Channel Strategy for Corporate Banking: Is Your Bank Paying Enough Attention?

According to the GTNews 2016 Transaction Banking Survey Report, 91% of North American corporates are evaluating their cash management partners. Of those, 27% indicated that improving availability of online and mobile banking tools were a major reason for reviewing their bank relationships, and 55% cited the need for an improved customer experience. Clearly, these responses are evidence that large numbers of corporate clients are less than satisfied with the channel tools and the overall digital client experience being offered.  Most of the banks we interviewed for recent research on this topic are hearing loud and clear that clients are looking for more streamlined, convenient, and faster access to banking services and information.  Our recent report, Strategies for Enhancing Corporate Client Experience: The Future of Attended Channels looks at strategies that leading North American and global banks are adopting to achieve the following goals:
  • 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.
While we found broad agreement on importance of the themes described above, we identified other aspects of digital channel strategy that varied widely from bank to bank.  The graphic below summarizes those opportunities for differentiation. Celent recommends that banks take the following steps to optimizing their future investments in attended channels:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
The decisions being made today about attended digital channels — whether as a part of a larger digital transformation initiative, enhancing the channel user experience, or establishing a corporate banking portal — will have a significant impact on the ability of corporate banks to attract and retain clients.

Top trends in corporate banking webinar

Please join me on Thursday, April 21st at noon EST for an overview of the 2016 edition of our Top Trends in Corporate Banking report, which was published in March.


Corporate banks continue to place an enormous focus on investing in digital channels to meet the ever-increasing demands of clients for enhanced tools while boosting security and fraud prevention. Despite this investment, corporate banking has lagged in terms of adoption of innovative technologies. To improve that performance, corporate banking lines of business are undertaking a broad set of initiatives to overcome the inertia that has left clients behind in terms of innovation. Among the top trends, we will examine the opportunities in trade finance and customer onboarding for improving efficiency and enhancing client satisfaction.  Other top trends include fintech partnerships, distributed ledger technology and open APIs and adapting liquidity management strategies.  I look forward to having you join us on Thursday! 

Click here to register




Are security fears hindering corporate mobile banking adoption?

Corporate mobile has been a popular topic for a number of years now. While many banks have launched solutions, corporate adoption has stagnated. 66% of respondents to a Capital One survey  indicated “security challenges with sensitive corporate data” as their number one barrier to adoption. There are other reasons for slow adoption of corporate mobile, but this one is quite interesting and can be challenging to overcome. Should banks and corporations be concerned about mobile banking security? Is it a real threat at this stage? The short answer is that security should always be a concern — there are all kinds of real threats out there. However, it’s important to quantify and understand the risks and myths associated with current threats. At this stage, I would argue that security is an often overlooked BENEFIT to corporate mobile banking. It provides an additional layer of security; when executives receive mobile alerts, they have the ability to intercept potentially fraudulent transactions in near real time. A sandboxed app can also be quite helpful. I can go on and on here, and encourage you to read more about it in, Corporate Mobile Banking Update: Adoption Conundrums and Security Realities. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Should banks be investing in corporate mobile given these adoption challenges? There is a chicken and egg situation; it’s quite difficult for banks to prioritize mobile investments when corporate adoption simply isn’t there. Celent believes that all banks should be investing in digital infrastructure that encompasses online, mobile, and tablet banking. Each of these touchpoints should leverage common components and banking modules (e.g., ACH, wires, etc.) This infrastructure should allow banks to eventually support mobile. Banks don’t need to deploy actual mobile solutions immediately, but should be poised to rapidly deliver when customers ask for it. Customer demand should dictate when banks invest their hard-earned IT budgets in corporate mobile apps and solutions. I’ll be at the AFP Conference next week, drop me a note if you would like to meet to discuss this topic.

AFP Conference 2012, Miami Beach

I had the pleasure of attending the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Annual Conference in Miami Beach this week with several of my colleagues in the Celent banking team. The venue was well attended. I can say it was much more comfortable inside the convention center than being in the Miami hot and humid weather. This probably explains the large number of polo shirts and tieless casual dress shirts.

For those of you not familiar with the AFP Annual Conference, it’s a large event of about 6,000 treasury and finance professionals that meet for education and networking opportunities. A broad range of best practice topics are covered including payments, risk management, treasury operations, financial planning, and much more.

I spent much of my time at the event in constructive meetings with clients and prospects. Some of the hot topics I have encountered include cash forecasting, data analysis, risk management, mobile, paper-to-electronic, and treasury management systems. I did not feel that any topic reigned supreme but mobile does continue to increasingly take up the agenda items. The ‘newest’ topic which I think will continue to drive interest and top of mind for many, is the cloud.

The word that would best summarize many conversations across disciplines is “integration”. We are talking integration of data from mobile, integration of cash management banking portals, integration for data analytics, and integration of solutions and systems across the financial and peripheral systems within organizations.

The most exciting aspect for me was the level of innovation, investment, and excitement demonstrated by banks and vendors alike in our strategy meetings. There seems to be a sense of ‘seizing the opportunity’ from organizations across multiple topics. The folks I had a pleasure meeting with showed a genuine enthusiasm about their new services and solutions while the future is seen as being a glass half full instead of half empty.

Overall, I felt the conference was beneficial and met my expectations. However, I did hear from several attendees that this year seemed to have a lower attendance. Regarding the exhibitors, it appeared at par with previous years. I did observe several new exhibitors of smaller size but very innovative – this was very encouraging. The sessions also received mix reviews but mostly favorable.

Next week, I will be at SIBOS in Osaka, Japan.

Top Trends in Corporate Online Banking

There is a lot going on in the cash management space, and numerous banks are steadily working on plans for up to date portals, solutions, and experiences. I published a new report last week, Top Trends in Corporate Online Banking. The report examines and analyzes the top trends in online cash management, and provides recommendations for financial institutions. Some of the trends are in full swing; some are nascent; others are expected to impact the space within the next three to five years. I encourage you to take a look at the report, and explore some of the trends. Mobile banking, social media, portal development, fraud prevention, the role of the tablet, and much more are covered in this report. I also recommend that you read this report in conjunction with, Corporate Mobile Banking: Revolutionizing Cash Management. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and please feel free to weigh in here with online cash management trends and observations that are top of mind.

RIM is Dead? Long Live The BlackBerry

Before I get into any detail here, let me confess. I’m a Canadian and a very happy iPhone and iPad user. I’m here to state some facts about why the BlackBerry isn’t going away anytime soon. Sorry Apple fan boys! Last December, I published the report, Corporate Mobile Banking: Revolutionizing Cash Management. The report goes into a lot of detail regarding mobile banking trends and predictions for the corporate market. In conducting research for the report, I unearthed a few key trends that are especially relevant to RIM’s business and to banks:
  • When interviewing bankers regarding their corporate customers’ requirements and desires, pretty much everyone indicated that their corporate clients are almost all BlackBerry shops.
  • About 350 people attended my session on corporate mobile banking at the AFP Conference last fall. This is a conference that is geared towards large corporates. I polled the audience to ask how many are using BlackBerry devices. A sea of hands was raised to the point where it was difficult to pinpoint someone not using a BlackBerry.

What does all this mean? Very simply, BlackBerry emerged as a device for the corporate user, expanded to attack the consumer market, and is now going to have to shrink back to its corporate roots. Don’t get me wrong here, there have been some serious casualties on their end, and they have been unable to keep up and compete in the fast paced mobile world. Fact is though, they are still entrenched in the corporate environment. This leads to several key questions that need to be answered.

  • Can RIM hold onto their foothold in the corporate market? One can easily argue that this is already eroding. Pointing back to my informal survey of the audience at my AFP Conference session, I asked how many of them would be switching from the BlackBerry to something else over the next year. About 35 hands shot up, or roughly 10%. That is MASSIVE erosion, and it has the potential to erode further. However, we all know that large corporations move extremely slowly and it takes quite a bit of time for new devices to be supported, regardless of what the users’ intentions are.
  • Will BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Knock RIM Out of The Corporate Picture? Likely not. I believe that BYOD is a misnomer as it creates a separation between “church and state” that most people don’t want or like. I could go on about this further, but you will have to read about it in my corporate mobile banking report.
  • Can RIM Maintain its Foothold in the Enterprise Software Market? BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is what corporations use to manage and secure their fleet of Blackberries. RIM has seen the writing on the wall for some time and knows that folks want to switch over and are switching over. Supporting a myriad of devices is a nightmare for corporations and they already have invested in and standardized on BES. In May 2011, RIM announced the acquisition of Ubitexx. This will allow firms with Blackberry Enterprise Servers to support other devices like the iPad or iPhone. It’s a huge and risky move for RIM, but it’s win-win. RIM has accepted the fact that iOS devices are selling like hotcakes to business users; corporations get to stick to the popular, entrenched and secure BES. This also lines up nicely with BYOD initiatives. If RIM can pull this off remains to be seen.

I’m not here to comment on the stock, or anything financial in nature. You can be the judge on if RIM can recover or reinvent itself. And yes, BlackBerry dropped the ball on device and OS evolution. The fact is however, that the BlackBerry dominates in the enterprise and this isn’t going away anytime soon. Banks are going to have to be aware of this as they develop corporate mobile banking solutions. Can RIM maintain its foothold? That’s a totally different story that I invite you to weigh in on.

Corporate Mobile Banking: Revolutionizing Cash Management

There’s been a lot of talk in the market about corporate mobile banking but not that much action. I recently published a new report on the topic and it has been extremely well received. The report examines and analyzes the state of corporate mobile banking. It delves into why mobile banking is important in the cash management space and explains some of the adoption hurdles. It explores security challenges, the role of the tablet, and the convergence of online and mobile solutions. Finally, the report provides insight regarding corporate mobile banking functionality and how financial institutions should go about deploying solutions. Since the report has been published, there has been a tremendous amount of inquiry on the topic. It’s also been the subject of a popular article in American Banker – Large Banks Slowly Building Corporate Mobile Apps: Survey. The ABA Banking Journal also published a Q&A interview with me titled, Why Corporate Mobile Banking is Scary. Needless to say there is a lot of interest in this topic. As such, I’ll be giving a webinar this coming Thursday at noon. I encourage all of you to sign up and listen. The event is free to attend for Celent clients.

Lockbox: Still Crazy After All These Years

Wholesale lockbox (WLBX) has been a staple treasury management product for five decades or so. It amazes me that after all these years, the market for WLBX continues to grow and innovate. A far cry from retail lockbox, WLBX enjoys significant revenue growth opportunities. By Celent estimates, over 12,000 eligible U.S. companies with over $25 million in revenue do not use WLBX services. So, how do banks pursue this opportunity? For starters, banks need to offer WLBX services. Most don’t. For years, WLBX has been the purview of the large cash management banks. Lockbox operations are expensive and required a good book of business to justify the large capital investment. But, imaging technology and intelligent workflow tools now allow extraction and image capture to be entirely separate from the downstream processing. “Capture anywhere” and “correct anywhere” workflows have created hub and spoke operations, with multiple capture sites and perhaps a single processing site (with a disaster recovery site).

Hub and Spoke Lockbox Architecture

This has makes it relatively easy for banks to augment their WLBX operations by using third party capture capability in new and interesting geographies. It is also allowing banks and third party processors to offer outsourced WLBX services to smaller banks that might not otherwise justify investing in their own operations. But, more capture locations are needed to move farther down market. Most processors have just a few sites. Most clients want pretty basic WLBX services. Features like same-day decisioning and AR matching appeal to a minority of clients. Most just want basic image lockbox. And, they’d rather not have their customers mail payments to a distant P.O. Box. A lack of capture sites has, at least modestly, been a barrier to more widespread lockbox adoption. If only someone could figure out how to cost effectively create a good number of capture sites so most metro areas could be easily served. Enter Brinks. Brink’s U.S. is a division of Brink’s, Incorporated. Traditionally a cash logistics provider, it provides a variety of services including cash in transit (CiT) services, cash and coin processing, ATM servicing and a variety of security services. In so doing, Brinks has built a nationwide network of some 285 vaults. Brinks has been quietly building its capability to provide check imaging services (through a relationship with FIS) and just recently announced an outsourced lockbox service provided through a relationship with Cash Management Solutions (CMS). CMS is a provider of wholesale and retail lockbox software and operates its own outsourced lockbox solutions under the Image Remit brand – with a few capture sites. The combination looks to be a win-win. Brinks has yet another service line, further diversifying its business and leveraging its relationship with a large number of U.S. banks. CMS has access to a nationwide network of image capture sites to differentiate itself from several larger competitors. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Brinks open up its capture capability to banks and other third party processors, regardless of operating platform(s) in use. Still crazy after all these years…

AFP 2010 Roundup

Conference season has concluded. After several weeks on the road, I finally hit the last stop on the fall conference circuit – The AFP Annual Conference. This popular business banking conference took place last week in lovely San Antonio, Texas. The trend of increased attendance figures continues (see my BAI Retail Delivery post here), as the conference halls were loaded with attendees. The exhibit hall did seem a tad smaller than usual, although perhaps that was just due to the shape of the hall. In any case, after several days of good meetings with banks and software vendors, I noted the following themes:
  • Mobile solutions for corporates are becoming mainstream. My colleague Zil and I noted the start of this trend at the recent SIBOS conference in Amsterdam. There were a ton of announcements, and demos were being showcased in the exhibit hall. Announcements were made by PNC, Union Bank, and Citizens Financial Group to name a few. Bank of America Merrill Lynch was also showcasing a mobile demo for its CashPro product. I first wrote a report on corporate mobile banking in 2007, complete with a case study on Wells Fargo’s CEO Mobile. My report was a tad early for the market, and now that things are progressing I will revisit the topic in a 2011 report. Stay tuned!
  • Growing interest in small business online banking solutions. Many of the conversations I had at the AFP were on the topic of small business online banking. The majority of banks still have no clue what differentiates a small business online banking solution from a corporate cash management solution. Luckily, I have addressed this topic with a vendor evaluation of small business online banking solutions. The report was released last week, just in time for the AFP, and provided for lots of questions from banks and vendors. A second report on the subject is forthcoming and should be released by the end of the month.
  • Portal perplexity. To portal or not to portal? Several banks I spoke to are in the middle of trying to determine if they should build a corporate banking portal that would encompass all transaction banking services. This dashboard would provide quick task execution, at a glance info, and be fully customizable. The build versus buy debate was raging, coupled with the difficulty of integrating multiple vendor solutions.
  • The cash management market is still on fire. The number of banks that have sent out RFIs or RFPs is staggering. I am still amazed at how many banks are undertaking decisions here. The fact is however that some of these fires are the same ones we witnessed last year – sales cycles and decision making times are long. Solution replacement growth is still quite strong and I expect it to continue well into 2011.


Those are my quick hits from the conference. I welcome all comments and thoughts. I also encourage those of you who were in attendance to share your experiences!

Small Business and Corporate Mobile Banking Solutions Gaining Popularity

Consumer mobile banking has already created quite a stir. Hefty marketing campaigns aimed at the consumer market are being used to promote mobile banking services. While the potential of the consumer mobile banking market is certainly attractive, little emphasis is being placed on the corporate or small business markets. This is quite surprising given the penetration of mobile devices in the business world. Mobile access is a natural and innovative add-on to today’s cash management services. Businesses of all sizes are already indicating that they would like to gain access to mobile services. Banks have to be able to offer these services in order to innovate, respond to market demand, and remain competitive in a crowded and highly mature playing field. The time to provide mobile banking services to business customers is now. The state of the mobile world is opening an array of opportunities for corporate users. Because corporate users are so in tune with the benefits and flexibility of mobile technology, they make excellent candidates for mobile banking services. Device evolution, Blackberry and iPhone mania, faster networks, and the prevalence of data plans will drive the adoption of small business and corporate mobile banking services. Introductory mobile solutions are already providing static information in the form of alerts, account balances, customer service features, etc. As applications mature and customers begin to appreciate the value that they are obtaining from mobile access, additional banks will begin to introduce more interactive functionalities like positive pay decisioning, payment approvals and some forms of payment initiation. There are first movers in this space. Wells Fargo is the pioneer – they launched their CEO Mobile solution back in 2007. This product has now evolved to encompass many of the features mentioned above. More recently, other banks have started to dabble in this space. Most have basic small business solutions that provide traditional consumer mobile features, although a few have taken a step forward to provide more sophisticated functionality. Small business examples include Chase, CIBC, Wachovia, and Wells. Large corporate examples are still few and far between, however, there are a number of banks that have fully developed solutions and it is only a matter of time before they are marketed to the masses. I would love to hear your thoughts on the market for business mobile banking solutions. Do you think this is something all banks will have? Is there a business case or strong value proposition here?