Evaluating Digital Banking In 2023

Platforms that offer future flexibility, as opposed to products with a fixed shelf life, should be part of any bank’s digital transformation strategy for 2023, says Stephen Bohanon, co-founder and chief strategy and product officer at Alkami Technology. Chatbots and artificial intelligence can deflect many simple, time-consuming customer queries — saving time and costs — but digital channels can go further to drive revenue for the organization. To do that, bankers need to invest in data-based marketing and account opening capabilities.

Topics include:

  • Platforms Vs. Products
  • Sales Via Digital Channels
  • Advantages of Live Service

Building a Robust Digital Ecosystem, Regardless of Size

Let’s get right to the punch: Size should not limit how progressive your bank can be with its digital innovation strategy. Don’t let asset size fool — or limit — you.

As a 2022 ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator graduate, we’ve had the opportunity to speak to over 150 banks of every shape and size, and here is what we’ve heard. Not all banks are created equal. However, large or small, asset size shouldn’t box you in and prevent you from giving your customers and teams the digital experiences they expect.

That’s because asset size doesn’t correlate to a more-advanced digital ecosystem. We’ve seen $105 million banks act like $5 billion banks, and $8 billion banks act like $250 million banks. Every bank is at a different stage of its digital transformation journey. So, what’s the difference?

Smaller banks may not have as large of a budget for tech, but they are often able to move faster and experiment more easily because there are fewer stakeholders who need to buy-in. These banks are increasingly having to decide if they are going to grow and stay independent or become a more attractive acquisition target. Either way, digital systems are critical to their future.

Larger banks, on the other hand, usually have larger budgets, but more stakeholders involved in the decision-making process and more entrenched operations. Turning the Titanic can take time if the organization does not have a history of supporting experimenting with innovative technology solutions.

No matter the size, banks should assess whether their current technology stack is driving efficiency or dragging the team down due to platform fatigue or lack of clean integrations. In fact, banks have the ability to use digital innovation to decrease the efficiency ratio and increase returns on investment. In our experience, there are a few key things any institution needs to consider when evaluating digital platforms:

  • Does it create a delightful experience?
    Any platform you’re exploring should provide a clean, easy and delightful experience for both your borrowers and employees. Any sense of friction for either group and your institution could lose leads or operational efficiency.
  • Can the platform support a fully integrated environment?
    Platforms should not only be configured to align with your institution’s operational process, but also able to directly connect to essential technology providers: the core, customer relationship management software, know your customer or business solutions, credit providers and spreading platforms, among others. A well-integrated solution should eliminate duplicate work for your team and provide a 360-degree view of the customer, allowing staff to more effectively maximize each customer relationship.
  • Does it do more with the same size team?
    Digital solutions shouldn’t be used to justify letting employees go. They should elevate team members out of busy work to their best and highest use: establishing and growing customer relationships. Having a robust technology stack can help attract and retain top talent in today’s environment.
  • Can the platform scale with the bank?
    Digital platforms should help drive the efficiency ratio down and scale as your bank grows. Below are how two banks on different ends of the asset spectrum have embraced this concept.

Andrew Black, CEO of $105 million Princeville State Bank, based in Illinois, says, “We don’t let our asset size define how we want to serve our customers and team members. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we’re providing a customer-centered, easy experience that helps us continue to grow and expand our customer base. Digital banking capabilities are table stakes for any bank these days, regardless of how large they are.”

Allan Rayson, American Banker’s digital banker of the year and chief innovation officer at Arkansas-based Encore Bank has seen some of the fastest organic growth of any bank in the country. The $2.8 billion bank has a goal of hitting $5 billion in assets with a team of fewer than 400 people — and they’re on track to do it.

“We’re not trying to be the biggest bank in every market, but a bank that delivers an exceptional customer experience. The key is focusing on partnering with best-of-breed technology partners to make that happen. What we have seen with this approach is incredible growth, a transformation of our operations that supports our bank team members and an increase in our overall efficiency,” says Rayson.

Cornerstone Advisors’ annual report states that 86% of banks say their spend on tech is going to be somewhat or significantly higher this year. It’s not a question of “If,” but when and how your team tackles creating a digital ecosystem. Don’t let your asset size dictate what you think your institution can and can’t do. Make sure you’re partnering with a platform that meets you where you are and can scale with you as your bank grows.

Why Banks Should Offer Real-Time Payments for Business Customers

Faster payments are the next phase of the digital revolution in banking. The race toward real time is well underway — more than 200 U.S. financial institutions already send and receive real-time payments. Those that cannot do so must start soon or they will be left behind.

The rise of mobile and digital commerce has created a need for speed and certainty of payment. Bank customers want to be able to pay whoever they want, whenever they want, using a device of their own choosing. But in practice, there are many flavors of fast. It’s important to clarify exactly what we mean by real-time payments and faster payments.

Real-time payments are payments that are initiated and settled almost instantly. A real-time payments rail is a digital infrastructure that facilitates real-time payments 24/7. A crucial characteristic of a real-time payments rail is that it is always available, bringing payments into line with a digital world that never sleeps. In the U.S., there are currently two real-time solutions:

  • The Clearing House has offered its real-time payments platform (RTP) to all federally insured U.S. depository institutions since 2017.
  • The Federal Reserve is currently developing FedNow, a new service that will enable individuals and businesses to send instant payments, due for launch in 2023.

Both real-time solutions are “open loop,” which means that the payment is connected to a bank account rather than a prepaid balance. This is important: It creates the potential for payments to reach every bank account in the U.S. and beyond.

Faster payments, such as Nacha’s Same Day ACH, are payments that post and settle faster than traditional payment rails but not instantly. For example, both Mastercard and Visa offer push payment solutions that message transactions in seconds but do not settle as quickly.

In practice, all real-time payments are faster payments, but faster payments are not always real time.

Although many payments, such as mortgage installments, are non-urgent, the transformational potential of real-time for banks and their business customers is enormous. Real-time technology marks the biggest advance in electronic payments in 40 years and heralds a new era where payments can be an opportunity for banks to add real business value.

Connectivity. Banks can offer business customers access to a growing real-time network that offers uninterrupted transaction processing. But real-time payment also enables two-way messaging, including request for payment, payment confirmation, credit transfer and remittance advice. Each of these features removes friction and can enhance the relationship between companies and their customers.

Cash flow. Businesses can adopt “just in time” cash management and pay creditors exactly on time. In the U.S., 82% of small businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems; real-time payments signals a new era of easier cash management. A real-time picture of its cash position allows a small business can be sure it can meet its short-term commitments, minimize borrowing and optimize its use of surplus cash.

Certainty. Real time account-to-account settlement allows business customers to have payment certainty and reduces payment failures, streamlining business processes to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Innovation. With almost 60 million Americans participating in the gig economy and up to 90% of Americans considering freelance or consulting work, innovation allows people to be paid immediately for the work they’ve done. Real-time payment makes “day pay” a practical reality.

Customer expectations. The tech giants have redefined the customer experience. Real-time payments present a unique opportunity for banks to catch up with a fintech approach to business banking by coupling it with simplified account opening, accelerated credit decisioning and synced accounting packages.

Real-time payment processing is a pivotal innovation in banking that should be included in every bank’s digitalization strategy. But there’s a lot to consider. A payment never happens in isolation; it’s always part of a larger business workflow. Many mission-critical bank systems are batch based, so there will always be integration issues and challenges. Moreover, there are peripheral systems, such as fraud detection, that banks must choreograph with payment movements. And as real-time payments build momentum, banks should be prepared to manage burgeoning payment volumes.

Getting started in real-time payments is never easy, but it’s a lot easier with expert help. Banks should work with their payments partners and build a road map to success. Managed services can offer a fast route to industry best practices and empower a bank to start with a specific pain point — receivables, for example — and progress from there. But every bank must start soon, for the race towards real time is accelerating.

How to Move Older Customers to Digital Banking Channels

The Covid-19 pandemic altered how Americans conduct financial transactions, with many making a permanent shift to digital channels.

However, one age group still is a holdout. Baby boomers, ages 58 to 76, didn’t flock to digital channels, especially mobile banking, at as high of a rate as younger cohorts, according to the American Bankers Association. This demographic is still more likely than younger generations to conduct transactions at bank branches.

Of course, in-person banking fosters engagement and drives loyalty. But by not using digital channels, banks miss an opportunity to unlock the value of this high-engagement, high-balance demographic. Forward-thinking banks recognize that the era of the sleepy “senior account” and frequent branch visits is in decline. Rather than let these customers tell you that they’re fine with coming into a branch for all transactions, banks should take steps to help their older customers take advantage of technology that turns service costs into potential growth.

Focus on Safer, Not Easier
Older adults who use online banking are much more likely than younger adults to be concerned about security, according to a survey from Lightico. Banks should make the case to older customers that digital banking channels are secure and can provide a safer banking experience.

Provide staff with talking points in simple language about the layers of protection your financial institution uses to keep customers’ sensitive information safe. Create a list of the security benefits of online banking that staff can share with older customers, such as:

• The ability to check accounts at any time, rather than waiting for a monthly statement.
• The ability to pay bills online and set up automatic payments to prevent checks from getting lost or stolen in the mail.
• The ability to set up notifications of transactions, such as a low account balance or large withdrawals.

Some banks even choose to use digital platforms to provide an additional level of protection for older customers. These services can monitor accounts 24/7 and alert account holders to unusual transactions, signs of fraud and even money mistakes that are common among older adults

Highlight Digital Controls
Staying in control of their finances often is a top concern that older adults have about aging. One way banks can encourage older adults to move to digital banking channels is by highlighting how digital access keeps them in control over their finances. Rather than reconciling checkbooks with account statements each month, they can check their account balance at any time. They can stay in control of bills by setting up automatic payments to avoid late or missed payments or involving others to help with getting payments in the mail.

If they want to gain even more control, encourage them to simplify their financial lives by consolidating accounts that they have at other financial institutions into accounts they have at your bank. Then they’ll just need one password to log on and get a complete picture of their finances. Digital channels are critical to meeting the strong desire of older adults to remain independent.

Digital Doesn’t Replace Humans
Your older customers might be reluctant to adopt digital banking because they enjoy interacting with “their person” at the bank. Banks should emphasize that online and mobile banking isn’t meant to replace in-person banking or their personal relationship in the branch. Rather, these digital tools give relationship managers more ways to help them, from fraud detection and oversight to issue resolution.

Too many banks pitch digital channels as “convenience.” However safety and control are the drivers of digital conversion and engagement for this demographic —and even a potential bridge to acquire their tech-friendly children as new customers.

Why Some Savers Don’t Pay Down Debt

In an era of rising interest rates, it would make good financial sense for consumers to pay off costly credit card debt before stashing money in a low-interest savings account. But a new paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston finds many consumers acting irrationally. These so-called “borrower-savers,” as Fed economists term them, carry revolving credit card debt while simultaneously holding liquid assets in their bank accounts. Understanding their motivations for doing so could help bankers identify new opportunities to connect with their customers. 

Based on 2019 survey data, Boston Fed economists identify 42% of respondents as borrower-savers, meaning they carry $100 or more in revolving credit card debt while also holding at least $100 in liquid assets, defined as cash, money in checking and savings accounts, or prepaid cards. 

Just 40% of these consumers have liquid assets that exceed their credit card debt. The average borrower-saver carries around $5,400 in liquid assets and nearly $6,400 in revolving credit card debt, according to the researchers. On the whole, borrower-savers are financially worse off than savers, who pay down revolving credit card debt every month. 

“On the surface it would seem like there is a paradox here. You get paid a fraction of a percent on your deposits in the bank … That’s nothing compared to the interest rate that credit cards charge,” says Joanna Stavins, a senior economist and policy advisor with the Boston Fed. “If you have money in the bank, why not pay down that credit card debt?” 

But scratch the surface, and that behavior actually starts to make a lot more sense: Researchers also find that over 80% of consumers’ monthly bills need to be paid out of a bank account and can’t be charged to a credit card. 

Still, that imbalance between savings and paying down pricier debt is one of those quirks of human behavior that has myriad implications for banks. For those banks not in the credit card business, it could mean an opportunity to sell their customers on cheaper consolidation loans. It could also represent an opportunity to build goodwill with customers by offering assistance with managing bills or automating savings. 

Ron Shevlin, managing director and chief research officer with Cornerstone Advisors, notes that younger generations could be likelier to use technology to get a handle on their finances. “I think that resonates especially with a lot of younger consumers who have had it drilled into them that they have to be better at managing their finances,” Shevlin says. “You get somebody who’s 25; those habits have not been ingrained yet. And so the technology, the tools, and I think more importantly, the philosophies and approaches to managing their finances have not been solidified yet.”  

For most banks, offering the right solutions will have them working with their digital banking provider or another third party. Fintechs such as Plinquit work with community banks to help their customers set savings goals and earn rewards for achieving them, according to Bank Director’s FinXTech Connect platform. 

The Boston Fed’s paper doesn’t delve into the effect of higher incomes on saving and borrowing behaviors. Or in other words, the researchers could not say that higher income enables consumers to start saving more and avoid carrying a credit card balance in the first place. Yet, savers tend to have higher incomes, averaging about $98,000 per year compared to less than $76,000 for borrower-savers. On average, savers hold about five times more liquid assets compared to borrower-savers, as well as higher credit limits and lower mortgages due to more equity in their homes. And just a third of borrower-savers could cover a $2,000 emergency expense using liquid assets, compared to two-thirds of savers.

The proportion of borrower-savers fell from 42% to 35% in 2020, note the Boston Fed researchers, likely due to pandemic-related federal assistance programs as well as increased saving by people who kept their jobs but cut back on spending. 

With the employment picture still relatively strong, borrower-savers are generally in decent shape at the moment. But Stavins notes that many of the borrower-savers studied in the paper also have other kinds of debt; she worries how the picture could change if economic conditions further deteriorate. 

The imbalance between savings and spending could worsen. “What I’m worried about,” she says, “is that people are going to start relying on credit card debt more as the economy gets potentially worse.”  

5 Strategies for Creating a Seamless AI Experience

The broad adoption of digital channels has been accompanied by hiring challenges for banks that often struggle to adequately staff their service channels and branches. This leads to an urgent drive to adopt virtual assistants and chatbots as a way to provide better and more comprehensive service options to their customers.

This comes at the same time as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau surveys the experience of digital chatbots and virtual assistants at big banks. This is likely due to poor perception the consumers have of chatbot-based service.

Bank executives must balance the need to provide self-service, always available options without alienating consumers with sub-optimal experiences. But there are several simple strategies that can go a long way in achieving the best of both worlds, making AI-boosted customer experience truly seamless.

To start, consider some reasons behind this poor perception. Many virtual assistants and self-service experiences try to replace humans, containing the customer without escalating the conversation to a human service member. This can lead to overly eager assistants persistently asking customers to rephrase their query or choose from a slate of options. In the worst case scenario, virtual assistants emulate humans with the aim of fooling the customer — resulting in greater frustration when this illusion is shattered. Another common source of frustration are virtual assistants that ask a lot of questions before routing the customer to an appropriate human service member, just to have those same questions repeated by the human agent.

All these examples show how a virtual assistant makes it more difficult for customers to accomplish their goal, rather than simplifies it, and increases the customer’s required effort.

The key to improving the customer experience, while getting the benefit of self service, is to make the virtual experience seamless: help the consumer when possible and get out of the way otherwise.

Here are five practical suggestions to make your bank’s virtual assistant experience seamless, leading to happier and more satisfied customers.

  1. Make it clear to your customers when they are interacting with a virtual assistant versus a human. This helps set consumer expectations and helps develop trust in the service. Consumers may choose to use shorter, direct questions, instead of more verbose communication they would normally use with humans.
  2. Always provide an option for customers to bypass the virtual assistant and connect to a human. Customers can typically tell whether their question is something simple that can be answered by a virtual assistant, or something more complex that requires human intervention. Providing an option to engage with a human when customers choose allows them to self-select into an appropriate path and delivers an experience that’s better adopted to their needs.
  3. Where possible, make it clear the limitations of the virtual assistant up front. For example, certain types of disputes and fraud-related questions might not be able to be handled by the virtual assistant; letting the customer know up-front helps them understand any possible limitations.
  4. Remove repetitive questions from the virtual assistant-to-human transfer process. If questions are needed to better route the customer, take care that they don’t overlap with verification and authentication questions that the human would ask after the transfer. Answering the same questions over and over gives the impression that customers aren’t heard; changing the questions leads to a more seamless transfer.
  5. Supplement any off-hour self-service queries with follow-up options. In cases where a virtual assistant is not able to help the customer solve their issue or it requires human intervention, your institution can offer to follow up on their request and leverage the virtual assistant to collect the relevant information rather than force the customer to repeat the process or switch channels. This gives customers an impression that they’re valued and worthy of additional follow-up to solve their issue.

When surveying your customers on their experience in a hybrid customer service journey, it is crucial to consider the entire experience and not just focus on one pathway or channel. Ultimately, great human customer service will not be sufficient to offset an unpleasant experience in a self-service setting or vice versa. Getting a full picture is crucial to understanding consumer pain points for improvements.

How Banks Can Create Financially Savvy Communities

Money is a complicated subject for many Americans, and financial literacy is often a challenge.

Financial wellness is often a personal journey that lasts a lifetime — and is a place where banks and technology can really improve people’s lives. Everyone benefits when bank customers enjoy financial wellness. People in good financial health tend to enjoy better physical and mental health, contribute more to society and pay more in taxes. But from a bank perspective, financial wellness is both a challenge to be met and an opportunity to be seized. Now is the time for institutions to pick up the pace.

Although financial wellness can be hard to define, only 22% of respondents in a recent TIAA survey described their finances as “healthy.” This is a concern because of the negative compounding effects over the long term mean that multiple generations may struggle to get on top of their finances. How can the banking industry address this potential widening gap between the rich and poor?

Financial literacy is one starting point, but only 21 states require students complete a personal finance course to graduate from high school. This is a major shortcoming – personal finance is an essential life skill. There’s no substitute for starting early.

The Money Smart financial education program from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. helps people of all ages enhance their financial skills and create positive banking relationships. FIS actively supports this and is helping to move this program online and embed financial education within financial products and services. But there is more work to do.

Just like physical well-being, everyone has unique goals and measures of success of financial wellness. Banks that appropriately assist customers on their financial journeys can create deep loyalty and great customer satisfaction. Personalized tools are essential to help individuals align finances with life goals, such as going to college, getting married or having a family. But ultimately, financial wellness is about making small, everyday choices about budgeting, expenses and using credit wisely. While this is never easy, technology can help.

Put Data and Technology to Work
For many people, facing up to their financial position is daunting. Financial jargon can be confusing, and the majority of individuals cannot afford a financial adviser to help navigate the complexity of securities, mutual funds, 401(k)s and the like. But, with the right digital tools and banking support, most don’t need one.

Digital technology empowers people to better understand their financial transactions by harnessing the power of data. The right analysis makes it easy to determine patterns, whether decisions are wise and if they are aligned with savings and retirement goals. Sophisticated data tools can provide insights to financial wellness and take much of the hard work out of the analysis of where customers spend money, and where there are opportunities to save. Over time, people form new financial habits that encourage easier budgeting and regular saving.

The opportunity is there for banks to become proactive and help customers make better financial decisions. With a wealth of customer financial data, banks are uniquely positioned to offer customers a guided journey to good financial health; those that do will be rewarded with loyal customers.

Financial wellness is an opportunity for every bank. It requires bankers to think creatively and collaborate, likely working with fintechs and suppliers to offer financial management services that empower customers to better manage their money. Open banking makes this easier and more affordable, and the time is right to accelerate progress.

Financial wellness and financial inclusion go hand in hand. Financial wellness tools can educate and encourage unbanked and underbanked individuals to participate in the regulated bank space. But it takes perseverance and commitment from banks to progress and earn the trust of those unfamiliar with traditional banking. Banks committed to financial wellness and inclusion must think big and start small. But the crucial thing is to start.

The Easiest Way to Launch a Digital Bank

New fintechs are forcing traditional financial institutions to acclimatize to a modern banking environment. Some banks are gearing up to allow these fintechs to hitchhike on their existing bank charters by providing application programming interfaces (APIs) for payments, deposits, compliance and more. Others are launching their own digital brands using their existing licenses.

Either way, the determining factor of the ultimate digital experience for users and consumers is the underlying technology infrastructure. While banks can spawn digital editions from their legacy cores through limited APIs and cobbled-up middleware, the key questions for their future relevance and resilience remain unanswered:

  1. Can traditional banks offer the programmability needed to launch bespoke products and services?
  2. Can they compose products on the fly and offer the speed to market?
  3. Can they remove friction and offer a sleek end-to-end experience?
  4. Can they meet the modern API requirements that developers and fintechs demand from banks?

If the core providers and middleware can’t help, what can banks use to launch a digital bank? The perfect springboard for launching a digital bank may lie in the operating system.

Removing friction at every touchpoint is the overarching theme around most innovation. So when it comes to innovation, why do banks start with the core, which is often the point in their system with the least amount of flexibility and the most friction?

When it comes to launching a digital bank, the perfect place for an institution to start is an operating system that is exclusively designed for composability — that they can build configurable components to create products and services — and the rapid launch of banking products. Built-in engines, or engines that can take care of workflows based on business rules, in the operating system can expedite the launch of financial services products, while APIs and software development kits open up the possibility for custom development and embedded banking.

That means banks can create products designed for the next generation of consumers or for niche communities through the “composability” or “programmability” offered by these operating systems. This can include teen accounts, instant payments for small and medium-sized business customers that can improve their cash flow, foreign exchange for corporate customers with international presence, domestic and international payments to business customers, tailored digital banking experiences; whatever the product, banks can easily compose and create on the fly. What’s more, they also have granular control to customize and control the underlying processes using powerful workflow engines. The operating system also provides access to centralized services like compliance, audit, notifications and reporting that different departments across the bank can access, improving operational efficiency.

Menu-based innovation through operating systems
The rich assortment of microservices apps offered in operating systems can help banks to launch different applications and features like FedNow, RTP and banking as a service(BaaS) on the fly. The process is simple.

The bank fills up a form with basic information and exercises its choice from a menu of microapps compiled for bankers and customers. The menu includes the payment rails and networks the bank needs — ACH, Fedwire, RTP, Swift — along with additional options like foreign exchange, compliance, onboarding and customer experiences like bulk and international payments, to name a few.

The bank submits the form and receives notification that its digital bank has been set up on a modern, scalable and robust cloud infrastructure. The institution also benefits from an array of in-built features like audit, workflows, customer relationship management, administration, dashboards, fees and much more.

Setting up the payment infrastructure for a digital bank can be as easy as ordering a pizza:

  1. Pick from the menu of apps.
  2. Get your new digital brand setup in 10 minutes.
  3. Train employees to use the apps.
  4. Launch banking products to customers.
  5. Onboard fintech partners through For-Benefit-Of Accounts (FBO)/virtual accounts.
  6. Offer APIs to provide banking as a service without the need for middleware.

The pandemic has given new shape and form to financial services; banks need the programmability to play with modular elements offered on powerful operating systems that serve as the bedrock of innovation.

The Unlimited Potential of Embedded Banking

With fewer resources and smaller customer bases, community banks often find themselves on the losing end of a tug-of-war game when getting involved in emerging technologies. But that’s where embedded banking is a game-changer.

Embedded banking offers every financial institution — regardless of size — a chance to grab market share of this relatively untapped, billion-dollar opportunity.

Embedding financial services into non-financial applications is a market that could be worth almost $230 billion in revenues by 2025, according to a report from Lightyear Capital. That means forward-thinking community banks could see a big upside if they make the strategic investment — as could their non-bank partners. And those companies that are orchestrating integrations behind the scenes could also reap rewards in the form of subscription or transactional services. And ultimately, end users will benefit from the seamless experience this technology provides. While it’s a winning proposition for all, a successful embedded finance operation involves preparation and strategy. Let’s take a closer look at the four players who stand to benefit with embedded banking.

Community Banks: Building Reach
As community banks retool their strategies to adapt to more digital users, they also face growing challenges from digital-only neobanks and fintechs to retain their existing customers. They will need innovative features on-par with their big-budgeted competitors to thrive in the space.

Embedded banking is a legitimate chance for these banks to stake out a competitive advantage. Embedded banking, a subset of banking as a service (BaaS), allows digital banks and other third parties to connect with banks’ systems directly via application programming interfaces, or APIs. Today, 70% of banks that sponsor BaaS opportunities have less than $10 billion in assets. The cost to compete is low, and the services that non-bank entities are seeking are already available on banking platforms.

To start, institutions work with a technology company that can build APIs that can extend their financial services, then identify partners looking to embed these services on their digital platform. A best-case scenario is finding a digital banking partner that can deliver the API piece and has connections with potential embedded banking partners. Once a bank has an embedded banking strategy in place, expansion opportunities are unlimited. There are numerous non-bank partners across many industry verticals, offering entirely new customers at a lower cost of a typical customer acquisition. And these partnerships will also bring new loans, deposits and payment transactions that the bank wouldn’t otherwise have.

Nonbanks: Retaining Customers, Bolstering Satisfaction
Companies outside of the finance industry are rapidly recognizing how this technology can benefit them. Customer purchases, loans or money transfers can all be facilitated using services from a bank partner via APIs. Companies can offer valuable, in-demand financial services with a seamless user experience for existing customers — and this innovation can fuel organic growth. Additionally, the embedded banking partnership generates vast amounts of customer data, which companies can use to enhance personalization and bolster customer loyalty.

Consumers: Gaining Convenience, Personalization
Making interactions stickier is key to getting consumers to spend more time on a website. Sites should be feature-rich and comprehensive, so users don’t need to leave to perform other functions. Embedding functionality for relevant financial tasks within the platform allows users to both save time and spend more time, while giving them valuable financial products from their trusted brand. They also benefit from data sharing that generates personalized content and offers.

Tech Companies: Growing Partnerships, New Opportunities
Technology providers act as the conduit between the financial institution’s services and the non-bank partner’s experience. These providers — usually API-focused fintech companies — facilitate the open banking technology and connections. By keeping the process running smoothly, they benefit from positive platform growth, the creation of extensible embedded banking tools that they can reuse and revenue generated from subscription or transaction fees.

Everyone’s a Winner
This wide-open embedded banking market has the potential to be a game changer for so many entities. The good news is there is still plenty of room for new participants.

FinXTech’s Need to Know: Charitable Giving Platforms

In the wake of disaster, people give back.

Less than twenty-four hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in neighboring Ukraine, Ukrainian-based charity Come Back Alive received over $673,000 in donations — $400,000 of which was in bitcoin. At the time of this newsletter, over $50 million has been donated to Ukraine in cryptocurrency.

Whether it’s a global catastrophe or an organization closer to home, U.S. consumers want easy ways to give to the causes that are important to them. Banks are in a perfect position not only to highlight local charities for their customers, but also to facilitate donations to them in a safe, efficient and trackable manner.

And financial technology companies can provide the software to make it possible.

Fintechs that specialize in charitable giving help embed donation capabilities directly into a bank’s digital banking platform via application programming interfaces (APIs), avoiding lengthy core integration timelines. Once live, bank customers can choose which charities to give to, how often they donate and, of course, how much.

Charleston-based in/PACT offers a white-labeled giving solution for banks called GoodCoin. GoodCoin allows customers to give in multiple ways: one-off donations, recurring gifts (monthly, bi-weekly, etc.) or “round up,” which rounds up a user’s card payments to the nearest dollar and donates the change.

These fintechs also keep track of each customer’s donations for the year. Users can access exportable receipts during tax season, or whenever a donation is made. And using a giving-based fintech allows users to access how much they’ve given starting at the start of the year or since they started giving so they can track their impact.

Pinkaloo, another charitable giving platform, operates accounts for charitable donations that are similar to a health savings account. Customers can fund the account, donate to a selected charity and immediately receive a tax receipt for the transactions — all under the bank’s brand. Customers can even convert their credit card rewards points into charitable dollars.

On a larger scale, CyberGrants, which was acquired by Apax Partners in June 2021, helps banks to manage, track and report on all of their corporate philanthropic efforts. It also has a front-end interface that allows employees to sign up for payroll donations or track volunteer hours and nonprofits to apply for bank grants.

Here are four customer- and bank-facing benefits of implementing a giving-based fintech:

  • It provides audit-ready, real-time and exportable tax receipts. All of a customer’s giving lives in one place. Banks can even use certain platforms to track enterprise-level giving. 
  • It promotes giving, locally and globally. There are over 1.5 million 503(c)3 nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS. in/PACT has over 1.2 million of them on its platform for users to search and donate to. Banks can also use the platforms to match customer donations to specific charities.
  • It can realign or reinforce corporate philanthropy. Collecting donation data can show banks what charities or causes are important to their community. They can later choose to incorporate or emphasize those organizations into their corporate giving strategy.
  • It drives digital engagement and brand loyalty. Consumers like aligning themselves with brands that provide opportunities to give back (and give back themselves). Having a donation platform as an integral part of a mobile banking experience can keep customers engaged and coming back.

Banks that implement a giving platform can help customers increase their charitable donations on their time and dime.

Pinkaloo, in/PACT and CyberGrants are included in FinXTech Connect, a curated directory of technology companies who strategically partner with financial institutions of all sizes. For more information about how to gain access to the directory, please email finxtech@bankdirector.com.