“We can all see where the ball in bouncing today, but few of us try to anticipate where tomorrow’s bounce will be, and even fewer will attempt to take advantage of it. “The forward-thinking banks that heed the lesson of Yahoo!’s current troubles will stop worrying about the pressure coming from the current crop of Fintech upstarts and will focus on that second bounce of the ball, the place where the real opportunity lies. There is still plenty of time left in this game.
February 20, 2016 by Leave a Comment
The rollercoaster that is Yahoo! continues. Yesterday, the company officially announced that it was putting itself on the selling block, in a move aimed at holding off an aggressive activist hedge fund called Starboard Value. It was only in December when management shared the stunning news that Yahoo! was planning to spin itself off (more precisely its core Internet businesses) to its shareholders. The announcement in December came on the heels of a nearly 12-month project aimed at spinning its 15% interest (worth $30 billion) in Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company, to its shareholders, a transaction that has been abandoned over tax concerns. By spinning out the Alibaba stake to Yahoo!’s shareholders, Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! board hoped that shareholders could benefit from the Alibaba investment while Yahoo!’s management could focus on rebuilding the company’s core Internet businesses. Rebuilding is the correct word here. Founded in 1994 and going public in 1996, Yahoo! once lived a charmed life as the so-called “originator” of the search engine. In fact, Yahoo!’s original business represented a searchable directory of websites curated by Yahoo! staff. It was Google that improved on Yahoo!’s original idea by deploying technology that could automate the building of a website directory by using bots to crawl the web, catalog the content of websites, maintain an searchable index of the result, and most notably calculate the importance of a website that reflected the number of inbound links from other websites. Ironically, Yahoo! responded to Google’s innovation quite awkwardly, first partnering with Google, then walking away from the partnership in 2004 as it sought to exploit the technology of acquired businesses such as Inktomi (2002) and AltaVista (2003). After a dalliance with Microsoft’s Bing in 2010, Yahoo! finally came back to Google earlier this year, signing a three-year partnership in October. What can banks learn from Yahoo!’s adventures? It’s very simple: innovation is a game that is played for a full 9 innings. Yahoo! was a public company for two years before Google was even founded, and the company at one point enjoyed a market capitalization of more than $100 billion. Today, Google’s market cap is more than $480 billion while the market cap of Yahoo! is less than $30 billion, which is slightly more than the current value of its holdings in Alibaba. So with full benefit of hindsight, Yahoo!’s original idea to offer a curated list of interesting websites was itself innovative, but it was Google’s use of automation in capturing and cataloging the rapidly growing content of the web that fueled the revolution that drives much of the global economy today. As the legendary British venture capitalist Sir Ronald Cohen once argued in his book The Second Bounce of the Ball:
November 11, 2015 by Leave a Comment
CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a story recently about the hottest new Broadway musical – Hamilton (go to the 14 minute mark). It turns out that some of the research for the show was conducted at the site our Innovation and Insight Day – The Museum of American Finance. This biography underscores why we chose the Museum for our next Insight and Innovation Day (to be held April 13, 2016). The segment talks about Hamilton’s numerous accomplishments:
“…a penniless, immigrant, orphaned kid who came out of nowhere and his achievements were monumental…he creates the first fiscal system, the first monetary system, first customs service, first central bank…”Without these innovations, the modern economy as we know it now would look very different. Anyone working in financial services today is aware of the challenges we face responding to changing customer expectations and new technology opportunities. Vast sums of money and time are being spent on innovation, looking for answers. However, Celent’s research shows a widely held view that the financial services industry cannot innovate very effectively. So how do we improve? The theme of our Insight and Innovation Day event this year will take inspiration from Hamilton’s work and use it as a guide for our future efforts. By the way, if you want to go to Hamilton while at the Celent I&I Day, I suggest you get your tickets now. It’s the hottest ticket in town! This is a republished post by Mike Fitzgerald from the Celent Insurance Blog. Click here to read the original post.
October 19, 2015 by Leave a Comment
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!
September 30, 2015 by Leave a Comment
A few weeks ago, Dan Latimore and I had the chance to attend Finnosummit in Mexico City. 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. 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!
July 21, 2015 by Leave a Comment
Last Wednesday I attended IBM’s analyst presentation on Transforming Banking and Financial Markets with Data. The crux of the presentation was the benefits of big data and cognitive analytics for financial markets. The return from better understanding the desires of an individual bank customer are well understood and IBM did a good job of illustrating the up-lift. But what were not discussed are the daunting challenges and complexities a bank will face in implementing and managing a big data project. The implementation and ongoing management of data will make or break the success of cognitive computing. What I would like to see is an open discussion on the successes and failures of big data implementation programs by the banks, IBM, and other vendors working in this space. How smooth was the implementation process (time/budget/resourcing etc.)? Were your expectations set correctly? Did you get the required support from management? What were the lessons learnt? What value do you see from your big data program? It’s not easy Structured data tends to sit in multiple databases housed in silo-ed legacy systems; it is customized, lacks consistency, has incomplete fields, is often latent in nature and is prone to human error. All of which compounds the complexity of managing the data. Add to structured data the volume, variety, and velocity (known as the 3 Vs) of unstructured data and the challenge of implementing and managing information becomes even greater. And, the larger and more complex the bank the more likely its data architecture and governance process will hinder data-based implementations projects. Automating the management of data is time consuming and laborious and scope creep is significant, adding months onto implementation projects as well as extra expense and frustration. Resourcing such projects can be taxing as there is a limited pool of big data expertise and they are expensive. To perform cognitive analytics, massive parallel processing power is required and the most cost-effective operating environment is through the cloud. If you get the data right, cognitive analytics can be very powerful. Cognitive analytics Cognitive analytics (also referred to as cognitive computing) is a super-charged power tool that allows data scientists to crunch vast amounts of structured and unstructured data and to codify instincts and learnings found in that data in order to develop hypotheses and recommendations. Recommendations are ranked based on the confidence the computer has in the accuracy of the answer. How you rate confidence was not made clear by IBM and I would argue that this can only come after the fact, when you can use KPIs to validate the scoring and criteria. The modeling techniques include artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing and, unlike us mere mortals, the more data you feed the computer, the higher the quality of the insight. If you do get it right, the rewards are significant We continue to leave behind mind-boggling amounts of digital information about our lifestyles, personalities, and desires. A sample of sites where I know I have left a hefty footprint include Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, blogs, career sites, industry associations, search history patterns, buying patterns, geo locations, and content libraries. IBM Watson offers banks a cost-effective way, through the cloud, of scouring such data to build up clues that provide a more in-depth view of what their customers’ desire. Current analytic segmentation is requirements-based and is modeled on past behavior to determine and influence future behavior. The segmentation buckets are broad and all within them are treated the same. Cognitive analytics allow a much more precise and immediate analysis of behavioral characteristics in different environments and, therefore, a more personalized and satisfying experience for the customer. I’d welcome any feedback from those of you who have been involved in implementing or are in the process of implementing big data in banking. And, if you’re interested, take a look at Celent’s Dan Latimore’s blog Implementing Watson is Hard On a side note, IBM introduced the term Cognitive Bank and it is not a phrase that works for me. It is disconcerting to describe a bank as having the mental process of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning. Looking forward to hearing from you.
April 30, 2015 by Leave a Comment
It struck me while I was driving this morning: First-gen mobile apps are fine, but virtually everyone is missing high-volume opportunities to engage with their customers. Allow me to back up a step. I was stuck in traffic. Not surprisingly, that gave me some time to ponder my driving experience. I found myself thinking: Why can’t I give my car’s navigation system deep personalizations to help it think the way I do? And how do I get around its singular focus on getting from Point A to Point B? I explored the system while at a red light. It had jammed me onto yet another “Fastest Route,” disguised as a parking lot. My tweaks to the system didn’t seem to help. I decided what I’d really like is a Creativity slider so I could tell my nav how far out there to be in determining my route. Suburban side streets, public transportation, going north to eventually head south, and even well-connected parking lots are all nominally on the table when I’m at the helm. So why can’t I tell my nav to think like me? I’d also like a more personal, periodic verbal update on my likely arrival time, which over the course of my trip this morning went from 38 minutes to almost twice that due to traffic. The time element is important, of course. But maybe my nav system should sense when I’m agitated (a combination of wearables and telematics would be a strong indicator) and do something to keep me from going off the deep end. Jokes? Soothing music? Directions to highly-rated nearby bakeries? Words of serenity? More configurability is required, obviously, or some really clever automated customization. Then an even more radical thought struck. Why couldn’t my nav help me navigate not only my trip but my morning as well? “Mr. Weber, you will be in heavy traffic for the next 20 minutes. Shall I read through your unopened emails for you while you wait?” Or, “Your calendar indicates that you have an appointment before your anticipated arrival time. Shall I email the participants to let them know you’re running late?” Or (perhaps if I’m not that agitated), “While you have a few minutes would you like to check your bank balances, or talk to someone about your auto insurance renewal which is due in 10 days?” What I’m describing here is a level of engagement between me and my mobile devices which is difficult to foster, for both technical and psychological reasons. And it doesn’t work if a nav system is simply a nav system that doesn’t have contextual information about the user. But imagine the benefits if the navigation company, a financial institution, and other consumer-focused firms thought through the consumer experience more holistically. By sensibly injecting themselves into consumers’ daily routines—even when those routines are stressful—companies will have a powerful connection to their customers that will be almost impossible to dislodge. Firms like Google have started down this path, but financial institutions need to push their way into the conversation as well.
March 31, 2015 by Leave a Comment
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 celent.com 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 Celent.com. 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 (five.sentenc.es). 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.
February 18, 2015 by Leave a Comment
Celent’s Innovation and Insight Day is about a month away, and I couldn’t be more excited. We have great external speakers bookending the day, and we’ll be exploring exciting technology implementations with 18 Model Banks in five categories (plus Celent’s Model Bank of the Year):
- Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation
- Innovation and Emerging Technologies
January 26, 2015 by Leave a Comment
The media has been abuzz with reports of Toppan Printing’s plan to introduce an electronic system to facilitate the sale of home loans. In light of this, in this edition we want to consider straight through processing and its possibilities and implications in the financial services industry. The proliferation of bank ATMs has largely driven cash transactions from banks, bank branches, and cashier windows. Meanwhile, as banking services have migrated online, online banking and online trading have resulted in small-value, high-frequency financial transactions becoming increasingly self-service in nature. Similarly, the Internet has and continues to transform the insurance industry. Online insurance premiums payment and online requests for insurance materials have already become the norm. However, documentation and message formats particular to an industry or specific to individual financial institutions are a challenge. Today the technology is still a far cry from being able to automate business processes for complex products. As such, this inability—in addition to administrative costs and financial transaction risk—has also become a major obstacle to sales channel diversification. Bank home loans could be called the poster child for products that have fallen behind the digitization and STP curve. However, if digital technology could be used to handle financial products—in this case home loans—that need to be processed manually, then it would be possible to recommend and compare products so that consumers can obtain the optimal loan product at the right time and place. Banks are the companies that create financial products—home loans; homebuilders and house manufacturers are the companies that market or sell these products. Digital technology is driving the decoupling of product creation from product sale, and profoundly transforming this business model. A glimmer of this and things to come appeared on in the December 22 edition of Nikkei (1). This glimmer was an article reporting on a new initiative by Toppan Printing, in conjunction with realtor Tokyu Livable and four banks—the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Sony Bank, and Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation. Today the proliferation of digital technology is spurring the automation of business processes. Digitization is a key technological development that promises to bring improvements and advancements in many areas. Indeed, processes that cannot be digitized are likely either extremely high value-added or, perhaps, should be eliminated. (1) The Toppan-developed system will be set up at Tokyu Livable’s network of real estate offices. It is designed to streamline the home loan application process by allowing customers to use a tablet computer to apply for a mortgage from any of the four banks, and to as many as three at once. December 22 edition of Nikkei TOPPAN PRINTING CO., LTD. Tokyu Livable
January 8, 2015 by Leave a Comment
I travel. A lot. And in the spirit of full disclosure, Delta and Starwood are my go-to airline and hotel chain. It helps that they have a mutually reinforcing arrangement whereby I receive miles for my Starwood stays and SPG points for my Delta flights. It just so happens that I’d already settled on these two, so I didn’t have to change my alliances, but on balance, even had I been another hotel patron, this alliance would have weighed heavily when deciding where to lay my head on the road. It helps, too, that Delta status gives me SPG benefits (late checkout, etc.), and vice versa. This is a nice extension beyond the airline code-share alliances of OneWorld, StarAlliance and SkyTeam. Because of my travel I tend to pay attention to emails and offers that many might ignore. The most recent was a note that I recently received from Hertz offering to bump me up in Hertz status if I had a certain level on Delta. I rent cars much less frequently than I fly or stay at hotels, but it’s easy to guess which car rental company I’ll be sure to use in the future. What does this have to do with banking? Credit card companies already partner with airlines (e.g., Delta and AMEX, American and Citi) and banks cooperate with merchants to offer Merchant Funded Rewards, but these are relatively superficial. What might the next, more substantive, level of partnering look like? Are there opportunities for deeper symbiotic relationships with retailers, phone or cable companies, or the like? The details will vary depending on the industry, but as we kick off the new year, it’s an interesting strategic question for banks to consider.