Speed, ease of use and convenience define the customer experience today for both retail and commercial clients. In this video, First Data’s Christian Ofner and Eric Smith explain what retail and commercial customers expect from banks today—and you might be surprised to find they have similar needs. They also share how banks should enhance the experience.
Fintech companies are laser-focused on improving consumer engagement—but there is room for traditional banks to gain ground, according to Craig McLaughlin, president and CEO of Extractable. In this video, he shares three ways banks can strategically approach improving the customer experience at their own institutions.
There’s one thing in today’s banking industry that is critical to remaining competitive, being innovative, and maintaining compliance and risk levels: data.
This is no longer a surprise for most banks. It’s an issue that comes up often among bank boards and management, but there are still a number of challenges that banks must overcome to be successful in all of those areas.
It has a connection to many of the major decisions boards make, from what third-party partners to join forces with to how it integrates the next landmark technology.
Five Steps to a Data-Driven Competitive Strategy Maintaining a competitive advantage for banks today lies in one of its most precious assets: data. Banks have the gold standard of consumer data, and leveraging that information can be the trump card in achieving growth goals.
Getting there, though, requires good governance of data and technology, and then using those elements to craft strategic objectives.
Fintechs Can Fend Off Compliance Issues With Data Fintechs are known to be nimbler than banks for a few reasons, including a limited regulatory framework compared to their bank partners and a smaller set of products or services. But with that relative freedom comes added risk if they don’t comply with broader regulatory requirements. One compliance problem can put a fintech out of business.
But those companies can use data to reduce compliance risk. Here’s how.
Risk Management at the Forefront in Fintech Partnerships Bank regulators have generally kept their distance from interfering in bank-fintech partnerships. Agencies have deferred to the bank’s third-party risk management process, but some regulators have indicated the intent to keep a closer eye on third-party fintech firms.
Here is an overview of what banks should keep in mind when considering and managing the risk associated with these third-party partnerships.
Four Ways To Innovate And Manage Risk, Compliance There is a careful balance that banks must strike in today’s industry. To remain competitive, they have to innovate, but they also have to remain compliant with regulations, many of which have stood for years, and manage risks that can ebb and flow with economic and technological pressure.
Finding a similar balance between thinking strategically for the future while also remembering what has worked and not worked can also be challenging for financial institutions. Building a checklist around these four ideas can help achieve that balance.
How to Pick The Right Data Partner Banks are grappling with trying to gain the greatest efficiency through a variety of innovative and technological tools, but often are hampered by the quality of the data they maintain. To make correct and sound decisions, accurate and reliable data is essential.
Partnering with third-party data service providers can help with that effort, but even that requires due diligence. To help with that due diligence, banks should have a checklist of capabilities for those partners.
In the landscape of innovative disruption, the public’s attention is often focused on bitcoin’s impact on financing and investment options. However, it is important to understand that blockchain, the underlying technology often conflated with bitcoin, carries an even greater potential to disrupt many industries worldwide.
The attraction of blockchain technology is its promise to provide an immutable digital ledger of transactions. As such, it is this underlying technology—an open, distributed ledger—that makes monetary and other transactions work.
These transactions can include bitcoin, but they may also include records of ownership, marriage certificates and other instances where the order and permanence of the transaction is important. A blockchain is a secure, permanent record of each transaction that cannot be reversed.
But with all the positive hype about its potential implications, what are the risks to banks?
The Risk With Fintech One of the most disruptive effects of blockchain will be in financial services. Between building cryptocurrency exchanges and writing digital assets to a blockchain, the innovation that is occurring today will have a lasting effect on the industry.
One of the principles of blockchain technology is the removal of intermediaries. In fintech, the primary intermediary is a bank or other financially regulated entity. If blockchain becomes used widely, that could pose a risk for banks because the regulatory body that works to protect the consumer with regulatory requirements is taken out of the equation.
This disintermediation has a dramatic effect on how fintech companies build their products, and ultimately requires them to take on a greater regulatory burden.
The Risk With Compliance The first regulatory burden to consider concerns an often-forgotten practice that banks perform on a daily basis known as KYC, or Know Your Customer. Every bank must follow anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations to help limit the risk of being conduits to launder money or fund terrorism.
Remove the bank intermediary, however, and this important process now must occur before allowing customers to use the platform.
While some banks may choose to outsource this to a third party, it is critical to remember that while a third party can perform the process, the institution still owns the risk.
There are a myriad of regulations that should be considered as the technology is designed. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European Union’s online privacy law, is a good example of how regulations apply differently on a blockchain.
One of the GDPR rules is the so-called right to be forgotten. Since transactions are immutable and cannot be erased or edited, companies need to ensure that data they write to a blockchain doesn’t violate these regulatory frameworks.
Finally, while blockchains are sometimes considered “self-auditing,” that does not mean the role of an auditor disappears.
For example, revenue recorded on a blockchain can support a financial statement or balance sheet audit. While there is assurance that the number recorded has not been modified, auditors still need to understand and validate how revenue is recognized.
What’s Ahead The use of blockchain technology has the potential to generate great disruption in the marketplace. Successful implementation will come to those who consider the risks up front while embracing the existing regulatory framework.
There has already been massive innovation, and this is only the beginning of a massive journey of change.
Bank stocks have taken a dive in late 2018, and bank boards play a key role in the strategic decisions driving shareholder value. Scott Sommer and Steve Williams of Cornerstone Advisors explain the issues impacting shareholder value in 2019, including technology.
For many consumers, their relationships with financial institutions can be highly personal. They often choose a bank because that’s where their family has done business, or because they’ve done their own due diligence and made a personal choice.
That gives people have a certain level of loyalty to their chosen organizations.
Due to the highly sensitive nature of financial relationships, trust is essential to maintaining them. But with the rise of technology, and the demand for financial organizations to adopt and adapt, many are faced with the risk of their own attention diverting from their core strength — building and maintaining customer relationships.
This is understandable for a few reasons. In order for banks to acquire new clients and retain their existing ones, they need to meet customers where they are, whether that means offering mobile apps or digital services beyond the core of a typical banking relationship.
A great example of this is the demand for digital wealth management. Consumers are increasingly looking for services that enable them to manage their wealth online, and the proof is in the numbers.
Assets on digital platforms stand at approximately $397 billion and are expected to more than triple, eclipsing $1.4 trillion by 2022, according to the data service Statista.
For financial institutions looking to capture a piece of this growth, speed to market is a vital differentiator. While many might consider designing and launching their own digital advisory platform in-house, the risks are significant both internally and externally. For consumers, in the time it might take for a financial institution to build its offering from start to finish, many might seek out a provider that can meet their needs immediately.
For institutions, asking staff to focus on work outside of their specialty might cause them to leave for more nimble firms that can leverage technology to empower and not distract their workforce.
The solution to both challenges? Outsource non-core technology capabilities, such as digital advisory services, to proven, enterprise-ready third parties that understand the banking space. This approach helps retain talent while simultaneously enabling banks to support a higher volume of higher value customers.
Done right, outsourcing to sophisticated digital advisory providers allows banks to retain existing customers while also focusing its efforts on attracting new ones. It opens new opportunities to deepen engagement and further monetize existing relationships through upselling. It also opens the possibility for growth into new market segments — the much talked about notion of increasing wallet share.
Offering digital advisory shouldn’t cost much to support. Sophisticated third-party solutions offer easy access to wealth management for digitally savvy customers, enabling them to self-serve with minimal assistance. These solutions, in turn, allow banks to service these types of clients with less overhead.
Choosing the right approach for offering a digital wealth platform comes down to institutional preparedness. Designing and developing a solution in-house takes time and money. Partnering with a third party that supports white-labeled technology allows for quick and easy implementation, allowing you to harness the provider’s talent as your own.
One thing to keep in mind when hiring a vendor is whether or not they have deep experience in both the wealth management and the banking spaces. This means finding trusted providers that have taken the time to integrate with multiple banking cores and custodians, as well as diverse payment systems and best-in-breed portfolio managers.
Having the right pipes in place ensures implementation flows seamlessly, without any clogs in the process.
Additionally, banking institutions entrenched with legacy systems can feel comfortable partnering with a third-party provider that is pre-vetted and has established relationships with core providers, the only way that new technologies can be deployed at the speed of customer demand.
All bank executives and directors say that recruiting, retaining and properly incentivizing top talent is a priority, but it’s the banks that truly excel at this that are able to separate themselves on the competitive playing field.
The first day of the conference laid the groundwork by introducing the conventional techniques used today by human resources professionals throughout the bank industry.
On Monday morning, before the formal beginning of the conference, attendees participated in a half-day workshop, presided over by a panel of experts from Compensation Advisory Partners and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. The topics covered a broad range of issues, from common executive compensation challenges, to strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion, to tools that can be used to properly align pay and performance.
The second day of the conference built on this, in part through a pair of audience surveys.
In one survey, nearly a third (31 percent) of attendees said managing rising compensation and benefit costs is their top compensation challenge for 2019, more than half (56 percent) said they’ve raised wages to better compete for talent and in response to last year’s tax cut, and nearly three-quarters (70 percent) said they’ve expanded their internal training programs to develop young leaders.
These statistics were borne out with anecdotes. Beth Bauman, the head of human resources at Bank of Butterfield, an $11 billion bank based in Bermuda, talked about implementing a talent management program to help guide and groom the bank’s younger employees. And human resources officers from Cadence Bancorporation and Union Bankshares discussed the challenges of merging compensation cultures after an acquisition.
The final day of the conference delved into less conventional approaches to talent management.
The day started with an anecdote from Bank Director’s CEO, Al Dominick, about an Asian grocery store chain that figured out a new way to sell bananas. Instead of selling them in traditional, equally ripe bunches, the chain sold bananas in packages of five, with each banana at a different stage of ripeness. As a result, the bananas ripen in stages over a period of a week, not all at the same time.
The anecdote illustrates how approaching an issue in a creative way can result in an unconventional yet effective solution.
The first presenter on stage on Wednesday, Jason Mars, came not from a bank, but rather from a fintech company. Mars is the founder and CEO of Clinc, a company focused on bridging the gap between research on conversational artificial intelligence and its application for enterprises.
“My No. 1 criterion for hiring is intellectual curiosity, because that’s what drives people to do really hard stuff,” said Mars. This is more important to Mars than other, more orthodox measures, like a prospective employee’s college grade point average or even their performance in the interview process.
“Passion is another priority, and flexibility,” said Mars. “It’s about figuring out whether they will be motivated to do hard stuff because they’re passionate, curious and interested.”
And finishing out the conference was a panel of three bank CEOs from across the country, all of whom shared their respective talent and compensation strategies.
One of the more innovative philosophies came from John Holt, CEO NexBank, a rapidly growing bank based in Dallas. A group of investors acquired control of the bank in 2004, when it had only $55 million in assets. Seven years later, a new management team was brought in to hasten its growth. One way it did so was to promise its employees a bonus equal to 100 percent of their base pay when the bank passed the $8-billion threshold, which it recently eclipsed. The strategy should serve as a retention policy as well, explained Holt, because the bonus pays out over 24 months.
NexBank also buys lunch for its employees every day, offering them a menu of multiple restaurants to order from. It pays 100 percent of their health insurance premiums. And it has added a millennial to its board of directors—the bank’s 37-year-old chief operating officer, now the CEO heir apparent.
The net result, said Holt, was the bank has fewer, better people than many of its competitors, and it faces little employee turnover, sidestepping a perennial problem in any industry.
The point is while there is no magic bullet that will solve all of a bank’s talent and compensation challenges, understanding the tried-and-true approaches to doing so, as well as the less conventional strategies used in the market today, will help banks better compete for the next generation of employees.
For years banks have looked to fintechs to make their digital offerings more convenient, an area where legacy core systems have been slow to develop. That remains a primary goal for some institutions that have been slower to adopt modern digital capabilities.
Banks attending Finovate Fall Sept. 24-26 in New York City were looking for fintech partners that could help them bolster their main value proposition: deep customer relationships and personalized customer service. Several companies are serving up unique capabilities such as providing restaurant recommendations or basing savings goals on how well your favorite soccer team performs.
Dan Latimore, senior vice president of banking at the research firm Celent, tweeted that customer experience was the leading topic of discussion at this year’s fintech-heavy U.S. conference, but it’s not just the conveniences of a robust mobile app that banks are rolling out. Some banks are working with fintechs to build unusual but highly personalized capabilities in their digital experience to drive human interaction and improve the quality of their customer relationships.
Three unique examples of bringing the bank and its customers closer together involve recommendations from the bank through its fintech partner.
Tinkoff Bank – Tinkoff Bank, a branchless Russian bank with $278 billion in assets according to its most recent disclosure, bills itself as a “digital ecosystem of financial and lifestyle products.” The bank’s mobile app goes beyond traditional banking services to provide things like restaurant recommendations, user tips and troubleshooting advice. Tinkoff engages its user base of about 7 million customers through stories that are similar to those used in popular social media apps like Instagram.
Meniga – This London-based fintech’s transaction categorization engine helps banks personalize their digital channels. Meniga presented at the conference with client Tangerine Bank, a Canadian direct bank and subsidiary of Toronto-based Scotiabank with $38 billion in total assets. The bank’s app recommends personalized savings goals.
For example, Tangerine’s app will notice if a user is a fan of a particular soccer team based on their purchasing history. The app can then automate a savings challenge for the user that will move money from their checking account to savings every time the team scores a goal.
Bond.AI – One of several chatbots in attendance at Finovate, Bond brands itself as an “empathy engine” that understands the context of financial data. In addition to answering basic banking inquiries, Bond proactively recommends behaviors users should take and products that fit their lifestyle.
Meniga and Bond.AI were both awarded Best in Show by conference attendees. They represent an emerging focus on understanding a customer’s lifestyle through transaction data and then making helpful recommendations to them based on that information, which are often described as artificial intelligence or machine learning. This is the latest stage in the innovation of fintech capabilities, which began by making the bank’s digital experience more convenient and friendly to mobile users.
These capabilities have been popular topics at national conferences, including Bank Director’s FinXTech Summit, held in May at The Phoenician in Phoenix, Arizona.
There’s no doubt that the challenges of partnering with fintechs was a much different proposition than when fintech firms were stood up some 10 years ago. Now, more than a decade into some fintech life cycles, the firms have matured.
Fintechs have learned to work within the regulatory framework, core system capabilities and other legacy issues banks have long been familiar with. Banks, on the other hand, have become more open to partnership with smaller, nimble tech companies.
The technology banks need to engage customers on a meaningful level has arrived. Fintechs have established themselves as viable business partners. Consumers are demanding more convenient digital experiences and many banks are progressing in meeting those demands, but those who don’t continue to lose ground in being able to grow or remain competitive.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., has now been infamously linked to his declaration that the “golden age of banking” is upon us, though bankers and directors often follow that celebratory tone with a caveat, whether they’re speaking about technology, growth or governance topics.
This dynamic became clear at Bank Director’s 2018 Bank Board Training Forum, held Sept. 10-11 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, where nearly 200 directors, chairmen, lead directors and chief executives discussed how the favorable economy has also added pressure and challenge in a range of areas on the priority lists for bank boards, including governance, technology, risk and, of course, growth.
It is clear that a strong economy has kicked earnings into high gear, which draws headlines when buybacks or 30-percent growth in earnings per share is announced on quarterly earnings calls. But at the same time, transition and new challenges are presenting themselves in front of bank leaders regardless of size, location or whether the company is public or private. The industry is shifting, and so does the conversation when bankers and directors discuss anything from growth strategies to technology.
Banks must embrace and leverage the capability of technological advancements, but… The cost and risk associated with such integrations are, and will remain, a challenge.
In a closing panel of three successful chief executive officers, Scott Dueser, CEO of First Financial Bankshares in Abilene, Texas, Dorothy Savarese, CEO of The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank in Southeastern Massachusetts, and Dave Mansfield, CEO of The Provident Bank in Amesbury, Massachusetts, all said cybersecurity and technological improvements are top-of-mind for their companies, but finding a balance between convenience and value are challenging.
“We’re using technology to enhance—take away the menial tasks. We have to deliver value. We’re not going to do that with just technology,” Mansfield says.
Fintech disruption will continue, but… “This is not a time to be scared,” says Ed Kelley, vice president of sales for TransCard Payments, LLC, who, along with Ahron Oddman, area vice president at nCino, Inc., billed themselves as “the face of fintech” to the audience.
Payments and small-business lending, which Oddman discussed, highlight two areas where the agility of fintechs enables them to attract more business. Kelley noted that while a challenge, “there’s also a good bit of opportunity” to partner with fintechs to be competitive.
“In order to be competitive, you have to spend money. And in order to spend money, you have to be competitive,” Kelley says, noting the paradox.
Competition among community banks is intense, but… It’s not seen as coming from the major financial institutions despite their ability to attract low-cost deposits.
Most bankers suggest their competition remains other community banks, credit unions and fintechs, not the largest institutions. Joe Bower, CEO of CNB Bank, a $3 billion bank based in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, says those large institutions “are actually really good for us,” because they often have little interest in the tier of commercial customers a bank similar to his would have, and instead are interested in large-scale commercial real estate clients.
Regulations are beginning to relax, but… The pressure on sound governance is increasing, both in oversight of bank management and internal governance.
Board refreshment is drawing greater scrutiny as the average age of directors is increasing, according to Alan Kaplan, founder and CEO of Kaplan Partners, a sign that refreshment and diversity remain tough topics for many boards.
A show of hands among attendees indicated that while evaluation is consistent, peer evaluation is less common, though proxy advisory firms like ISS and Glass Lewis are ramping up pressure on boards to evaluate their performance with greater frequency.
Regulators are also placing greater scrutiny on board oversight, highlighted by “direct finger pointing” at the board of Wells Fargo & Co. by the Federal Reserve and legal actions against loan committees in the wake of the financial crisis.
M&A is increasing in number and “red hot,” but… Traditionally hot metropolitan markets are becoming scarcer in terms of potential targets, and some banks are considering alternatives to traditional deals.
Jonathan Hightower, an M&A attorney in Atlanta with Bryan Cave, points to WSFS Financial Corp.’s $1.5-billion deal to acquire Beneficial Bancorp Inc., which will result in the new $13 billion bank pouring investments into technology.
Despite an active market, Hightower says boards should carefully vet any potential deal, because “if it doesn’t offer opportunity for growth, what’s the point.” Hightower also notes that banks should consider alternative growth strategies, like an initial public offering, that can provide a different path to raise large amounts of capital.
The financial crisis is firmly in the rearview mirror, and the industry is the healthiest it has been in almost a generation by many metrics. But that should not stop banks from planning for the next downturn, or how they can maintain a competitive advantage against their peers.
“This is the way we compete, we think about these things futuristically,” said Jennifer Burke, a partner with Crowe LLC.
The idea that banks and fintechs need to compete with each other is unfounded and restrictive to both parties.
Both fintechs and banks have a lot to gain by collaborating, and very little to lose. For fintechs, the most widely cited reasons for partnering with banks, according to Capgemini, include enhanced visibility by partnering with established brand names, achieving economies of scale and gaining customer trust.
For banks, the benefits are much more tangible, and their impact on the bottom line can be immediate.
The European Business Review explained it well: “By tapping into expertise, traditional banks stand to move much more swiftly and effectively than they otherwise could to introduce new products, streamline processes, enhance customer experience, and increase revenues.”
Looking at increased revenues, Accenture claims banks can potentially gain three to five percent by partnering with fintechs, with gains coming from enhanced customer acquisition, more fee-based revenue, better pricing accuracy, and a lower cost of risk.
When approaching a partnership with a fintech, there are a few things banks should be cognizant of in order to ensure success:
1. Serve your customers first First and foremost, your customers should be at the center of everything you do, including your partnerships with fintechs. How well you are serving your customers dictates your success more than anything else, and every fintech partnership represents an opportunity to further build and solidify customer loyalty.
For this reason, it’s important to partner with fintechs that will address customer pain points the most effectively. There are a lot of fintechs for banks to choose from in the process of finding partners, and the degree to which a partnership with a fintech will improve the life of customers should weigh in heaviest in your decision making.
2. Think holistically about your partnership If you want your partnership with a fintech to be a success, you need to think deeper than your initial partnership agreement. Especially in sell-through partner channels, setting time aside to have your sales and support teams familiarize themselves with the typical FAQs and support procedures will ensure your go-to-market strategies are aligned, and you are promoting the product or service as effectively as possible in the smallest amount of time.
3. Ongoing collaboration is necessary for success The nature of your fintech partner’s business is bound to change and evolve. For this reason, it is essential to keep up with the best ways to sell their product or service to your customers.
Many fintechs host training and workshops for the banks they partner with, and offer marketing resources to help banks promote the value of their service. Take advantage of these things to ensure you are getting the most out of your partnerships.
MineralTree has seen banks build customer loyalty while simultaneously driving interchange revenue due to a few core changes, which include:
The private-labeled solution streamlines a workflow for bank customers that has traditionally been very manual, paper-based, and filled with frustration.
The updated workflow simplifies the process for bank customers to pay vendors through the commercial card program run by their banks.
Banks are able to integrate with their customer’s business at a deeper level by addressing pain within the operations of their customers’ businesses.
Also, with AP Automation still approaching a tipping point in adoption, banks have an opportunity to drastically differentiate themselves by offering a solution that is truly disruptive.
Regardless of which types of services or products you believe can bring value to your customers, the opportunity to partner with fintechs makes the process of introducing them and quickly realizing their benefits much easier.