AI: The Slingshot for Small Banks

Regional and community banks are struggling with growth and profitability in the face of competitive pressure from large national banks and fintech startups. Executives at these institutions are instructed to invest in technology, and to leverage data and artificial intelligence to compete more effectively.

While that sounds good, smaller banks are often constrained by a dependence on legacy core vendors that limits their IT potential, encounter difficulties in accessing their own data, lack skilled data scientists, and have no clear vision on where to start.

This conundrum came up during Bank Director’s 2020 Acquire or Be Acquired conference in Phoenix. I rubbed shoulders with fellow conference attendees over the course of three days, sharing ideas about the state of the banking sector and how community banks could leverage data and AI to drive business results. The talent gap was a frequent topic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, only a miniscule number of community banks have hired data scientists. The majority of banks have not prioritized data science capabilities; the few who are actively recruiting data scientists are struggling to attract the right talent.

But even if community banks could arm up with data scientists, what volume of data will they be working on to derive insights to fuel their business strategy? A $1 billion asset bank may have 50,000 to 75,000 customers — not a lot of data to start with. Furthermore, a number of bankers point to the difficulties they encounter in accessing their data in their legacy core systems.

As we were having these discussions, conversations were raging about the need for smaller banks to prepare for an existential threat. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, attendees were assessing comments from Bank of America Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan that the bank could double its U.S. consumer market share. Back-of-envelope calculations indicate that if Bank of America manages to accomplish that growth, more than 1,000 community banks could be out of business. Can technology enable these banks to retain their core customer base, grow and avoid this fate? I think so.

One promising area of AI application for community banks is loan and deposit pricing. Community banks have little or no analytic tools beyond competitive rate surveys; most rely on anecdotal feedback from customers and front-line bankers. But price setting and execution on both assets and liabilities is one of the most important levers a bank can use to drive both growth and improve its net interest margin. Community banks should take advantage of new tools and data to level the playing field with the big banks, which are already well ahead of them in adopting price optimization technology.   

Small banks can gain the upper hand in this “David versus Goliath” scenario because accessible cloud-based technology works in their favor. True, big banks have worked with price optimization technology and leveraged large amounts of customer behavioral data for years. But community banks tend to have stronger customer relationships and often better pricing power than their larger competitors. Now is the time for community banks to take control of their destiny by adopting new technology and tools so they can better compete on price.

There are three reasons why cloud computing and the power of AI will be the slingshot of these ‘David’ banks:

  1. Scalable computing power, instantly on tap. Cloud-based computing and pre-configured pricing solutions are affordable and can be implemented in days, not months.
  2. Big data — as a service. Community banks can quickly leverage AI-based pricing models that have been trained on hundreds of millions of transactions. There is no need to build their own analytic models from a small customer footprint.
  3. Plug-and-play IT. It’s much easier today to integrate cloud-based platforms with a bank’s core system providers, which makes accessing their own data and implementing smarter pricing feasible.

Five years ago, it would have seemed crazy to think that in 2020, community banks would be applying AI to compete against the nation’s top banks. But the first wave of early adopters are already deploying AI for pricing. I predict we’ll see more institutions embracing AI and machine learning to improve their NIM and increase growth over the coming years.

Developing a Future-Proof Bank

Banks are growing more fintech-friendly, giving them an avenue to strengthen their capabilities. In this video, Mbanq CEO Vlad Lounegov shares how traditional financial institutions can better compete with tech-savvy upstarts in the financial space.  

  • The Changing Relationship Between Banks & Fintechs
  • Examining Core Systems
  • Four Qualities of a Good Solution

Artificial Intelligence: Exploring What’s Possible

Banks are exploring artificial intelligence to bolster regulatory compliance processes and better understand customers. This technology promises to expand over the next several years, says Sultan Meghji, CEO of Neocova. As AI emerges, it’s vital that bank leaders explore its possibilities. He shares how banks should consider and move forward with these solutions. 

  • Common Uses of AI Today
  • Near-Term Perspective
  • Evaluating & Implementing Solutions

 

Staying Relevant In The Payments Revolution

A tremendous level of disruption is occurring in the payments space today — and few banks have a strategy to combat this threat, according to Michael Carter, executive vice president at Strategic Resource Management. In this video, he explains how smart home technology like Alexa and Google Home is changing how consumers interact with their financial institutions. He also outlines three tactics for banks seeking to achieve top of wallet status.

  • Today’s Payments Landscape
  • Technologies to Watch
  • How to Keep Wallet Share
  • Threats to Community Banks

 

Embracing Frictionless Loans by Eliminating Touch Points


lending-9-13-19.pngTo create a meaningful customer relationship, banks should drive to simplify and streamline the operational process to book a loan.

Automated touchpoints are a natural component of the 21st century customer experience. When properly implemented, technology can create a touch-free, self-service model that simplifies the effort required by both customer and bank to complete transactions. One area ripe for technological innovation is the lending process. Banks should consider how they can remove touch points from these operations as a way to better both customer service and resource allocation.

Frictionless loans can move from origination to fulfillment without requiring human intervention, which can help build or enhance relationships with clients. Your institution may already be working on decreasing touches and increasing automation. But as you long as your bank has an area of tactile, not strategic, contact between your staff and your customer, your bank — and customers — will still have friction.

Bankers looking to decrease this friction and make lending a smooth and seamless process for borrowers and originators alike should ask themselves these four questions:

How many human touchpoints does your bank still have in play to originate and fulfill a loan? Many banks allow customers to start a loan application online and manage their payments in the cloud, but what kind of tactile processes persist between that initial application and the payment? Executives should identify how many steps in their lending process require trained staff to help your customers complete that gap. Knowing where those touchpoints are means your digital strategy can address them.

What value can your bank achieve by reducing and ultimately eliminating the number of touches needed to originate a loan? Every touch has the potential to slow a loan through the application process and potentially introduce human error into the flow. But not all touchpoints are created equal.

Bankers should consider the value of digital data collection, or automating credit score and loan criteria review. They may be able to eliminate the manual review of applications, titles and appraisals, among other things. They could also automate compliant document creation and selection. Banks should assess if their technology enablement efforts produce a faster, simpler customer experience, and what areas they can identify for improvement.

Do you have the right technology in place to reduce those touchpoints? Executives should determine if their bank’s origination systems have the capabilities to support the digital strategy and provide the ideal customer experience. Does the bank’s current solution deliver an integrated data workflow, or is it a collection of separate tools that depend on the manual re-entry of data to push loans through the pipeline?

Does your bank have an organizational culture that supports change management? Does your bank typically plan for change, or does it wait to react after change becomes inevitable? Executives should identify what needs to happen today so they can capitalize quickly on opportunity and minimize disruptions to operations.

Siloed functional areas are prone to operational entrenchment, and well-intentioned staff can inadvertently slow or disrupt change adoption. These factors can be difficult to change, but bankers can moderate their influences by cultivating horizontal communication channels that thread organizational disciplines together, support transparency and allow two-way knowledge exchanges.

For banks, a human touch can be one of the most valuable assets. It can help build long lasting and meaningful relationships with clients and enable mutual success over time. This is precisely why banks should reserve it for business activities that have the greatest potential to add value to a client’s experience. Technology can free your bank’s staff from high-risk, low-return tasks that are done more efficiently through automation while increasing their opportunities to interact with customers, understand their challenges and cross-sell products.

Frictionless loan planning should intersect cleanly with your bank’s overall digital strategy. It could also be an opportunity for your bank to scale up planning efforts, to encompass a wider set of business objectives. In either case, the work you do today to identify and eliminate touch points will establish the foundation necessary to extend your bank’s digital reach and offer a competitive customer experience.

Leveraging Fintechs to Do More with Less

Fintech is often viewed as a disrupter to the banking industry, but it greatest influence may be as a collaborator.

Financial technology companies, often called fintechs, can provide benefits both banks and themselves, especially when it comes to lending. But banks need to be prepared for the potential challenges that can arise when forming and executing these partnerships.

Partnerships between community banks and fintechs makes sense. For community banks, the cost of building or buying their own online loan origination platform can be prohibitive. A partnership with a fintech can help banks achieve more with less risk.

Banks can partner with fintechs to improve services at a significantly lower capital expenditure, reducing the cost of doing business and reaching market segments that would otherwise not meet their credit criteria. Collectively, these relationships advance not only the business of community banks, but also their mission.

Partnering with banks offers fintech firms brand exposure, allows them to more quickly scale their business and increases their access to capital and liquidity, which can translate to better company returns.

Community banks and fintech firms should be natural allies, given the market dynamics and growth in online lending, the underfunding of small businesses and the increased competition facing smaller institutions.

Community banks are also ideal first movers in the bank-fintech partnership space, given the personal nature of the business, low cost of capital and ability to move quicker than regional banks. Community banks are the preferred source of funding for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and consistently receive high marks from clients for customer service and overall experience.

However, there can be challenges. Bank respondents cited their firms’ overall preparedness as a point of concern when considering a fintech collaboration, according to a recent paper on bank-fintech partnerships from law and professional services firm Manatt. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau mandate that banks must implement appropriate oversight and risk management processes for third-party relationships and service providers.

Other issues that could arise for community banks when pursuing a fintech partnership include data security, staff training and technology integration with legacy systems. It’s imperative that community banks are clear about the responsibilities, requirements and protections that will contribute toward a successful partnership in conversations with a fintech firm.

borrowe-chart.png

Despite their desire to fund local businesses, community banks sometimes encounter significant pressures that prevent them from doing so. These issues are amplified by various market forces and longstanding structural inefficiencies such as consolidation, slower economic expansion, increased regulation and more-stringent credit requirements. Consumer expectations around new channels and banking services compound the situation. Community banks need to adapt to this new dynamic and complex ecosystem. Without a strategy that includes technological vision, banks risk becoming irrelevant to the communities they serve.

Fintech firms — reputed as industry disruptors — can be powerful collaborators and allies in this land grab. They can help banks expand their borrower market by reaching customers with alternative credit profiles and providing technology-driven improvements that enhance the customer experience. The inherent advantages held by community banks make them well positioned to not only capitalize on these opportunities, but to lead the next wave of fintech innovation.

2019 Survey Results! Here’s How Banks Are Spending Money on Technology

The desire to streamline customers’ experience and improve efficiency is driving bank technology strategies across the industry, as most executives and directors believe their offerings are “adequate,” according to Bank Director’s 2019 Technology Survey, sponsored by CDW.

The survey, conducted in June and July 2019, reflects the views of CEOs, technology executives and independent directors. It seeks to better understand bank strategies, staffing and budgets around technology and innovation, as well as banks’ relationships with legacy core providers and newer vendors.

Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents say that improving the customer experience is a top objective driving their bank’s strategy around the investment, development and implementation of technology. Seventy-two percent say that fueling efficiency is a top objective.

These strategic objectives are driving where banks are investing in technology: 68% say they’re investing in automation in fiscal year 2019, and 67% are investing money to enhance the bank’s digital channels.

Most banks rely on their core provider to advance these goals. The cores are the primary providers for many of the technologies used by banks today, including application programming interfaces (68% say that API technology is provided by the core), business process automation (43%), data aggregation (42%) and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments (47%).

That relationship isn’t stopping many banks from searching for new potential partners; 60% are willing to work with newer fintech startups. The survey finds that the use of alternate providers is gaining ground, in particular when it comes to the cloud (57%), data aggregation (25%) and P2P payments (29%).

Despite the rise of the digital channel, 51% of respondents say the branch is equally important to online and mobile channels when it comes to growing the bank. More than half indicate they’re upgrading branch and ATM technology.

Just 30% say that driving top-line growth fuels their technology strategy, which indicates that most banks see technology as a way to save money and time as opposed to generating revenue.

Key Findings

  • Loyal to the Core. More than half of respondents say their core contract expires within the next five years. Sixty percent say they’re unlikely to switch to a new provider.
  • But Banks Aren’t Satisfied. Just 21% say they’re completely satisfied with their core provider.
  • Technology Pain Points. Sixty percent say their current core provider is slow to provide innovative solutions or upgrades to their bank, and almost half cite difficulty in implementing new solutions. These are major sticking points when 60% rely on their core provider to introduce innovative solutions.
  • It’s All on IT. Almost three-quarters point to the senior technology executive as the individual responsible for identifying, developing and implementing technology solutions. Almost half task a management-level committee to make decisions about technology.
  • Rising Budgets. Forty-five percent say their technology budget has risen between 5% to 10% for FY2019. Almost one-quarter report an increase of more than 15%. Responding banks budgeted a median of $750,000 for FY2019.
  • Where the Money’s Going. In addition to automation, digital enhancements and branch improvements, banks are hiring consultants to supplement in-house expertise (50%), and bringing on additional employees to focus on technology and innovation (43%).
  • Data Gap. Almost half describe their bank’s data analytics capabilities as inadequate.
  • More Expertise Needed. Fifty-three percent say technology is on the agenda at every board meeting — up three points from last year’s survey. Yet, 80% say the board needs to enhance its technology expertise. Forty-three percent say they have a technology expert on the board.
  • Cybersecurity Top of Mind. Protecting the bank from cyberattacks dominates board technology discussions, according to 96% of respondents. Many boards also focus on process improvements (63%) and implementing innovative customer-facing technology (46%).

To view the full results of the survey, click here.

How Innovative Banks are Eliminating Online Card Fraud

Card fraud has a new home. Just a few years after the prolonged and pricey switch to EMV chip cards, fraud has migrated from purchases where the card is physically swiped to transactions where the card is not present. The shift means that U.S. banks might be on the cusp of yet another move in card technology.

EMV chips were so successful in curbing cases of fraud where the card was swiped that fraud evolved. Fraud is 81 percent more likely to occur today in “card-not-present” transactions that take place over the phone or internet rather than it is at the point of sale, according to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Research.

Technology has evolved to combat this theft. One new solution is to equip cards with dynamic card verification values, or CVVs. Cards with dynamic CVVs will periodically change the 3-digit code on the back of a credit or debit card, rendering stolen credentials obsolete within a short window of time. Most cards with dynamic codes automatically change after a set period of time—as often as every 20 minutes. The cards are powered by batteries that have a 3- to 4-year lifespan that coincides with the reissuance of a new card.

Several countries including France, China and Mexico have already begun adopting the technology, but the rollout in the United States has been more limited. The new Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs Group, boasts dynamic CVV as a key security feature. PNC Financial Services Group also launched a pilot program with Motion Code cards in late 2018.

Bankers who remember the shift to EMV might cringe at the thought of adopting another new card technology. But dynamic CVVs are different because they do not require merchants to adopt any new processes and do not create extra work for customers.

But one challenge with these more-secure cards will be their cost. A plastic card without an EMV chip cost about 39 cents. That cost rose to $2 to $3 a card with EMV. A card with the capability for a dynamic CVV could cost 5 times as much, averaging $12 to $15.

But advocates of the technology claim the benefits of eliminating card-not-present fraud more than covers the costs and could even increase revenue. French retail bank Société Générale S.A. worked with IDEMIA, formerly Oberthur Technologies, to offer cards with dynamic CVVs in fall 2016. The cards required no change in customers’ habits, which helped with their adoption, says Julien Claudon, head of card and digital services at Société Générale.

“Our customers appreciate the product and we’ve succeeded in selling it to customers because it’s easy to use.”

He adds that card-not-present fraud among bank customers using the card is “down to almost zero.”

Eliminating card-not-present fraud can also eliminate the ancillary costs of fraud, says Megan Heinze, senior vice president for financial institutions activities in North America at IDEMIA. She says card fraud is estimated to cost banks up to $25 billion by 2020.

“A lot of prime customers ask for the card the next day. The issuer then has to get the card developed—sending a file out that has to be printed—and then it’s FedExed. The average FedEx cost is around $10. The call to the call center [costs] around $7.50,” she says. “So that’s $17. And that doesn’t even include the card.”

What’s more, dynamic CVVs could also create a revenue opportunity. Société Générale charges customers a subscription fee of $1 per month for the cards. The bank saw a more than 5 percent increase in new customers and increased revenue, according to Heinze.

Still, some are skeptical of how well a paid, consumer-based model would fare in the U.S. market.

“The U.S. rejected EMV because it was so expensive to do. It was potentially spending $2 billion to save $1 billion, and that’s what you have to look at with the use case of these [dynamic CVV] cards,” says Brian Riley, director of credit advisory service for Mercator Advisory Group. “If it tends to be so expensive I might want to selectively do it with some good customers, but for the mass market there’s just not a payback.”

Still, dynamic CVVs are an interesting solution to the big, expensive problem of card-not-present fraud. While some institutions may wait until another card mandate hits, adopting dynamic CVV now could be a profitable differentiator for tech-forward banks.

Potential Technology Partners

IDEMIA

Idemia’s Motion Code technology powers cards for Société Générale and is being piloted by PNC and WorldPay.

GEMALTO

Gemalto’s Dynamic Code Card hasn’t been publicly linked to any bank or issuer names, but the company cites its own 2015 Consumer Research Project for some impressive statistics on customer demand for dynamic CVV cards.

SUREPASS ID

SurePass ID offers a Dynamic Card Security Code. The company’s founder, Mark Poidomani, is listed as the inventor of several payment-related patents.

FITEQ

FiTeq’s dynamic CVV requires cardholders to push a button to generate a new CVV code.

VISA AND MASTERCARD

Visa and Mastercard are leveraging dynamic CVV codes in their contactless cards

Learn more about the technology providers in this piece by accessing their profiles in Bank Director’s FinXTech Connectplatform.

The Great Payments Opportunity


payments-5-20-19.pngBanks have an opportunity to deepen relationships with their corporate customers facing payment challenges. One promising product could be integrated receivables solutions.

While most business-to-business payments are still done through paper check, electronic payments are growing rapidly. Paper checks remain at about 50 percent of business-to-business payments, according to the 2016 Electronic Payments Survey by the Association for Financial Professionals. But Automated Clearing House payments grew 9.4 percent in 2018, according to the National Automated Clearinghouse Association — a trend that is forcing businesses with high receivables volumes to look for ways to process electronic payments more efficiently.

Electronic payments create unique challenges for bank corporate customers. While the deposit is received electronically at the bank, the remittance and detailed payment information are typically sent separately in an email, document or spreadsheet. The corporate treasurer must manually connect, or re-associate, the remittance information to the deposit, which creates delays in crediting the customers’ account. As electronic ACH volumes increase, treasurers solve this problem by hiring more accounting staff to reconcile these payments.

Corporates also face added complexity from payment networks, which are becoming a more common way for large companies to pay their suppliers. While more efficient for the payer, this process requires treasury staff to log onto multiple payment network aggregation sites and download the remittance information. These downloaded files require manual re-association to the payment in order to credit the customer’s account, which requires adding more staff.

Corporates are also using mobile to accept field payments, like collecting payment on the delivery of goods or services, new customer orders or credit holds and collections. However, mobile payments again force treasurers to manually reconcile them. Moreover, most commercial banking mobile applications are designed for the treasurer of the business, with features such as balances, history and transfers. Collecting field payments needs to be configured so that field representative can simply collect the payments and remittance.

The corporate treasurer needs increased levels of automation to solve these challenges and problems. Traditional bank lockbox processing was designed for checks and relies on manual entry of the corporate’s payments and delivery of a reconciled file. This paper-based approach will be insufficient as more payments become electronic.

Treasurers should consider integrated receivables systems that match all payments types from all payment channels using artificial intelligence. A consolidated payment file updates the corporate’s enterprise resource planning system once these payments are processed. The integrated receivable solution then provides the corporate with a single archive of all their payments, rather than just a lockbox.

Right now, corporate customers are looking to financial technology firms for integrated receivable solutions because banks are moving too slowly. This disintermediates corporate customers from the banks they do business with. But almost 73 percent of corporate treasurers believe it is important or very important for their bank to provide integrated receivables, according to Aite.

This is an opportunity for bankers. The integrated receivable market offers many software solutions for banks so they can quickly ramp up and meet the needs of their corporate customers.

Bankers have a wide range of fintech partners to choose from for integrated receivables software and should look for one with expertise and knowledge of the corporate market. The solutions should leverage artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to process payments from any channel, include security with high availability and be easy for the bank and corporate customers to use.

How Innovative Banks are Eliminating Online Card Fraud


technology-5-8-19.pngCard fraud has a new home. Just a few years after the prolonged and pricey switch to EMV chip cards, fraud has migrated from purchases where the card is physically swiped to transactions where the card is not present. The shift means that U.S. banks might be on the cusp of yet another move in card technology.

EMV chips were so successful in curbing cases of fraud where the card was swiped that fraud evolved. Fraud is 81 percent more likely to occur today in “card-not-present” transactions that take place over the phone or internet rather than it is at the point of sale, according to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Research.

Technology has evolved to combat this theft. One new solution is to equip cards with dynamic card verification values, or CVVs. Cards with dynamic CVVs will periodically change the 3-digit code on the back of a credit or debit card, rendering stolen credentials obsolete within a short window of time. Most cards with dynamic codes automatically change after a set period of time—as often as every 20 minutes. The cards are powered by batteries that have a 3- to 4-year lifespan that coincides with the reissuance of a new card.

Several countries including France, China and Mexico have already begun adopting the technology, but the rollout in the United States has been more limited. The new Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs Group, boasts dynamic CVV as a key security feature. PNC Financial Services Group also launched a pilot program with Motion Code cards in late 2018.

Bankers who remember the shift to EMV might cringe at the thought of adopting another new card technology. But dynamic CVVs are different because they do not require merchants to adopt any new processes and do not create extra work for customers.

But one challenge with these more-secure cards will be their cost. A plastic card without an EMV chip cost about 39 cents. That cost rose to $2 to $3 a card with EMV. A card with the capability for a dynamic CVV could cost 5 times as much, averaging $12 to $15.

But advocates of the technology claim the benefits of eliminating card-not-present fraud more than covers the costs and could even increase revenue. French retail bank Société Générale S.A. worked with IDEMIA, formerly Oberthur Technologies, to offer cards with dynamic CVVs in fall 2016. The cards required no change in customers’ habits, which helped with their adoption, says Julien Claudon, head of card and digital services at Société Générale.

“Our customers appreciate the product and we’ve succeeded in selling it to customers because it’s easy to use.”

He adds that card-not-present fraud among bank customers using the card is “down to almost zero.”

Eliminating card-not-present fraud can also eliminate the ancillary costs of fraud, says Megan Heinze, senior vice president for financial institutions activities in North America at IDEMIA. She says card fraud is estimated to cost banks up to $25 billion by 2020.

“A lot of prime customers ask for the card the next day. The issuer then has to get the card developed—sending a file out that has to be printed—and then it’s FedExed. The average FedEx cost is around $10. The call to the call center [costs] around $7.50,” she says. “So that’s $17. And that doesn’t even include the card.”

What’s more, dynamic CVVs could also create a revenue opportunity. Société Générale charges customers a subscription fee of $1 per month for the cards. The bank saw a more than 5 percent increase in new customers and increased revenue, according to Heinze.

Still, some are skeptical of how well a paid, consumer-based model would fare in the U.S. market.

“The U.S. rejected EMV because it was so expensive to do. It was potentially spending $2 billion to save $1 billion, and that’s what you have to look at with the use case of these [dynamic CVV] cards,” says Brian Riley, director of credit advisory service for Mercator Advisory Group. “If it tends to be so expensive I might want to selectively do it with some good customers, but for the mass market there’s just not a payback.”

Still, dynamic CVVs are an interesting solution to the big, expensive problem of card-not-present fraud. While some institutions may wait until another card mandate hits, adopting dynamic CVV now could be a profitable differentiator for tech-forward banks.

Potential Technology Partners

IDEMIA

Idemia’s Motion Code technology powers cards for Société Générale and is being piloted by PNC and WorldPay.

Gemalto

Gemalto’s Dynamic Code Card hasn’t been publicly linked to any bank or issuer names, but the company cites its own 2015 Consumer Research Project for some impressive statistics on customer demand for dynamic CVV cards.

SurePass ID

SurePass ID offers a Dynamic Card Security Code. The company’s founder, Mark Poidomani, is listed as the inventor of several payment-related patents.

FiTeq

FiTeq’s dynamic CVV requires cardholders to push a button to generate a new CVV code.

Visa and Mastercard

Visa and Mastercard are leveraging dynamic CVV codes in their contactless cards

Learn more about the technology providers in this piece by accessing their profiles in Bank Director’s FinXTech Connect platform.