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!

“Transforming the Landscape” – My learnings from SIBOS 2016

“Transforming the Landscape” – My learnings from SIBOS 2016

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.​

SWIFT GPI

  • 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.

Blockchain Use Cases for Corporate Banking

Blockchain Use Cases for Corporate Banking

Corporate banking has long been a relationship-based business, with large global banks having the distinct advantage of being able to provide clients with a comprehensive set of financial services delivered through integrated solutions. Distributed ledger technology, often referred to as blockchain, threatens to disrupt the sector with its potential to improve visibility, lessen friction, automate reconciliation, and shorten cycle times. In particular, corporate banking use cases focusing on traditional trade finance, supply chain finance, cross-border payments, and digital identify management have attracted significant attention and investment.

Traditional Trade Finance: Largely paper-based with extended cycle times, DLT could eliminate inefficiencies arising from connecting disparate stakeholders, risk of documentary fraud, limited transaction visibility, and extended reconciliation timeframes. DLT could finally provide the momentum needed to fully digitize trade documents and move toward an end-to-end digital process.

Supply Chain Finance: SCF is commonly applied to open account trade and is triggered by supply chain events. Similarly to traditional trade finance, the pain points in SCF arise from a lack of transparency across the entire supply chain, both physical and financial. DLT has the potential to be a key enabler for a transparent, global supply chain with stringent tracking of goods and documents throughout their lifecycle.

Cross Border Payments: The traditional cross-border payment process often involves a multi-hop, multi-day process with transaction fees charged at each stage. There are potentially several intermediaries involved in a cross-border payment, creating a lack of transparency, predictability and efficiency. DLT offers an opportunity to eliminate intermediaries, lowering transaction costs and improving liquidity.

Cross Border Payment Flows

KYC/Digital Identity Management: Managing and complying with Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations across disparate geographies remains a complex, inefficient process for both banks and their corporate banking customers. For corporate banking, the DLT opportunity is to centralize digital identity information in a standardized, accessible format including the ability to digitize, store and secure customer identity documentation for sharing across entities.

Both banks and Fintech firms alike are experimenting with DLT solutions for various corporate banking uses cases. In what seems like unprecedented collaboration between financial institutions and technology providers, consortias are working on accelerating the development and adoption of DLT by creating financial grade ledgers and exploring opportunities for commercial applications.

The maturity cycle for the various use cases depends on a number of factors, not the least of which are financial institution requirements for interoperability, confidentiality, a regulatory and legal framework, and optionality. We outline both capital markets and corporate banking uses in more detail in the Celent report, Beyond the Buzz: Exploring Distributed Ledger Technology Use Cases in Capital Markets and Corporate Banking. In addition to key use cases, the report discusses the key needs of financial institutions driving DLT architectural and organization choices, the current state of play, and the path forward for DLT in capital markets and corporate banking.

Blockchain: Beware the Hype

Blockchain: Beware the Hype

At Celent, we just published a new research report with the same title as this blog – Blockchain: Beware the Hype. Why such a title? Isn't blockchain the coolest technology out there at the moment?

It is. At Celent, we firmly believe that blockchains and other shared ledger platforms will be a powerful catalyst for change in financial services and other industries for many years to come. There are some very promising use cases, particularly in cross-border payments, corporate banking, and capital markets, and even outside of financial services, in identity management, trade logistics, healthcare, and many other sectors. Even if “blockchain” ends up being a small component of the ultimate solutions, it facilitates new thinking that forces organisations to reimagine how they work, both internally and externally. And that can only be a good thing.

However, we do caution against succumbing to the hype, which is inevitable for any new exciting technologies. Blockchain hype is particularly acute, given the complexities of the underlying technologies. Nobody wants to be left behind when proclaiming the benefits of blockchain, but not everybody truly understands how those benefits can be achieved.

Luckily, the investment going into shared ledger technologies is resulting in a growing number of individuals and organisations lending their collective resources to explore deeply how financial services can benefit from these technologies. Their efforts are directed at exploring practical use cases (e.g. Everledger, Ripple, Shocard), developing new technology and tools (e.g. Ethereum, Intel, Multichain) and building out infrastructure for blockchain initiatives (e.g. IBM, Microsoft), with a number of firms engaged across the board. And the collaborative efforts such as the Hyperledger project or R3 are also bearing fruit – for example, R3 recently announced Corda, a new distributed ledger platform specifically designed for financial services.

We do think that is the way forward: thinking carefully about suitability of technology for the business problem at hand, and deconstructing blockchain technology to its fundamental components only to assemble the most attractive features in a way that makes sense for financial services. That is what will ultimately help us all move beyond the hype.

Celent research clients can access the full report here.

Looking back on Money 20/20

Looking back on Money 20/20
Last week my colleague Dan Latimore and I were at Money 20/20, which in four short years has become a “must attend” event in payments and Fintech. I’ve been there at the very beginning and it has been exciting to watch it grow from about 1,000 of us in the first year to over 10,000 this year. Congratulations to the Money 20/20 team for this incredible achievement! And thank you to all of those who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. As I was reflecting back on the last week, I realised that it’s no longer possible to take in all of Money 20/20. In the first year, even with parallel session tracks, you could absorb a lot of what was happening “by osmosis”, just walking the floors of Aria. As the event grew and moved to a much more spacious Venetian, somewhat paradoxically, the experiences got more individual, depending on which sessions and keynotes you attended, which booths you visited and which people you met. Here are some of my key takeaways:
  1. Perhaps the biggest and most talked-about announcement of the show was Chase Pay and its partnership with MCX. Chase is developing a wallet that will be available to all of its 94 million cardholders to use in-store, in-app and online. The wallet is not planning to use NFC at the POS, with QR codes set to be a most likely method, and as a result will be available on any smartphone device, irrespective of its operating system. On the merchant side, Chase is offering a fixed fee processing which will make merchant costs more reliable and predictable with an opportunity to “earn it down” based on volume. Partnership with MCX gives Chase Pay access to the largest merchants in the country. In addition to a stand-alone app, Chase Pay will also be available as a payment option inside CurrentC, the wallet that MCX has been piloting in Columbus OH, the results of which were presented and greeted with a tentative applause during another keynote at Money 20/20.
  2. Mobile payments market in the US is only getting more complex, with Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay already there, more “Pays” on the way (e.g. LG Pay), and now Chase Pay and revived expectations of CurrentC. Make no mistake – while most “pays” look similar, they offer a different customer experience (e.g. how to trigger payment, where it is accepted, etc.) and require issuers to adapt their processes to each of them. At the show, I picked up strong signals from issuers that they want to have more control over digital payments and are looking at various options, including HCE wallets, to achieve that.
  3. The Tokenisation panel was one of the best sessions I attended with panelists from the networks, issuers, merchants and processors sharing their views how tokenisation is going to evolve. It includes tokenisation for cards-on-file and e-commerce transactions (both Visa and MasterCard announced tokenisation of their Checkout and MasterPass wallets respectively), new approach to 3D Secure, introduction of Payment Account Reference (PAR) – a non transactable ID that ties together all the tokens, and tokenisation for DDAs which The Clearing House is working on. According the panelists, tokenisation is the much-needed “abstraction layer” that will be a “foundation for the next 20 years of innovation.”
  4. Biometrics are entering mainstream, with FIDO alliance laying the groundwork for how to deploy biometrics for authentication. Sorting through a myriad of biometrics providers and approaches (e.g. fingerprints, hands, voice, eyes, etc.) is a headache and eventually, it will be consumers that will decide which approach works best for them. FIDO alliance delivers a standard irrespective of what the consumers choose. Looking into the future, the panelists envisaged a behavioural approach where the providers use a number of data points to constantly verify that the user behaviour is consistent with a typical pattern and authenticates automatically in the background, a process called “ambient authentication.”
  5. Conversations about cryptocurrencies have matured enormously over the last 12-18 months. The focus is now very clearly on blockchain technology and how the financial services industry can best deploy it. A number of exciting partnerships are emerging in this space, from TD Bank and RBC working with Ripple on domestic and cross-border P2P payments as well as more efficient transfers between subsidiaries, to Nasdaq’s partnership with Chain, to the R3 consortium. Perhaps the most exciting demo I’ve seen was Visa’s connected car experience, where the driver could review the new leasing document on the screen, sign it, register it on a blockchain and drive off. Time will tell if this is how we will be getting to drive cars in the future, but it only shows the opportunities out there.
Finally, I’ve been asking others at the show what they thought were the key themes. Interestingly, two themes came up very consistently – innovation and focus on customer experience. The latter manifests itself in so many different ways, from making it easy and intuitive for consumers to pay to solving very specific merchant problems, whether it’s around acceptance and security (Verifone, Ingenico, Poynt), conversion rates (BlueSnap, Affirm), lending (PayPal, LendUp) or seamless integration of payments into the overall proposition (Stripe, First Data). The third theme seemed to be a little more contentious. Some said it was all about disruption, while others talked about collaboration. I actually agree with both – to me they are two sides of the same coin. The disruption in FS is real, but many find that the way to deal with it is through collaboration. Few, if any, have talked about demolishing the world as we know it today; instead, all are focused on how to make it better. I know I only scratched the surface here. For example, there were also some very interesting announcements about domestic P2P/push payments such as Early Warning buying clearXchange, Dwolla partnering with CME Group, and The Clearing House working with Vocalink. And companies like Earthport, PayCommerce and Ripple are making an impact on cross-border payments. But as I said, it’s impossible to take it all in, and no write-up can do full justice to Money 20/20 – you just have to be there… See you next year in Vegas or perhaps even in Copenhagen at Money 20/20 Europe!

As conference season rolls on, here’s what I’ll be looking for at Money20/20

As conference season rolls on, here’s what I’ll be looking for at Money20/20
We’re smack in the middle of conference season and the team has been traveling all over the world. We’ve been busy with Sibos and BAI (unfortunately held at exactly the same time), AFP, and next week, Money20/20.  In only its fourth year this new conference had to move to a new venue so that it could avoid running afoul of the fire marshal. Given the excitement around the payments ecosystem, we think it will be an exhausting whirlwind of a week. What will Zil Bareisis and I be looking for? Three main topics top the list:
  • What’s the view on blockchain? There was a lot of discussion at Sibos on the corporate side (we don’t think retail will be leading), but we’d like to find out if there’s heat behind the light.
  • What sort of value added services around the payment are in production or on the drawing board?
  • Is the apparent stall in mobile payments adoption temporary, and what can be done by ecosystem participants to jump-start it?
There will, of course, be many other payments topics covered, and we’re looking forward to plunging in to soak up the zeitgeist. What will you be looking for? If you’ll be in Vegas next week, we look forward to seeing you. If you still haven’t registered, you can get $250 off your ticket by using the code celen250.