Scotiabank Partners with Sensibill to Digitize and Track


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It’s tax time again, and for many people across the U.S. and Canada that entails one major headache—organizing and managing receipts. Whether it’s an individual or business, keeping, organizing and categorizing receipts is critical to maximizing tax deductions, not to mention for good general fiscal management purposes.

However, one Canadian bank is partnering with a fintech innovator to make receipt management much more of a breeze for their customers. Just last year, Toronto-based Scotiabank announced a partnership with Canadian fintech company Sensibill to offer a mobile receipt management solution called eReceipts that will to make it easier for Scotiabank customers to manage their finances. The eReceipts app serves as an extension to Scotiabank’s mobile banking application and digital wallet.

Scotiabank is one of Canada’s largest banks, serving more than 23 million customers across the dominion and 50 countries outside Canada. And at 184 years of age, Scotiabank is older than Canada itself. With over $1 trillion in total assets, Scotiabank invests more than $2 billion per year in technology initiatives. Partnering with Sensibill to create eReceipts was a natural fit, as it’s a Toronto-based startup that was incubated through Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone initiative. Sensibill has grown to become a white-label software provider of software solutions to help banking customers better manage receipts from both desktop and mobile.

While there has been technology available to aid in receipt management, it’s still incredibly difficult to categorize and drill down into the detail of specific receipts, especially on a mobile device. What makes the eReceipts functionality so unique is that it’s the first app to automatically match specific credit and debit card transactions to the right receipt. After making a purchase, customers can take a photo of the receipt directly from their Scotiabank banking app. Then, through a combination of Optical Character Recognition and machine learning software, the receipt is matched to the proper transaction in the user’s account history. When users drill down into the transaction, information from the receipt has already been extracted, structured and presented in a clear, easy to navigate format. Scotiabank customers can see all the information about a receipt they need without ever having to look at a piece of paper.

Scotiabank customers have been interacting with eReceipts an average of 38 times per month to track both personal and business expenses. So in addition to making their customers’ lives easier, eReceipts is increasing engagement with Scotiabank’s mobile application—and with it the potential to reduce overall customer attrition rates as users continue to rely on it. Receipts can also be categorized as business or personal, and can be annotated, tagged and stored in folders. In fact, around 48 percent of users utilize folders to organize expenses. Hashtags can also be assigned to receipts for ease of search purposes, along with receipt text itself being searchable. And when tax time rolls around, all receipts can be exported in PDF format, along with a matching Excel or CSV file to make preparation easier.

Scotiabank is the first of Canada’s five largest banks to roll out an application like eReceipts that can automatically match paper receipts to the corresponding transaction. Although there are solutions on the market that can capture receipts, eReceipts is the first to extract and contextualize data on such a granular level. Sensibill’s unique deep machine learning, combined with a powerful receipt processing engine, can even associate product names and SKUs with transactions. The result is that otherwise vague transactions become extremely clear when users begin to drill down. Usage of eReceipts has exceeded initial targets by upwards of 300 percent, with positive reviews and shares springing up organically.

In the future, Scotiabank may be able to leverage this additional data to improve customer experience and enhance revenue. Having access to consumer purchase history at the item-level could help Scotiabank better understand, and anticipate, their customers’ needs and preferences. The goal is to better personalize the banking experience, and offer targeted banking products or services based on an analysis of receipt and purchasing history. For example, if Scotiabank notices that a couple is purchasing items like cribs, baby formula and diapers, it might assume there’s a baby on the way and begin marketing a 529 College Savings Plan. In fact, Sensibill is already working to add an “insights” component for partners like Scotiabank, so that customer data generated by eReceipts can be more effectively extracted, organized and analyzed.

The partnership between Scotiabank and Sensibill is noteworthy because it tackles a problem that everyone seems to face in the physical world. With eReceipts, the two companies are taking a huge step towards helping people stay organized, maximize their tax benefits and know exactly how they’re spending their money.

And perhaps most importantly, eReceipts points to a world where we can finally toss that musty old receipt-filled shoebox in the closet.

This is one of 10 case studies that focus on examples of successful innovation between banks and financial technology companies working in partnership. The participants featured in this article were finalists at the 2017 Best of FinXTech Awards.

Three Takeaways from FinTech Week


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New York is always teeming with energy and excitement. Every corner, every street, every person contributes to the hum of the city. There was extra buzz in the air with FinTech Week taking over New York last week with multiple events. I’m now sitting back home in Charlotte, reflecting on my time at the FinXTech Annual Summit and at Empire Startups’ FinTech Conference, and I thought it was important to share some takeaways with you—particularly if you couldn’t make it.

Meeting in Person is Always Valuable
We communicate in so many different ways with our customers, colleagues and friends so it’s easy to think we’re in constant contact, that a rapport is building. Additionally, we send most of our digital communications when we decide—we can pause, think, or not respond at all! We secretly like this control of the conversation. But no matter how many e-mails, phone calls, or text messages you exchange there remains no substitute for meeting someone face to face. Conversations are fluid, you must be in the moment. You can form relationships quickly and you learn a lot more about the person from the minute you say hello. That is incredibly valuable.

What I enjoyed about FinTech Week, and particularly the FinXTech Summit, was the smaller, focused audience. It wasn’t overwhelmed with booths, swag, and marketing; it was hundreds of people, not thousands. I think large conferences and gatherings have their place but when you look back at all the events you attend, how many enable you to meet most of the attendees?

Reader takeaway: Look at the second half of 2017 and search for some more focused events to add to your calendar that enable you to learn and meaningfully connect with the presenters and attendees.

We’re Just Getting Started
Fintech is still figuring out the best path forward, which is a good thing! There is so much activity happening here and around the world (which you shouldn’t ignore). Inevitably, some people are just trying to ride the fintech wave. The crowd at FinTech Week was genuine in its desire to bring fintech innovation to market and to consumers.

There is a common tension in the fintech community and last week was no different. Everyone is excited and understands the potential. Many I met already are working towards the future. The big industry change is always tomorrow, not today. Well, that’s OK. Doing something hard, like changing the financial service industry, takes time.

Most of the 5,000-plus banks in the U.S. are just beginning their journey to digital transformation. Industrywide change doesn’t happen overnight-particularly in financial services. While some may find that frustrating, I find it exciting. It means that every financial institution getting started today has more products, services and industry knowledge from which to leverage and learn. The financial services ecosystem is only going to get better-and that is exciting!

Reader takeaway: If you think you’ve missed the fintech opportunity, you haven’t. We’re all experimenting with how to better serve our customers and there is plenty of room for improvement.

The Need for Action
Do something. Take the first step. Get involved and start implementing new ideas to improve the lives of your customers and employees. The initial stages of learning or doing something new make you feel dumber, not smarter. It makes you realize there is so much you don’t know. This is particularly acute if you’ve been in the industry for a long time. Don’t worry; this phase passes as you continue to familiarize yourself with the technology, new ideas and potential of fintech.

Financial services and banks enable people to invest for the future, buy a house, start a business and get an education. Fintech’s promise is to enable financial services to continue to meet the needs of their customers with a secure, delightful experience that fits in their daily lives-not takes them away from it.

Reader takeaway: Get to it. Next time, you can teach the audience what you’ve learned from fintech.

A week after FinTech Week, I am excited to get back to work helping people discover and engage with fintech. I implore you to go meet some people, find a customer problem to solve, and do something about it.

Advice for Fintech Companies Working with Banks


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For any fintech company that is just beginning to work with banks, the experience can at times be frustrating if ultimately rewarding. Banking and fintech companies are worlds apart in their perspectives. One is highly regulated and brings a risk adverse mentality to many of its decisions (guess which one that is), while the other is populated by entrepreneurial startups that fit the very definition of 21st century capitalism. One often approaches technological innovation with reticence if not outright resistance, while the other is all about technological innovation.

With such a profound difference in their basic nature, it might seem amazing that they are capable of working together, and yet there are many examples (and the numbers are growing) of banks and fintech companies cooperating to their mutual benefit. From the perspective of the fintech company, it helps to understand how most banks approach the issue of working with outside organizations, and their views on technological change in general.

“Fintech companies and banks each come with their own set of perspectives, and if you can empathize with each other, then you can marry those perspectives effectively,” says Sima Gandhi, head of business development at Plaid Technologies, a San Francisco-based fintech company that helps banks share their data with third-party apps through the development of APIs, or application programming interfaces. “Investing time to understand each other takes patience, but the returns are well worth it.”

For fintech companies, that can begin with an understanding of how many banks view technological change. Chicago-based Akouba provides financial institutions with a secure cloud-based platform for the origination of small business loans. Loan underwriting as it is still done today at most banks is a time consuming and paper intensive manual process, and Akouba’s goal is to speed up the application, decisions and administrative process by digitalizing it from beginning to end. And yet, according to Akouba CEO Chris Rentner, some banks push back at the idea of weaning their loan officers off paper. “They’re like, —Hey, you know what? We’ll just take the digital application, and we’re going to print off those forms and type the information into our old systems,’” he says. “I find it interesting that as banks are trying to buy new digital onboarding software, they don’t want the true digital engagement with a borrower.” The lesson here for fintech companies is that some banks will say they want to embrace innovation, but may limit themselves in the degree to which they will change old habits.

It’s also important to understand that the native conservatism that banks typically bring to third-party engagements is partly the result of strict regulatory requirements for vendor management, including data security. In recent years, federal regulators have become much more prescriptive in terms of how banks are expected to manage those relationships. Because in many cases, the bank would be giving the fintech company some access to its customer data, thereby creating a potential cybersecurity risk, it will most likely want to fully investigate a potential partner’s own cybersecurity program. This could very well include an onsite visit and extensive interviews with the fintech company’s information security personnel.

The federal requirements for vendor management that banks must adhere to are publicly available, so fintech companies should know them. “Don’t go into a bank trying to sell a product before you’ve gone through and collected your vendor management information, and reviewed and understood the standard that banks are being held to,” says Rentner.

The final piece of advice for fintech companies is to practice patience without sacrificing your company’s core principals. Gandhi says that successful collaboration rests on “the art of the possible.” “It’s important to remember that every problem is solvable,” she adds. “When the conversations get tough and you’re running low on patience, keep in mind that you’re both there because there’s a common goal. And you can best achieve that goal together.”

But if patience and an honest search for common ground ultimately doesn’t lead to a solution, Rentner says that fintech companies should resist making material changes to their products if they don’t believe that’s the right thing to do. Banks are slowly beginning to change as a growing number of them see the need for technological innovation, even if the pace of change is still slower than what the fintech industry wants. “Hold to your guns,” Rentner says. “Move forward, continue to sell your product. If you have enough time with a good product, you will get customers.”

How Can Your Bank Tap Into the Internet of Things?


internet-of-things-3-28-17.pngThe Internet of Things (IoT) has officially moved beyond hype. IoT is now well known and defined—basically putting data-gathering sensors on machines, products and people, and making the data available on the Internet—and companies are already using IoT to drive improvements in operational performance, customer experience and product pricing. Gartner predicts we’ll see 25 billion IoT data-gathering endpoints installed worldwide by 2020.

While IoT is delivering on its promise in a wide range of industries, many bankers are still struggling to find the value in finance, an industry largely built on intangibles. We see two primary IoT opportunities for banks:

  • Direct use of sensor data (location, activities, habits) to better engage customers and assess creditworthiness.
  • Partnering with companies that manufacture or integrate sensors into products to provide payment services for device-initiated transactions.

Engaging customers and assessing creditworthiness
Like most businesses, your bank can simply use IoT to understand—and serve—customers better. Banks are already implementing smart phone beacon technology that identifies customers as they walk in the door. Customers who opt in can be greeted by name, served more quickly and generally treated with more personalized care. You can also take advantage of sensor data outside of the bank to market more relevant services to customers. For example, data from sensors could […]

This content was originally written for FinXTech.com. For the complete article, please click here.

Not All Innovations Are Disruptive, But This One Could Be


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I was listening to a financier talking about fintech companies the other day, and he claimed that their work products are all sustaining innovations and not disruptive. He was referring to Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and an expert on disruption. In his research and writings, Christensen has pointed to various markets that were disrupted by outsiders, including the American car industry, disrupted by cheaper Japanese car manufacturing; fixed line telephone firms, disrupted by cell phone makers; and the mainframe computer industry, disrupted by PC manufacturers.

Rubbish.

There is a flaw in Christensen’s work, which is that incumbents often fail to respond when challenged by outsiders, which makes their situation worse. That was true of Kodak and Nokia, where the change was fast and the management teams were weak. American car firms—Ford, General Motors and Chrysler—have not disappeared because of competition from Toyota and Honda; instead, they responded proactively and survived. AT&T, with $168 billion revenues in 2016, is hardly dead either. And IBM, with $80 billion revenues, is still going pretty strong.

Equally, Christensen points to industries that produce commodity products such as phones, cars and computers, where there may be giants, but the giants are not protected by layers of law and regulations like banks are. That is why banking has not been disrupted to date, and is unlikely to be in the future.

Christensen does make an important point, although it’s not as radical as those who refer to his work believe. If a weak competitor enters the bottom-end of the market, he argues, they may have the opportunity to disrupt the market if the incumbent does not respond. That is true, and that was the case with Kodak and Nokia. Ford, AT&T and IBM did respond and survived the change.

That is the case with any change however. As Charles Darwin noted: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

How true.

We really need to understand the difference between sustainable innovation and disruptive innovation in order to see if there is any disruptive change in banking. According to Matt West:

Sustaining innovation comes from listening to the needs of customers in the existing market and creating products that satisfy their predicted needs for the future. Disruptive innovation creates new markets separate to the mainstream; markets that are unknowable at the time of the technologies conception.

Sustaining innovation improves what is there today; disruptive innovation replaces what is there today. Hmmm. I blogged about this over on The Next Web, stating that there are three streams of fintech innovations:

  • Those that serve markets that banks don’t serve
  • Those that improve the customer journey by removing friction
  • Those that work with banks to eradicate inefficiencies, for example, in customer onboarding

Obviously, the latter two categories are sustaining innovations, as they improve what is there today. The first category is interesting though, as it is creating and serving new markets. In my blog, I pointed to SME financing and crowdfunding, but that’s not a true example of disruption. That is an extension of what’s occurring today.

However, I do see one example of disruptive innovation out there. I think about this one often. It is clearly disruptive, but is it noticed by the incumbents? Have they responded?

Not yet.

What is it?

I’m tempted not to say, but that would be rude. It’s financial inclusion.

There’s loads of discussions about financial inclusion and the use of mobile wallets in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide cheap and simple money transfers between people without bank accounts. This is serving the bottom end of the market, and Christensen defines disruptive innovation as: “A process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”

Oooh. We have one. Are the banks noticing?

How Can Your Bank Tap Into the Internet of Things?


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The Internet of Things (IoT) has officially moved beyond hype. IoT is now well known and defined—basically putting data-gathering sensors on machines, products and people, and making the data available on the Internet—and companies are already using IoT to drive improvements in operational performance, customer experience and product pricing. Gartner predicts we’ll see 25 billion IoT data-gathering endpoints installed worldwide by 2020.

While IoT is delivering on its promise in a wide range of industries, many bankers are still struggling to find the value in finance, an industry largely built on intangibles. We see two primary IoT opportunities for banks:

  • Direct use of sensor data (location, activities, habits) to better engage customers and assess creditworthiness.
  • Partnering with companies that manufacture or integrate sensors into products to provide payment services for device-initiated transactions.

Engaging customers and assessing creditworthiness
Like most businesses, your bank can simply use IoT to understand—and serve—customers better. Banks are already implementing smart phone beacon technology that identifies customers as they walk in the door. Customers who opt in can be greeted by name, served more quickly and generally treated with more personalized care. You can also take advantage of sensor data outside of the bank to market more relevant services to customers. For example, data from sensors could alert your bank when a customer’s car goes into a repair shop; after the third service call, you might offer the customer an auto loan for a new car. This type of tailored service and marketing can change a customer’s relationship with your bank dramatically: Pleasant experiences and valued information are a time-tested path to loyalty.

IoT sensor data can also supplement traditional methods for predicting creditworthiness and protecting against fraud, especially for customers with little or no credit history. For example, if a small business HVAC contractor applies for a commercial loan, you can request access to data from shipping and manufacturing control sensors to track the flow of actual product into buildings. This can help the bank confirm how the business is doing. For product manufacturers, you can track and monitor goods, including return rates, and if the return rate is high the bank can adjust the loan pricing and decisions accordingly. Leveraging alerts on credit cards and processed payments can provide information about where and how often an individual or business is making purchases, providing clues about creditworthiness without requiring access to detailed credit card records. In short, with billions of sensors all over the world, IoT will offer you more data that can help you assess creditworthiness and prevent fraud.

Providing payment services for device-initiated transactions
To illustrate the potential of IoT, proponents often cite the “smart” refrigerator, which senses when a household is low on milk and automatically orders more. Similarly, in the commercial space, sensors can automatically trigger a call for maintenance when a piece of equipment is due for service. In these device-initiated transactions, your bank could partner with the providers to offer payment services as an integrated component of the IoT package.

On a more local level, as small businesses begin to take advantage of IoT sensors to automatically reorder supplies—paper, toner, medical supplies, salon products—your bank can tie payments into the IoT-triggered reordering system. In addition to broadening your market for payments, being part of this solution can strengthen attachment to your bank among small businesses in your community.

Start with the end in mind
This is undeniably an exciting time in banking. Between fintech offerings and IoT applications, it’s tempting to move quickly for advantage, but we all know that investments are far more likely to pay off when you treat the process with rigor and resist the urge to grab bright shiny objects. IoT is no different: Before you start buying systems and aggregating data, know what problems you’re trying to solve and what data you’ll need for the outcomes you want to achieve. In banking, the most promising returns on IoT investment are likely to be found in improved customer experiences and marketing effectiveness, reduction in loan default and fraud, and growth in your payments business. But with all the dramatic changes unfolding, who knows what innovations might be ahead—your bank might find opportunities for IoT no one else predicted.

 

Contributed by: John Matley, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP;Akash Tayal, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP;William Mullaney, Managing Director, Consulting LLP

The Year of the FinTech Rooster


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One of my key forecasts for 2017 is that the fintech buzz will continue, but not in the United States. We need to look to China instead. This is fairly obvious as that country saw the biggest rise in fintech investments in 2016, while investments in the U.S. cooled off. This is pretty well summed up in Citigroup’s Digital Disruption report. The second edition just appeared, and opens with:

The rise of the Chinese dragons reflects a unique combination over the past decade of incredibly rapid digitization and the simultaneous rise of the Chinese mass middle class, along with poorly prepared incumbent financial institutions facing off against entrepreneurial e-commerce and social media ecosystems. It is no surprise to us that China accounted for over 50 percent of total fintech investments globally in the first nine months of 2016 and was the only major region where fintech investments increased in 2016–in fact doubling in China in the first nine months of 2016 versus the same period in 2015.

Most notably, China saw one of its fintech giants emerge on the world stage as Alibaba—the country’s largest online e-commerce company—went global. Payments powerhouse Ant Financial (once a subsidiary if Alibaba just as PayPal was once a unit of Ebay) announced that it seeks European and American clients using its AliPay service. And Alibaba founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma has risen to the same heady heights as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, or even higher if this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland is anything to go by. Ant is already growing at a phenomenal rate, having gained about 100 million new users in 2016, which took its total above 500 million—or nearly 10 times larger than the world’s biggest banks. Its ambitions don’t stop there. In an interview with CNBC at Davos, Ant Financial CEO Eric Jing said that “we have an ambition to be a global company. My vision (is) that we want to serve 2 billion people in the next 10 years by using technology, by working together with partners _ to serve those underserved.”

The company has never been understated in its ambitions—but to its credit has realized most of them. This is because Chinese internet giants like Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba started in a very different place compared to American internet giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. The American companies formed to replace old institutions like bookshops. They had a strong, integrated financial system in place, and a well ordered commercial structure. When the Chinese firms began, there was nothing in place to replace. Sure, there were big banks, but these were state owned and had little focus upon customer service or innovation. That has all changed in the last 20 years.

Maybe that’s why, when the chairman of one of the world’s biggest banks was asked recently how technology would change finance, he pointed to the rise of Ant Financial. The veteran chairman—who was not willing to be quoted by name—noted that the Chinese group had acquired a “huge amount of data” and “a great ability to make credit decisions.” The tone of jealousy was hard to miss.

This is because the Chinese internet giants began with a clean sheet of paper and have expanded across China and now the world with their innovative designs. That design began with commerce and communication—Alibaba started as a platform for mum and pop stores to sell their wares—and has expanded into a social and financial ecosystem that can serve all needs through a mobile app. Alibaba and Tencent run not just an internet service, but a payments platform, a social network and more. It is all embracing and fully networked, far more than anything seen outside China.

Between the data analytics that can be applied in that ecosystem, deep learning and contextual commerce capabilities, it’s no wonder the banks are jealous. They should also be concerned, as the Chinese payment model is bound to expand globally and then be copied by the likes of Facebook and Amazon. Happy Chinese New Year!

Fintech Intelligence Report: Marketplace Lending


	intelligence-report-cover.PNGAs noted throughout our 2017 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, partnerships between a bank and a tech company can take on many forms — largely based on an institution’s available capital, risk appetite and lending goals. With fintech solutions gaining momentum, many advisors at this year’s event encouraged banks to look at viable alternatives to meet consumer demands, maintain and expand their lending revenue and give formidable competition to those looking to take that market share.

Fintech lending has grown from $12 billion in 2014 to $23.2 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $36.7 billion in 2016, a year-over-year growth of 93 percent and 58 percent in 2015 and 2016. This market, according to Morgan Stanley Research, is expected to grow further and reach $122 billion by 2020.

With this in mind, we invite you to take a look at our new Fintech Intelligence Report on Marketplace Lending. The research paper, developed by FinXTech, a division of Bank Director, and MEDICI, a subscription-based offering from LetsTalkPayments.com, explores current market dynamics along with technology and partnership models. As noted in this report, the gains of new fintech companies were widely thought to be at the expense of banks; however, many banks recognize the potential value from collaboration and have built relationships with fintechs.

Tell us what you think! As we work to provide you the latest information and research as it pertains to the financial services industry, we would appreciate your feedback on the Fintech Intelligence Report. Please email us your comments and/or suggestions at news@finxtech.com.

Reflections on Fintech at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference


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I spent the first part of last week in Phoenix at the Bank Director Acquire or Be Acquired (AOBA) conference and as always I came away feeling like I knew more about industry conditions and expectations than I did when I got on the plane. If you are a bank executive, you should probably be there every year and may want to consider taking your team on a rotating basis every year. If you serve the industry in some way, you must be there as well. If you are, like me, a serious bank stock investor, you need to be there at least once every few years to stay on top of how bankers feel about their industry and how they plan to grow their banks.

The mood this year was much more upbeat than last year. All the concerns about low interest rates, regulatory costs and other potential headwinds have been blown away by a blast of post-election enthusiasm. Bankers were almost giddy in anticipation of higher rates, a stronger economy and possible regulatory relief. Everyone I talked with during my three-day stay was upbeat and enthusiastic about the future of banking.

There has also been a tremendous change in bankers’ view of fintech of late. Fintech companies have often been viewed as the enemy of smaller banks, and I have talked with many community bankers who are legitimately concerned about their ability to keep up with the new high-tech world. One older gentleman told me at Bank Director’s Growing the Bank conference last May in Dallas that if this was where the industry was going, he would just retire as there was no way he could compete with the upstart fintech companies.

Over the course of the last year, however, a different reality has begun to set in. Fintech companies have discovered that the regulators and bankers were not ready to concede their traditional turf and consumers still like to conduct business within the highly regulated, insured-deposit world of traditional banking. Banks have begun to realize that instead of relying on their traditional practices, much of what fintech companies are doing could make them more efficient and enable them to offer services that attract new customers and make those relationships stickier.

It has become apparent to many of the bankers I chatted with that fintech is not a revolution but an extension of changes that has been going on for years. Drive through bank branches and ATMs were also thought to be revolutionary developments when they were introduced, and today they are considered standard must-have items for any bank branch. Mobile banking is just another step along the evolutionary scale. More customers today interact with their mobile devices than through traditional means like branch visits, phone calls and ATM transactions. That’s not going to change, and bankers are adjusting.

Chris Nichols of CenterState Bank spoke in a breakout session about using fintech to improve the bottom line. He pointed out that if you used the traditional banking approach based on in-branch transactions it cost about $390 per customer per year to service your clients. Using the same cash required to build a branch and spending it to improve the bank’s mobile offering could bring the annual cost per customer down to just $20 a year. Processing a customer deposit costs the average bank about $2 if done in a branch and just $0.20 if done via a mobile phone. Nichols also suggested that acquiring a C&I loan customer could be as high as $14,200 when done via traditional banking methods, but the expense drops to just $3,060 if the transaction is done on a mobile platform.

The proper use of fintech, according to Nichols’ presentation, should also allow banks to lower their efficiency ratio and increase their returns on assets and equity. That is the kind of news that gets bank CEOs and boards excited about expanding the use of technology even if they still carry flip phones and use AOL for home internet.

While you can expect to see partnerships between bankers and fintech companies expanding in the future, bankers will use the technology that reduces costs or creates more revenue streams. They will offer the mobile payment and deposit services customers demand today. The litmus test for technology is, “Does it make or save me money or dramatically improve my customer relationship?” If the answer to these questions is no, then banks will pass on even the most exciting and innovative fintech ideas. They are bankers, after all, not tech gurus.

Community Banks to Fintech: We Need You


fintech-2-1-17.pngWhen Terry Earley, the chief financial officer of Yadkin Bank, a $7.5 billion asset bank in Raleigh, North Carolina, gets to work each morning, he sees an online dashboard showing him all the details of the loans in his bank’s pipeline, what is closing and when, and more. “If you don’t know the information, you can’t manage your company,’’ he says.

Upgrading from cumbersome Excel spreadsheets, he can easily see which lenders are pricing loans lower than others, and quickly react in terms of lender training and managing the bank’s loan portfolio. “A lot of times we try to manage [by] anecdote,’’ he says. “But what does the data tell you? The information is key.”

Like a lot of other community banks, Yadkin is increasingly using partnerships with technology companies to improve its operations and better meet customer needs. At Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, which wrapped up yesterday, Earley and other bankers talked about M&A and growth strategies, as well as how they were using technology to improve profitability and efficiency. In Yadkin’s case, the bank signed up with PrecisionLender, a pricing and profitability management platform, when it became a $1 billion bank several years ago. Then, it partnered with technology company nCino, which operates a secure cloud-based operating system, when it became a $4.5 billion bank, to get access to a quicker commercial lending origination platform. [For more on how banks are using the cloud, see Bank Director digital magazine’s Tech Issue story, “Banks Sail Straight Into the Cloud.”]

Even investors are getting excited about the plethora of off-the-shelf software available to help smaller banks become more competitive with larger institutions. Joshua Siegel, CEO of asset manager StoneCastle Partners, said he thinks banks have a lot of room to improve efficiencies with technology and take out back office costs, as well as offer better customer service. The software to do this is becoming increasingly available and affordable to do so. Siegel was happy to see banks as small as $150 million in assets offering online personal financial management tools superior to what regional banks are offering, because the regional banks are sometimes held up trying to develop their own software in-house.

While some financial technology companies are directly competing with banks for small business loans or payments, such as payments provider PayPal or online lender Kabbage, other financial technology companies want to sell their technology to banks.

Instead of only seeing the potential threats, there are reasons for the industry to see financial technology as a tool that can help them compete with bigger banks, which control most of the nation’s deposits. Small banks can use software to speed up their lending operations and the time it takes to open an account, and make the entire experience of doing business with a bank easier and simpler.

Somerset Trust Co. in Somerset, Pennsylvania, is using a fintech company called Bolts Technologies to quickly validate identities and open accounts for new customers. Radius Bank, a $1 billion asset bank in Boston, Massachusetts, is using a variety of partnerships with fintech companies to support its branchless bank, including a robo-advisor software company called Aspiration.

“From a cultural perspective, we look at whether they share our values,’’ said Radius Bank CEO Mike Butler. “It needs to be true partnership. If we’re just in it to try to make money off each other, then it’s not worth it. But if there is a benefit in terms of both of us wanting to create a better customer experience, then you have a great partnership.”