Reflections on NetFinance 2014: It’s about relationships

Reflections on NetFinance 2014: It’s about relationships
NetFinance 2014 just finished in Miami.  Celent spoke on “Engaging Mobile Customers through Content, Display, Alerts, and More,” which generated a number of follow-on conversations on how to execute on the notion of engaging with customers, and a great question on how long today’s innovation stays differentiated. Our answer: “not very.” I’ve mentioned before that customer-centricity is becoming a key concept that many banks are highlighting as a key point of their retail strategy. What NetFinance crystallized for me is that the necessary follow-on to this customer-centricity is this simple idea: The best defense against continuing commoditization is a solid customer relationship. Technology, clearly, can go a long way to enhancing that relationship. A number of vendors at the show (like AdRoll, Backbase, Domo, EarthIntegrate, Ektron, Epsilon, IgnitionOne, Leadfusion,  Liferay, Message Systems, Message Broadcast, and Personetics, among others) focus on helping banks touch customers at the right times, or giving them an omnichannel view of all customer touch points, or enabling customers to start a transaction in one channel and continue it in another. But for these technologies to be effective, customers need to be receptive.  And they’re going to be more receptive if they think, and feel, and believe in their gut, that their bank is going to do the right thing by them. All the technology in the world can’t replace some very visceral customer feelings. To engender these feelings with their customers, and stop them from transacting with one hand holding their wallet so their pocket doesn’t get picked, banks should consider some potentially radical ideas (simple concepts?):
  • Not every touch needs to be a sale.
  • Foregoing short-term income for longer term gain can (in many instances) make sense
  • Surprising customers on the upside can yield long-term benefits
Now, the natural reaction to this is that it potentially puts banks into a (short-term) revenue hole. And that may be true, but when the real game of ongoing commoditization is long-term, banks need to thinking beyond the next quarter.

4.2.2014: Celent Roundtable: Exploring Digital in Financial Services

4.2.2014: Celent Roundtable: Exploring Digital in Financial Services
Celent Banking Senior Vice President Dan Latimore, Insurance Senior Vice President Jamie Macgregor, and Tsukasa Makino, Manager, Corporate Planning Dept. & IT Planning Dept. at Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd. Admission is free, and exclusively for executives from financial institutions. Pre-registration is required. If you have any questions, please contact Anna Griem at agriem@celent.com or at +1.617.262.5503. Please click here for more information.

2.19.2014: Celent Webinar: Current State of Innovation in Financial Services

2.19.2014: Celent Webinar: Current State of Innovation in Financial Services
Celent Senior Analyst Mike Fitzgerald and Mick Simonelli, Innovation Consultant and former Chief Innovation Officer at USAA. This event is free to attend for Celent clients, flex-plan clients, and the media. Non-clients can attend for a fee of US$250. If you are unsure of your client status, please contact Anna Griem at + 1 617 262 5503 or agriem@celent.com. Please click here for more information.

“End the Carnival!” – Innovation as Part of the Business – Practitioner Roundtable

“End the Carnival!” – Innovation as Part of the Business – Practitioner Roundtable
We just held our 3rd Innovation Roundtable in New York City and the event further underscored how important this area is to financial services institutions.  The format of these gatherings is discussion-based and senior leaders from banks and insurers share their experiences in building innovation capabilities in their firms. The New York group included large insurers (all were $5B DWP and above) and a variety of banks, from among the largest in the world to smaller, regional providers.  Mick Simonelli, previously the Chief Innovation Officer at USAA, also attended and contributed his experience. Across these firms, there is a real diversity in their approach – a reflection that innovation programs are most successful when they adapt to the culture of a company. One attendee describes their innovation strategy as making big bets only on carefully selected areas that are the highest importance to their company. Another wants to increase their “innovation velocity” and pursues incremental initiatives that, when added together, result in meaningful contributions the short to medium term. In contrast to these differences, the participants agree that that their senior leaders recognize emerging disruptive threats and/or opportunities posed by new entrants, increasing commoditization, and changing consumer expectations.  For example, one bank reports that its senior leaders are very actively tracking Amazon’s recent activity offering loans to small businesses. This awareness in these companies is not surprising, since these roundtables are attended by organizations which are already actively pursuing innovation.  Most attendees mentioned that they regularly report to their Boards of Directors on their progress. In Celent’s opinion, just the presence of a firm at the roundtable signals that they are building, or on their way to building, a competitive advantage. Without identifying individual participants, here is a sampling of the content of the afternoon:
  • One company, in their 5th year of a focused innovation program, describes their current approach as “moving away from the Carnival”, away from event, one-time crowdsourcing ideation efforts and towards making innovation a systemic and continuous part of their business. Their objective is to “create a social layer of innovation.” They were kind enough to detail the technology and process that they have used so far.
  • There was agreement that financial services firms advance innovations much too slowly.  This has been confirmed in numerous conversations that Celent has had with clients and has also validated our research. In order to address this, one company actively establishes 3rd party partnerships in order to move innovation faster. They partner with startup firms in order to increase their velocity of change.
  • A common theme throughout the day was evolving digital capabilities and how other firms, outside of financial services, are changing the customer experience.  One firm concentrates on building a “macro view” of what they want their customer to experience. As they improve and innovate their current customer process, they are using this this wider set of considerations to ensure that they remain focused. This is exactly consistent with a recent post on this blog regarding designing digital platforms (see Stop Designing to be a Digital Insurer; Use a Business Value Proposition)
  • The attendees were also global, both by birth and by company.  They report the greatest adoption of mobile platforms occurs in Asia and in emerging economies.  It was also noted that in EMEA, the experience of dealing with multiple languages, cultures and multiple European regulatory regimes increases their companies’ agility and, thus, their innovation capability. For firms that have global operations, concentrating on reverse engineering innovations from one region to another is a valuable investment and a viable strategy.
  • During the discussion about changing company culture to further innovation capability, one practitioner noted that innovation leaders have to be very careful about the manner in which they discuss emerging threats (and opportunities) with their business partners.  Leaders must be very careful to use what was called “empirical specificity” in such discussions. In other words, before beginning a discussion about an emerging threat or opportunity, an innovation leader must do their homework and be prepared to offer exact examples of actual cases where the threat/opportunity has actually taken place. Otherwise, the communication is ineffective and “Pollyannaish”.
There were a number of other very useful areas that we covered – governance, prioritization, prototyping, building to a minimal level of functionality, testing innovations, etc. Thanks to all of the participants for an active, open and productive dialog. Celent is continuing this series and we invite senior innovation leaders to join a session.  Listed below are the dates and links to the upcoming roundtables. Tokyo Feb 26: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1435248 London March 5: https://classic.regonline.com/builder/site/default.aspx?EventID=1439152 Chicago March 20: https://classic.regonline.com/builder/site/default.aspx?EventID=1446980 Many thanks to my colleague Mike Fitzgerald who posted this blog originally.

2.13.2014: Celent Banking Webinar: Top Trends in Retail Payments: A Year in Review, 2014 Edition

2.13.2014: Celent Banking Webinar: Top Trends in Retail Payments: A Year in Review, 2014 Edition
Senior Analyst with Celent’s Banking Group Zilvinas Bareisis. This event is free to attend for Celent clients, flex-plan clients, and the media. Non-clients can attend for a fee of US$250. If you are unsure of your client status, please contact Chris Williams at +44 (0) 208 870 7875 or cwilliams@celent.com. Please click here for more information.

1.15.2014: Celent Webinar: Current State of Innovation in Financial Services

1.15.2014: Celent Webinar: Current State of Innovation in Financial Services
Celent Senior Analyst Mike Fitzgerald and Mick Simonelli, Innovation Consultant and former Chief Innovation Officer at USAA. This event is free to attend. Please contact Anna Griem at + 1 617 262 5503 or agriem@celent.com with any questions. Please click here for more information.

12.11.2013: Celent Banking Webinar: EMV Migration in the US Progress Report

12.11.2013: Celent Banking Webinar: EMV Migration in the US Progress Report
Senior Analyst with Celent’s Banking Group Zilvinas Bareisis. This event is free to attend for Celent clients, flex-plan clients, and the media. Non-clients can attend for a fee of US$250. If you are unsure of your client status, please contact Ken Kilduff at 1.617.262.3128 or kkilduff@celent.com. Please click here for more information.

Omni-Channel Roundtable in Toronto — the Summary

Omni-Channel Roundtable in Toronto — the Summary
We recently held a banks-only roundtable at our offices in Toronto to discuss “New Imperatives for Omni-Channel Delivery.” With representation from Canadian and US financial institutions, we had a robust conversation around the movement from “multi-channel” (old and siloed) to “omni-channel” (integrated and mutually reinforcing). Some of the attendees had interesting – and fairly recent – titles: “Director, Multi-Channel Experience” and “Director, Multi-Channel Strategy” were two that were particularly noticeable, while two others had “Channels” in their title.  Taking an integrated view of the channels portfolio appears to be catching on in Canada! Some interesting observations surfaced.
  1. Banks are rolling out channels and touchpoints without necessarily teaching the customer how to best use them.  When ATMs (or ABMs, north of the border) first came out, bank personnel would walk customers over to them and give them a basic tutorial. There is precious little analogous activity in our new digital channels; we simply assume that customers will pick up on how to use them.  Apple has trained us to think that really good experiences need no tutorial, but that’s not necessarily the case in banking, particularly when it comes to security concerns.
  2. The session didn’t address Personal Financial Management (PFM) directly, but when we touched on it, the group took off on a twenty-minute tangent!  There’s clearly a lot of interest in PFM despite anecdotal adoption rates that continue to hover around 10%.
  3. Piggybacking off existing infrastructure, e.g., the AppStore ratings engine and comments section, is a great way to garner customer feedback. The key, obviously, is to listen and act on the comments that customers provide, and at least one bank watches its ratings assiduously and uses the feature requests and complaints as a key driver of release improvements.
  4. As in the U.S., the fate of the branch network is an important strategic issue. One component that will have some bearing on this is video banking, whether through hardpoints or consumer devices (laptops or tablets). Bankers are clearly keen to determine how video can supplement other channel experiences.
  5. A sneak peek of a Celent survey of Canadian banking customers showed their behavior to be remarkably similar to Americans’.  While there were a couple of exceptions (to be detailed soon in an upcoming report), there were no huge disconnects.  Despite some of the differences in the structure of our two banking systems (oligopolistic vs. fragmented, and cooperative on infrastructure vs. wildly independent), our consumers tend to view and use their banks similarly.
We’re looking forward to additional roundtables in 2014.  If you’ve got specific topics you’d like to see addressed, or cities you’d like us to visit, please let us know!

The demise of Blockbuster and the rise of the new independent video rental store

The demise of Blockbuster and the rise of the new independent video rental store
Earlier this year, Celent released a report, Branch Boom Gone Bust: Predicting a Steep Decline in US Branch Density, which made comparisons between the decline of brick-and-mortar video rental stores, like Blockbuster, and branch banking in the US.  Celent argued that the decline of Blockbuster at the hands of digital alternatives is a cautionary tale for banks that still value a traditional branch network. As I’m sure no surprise to most, Blockbuster recently announced that they would be shutting down all remaining retail locations—around 300—effectively ending operations.
“This is not an easy decision, yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,” said Joseph P. Clayton, DISH president and chief executive officer. “Despite our closing of the physical distribution elements of the business, we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings.”
From the chart below, taken from the above Celent report, its clear that this has been in store for a while.

Blockbuster

Yet as countless blogs and news articles praise or nostalgically lament the once-great video giant’s downfall, an old question is being explored once again: what will happen to the independent video rental store?  Put simply, they’re evolving. Faced with years of low business and an ever shrinking cult customer-base, many small video retailers are innovating in an attempt to draw business back into stores, adding value in areas un-served by Netflix or Redbox. From the an article by Indiewire.com:
“Videology in Brooklyn put a bar in front and a big video screen in back, where customers can sit at tables and drink while watching free screenings. It doesn’t even look like a rental outlet anymore — it moved all the discs aside from the new releases off the floor and put in computer kiosks for customers to browse the inventory. Vidiots in Santa Monica, supported by its community and patrons from the Hollywood film community, raised money to open a screening room and a non-profit foundation that holds workshops, classes, and outreach programs. It’s redefining its sense of purpose.”
Is this an example for banks?  Sure it is.  Similar to what’s happening in retail, banks can add value to a branch-based experience. Consider this line from the above quote: “[The video store] doesn’t even look like a rental outlet anymore.”  Small video retailers are refreshing the idea of what a video store is, and what it could be.  Smaller banks like Umpqua Bank have already explored this idea years ago, and even megabanks like Wells Fargo are exploring the possibility of compact “boutique” branches. The rise of digital The other day I came across a cool chart from Horace Dediu that does a good job at visualizing the change in consumer behavior that drove Blockbuster underwater, and is driving younger generations toward less branch engagement.  A larger version can be found here.   The adoption of smartphones and tablets, even in relation to internet and mobile phones, sit in stark contrast to the group.  The second part of the graph shows the duration of growth from 10% adoption to 90% adoption in years. For smartphones and tablets (estimated), these numbers are in the single digits. The result is a substantial decrease in the development life-cycle of innovation, early adoption, and late adoption. For branches, this means a dramatic and rapid shift in the way consumers interact with their financial institutions. Blockbuster trailed both Netflix and Redbox by almost five years before releasing competing products.  The company not only failed to react to shifting demand, they arguably contributed to it. The founder of Netflix started the company after he paid $40 for a late video rental.  Blockbuster continued to remain unmoved by customer complaints over late fees, eventually settling a series of lawsuits over the matter.  Customers in turn, looked to innovative start-ups (i.e. Redbox and Netflix) to fill the void.  Blockbuster failed to adapt. The path forward is a mix of early adoption and, like independent video stores, a rethink of traditional business practices.  Let’s be clear, branches won’t die, but it’s difficult to make the case that significant redesign won’t happen. Will banking bloggers someday down the road, sitting in an independent video rental coffee shop, write about the nostalgia of traditional branch banking?  Probably.

Recapping Future of the Bank Account Roundtable

Recapping Future of the Bank Account Roundtable
We just assembled a group of UK retail bankers for a discussion on The Future of the Bank Account. Against the backdrop of the month-old implementation of the directive that bank switching be seamlessly completed in seven days , banks were keen to understand the implications of changing consumer needs and behaviors, evolving regulations, and new competitors. Celent see a consumer’s bank account serving three main purposes:
  • Receiving funds (money in)
  • Storing and Managing funds
  • Paying funds (money out)
We were interested in exploring how these key functions might evolve and what banks need to do to respond. The group crystallized three key notions central to making tomorrow’s bank account a success:
  1. Trust
  2. Perceived fairness
  3. Value added services
Customers must trust their primary account provider to keep their money safe and to do right by them.  The opportunity lies, though, in not avoiding breaches of trust, but in seizing the opportunity to do the unexpected right thing – going above and beyond to earn customer loyalty.  Trust also implies transparency: being upfront with your customers about how you’re going to deal with them, and demonstrating the value that you provide. It’s all too easy for customers to take for granted something marketed as “free.” Banks need to do a better job demonstrating that there is actually a lot of value in a “free” banking account (which is admittedly much easier said than done). The psychology of retail consumers generated a good discussion, particularly around the notion of fairness, which in the end comes down to perceived fairness.  Tied closely to trust, fairness means that consumers have to feel that they are being treated the way they deserve, not in a series of one-off transactions, but in the context of a continuing relationship. Finally, because bank accounts (and payments, the most salient feature) are, by and large, commoditized, the opportunity for differentiation comes from value added services.  Still nascent, most of these services will revolve around relationships and data (in one form or another). Banks will need to determine what their portfolio of value added services will be. In conversation there was a clear belief that proponents of the seamless switching scheme, and the potential idea that bank account numbers be make portable if not enough people start to switch banks, may fundamentally misunderstand people’s relationship with their bank. In mandating that everyone have access to a free account, regulators may have inadvertently made it harder to compare accounts on an apples-to-apples basis.  Additionally, banks face the challenge of serving these accounts in a cost-effective way, no small task. Inertia is an extraordinarily powerful force in personal financial services; getting people to change banks or the way they do things with their bank is hard.  However, the right value added services might be enough to persuade consumers to switch banks, although the jury is still out.  The challenge that many new payments schemes face is, “why is this different than simply tapping your card.” There was some belief that success and failure will be determined at the bricks and mortar side of the bank, rather than through digital channels. Many would dispute that notion; they next few quarters will give us an indication of whether that’s true. Clients who’d like to explore this further can read Zil Bareisis’ report, The Rise of the New Bank Account?