The financial technology industry is notorious for its ever-changing nature. Silicon Valley’s breakneck pace is enough to make some industry veterans’ heads spin. Advancements in technology and changes in economic incentives can create ripple effects that shift the entire fintech industry at a moment’s notice. It can be a lot to keep up with: Web3, blockchain, crypto, NFTs, buy now, pay later, digital ID, know your customer and anti-money laundering laws, two-factor authentication… the list goes on.
Among the latest fintech phenomena to garner attention is embedded banking, a term that sounds both banal and confounding at first blush. Embedded finance has received some attention, but embedded banking remains a little-known concept among banks that have some of the biggest opportunities in the space.
Embedded banking is a model where banks can provide purpose-built digital services to their customers, including retail and small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Embedded banking enables banks to offer a bespoke technology solution through an open framework that can meet the expanding business requirements of their SMBs customers. As opposed to embedded finance, where businesses access financial services through a third-party platform that is not a specific solution from a financial services company, embedded banking places the bank at the heart of an SMB’s operations. Embedded banking both helps strengthen an SMB’s technology and its relationship to their bank.
Embedded banking is not completely novel. The concept has existed for a few years now, but recent innovations have completely revolutionized the field. Embedded banking is moving from an “inside out” model to an “outside in” model. The inside out model of embedded banking used siloed digital channels per customer segment and direct integration with core banking systems. For example, each individual business segment — like SMB, commercial and treasury management — needed their own separate digital channel. Through an outside in approach, a bank can offer their SMBs one secure environment and a unified digital experience for integrating data from multiple backend systems.
The outside in approach to embedded banking is both more flexible and provides more robust services for customers. Outside in embedded banking also offers the customer an open view of multiple financial institution relationships and streamlines access to a portfolio of services through a unified user experience. This gives SMBs access to a much wider array of services to fit their unique needs, all through the bank’s digital channel.
Outside in embedded banking is the perfect solution for banks that want to provide top-of-the-line financial services in a constantly changing economic environment that requires small businesses everywhere to adopt more efficient technology. Inflation and interest rates increases means money is becoming tighter than ever; small businesses are the most at risk in an economic slump. In particular, SMBs want more payments options and faster access to their cash, while solutions like flexible invoicing options, expedited collection of payments and automated data exchange could become vital for a business’s survival.
Outside in embedded banking represents a chance for SMBs to modernize their digital experiences and streamline operations, and for banks to form stronger relationships with their SMB partners. Banks are perfectly positioned to throw a lifeline to their small business customers. Embedded banking might still be relatively unknown to many bankers, but it may just be thing that helps countless SMBs get through the imminent economic crunch.