Corporate digital delivery channels and the customer experience

Corporate digital delivery channels and the customer experience

Celent feels (and others agree) that it’s important that banks deliver an omnichannel digital customer experience, but the term means different things to different people. Based on our own research, we believe that omnichannel is about delivering a customized but consistent financial institution brand experience to customers across all channels and points of interaction.

An omnichannel experience is even more critical when delivering services to corporate clients. Each client has a unique set of business and technology requirements based on their corporate treasury organizational structure, geographic footprint, and treasury technology sophistication. A consistent financial institution brand experience is important to corporate clients, but the experience needs to be tailored to each client segment’s unique needs. For the largest, most complex organizations, an even more bespoke and customized experience is critical.

With banks investing increasing amounts of capital in technology incubators and startup accelerators, the pace of innovation in digital channels continues to grow. But for corporate clients, innovation isn’t about incubators, accelerators, or hackathons. Innovation is about simplification — increasing usability, straight-through processing, and digitization. As outlined in the new Celent report, Tailoring the Customer Experience: External Forces Impacting Corporate Digital Channels, the competitive environment, regulatory climate, economic conditions, and technology impacts are shaping the evolution of corporate digital channels. But emerging technologies will have the largest impact. External Forces Corporate digital channels are just one component of a complex treasury technology landscape, but a critical one. Corporates maximizing the efficiency and transparency of digital channels today are enabling and preparing themselves for innovative technologies for the future.

Silicon Valley? No, Chilecon Valley

Silicon Valley? No, Chilecon Valley
In previous blog posts regarding fintech in Latin America my position was, and remains, that one of the reasons for being behind is that it lacks of a “Silicon Valley” equivalent. Efforts to create a fintech ecosystem, as Finnovista is doing, become a good alternative to overcome the absence of a geographical pocket of innovation. Particularly consider the market fragmentation of Latin America comprised by 19 countries, some of which have 3M inhabitants to Brazil having +200M. People in most countries may speak the same language but markets are far from being similar just for that. Under (or against?) these circumstances, Chile is working to become Latin America’s Silicon Valley. One of its most attractive initiatives is “Start-Up Chile”, created four years ago to transform the Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem. It began with a question: “What would happen if we could bring the best and brightest entrepreneurs from all around the globe and insert them into the local ecosystem?” The initiative offers work visas, financial support, and an extensive network of global contacts to help build and accelerate growth of customer-validated and scalable companies that will leave a lasting impact on the Latin American ecosystem. The idea is to make the country a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship within the region. Start-up Chile, with only four years, is a start-up itself but it has a good starting point and great potential:
  • Chile has demonstrated for years its entrepreneurial spirit, with Chilean companies competing successfully in various industries (air transportation, financial services, and retail, just to mention a few) and a stable economy.
  • This year two Chilean start-ups were the winners of the BBVA Open Talent in Latin America: Destacame.cl, aiming to financial inclusion by creating a credit scoring based on utility payments; and Bitnexo which enables fast, easy and low cost transfers between Asia and Latin America, using Bitcoin.
While other countries and cities in the region are working in offering support to start-ups, it seems Chile is leading the way. Hopefully this triggers some healthy competition in the region, which in the end will benefit all. In the meantime, let’s meet at Finnosummit in Bogota – Colombia next February 16th. Join financial institutions, consultants, tech vendors, startups and other digital ecosystem innovators, to learn how startup driven disruption and new technologies are reshaping the future of financial services in the region. Remember to use Celent’s discount code C3L3NT20% for a 20% discount on your conference ticket.  

Banks need to recognize FinTech startups as opportunities, not threats

Banks need to recognize FinTech startups as opportunities, not threats
Fintech is booming. In 2013, according to a report by Accenture and CB Insights, total investment into FinTech was just less than $4 billion. By 2014 it ballooned to more than $12 billion globally, with 750 deals. Many are claiming the death of traditional banks, but I’m not sure these claims have merit. Banks are surely slow to move with trends, but the barriers to entry act to partially insulate the industry from rapid disintermediation. Yet neither can institutions continue without any change to the operating model. Banks will need to adapt to new behavioral patterns and trends in technology. Success for banks will require a change in mindset. They need to start looking at FinTech startups as an opportunity, not a threat. Many banks have already started acting, and it’s time for fast followers to get on board and employ a few of the following strategies: Partnering with startups The easiest and most accessible way of engaging new startups is through partnership. From a technological perspective, the evolution of technology deployment has made it easier than ever for banks to engage in strategic partnerships. This can be as simple as an agreement between entities to drive referrals or route website traffic (e.g. Santander UK with Funding Circle and Union Bank with Lending Club) to more complicated engagements where new services are plugged into a banks’ existing digital banking platform through APIs. Fidor Bank in Germany has architected its own completely open platform, allowing it to plug in new innovative offerings and enable customers to take full advantage of emerging services. Acquiring FinTech The main benefit of acquisition is that these companies are largely already established. The company has a culture that has been shown to be successful, and there is an existing base of customers from which to grow. Often the injection of new capital by the buyer can give a startup the resources needed to flourish. The risk is that as these offerings are brought closer to the parent company, the legacy processes and functions bleed into the new acquisition, hampering growth and essentially killing the viability of the product. The acquisition of Simple by BBVA Compass is one of the most visible acquisitions in recent years. It remains to be seen how the two businesses come together, and what role Simple will play in the larger BBVA vision, but the deal offers an example for other banks to follow. Launching venture capital business units A number of institutions are establishing venture funds to actively invest in startups from the beginning. Most notable is BBVA Ventures, which has already invested in companies like FreeMonee, SumUp, and Radius, and which plans on spending more than $100 million on new projects over the next year. In October 2015, Santander InnoVentures $4 million in the block chain payments startup Ripple Labs, also investing in MyCheck, Cyanogen, and iZettle. HSBC has said that it will start a venture fund with up to $200 million in investments. Wells Fargo, Citibank, and others in the US have also started going down this path, both starting funds of around $100 million within the Silicon Valley. While this is a good way to get deep into emerging disruptors, it’s also relatively prohibitive, and all but the top banks are going to find this route difficult. Every year more and more startup companies are launched; a strategy for innovation and cooperation with these challengers would be remiss without understanding the landscape. With this in mind, Celent is beginning a series of quarterly reports that will profile 7-10 startup companies, providing some analysis about the business model and opportunity for financial institutions. Look for the report series Innovation Quarterly: The Latest in Fintech Innovation to kick off in Q4 2015.

Reports of small business lending’s death are greatly exaggerated

Reports of small business lending’s death are greatly exaggerated

I’ve spent much of my career in and around the financial services sector focused on small business banking. In the US, small business customers get bounced around like Goldilocks—they are too small to be of interest to commercial relationship managers and too complex to be easily understood by retail branch staff.

I applaud those banks that make a concerted effort to meet the financial needs of small businesses. After all, in the United States small businesses comprise 99.7% of all firms. (According to the US Census Bureau, a small business is a firm with less than 500 employees). In general, larger small businesses are better served as they use more banking products and generate more interest income and fee revenue than smaller small businesses. The lack of “just right” solutions for many small business financial problems has been a golden opportunity for FinTech firms.

In the FinTech space, much of the focus is on consumer-oriented solutions like Mint for financial management, Venmo for P2P payments, and Prosper for social lending. But FinTech companies figured out early on that small businesses weren’t getting the attention they deserved from traditional banks. Many of the top FinTech companies—Square for card acceptance, Stripe for e-commerce, and Kabbage for business loans, have gained prominence serving primarily small businesses.

Online small business lending by direct credit providers has especially taken off. Disruptors like Kabbage, OnDeck, and Lendio were quickly followed by more traditional players like PayPal, UPS, and Staples. Morgan Stanley reports that US small business direct lending grew to around $7.5B in 2014 and projects expansion to $35B by 2020. They also maintain that most of this growth is market expansion, not cannibalization of bank volumes. This makes sense—direct lenders usually attract borrowers that can’t get bank loans and charge accordingly. For example, Kabbage averages 19% interest for short term loans and 30% annually for long term loans. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate for a small business bank loan (less than $100k) in August 2015 was 3.7% and current SBA loan rates range from 3.43% to 4.25%.

And that common wisdom that US banks have pulled back from small business lending? Let’s take a look at data compiled by the FDIC starting in 2010.

Small Business C&I Loans The overall volume of small business loans increased year-over-year from 2010 to June 2015, with a CAGR of approximately 3%. The total dollar value of small business loans outstanding dipped slightly in 2011 and 2012, reflecting slightly smaller loan amounts, a result of tighter lending standards. The facts are that US small business loan volume and dollar value outstanding are at their highest levels since the FDIC began collecting this data from banks. And by the way, there are almost 2,200 fewer banks in the US today than prior to Lehman’s collapse in 2008. Banks are happy to work with credit-worthy small businesses to meet their working capital needs. And direct lenders are happy to work with everyone else—-a win-win for all.

Sibos 2015: banks reacting to the threat of blockchain and other FinTech

Sibos 2015: banks reacting to the threat of blockchain and other FinTech
Singapore hosted Sibos this year, and judging by the reported 8,000 attendees, transaction banking is alive and well. That also means there were 8,000 different experiences, impressions and takeaways. Here are mine: Banks are fully aware of the threat of posed by technology and are beginning to act on it. Two technology vendors I spoke to said that every single bank they met with asked about blockchain, an extraordinary change from six months ago when it was only beginning to be seriously discussed. It’s encouraging that banks have evolved their positions so quickly. While no one know yet what the killer blockchain uses will be, banks are ramping up experiments along all facets of the value chain. Celent will have more to say about that shortly. Another facet of technology change is the need for banks to partner with FinTech innovators. Based on my conversations with many of these vendors, banks were a lot more willing to discuss new ways of working together. There may even me some movement toward value pricing (that is, mutual sharing in beneficial outcomes), but it’s still very early days; banks seem loathe to give away upside and are unsure how to structure enforceable deals. Sibos’ ambivalence about innovation manifested itself physically with Innotribe. The space was relatively small, and every time I went by I was unable to get in because it was filled to overflowing. Innovation clearly needs to be given even more attention despite the threats it presents to the existing structure. Was this perhaps a physical metaphor of Banking’s relationship with and attitude towards FinTech? Having had four straight nights of canapés for standing dinners, getting home to digest the whirlwind that is Sibos was very welcome. On to Geneva next year!

Increasing headwinds in corporate banking?

Increasing headwinds in corporate banking?

This week I’m in Singapore, which provides a beautiful backdrop for Sibos 2015, the annual conference that brings together thousands of business leaders, decision makers and topic experts from a range of financial institutions, market infrastructures, multinational corporations and technology partners.

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This year’s conference theme is connect, debate and collaborate and takes place at a time of increasing headwinds from a slowing global economy, higher compliance costs, increasingly global corporates, and competition from both banks and nonbanks alike. I spent the past few months taking a deep dive into corporate banking performance over the past 10 years–a period of both tremendous growth and unprecedented upheaval. As expected, corporate banking operating income and customer deposit balances have experienced healthy growth rates over the past 10 years. But surprisingly, despite increases in customer deposits, corporate banking income was largely stagnant over the past few years.

Corporate Banking Income and Deposits

Corporate banking plays a dominant role for the largest global banks. In 2014, corporate banking was responsible for 33% of overall operating income and 38% of customer deposits across the 20 banks included in this analysis.

As outlined in the new Celent report, Corporate Banking: Driving Growth in the Face of Increasing Headwinds, this critical banking sector is shaped by four external forces: economic conditions, the regulatory environment, business demographics, and financial technology. These same factors are slowing corporate banking growth and creating an environment in which banks are overhauling client offerings in the face of regulatory pressure, re-evaluating geographic footprints in response to shifting trade flows, and investing in technologies to ensure a consistent, integrated customer experience.

Much of the discussion at Sibos is on exploring transformation in the face of disruption. As they look to an unsettled future, corporate banks that are flexible, adaptable, and creative will be the ones that succeed. Changing time-tested ways of doing business is painful, but critical for future success.

Helping build the fintech ecosystem in Latin America

Helping build the fintech ecosystem in Latin America
A few weeks ago, Dan Latimore and I had the chance to attend Finnosummit in Mexico City. IMG_1341 While Dan was the one really working (he presented on “How Big Data can change Financial Services”) I mingled around the participants of this vibrant ecosystem encompassing entrepreneurs, financial institutions, investors, and regulators among other stakeholders. It is amazing how the ecosystem continues to grow and how fintech start-ups are booming.IMG_1349         Celent has been collaborating to help create the fintech ecosystem in the Latin American region since its inception and I had the honor, for 2nd time, to judge the fintech start-ups participating in the BBVA Open Talent, which brought the Latin American finalists into town as part of Finnosummit. They had their 5 minutes of glory (or suffering) by pitching their venture to the audience and two winners were selected at the end of the day. Discover the finalists of all regions here. In Latin America two chilean start-ups were the winners: Destacame.cl, aiming to financial inclusion by creating a credit scoring based on utility payments; and Bitnexo which enables fast, easy and low cost transfers between Asia and Latin America, using Bitcoin. In the US & RoW the two winners were: ModernLend enables users with no credit profile to create one in just 6 months by using alternate metrics; and LendingFront which facilitates short term commercial lending through a simple platform. In Europa the winners were Everledger, specialized in anti-fraud technology for financial services and insurance; and Origin an electronic platform that facilitates bond issuing in the capital markets. Many fintech startups that made it to the finals focus on Blockchain technology and payments. These seem to be the areas of major investment for the last two years. If you are interested in these themes I suggest that you follow my colleagues John Dwyer, Zilvinas Bareisis and Gareth Lodge. Coming back to Dan’s presentation, he made a very interesting observation around the need to move from the old paradigm (Customer response optimization) to a new paradigm (Anticipate and shape customer intent) based on the use of big data and analytics, but also warning that disruptors are out there applying the new paradigm today. If you want to get deeper into any of the subjects covered here, please let me know. By the way, is there any fintech start-up you believe has great potential? Share with us please!

Why banks should pay attention to “Assistant as an App”

Why banks should pay attention to “Assistant as an App”
Last week I had the pleasure of going to Finovate, a biannual event (at least in NA) where startups and established vendors show off their newest creations. My colleague Dan Latimore wrote an in-depth piece about it last week. It’s usually a good temperature read of where the market is and what banks are thinking about. PFM used to be hot, now it barely makes an appearance. Mobile account opening and on-boarding was massive. Each year you can count on a few presentations tackling customer communication, whether it´s customer service applications or advisory tools. While this year was no different, I didn´t see any presentations representing an emerging trend in mobile: assistant as an app. What is assistant as an app? Basically, it puts a thin UI between two humans: the customer and the service provider (e.g. retailer or bank). The UI layer enhances the interaction by allowing each party to push information back and forth, whether its text, pictures, data visualization, etc. There are a wide range of possibilities. Apps are already starting to incorporate this idea. For a monthly fee, Pana offerings a human personal travel assistant who will take care of any travel related need. The concierge books restaurants, hotels, rental cars, and flights, all via in-app communication. Pana Vida Health allows users to push dietary information to a health coach that can then send back health plans, ideas to diagnose health issues, or create a weight loss regimen. The dating app Grouper uses a concierge to coordinate group dates. EasilyDo is a personal assistant that can manage your contacts, check traffic, schedule flights, etc. The app Fetch uses SMS to let users ask the concierge to buy just about anything. For a small fee (sometimes free, subsidized by business or premium services) these companies provide value-added premium services to customers through a mobile device. The applicability for banks is obvious. Finances can be complicated; most people aren´t good at managing money, and according to Celent research, consumers still prefer to speak to a human for important money matters. Assistant as an app would offer institutions a clear path towards monetising the mobile channel, moving interactions away from the branch, and capturing a growing base of digitally-directed consumers. I predict this will be a major trend in financial services in the future. What do you think? Feel free to comment below.

Mobile, onboarding among dominant themes at FinovateFall 2015

Mobile, onboarding among dominant themes at FinovateFall 2015
When I’m feeling a bit flip, I tell clients that Celent goes to a lot of conferences so that they don’t have to. Don’t get me wrong: conferences are worthwhile, and you have a lot of serendipitous conversations. But they’re also time away from the office, and, to be honest, not every minute is completely productive. With that in mind, I’ll describe my very-high level takeaways of Finovate Fall 2015, held earlier this week at the New York Hilton. As I listened to each of the 70 7-minute pitches (2 presenters scratched), I tagged them in an unscientific way. Each company received two to eight words describing the space the problem they were solving and how they did it. Here’s the resulting word cloud: Finovate Word Cloud Mobile, unsurprisingly, dominated. I was astonished, however, at the prominence of “onboarding,” a term I used to cover a wide variety of solutions pertaining to account opening, from ID verification to assisted form filling. Many talked about eliminating friction, and creating a platform to support a particular service. Security and Fraud were prominent, as was the concept of components, often enabled by APIs. The biggest surprise: only two companies addressed Blockchain technology – perhaps that will change at FinovateSpring. Somewhere around the 60th presentation, I was struck by the variability in presentation skills and solution excellence. Being a consultant, I had to create a 2×2, below. What did we miss because the product or service was presented sub-optimally? Finally, a big thanks to the folks at Finovate – Celent values our partnership with this great event. If you’d like more detail, check out their blog, which describes the best in show winners. What did you like at Finovate?

Viewing mobile payments strategy holistically

Viewing mobile payments strategy holistically
As the one year anniversary of Apple Pay approaches, banks have to make more decisions about their mobile payments strategy. Android Pay launched in the US a few days ago, and Samsung Pay is expected to be available there soon as well. Should a bank just stick with Apple Pay or enable their cards with all the “pays?” Should they consider alternative options, such as their own HCE-based, or depending on the market, even SIM-based NFC solutions? The answer is that banks have to view their mobile payments strategy holistically. Apple Pay, good as it is, is only available for the latest iOS devices, and only for in-store and in-app payments. Android ecosystem offers more choice: Android Pay, Samsung Pay, HCE and SIM for NFC, but what about P2P and other payments? Barclays in the UK announced this week that it will be launching its own version of mobile payments for Android-based phones. Barclays was a notable absentee when Apple Pay launched in the UK, and are forging ahead with Pingit and bPay wearables. As a result, some view this latest move as yet another indication that the bank “appears to be adopting a go-it-alone strategy with its roll-out of mobile payments, preferring to retain the primary contact with the customer rather than providing the rails for interlopers like Apple, Google and Samsung to hitch a free ride.” I wouldn’t read too much into it. Barclays has since said that it would support Apple Pay at some point in the future. In my view, Barclays is doing what all banks should do – think about mobile payments holistically, i.e. how they will support mobile payments across different platforms and use cases (e.g. in-store, in-app, P2P, etc.). Yes, Android Pay has been launched in the US, but it’s not yet available in the UK. Yet HCE technology has given banks around the world an opportunity to launch their own branded NFC solutions for Android, irrespective of whether Android Pay is available in their market or not. Rather than waiting for Android Pay or Samsung Pay to come to the UK, Barclays is joining the growing list of banks such as BBVA in Spain (read the case study of BBVA Wallet, our Model Bank winner here), RBC in Canada (who were granted a patent for their Secure Cloud payments earlier this month), and others that are taking a proactive stance in developing mobile offerings for their Android user base. I have a new report coming out soon that covers key digital payments issues, such as Android Pay and tokenisation in more detail. Watch this space!