a project to replicate the entire lifecycle of an international trade transaction. The FX settlement service, CLS, is building a payments netting service that will enable cash trades on IBM’s Fabric blockchain. Bank of America and Microsoft announced their intent to build and test blockchain applications for trade finance. Although much progress is being made by blockchain consortia, banks, and technology providers, most people I talked to believe that significant adoption of blockchain for corporate banking use cases is still a few years in the future.
I’m off next week to attend the Annual Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) conference, hoping to bring back developments in the world of corporate treasury and treasury management.
A few weeks ago I attended Finovate Fall 2016 with a few different colleagues of mine in New York. For those who’ve never been, Finovate hosts three main events (New York, San Francisco, and London) where more than 70 fintech companies are able to present new concepts, services, or products in a rapid 7-minute format. Traditionally, the San Francisco event has catered to more of the pure start-ups, while the New York event gives larger, more established vendors the opportunity to show off their newest ideas, although typically there’s a bit of a mix between each.
As a temperature gauge for the industry, I don't think there’s a better event. The ideas generally reflect where the industry is at in its thinking, and what the major trends are for fintech. For example, 2-3 years ago the hot topic was PFM, big data, and mobile wallets. Last year, mobile onboarding, customer acquisition schemes, and AI were the most prevalent. Parsing through the hype and the reality is typically one of the more fun aspects of attending. This year I noticed a few things that caught my attention:
- Chatbots, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and general communication solutions were common: Companies like TokBox, Personetics, Kore, and Clinc were some of the more compelling examples here. These solutions were prominent in 2015, but the biggest change was the maturity of their capabilities. Last year, what stood out to most attendees were the many demos that fell flat. A handful of presentations completely bombed on-stage, and even those that made it through the process were often shaky and the inputs looked too rigid. These technologies have advanced quite a bit in the last year, and the proposition for banks is becoming much more attractive.
- PFM was hidden behind data analytics: PFM hasn't been a discussion topic in the industry for quite some time. The initial round of PFM deployments were troubled by poor execution and unmet expectations by financial institutions that piloted them. Many financial institutions we’ve spoken to become immediately sceptical of a vendor solution that even uses the term. Celent has been talking for some time about PFM merging with online banking and essentially becoming the landing page. What was traditional PFM (spending breakdowns, budgeting, savings goals, etc.) is now just digital banking. New methods of financial management demoed at Finovate, however, show PFM under disguise as platforms that leverage data analytics. MapD was one that stood out. Clean data has always been the holy grail for PFM, and it’s always been one of the biggest issues. More solutions focused on getting the data analytics right, creating financial value for the consumer, and cleverly disguising what should have been PFM from the beginning: insights unpinned by advanced analytics.
- Not many payments products or solutions leveraging blockchain: Surprising to me were the lack of payments startups as well as any startup leveraging blockchain. My thinking is that many of the solutions around blockchain are still in their early days, and probably not ready for prime time. Also, while I know of a number of startups leveraging the technology, they are more bleeding edge, and may have been attracted to the spring Finovate, which focuses much more on early-stage fintech companies. The lack of payments schemes was also a surprise, but it could be that Apple Pay has taken some of the wind out of the sails of fintech companies trying to solve very similar issues. Mobile wallets and payment products typically require a lot of industry leverage to make work. You have to satisfy the merchants, the banks, and the consumers, and most have failed to reach sufficient scale. Many in the industry said it would have had to be a larger more established firm, and indeed the launch of Apple Pay confirmed that prediction.
Finovate continues to offer great insight into where the industry is at and where it’s heading. We’ll continue to attend these events and provide some more analysis. Feel free to comment on your perceptions, if any, from the event.
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.