Introducing Celent Model Bank 2017 Awards

Introducing Celent Model Bank 2017 Awards
As my colleague Dan Latimore wrote in the article that began this series, 2017 was the best ever year so far for Celent Model Bank programme in terms of quantity, quality and diversity of nominations. As we went through the judging process, we felt a range of emotions – grateful and privileged to receive so many amazing stories, and daunted by the prospect of having to pick the most worthy award recipients. In the end, we are excited and confident about our selection of winners, yet we are sorry that we could not recognize so many others that clearly also deserve recognition.

Over its ten years of existence, Celent’s Model Bank programme has always changed and evolved. In the last few years we have been awarding multiple initiatives in a small number of categories – for example, last year we had four winners in Digital Banking Transformation, the busiest of seven categories. While all the awards within the category were equal, we knew that some institutions craved for more exclusive recognition. This year, we decided to take it a step further and to introduce specific named awards with only a single winner for each award.

After long deliberations, the judging panel decided to recognise 21 initiatives as winners of the following Model Bank 2017 awards:
  • 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.
And of course, we also kept our Model Bank of the Year award, first introduced in 2012, which recognises one financial institution that in any given year simply stands out from the crowd and uniformly impresses Celent judges.

For the time being, only the nominees will know if they won any of these awards, as we begin working with them to distill their achievements into a series of case studies. 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!

Model Bank 2017: Some First Impressions

Model Bank 2017: Some First Impressions
Growing up, a family Christmas tradition was that my mother would ritualistically proclaim, “That’s the most beautiful tree ever.” It seems that way with Celent’s Model Bank awards, too. In our tenth year we’ve just been through more than 150 submissions, and just like my mother, I can say that this was the best crop yet. The quantity emphatically broke records, and the quality was outstanding. Ongoing innovation in banking technology is clearly beginning to pay off, and we’ve been privileged to learn an immense amount from all of the financial institutions that took the time to tell us about their how they’ve been using technology and innovation to serve customers better, become more efficient, and mitigate risk.

Those who’ve followed the Model Bank Awards closely will note that our awards format has evolved to follow the market over the years. As the imperative to be more customer-centric has become more pressing, it has in turn begun to blur the lines between one of the oldest ways to divide banking: channels. And lines elsewhere begin to blur, too – for instance, should a mobile payments initiative be in mobile, or in payments, or in its own category? We’ve addressed this conundrum with five categories chosen to provide a broad cross-section of the banking landscape.
  • Customer Experience
  • Products
  • Operations and Risk
  • Legacy Transformation / IT Platform Innovations
  • Emerging Innovation
The entries were exceedingly diverse, and came from repeat submitters and new participants. EMEA led the pack quantitatively, with APAC and North America roughly the same, and the strongest showing yet from Latin America. We expected to see nominations around digital banking, branch and core transformation, and payments, to name a few, and we weren’t disappointed. We were also pleasantly surprised to see intriguing initiatives involving employee productivity, cross-selling, AI, Biometrics, and Blockchain.

Inevitably some will be disappointed; there were so many worthy initiatives that the judging was the most difficult by far. It’s certain, though, that Celent analysts will have a full plate for the next two months as we reach out to our Model Banks and complete the work of distilling their rich stories into pithy case studies that illustrate the incredible innovations banks are undertaking today.

As for what you can expect between now and April 4 in Boston, look for a series of articles from the Celent analyst team highlighting some of the many insights that we’ve gleaned along the way. We’d recommend that you check back in; as we notify the winners and begin to develop our case studies, we’ll keep you posted with a series of articles like this one that detail some of the insights.

And while space is filling up fast, there’s still time to register for 2017 Innovation & Insight Day, April 4, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. Find out more about last year’s event here.

Spring musings on UK banking innovations

Spring musings on UK banking innovations
One of the great advantages of being a Celent analyst is that we’re able to look at banking advances around the world and share what we learn with our clients and readers. This week I’d like to focus on a few interesting developments in the United Kingdom. The unifying theme this time around is innovation linked only by geography.
  • Barclays’ Blue Rewards
  • Nationwide NOW: remote video advisers
  • Lloyds’ plain English terms and conditions

Barclays Blue Rewards

The headline attraction of Blue Rewards is that customers can earn £180 back from Barclays. The catch? Consumers have to pay £3 each month to participate. This isn’t bad, per se: it insures that customers actually have some skin in the game, some incentive to participate so that they don’t frivolously sign up. To save you some math, the net benefit to the consumer can be up to £144, or about $215. If you pay in at least £800 each month into your current account, process at least two direct debits, and are enrolled in online banking, you’ll receive £7 off the top as a “loyalty reward.” A mortgage through Barclays gets you another £5 each month, and if you insure your home through the bank, that’s another £3. Naysayers snipe that consumers can get better deals elsewhere, and that you have to have a lot of products at Barclays to reap the full benefit, but isn’t that the point? Barclays is explicitly tying rewards to the behavior it’s trying to incent, something that other banks should consider. Barclays, incidentally, is the only bank that I know of with behavioral economists on staff – who am I missing? Betterment has a behavioral economist who’s a Barclays alum, according to LinkedIn, but it’s not a bank.

Nationwide NOW

The UK’s Nationwide Building Society launched a high definition video link service called Nationwide NOW in April 2014. Initially piloted to link remote mortgage advisers to customers in 61 branches, it helped more than 3,200 people with mortgage, banking and financial planning. Waiting times, particularly for rural customers, have been reduced from weeks to days. In a press release dated April 20th the institution announced that it was introducing the scheme to 100 more branches, with plans to roll the service out to a total of 400 branches by November of this year. Nationwide proclaims that it is the largest offering of this service of any FS company in the world, based on the number of terminals. It’s also been willing to tweak the service delivery: the remote specialist will offer the customer a cup of tea at the beginning of the conversation, and a local employee will bring it in, making the whole interaction seem much more personal.

Lloyd’s video terms and conditions

In a two minute and fifteen second video on YouTube (which some are calling an animated infographic), Lloyd’s simplifies the terms and conditions that the vast majority of customers ignore, sometimes at their peril. While still not riveting, it’s a whole lot more accessible than pages of legalese. Unfortunately, a month and a half after its original posting on March 11, it has had only 371 views (one of those was mine – I’m not used to skewing a sample!). It also makes the obligatory plea to read the entire T&C document. Nevertheless, becoming more human and highlighting some of the key points is a step in the right direction, even if it’s not yet perfect. You can watch it for yourself here: What other concrete innovations are you seeing that bankers should be aware of?

Innovation & Insight Day – some highlights; and a goodbye

Innovation & Insight Day – some highlights; and a goodbye
Last week was busy for Celent: on Monday we hosted our annual Innovation and Insight Day at Carnegie Hall (more on that later). Tuesday we assembled the Celent team from around the globe for our annual in-person meeting. We find that even in this age of virtual teams and instant connectivity, there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction; our gathering confirmed that. And on Wednesday the banking team convened to review our priorities and refresh our topic taxonomy – so much has changed in the last year that we knew it was time for a refresh. Keep an eye on and my newsletter for updates on our progress. For the first time in I&I’s history, we sold the place out! We’ve never had to turn people away before, and we’re (very frankly) still trying to figure out why. With more than 400 registrants, we had to improvise with an overflow room that streamed video of the main stage (thanks to all who helped us accommodate this nice problem). We hypothesize that the challenges of financial technology have become so important that our clients and prospects prioritized attendance at an event that showcased best practices from around the world, afforded tremendous networking opportunities, and provided an unbiased view of the hottest issues in this space today. It could also have been, of course, being in New York the weekend before, or seeing Carnegie Hall during business hours. The Banking Team recognized nineteen model banks across five categories: Digital; Omnichannel; Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation; Innovation and Emerging Technologies; and Payments. Interestingly, we had so many entries in the first two categories that we had to split them up. We produced six reports covering these five areas, together with our Model Bank of the Year, Fidor (from Germany). Clients may download these reports at In addition to our model bank panels we had excellent keynote speakers. Debra Jasper and Betsy Hubbard of Mindset Digital used about 300 [sic] slides in 45 minutes to prod us all to rethink how we present ourselves, not just in person, but through emails and social media. One concrete hint: think about five sentence emails ( Closing out the day was Suresh Ramamurthi, the Chairman of CBW Bank, who showed us what a sub $20mm asset bank can do by completely rethinking its technology platform. After Suresh and Fidor’s CEO Matthias Krӧner spoke, I was compelled to tweet about #nervousbankers. I’d also like to thank our sponsors: Saffron, Mindtree, Indra, Guidewire, Wipro Digital, Inetco, and RGI Group, together with our media partners Bank Technology News and Insurance Networking News. We’re already starting to think about next year’s event; it’s not too early to start submitting nominations. We’ll be sending out hold the date announcements shortly. On a final note, we’d like to say a fond farewell to Jacob Jegher. He has been a stalwart in the banking practice for the last eight years, and all of us at Celent will miss his passion for new technologies, his informed and reasoned opinions, and his keen intellect. We wish him every success in his new endeavor at a fintech player you all know; the news will be public soon. If you’d like more details, please reach out to your account manager, other analysts you know, or me directly.

GPS, Musicians, Analytics and Banking Culture

GPS, Musicians, Analytics and Banking Culture
Three things came across my Twitter feed the same afternoon. Consider the following and see if you think they are related: “When we depend too much on our GPS, we lose the will and skill to explore.” Tom Peters via Twitter, 20 November 2014 “A creative person is by definition inefficient. She/he is wandering along odd paths, backtracking; the life well-lived is mostly detours.” Tom Peters via Twitter, 20 November 2014 “Using analytics in decision-making requires banks to think more like musicians. If you start jamming, maybe something cool will come out, and it will sell a million records.” Yours truly as quoted by Penny Crossman, Bank Technology News, 19 November 2014 First, I must say that by including my own comments among those of Tom Peters, I am in no way suggesting that my thinking is on par with his. It is not. Rather, my Twitter feed lit up since American Banker published the article referenced above, Bank CEOs Fear the Data-Driven Decision, and Peter’s tweets seemed both humorously consistent and coincident with Penny’s article as well as my previous blog post. What in the world do they have to do with each other? A common element emerges when viewed through the lens of organizational culture. Consider the culture in which you work. Is it a get there using the shortest path every time with no wrong turns (e.g., GPS) culture? Does it tolerate taking a longer route (even occasionally) to explore and better learn one’s surroundings? Does it value the unfamiliar? Does it encourage and reward learning new music? More radically, does it celebrate creative discovery beyond established norms? Are you even permitted to improvise, or are you directed to always play from the sheet music? If so, your organization likely won’t enjoy much innovation. As it relates to becoming a data-driven organization, banks need to learn how to be good at both using the GPS and at improvising – with discernment. Each approach has value. Too many senior managers in financial institutions, however, have never experienced the kind of culture that tolerates the “test and learn” way of using analytics. Instead, it seems strange and uncomfortable. It’s not easy to do things so differently. That’s why culture is such an important element in the skilful use of data analytics specifically and innovation more broadly. Technology may be an enabler or even a disrupter, but without a culture that values and rewards new ways of doing things, investment in the best technology will disappoint. Another quote to finish today’s post: “While there are many challenges [to becoming an analytical company], the most critical one is allocating sufficient attention to managing cultural and organizational change. We’ve witnessed many organizations whose analytical aspirations were squelched by open cultural warfare between the “quant jocks” and the old guard.” Thomas H. Davenport and Jeannie G. Harris, Competing on Analytics, HBR Press, page 124

Asian Vendors Looking to Pivot

Asian Vendors Looking to Pivot
I’ve just returned from a two-week swing through Asia, with stops and roundtables in Tokyo, Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney. Along with my colleague Neil Katkov I was fortunate to meet a large number of clients and market participants, both banks and their ecosystem partners, in a series of more than two dozen meetings. In each country Celent hosted a half-day session on digital innovation. Attendance was good and discussion spirited; digital and omnichannel is a topic that every bank across the region wrestles with. Their service providers, too, are keenly interested in the topic. What struck me as particularly noteworthy, however, was that a large number of providers are trying to reposition themselves in the marketplace. Their (legacy) brands are extraordinarily strong, which is a blessing and a curse. Brand strength is great, but when it’s associated with a technology that’s in decline, and not yet associated with new areas of investment, then vendors are put in a difficult position because they don’t get the calls associated with that new fintech. A common question for us was, “how do I get the message out about this new solution I’ve developed?” There’s no one answer, but I’d suggest to banks that they cast a wide net when looking to address their new technology problems; many of their historical partners are learning (or at least trying to learn) new tricks. That their marketing (broadly defined) has yet to catch up shouldn’t dissuade banks from seeing what new solutions they have to offer.

Now Accepting Nominations for Celent Model Bank 2012

Now Accepting Nominations for Celent Model Bank 2012
Remember when banking was broadly embraced as an honorable profession? That idea seems to have been lost among most businesses and consumers these days. Hardly a day goes by without a news story about some sort of alleged bank impropriety. In sharp contrast, Celent seeks to celebrate financial institutions doing things well. Each year, we honor a hand-picked selection of financial institutions who model excellent utilization of technology in banking. Celent Model Bank 2011 winners received recognition at our annual Innovation and Insight Day this past May in Atlanta, GA.


So, forget the depressing daily news and think about great examples of technology innovation at your institution (or one of your clients if you’re a technology provider). Share your story with us using our online nomination form. We’ll welcome nominations through January 31, 2012. A panel of analysts will review all nominations based on three criteria: 1. Degree of difficulty 2. Degree of innovation, and 3. Measurable, quantitative business results achieved Success stories are welcome across the spectrum of financial services disciplines, from: infrastructure and architecture, product development, marketing/sales, distribution / channel management, transaction processing, loan processing, customer service / support, and security and risk management. Nominations can be made online at: If you’d like, e-mail me and I’ll send you an excerpt from last year’s report, Celent Model Bank 2011: Case Studies of Effective Technology Usage in Banking.