Three Strategic Issues Shaping Financial Services

By Al Dominick, CEO of DirectorCorps (parent co. to Bank Director & FinXTech) | @aldominick

Quickly:

  • Banks need to think beyond the notion that they can either build a technology solution or buy it — for inspiration, take a look at how Silicon Valley Bank uses APIs to tap into technology from third party providers.
  • Thanks to products like Amazon’s Alexa, financial institutions must now prepare for “hands-free banking.”
  • Various startups are using behavioral economics to nudge people towards making better financial choices for saving & investing.

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If you have been to any of our conferences, you’ve probably heard me (and others) encourage participants to get up & out from their offices to see what’s happening with their customers, potential partners and competition.  I do my best to practice what is preached — and have recent trips to San Francisco, New York City and Austin to prove it.  As I re-read hand written notes, dog-eared white papers and highlighted sections of annual reports, I realize just how much time I’ve spent talking about technology-driven trends shaping the financial industry.  To me, three of the bigger issues being discussed right now involve:

  1. The push for retail customers, which may already be spurring dealmaking.
  2. How customers experience and interact with their bank — which broadly ties into the question should an institution buy, partner or mimic a fintech; and
  3. Given all the hype surrounding machine learning and advanced decision modeling, leadership teams want to know how to augment a bank’s revenues & relationships with such technologies.

To these three trends, both our editor-in-chief, Jack Milligan, and I agree that most bankers understand the imperative to innovate around key aspects of their business, whether it’s payments, mobile in all its many permutations, lending, new account onboarding or data.

Personally, when it comes to knowing one’s customer (and potential customer), I find any good experience starts with great data.  As Carl Ryden, the CEO and Co-Founder at PrecisionLender, made clear at their recent Bank of Purpose conference, “if you hold your data close to the vest and you don’t do anything with it, it’s not an asset. It’s a liability.”

So with that in mind, let me close by sharing a link to our newest issue of Bank Director magazine.  This is our “Great Ideas” issue, one in which we highlight companies like USAA who crowdsource upwards of 10,000 ideas per year for products and new technology.  At a time when banks of all sizes are starting to take advantage of platform-based services, this new digital issue is one that I am really proud to share.

 

We Are On To FinTech Week

#AOBA17 conference intel (Friday)
By Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director | @aldominick

Quickly

  • The “bank of the future” is not about technology, it is all about customers.
  • For many financial institutions, the time may be right to retire legacy systems for cloud-based platforms.
  • Numerous financial technology companies are developing new strategies, practices and products that will dramatically influence the future of banking..

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The intersection of technological innovation with strong depository franchises may lead to more efficient banking processes, reductions in fraud and a win/win/win for banks, financial technology firms (fintechs) and consumers.  Globally, nearly $23 billion of venture capital and growth equity has been deployed to fintechs over the past five years, and this number is growing quickly. Still, the nature and extent of impact that fintechs have on the industry remains unclear.

Throughout this week’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference, bank CEOs talked about the continually changing nature of financial services — with fintech often front and center.  For many, collaboration between traditional institutions and emerging technology firms bodes well for their future.  Here, Bank Director’s FinXTech provides authoritative, relevant and trusted content to a hugely influential audience, specifically:

  • Fintechs who view banks as potentially valuable channels or distribution partners;
  • Banks looking to grow and/or innovate with fintech companies’ help and support; and
  • Institutional investors, venture capitalists, state & federal regulators, government officials and academicians helping to shape the future of banking.

We designed FinXTech as a peer-to-peer resource that connects this hugely influential audience around shared areas of interest and innovation.  As a host of FinTech Week in New York City this April 24 – 28 (along with Empire Startups), we bring together senior executives from banks, technology companies and investment firms from across the U.S. to shine a light on what is really generating top line growth and bottom line profits through partnerships, collaboration and investments.

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Given the changing nature of banking today, this week-long event in New York City looks at the various issues impacting banks, non-banks and technology companies alike.  So as we move towards FinTech Week in New York City, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, FinXTech’s President, Kelsey Weaver @KelseyWeaverFXT@BankDirector and our @Fin_X_Tech platform and/or check out the FinTech Week New York website for more.

3 Things to Know from Day 1 at Acquire or Be Acquired

#AOBA17 conference intel (Sunday/Monday)
By Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director | @aldominick

Quickly

  • New competitors and innovations are continually changing the business of financial services.
  • The continued shift towards technology, data, algorithms and smart analytics impacts how value and profit are created.
  • In the last 10 years, this is the best time for banks to access the capital markets.

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The possibility of less regulation and a change in corporate tax policy have quite a few attendees feeling bullish on the immediate future of community banking.  Below, I share why I am so optimistic about the state of banking in 2017.

For those interested in following the conference conversations via social channels, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector and its @Fin_X_Tech platform, and search & follow #AOBA17 to see what is being shared with (and by) our attendees.  To see what I’ve already shared from this year’s conference, check out my Saturday outlook and yesterday’s mid-day recap.

Departing Administration Leaves Gift of Fintech Principles

Quickly:

  • The White House’s National Economic Council left a “Framework for Fintech” for the incoming administration; I’ve been part of several conversations at the White House that helped shape this perspective.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It may strike some as odd that President Barack Obama’s White House’s National Economic Council just published a “Framework for FinTech” paper on administration policy just before departing, but having been a part of several conversations that helped to shape this policy perspective, I see it from a much different angle.

Given that traditional financial institutions are increasingly investing resources in innovation along with the challenges facing many regulatory bodies to keep pace with the fast-moving FinTech sector, I see this as a pragmatic attempt to provide the incoming administration with ideas upon which to build while making note of current issues. Indeed, we all must appreciate that technology isn’t just changing the financial services industry, it’s changing the way consumers and business owners relate to their finance–and the way institutions function in our financial system.

The Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Adrienne Harris and Alex Zerden, a presidential management fellow, wrote a blog that describes the outline of the paper.  I agree with their assertion that FinTech has tremendous potential to revolutionize access to financial services, improve the functioning of the financial system, and promote economic growth. Accordingly, as the fabric of the financial industry continues to evolve, three points from this white paper strike me as especially important:

  • In order for the U.S. financial system to remain competitive in the global economy, the United States must continue to prioritize consumer protection, safety and soundness, while also continuing to lead in innovation. Such leadership requires fostering innovation in financial services, whether from incumbent institutions or FinTech start-ups, while also protecting consumers and being mindful of other potential risks.
  • FinTech companies, financial institutions, and government authorities should consistently engage with one another… [indeed] close collaboration potentially could accelerate innovation and commercialization by surfacing issues sooner or highlighting problems awaiting technological solutions. Such engagement has the potential to add value for consumers, industry and the broader economy.
  • As the financial sector changes, policymakers and regulators must seek to understand the different benefits of and risks posed by FinTech innovations. While new and untested innovations may increase efficiency and have economic benefits, they potentially could pose risks to the existing financial infrastructure and be detrimental to financial stability if their risks are not understood and proactively managed.

A product of ongoing public-private cooperation, I see this just-released whitepaper as a potential roadmap for future collaboration. In fact, as the FinTech ecosystem continues to evolve, this statement of principles could serve as a resource to guide the development of smart, pragmatic and innovative cross-sector engagement much like then-outgoing president Bill Clinton’s “Framework for Global Electronic Commerce” did for internet technology companies some 16 years ago.

Bank Director’s new Tech Issue

Earlier this week, we published the December issue of Bank Director Magazine, our annual Tech Issue.  Stories range from the changing nature of mobile banking to institutions moving into the cloud to a venture capitalist’s perspective on the future of banking.  I invite you to take a look.

Since starting this blog in 2012, I’ve shared my optimism that the intersection of technological innovation with strong depository franchises may lead to more efficient banking processes, reductions in fraud and a win/win/win for banks, FinTechs and consumers.  So as I read through this current digital issue, a few key takeaways:

  • When San Francisco-based Bank of the West, an $80.7 billion asset subsidiary of BNP Paribas Group, analyzed last year the bottom line impact of customers who are engaged in online banking and mobile banking, it found some surprising results. Digital customers, or those who were active online or on their mobile phones during the previous 90 days, had lower attrition rates than nondigital customers, and they contributed higher levels of revenue and products sold, said Jamie Armistead, head of digital channels at Bank of the West.
  • Automating the small-business lending process requires some deep thinking from boards and management about how much faith they’re willing to place in technology, and their ability to embrace the cultural change implicit in basing lending decisions more on data than judgment. “The marketplace is demanding quicker decisions through technology,” says Pierre Naude, CEO of nCino, a maker of bank operating systems. Bank customers, he says, are clamoring for special products and specialized coding that enable greater automation of the small-business lending process. “Bankers are waking up to the fact that speed and convenience will trump price. You can lose a customer to an alternative lender if you don’t have it.”
  • As our Editor, Naomi Snyder, shares in her welcoming letter, banks tend to have the usual board committees (think audit, compensation and risk).  But we know that few have a board-level technology committee.  So I wonder if 2017 is the year that more institutions decide to create such a group to become better informed and better prepared as the digitization of the banking industry continues?

Concomitant to this issue’s release, Chris Skinner shared his perspectives on the state of FinTech our FinXTech platform.  In his words, “it is apparent that the fintech industry has become mainstream just as fintech investing cools. What I mean by this is that fintech has matured in the last five years, going from something that was embryonic and disruptive to something that is now mainstream and real. You only have to look at firms like Venmo and Stripe to see the change. Or you only have to consider the fact that regulators are now fully awake to the change and have deployed sandboxes and innovation programs. Or that banks are actively discussing their fintech innovation and investment programs… Fintech and innovation is here to stay.”

Clearly, the pace of change in the banking space continues to accelerate.  Accordingly, I encourage you to check out what we’re doing with both Bank Director and FinXTech to help companies who view banks as potentially valuable channels or distribution partners, banks looking to grow and/or innovate with tech companies’ help and support; and institutional investors, venture capitalists, state & federal regulators, government officials and academicians helping to shape the future of banking.

5 Cybersecurity Companies Bank Execs & Board Members Need to Know

When it comes to cybersecurity, the best defense might just be a great offense.  Whereas cybersecurity once focused on how banks could avoid losing money, my team and I are working on a program for 2017 to help officers and directors address potential scenarios (and develop realistic response plans) should a hack, breech or attack occur.  Indeed, protecting the bank against a cyber attack is a core responsibility of every member of a bank’s board and executive team.

In recent posts, I’ve highlighted various fintechs that I find compelling given their relationships with financial institutions.  In terms of cybersecurity, I’ve had the chance to learn more about companies like DefenseStorm (given their support of companies like nCino and LiveOak Bank) that I greatly respect.  Below are five more companies that I think bank leadership teams need to know:

Cognizant

A global cybersecurity solution and service provider, Cognizant supports multiple industry verticals and information security service lines.  I encourage you to take a look at their thoughts on what traditional banks can do to rebuild trust in the digital era.

Centrify

California-based Centrify offers identity & access management solutions to help secure enterprise identities against cyberthreats that target today’s IT environment of cloud computing.  Banking customers include such recognizable names as BB&T, SunTrust, Citi and RBS.

Lookout

Lookout has taken a mobile-first approach to security.  Indeed, one of the world’s largest investment management firms chose Lookout to provide threat and data leakage protection to over 10,000 managed iOS and Android devices.

Feedzai

Founded by data scientists and aerospace engineers, Feedzai’s mission is to “make commerce safe for business customers and create a better experience for their consumers through artificially intelligent machine learning.”

Brighterion

Since the founding of Brighterion, its core technology has been adapted and improved for real-time applications in the fields of payment, healthcare, marketing and homeland security.  For instance, its analysis of payments provides “unprecedented behavioral insights,” from the spending behavior of customers to the constantly evolving techniques of fraudsters.

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As a complement to these five businesses, let me wrap up by sharing a recent FinXTech article:Emerging Technologies Combat Cybercrime.  As you will read, banks are doing everything they can to reassure customers that their digital information is safe and secure.

Whether They Want To or Not, Banks Need to Open Up

Apart from interest rates, the two biggest issues that bank executives seem to wrestle with are regulatory and compliance costs.  I sense another emerging challenge coming to shore; specifically, how to “open up” one’s business structure in terms of developing partnerships and permitting others to leverage their customer data and/or capabilities.

For bankers, this challenge comes with significant reputation and customer risk.

Now, it is hard to truly disrupt the concept of banking — and I shared this opinion from the stage at Bank Director’s annual Bank Executive & Board Compensation Conference this morning.  However, I did adjust some of my welcoming remarks based on the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s position that consumers can control their own financial data, including to let third parties help them manage their finances.  As I learned from Jo Ann Barefoot’s Fireside Chat with CFPB Director Richard Cordray at Money 2020, the CFPB “is not content to sit passively by as mere spectators watching these technologies develop.”  According to his prepared remarks:

Many exciting products we see… depend on consumers permitting companies to access their financial data from financial providers with whom the consumer does business. We recognize that such access can raise various issues, but we are gravely concerned by reports that some financial institutions are looking for ways to limit, or even shut off, access to financial data rather than exploring ways to make sure that such access, once granted, is safe and secure.

Since reading the CFPB’s position, Ms. Barefoot’s recap and the Wall Street Journal’s synopsis, I decided to talk with various bank executives and board members that are here with us at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island about this stance.  As I note in this video, I sense both an ongoing struggle — and a sincere interest — to truly understand the role of technology.  For those I talked with, this is as much about “becoming sticky” to their customers as it is about embracing or defending themselves against “the new.”

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For more about this year’s conference, I invite you to take a look at BankDirector.com.  Also, a virtual high-five to the team here for a great first day.  You all rock!

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Can Banks Keep Up?

As the financial industry adapts to various digitization trends, my team continues to field inquiries from bank CEOs and their executive teams specific to emerging technology strategies and opportunities.  One way we attempt to benchmark current interests (and concerns): an annual research project.  This year, we evaluated industry attitudes toward core providers and fintech firms, including marketplace lenders like Lending Club, in our just-released Bank Director Technology Survey.  While a number of findings jumped out at me, three really caught my eye:

  • Eighty-one percent of bank chief information officers and chief technology officers responding say that their core processor is slow to respond to innovations in the marketplace, making it even more difficult for the banking industry to keep up with shifting consumer expectations regarding technology.
  • Thirty percent of bank CIOs and CTOs report that their bank has pulled back on plans to integrate a more innovative product, service or delivery channel due to the inability or unwillingness of the bank’s core processor to support that activity.
  • Banks are highly reliant on core providers for services beyond core processing, which at its most basic contains vital customer data and processes all customer transactions. Ninety-six percent of respondents say their bank uses their core provider for additional services, including mobile banking (71 percent) and bill pay (75 percent).

Our 2016 Technology Survey, sponsored by the technology solutions provider CDW, reflects the opinions of 199 board members and senior executives of U.S. banks surveyed in June and July.  The size of institutions polled fell between $250 million and $20 billion in assets.  In addition to the points shared above, we found:

  • Thirty-one percent of respondents have converted their bank’s core technology within the past five years. Forty-two percent converted their core more than 10 years ago.  Respondents report that their bank works with a median of five technology firms, including the core provider.
  • Sixty-one percent of participants see fintech firms as both competitors and partners.
    Online marketplace lenders should be more heavily regulated, say 60 percent of respondents. Forty-one percent worry that they’ll lose loans to these lenders, but 18 percent don’t think these lenders have long-term viability.
  • Opinions are mixed on the impact that blockchain—the underlying technology behind the digital currency bitcoin—will have on the banking industry. Twenty-four percent believe it will impact all banks. However, 57 percent don’t understand blockchain enough to form an opinion, or have never heard of the technology.

Finally, cybersecurity continues to loom large.  Having a strong technology infrastructure in place to protect against cyberattacks remains the top technology concern for survey participants, at 72 percent.  Seventy percent indicate that their bank could better use data to serve the needs of existing customers, or identify new customers.  Seventy percent of respondents believe that technological innovation is a priority for their board, but less than half discuss technology at every board meeting.  Thirty-four percent of respondents describe themselves as early adopters of technology.

The full survey results are available online at BankDirector.com, and will be featured in the 4th quarter 2016 issue of Bank Director magazine.

Creating Better Banking Experiences

Earlier this week, we published our quarterly print issue of Bank Director magazine.  If you haven’t seen it, our talented editor, Naomi Snyder, shines a light on the “tech bets” being made by Fifth Third, a $142 billion asset institution.  Having worked for an IT firm, I appreciate the three questions their President & CEO, Greg Carmichael, asks his team to consider before investing in new technologies:

  1. Does it improve the bank’s ability to serve customers?
  2. Does it drive efficiency?
  3. Does it create a better experience for customers?

As he shares, “not every problem needs to be solved with technology… But when technology is a solution, what technology do you select? Is it cost efficient? How do you get it in as quickly as possible?  You have to maintain it going forward, and hold management accountable for the business outcomes that result if the technology is deployed correctly.”

“The challenges are how to grow the franchise and reposition the franchise to serve our customers in the way they want to be served, which is more of a digital infrastructure.”

-Greg Carmichael, President & CEO, Fifth Third Bank

While Fifth Third plans to invest some $60M this year in technology, Naomi notes that the bank doesn’t have an R&D lab with a staff separated from the rest of the bank and dedicated to inventing things (like its competitor U.S. Bancorp).  Nor does Fifth Third have the reputation of being highly innovative, like a BBVA.  Nonetheless, the regional bank, headquartered in Cincinnati, has a laser focus on developing practical solutions to everyday problems.

So to build on this issue’s cover story — and the efforts we’re making with our FinXTech platform — let me offer my take on who I consider standouts in the payments, lending and retail space today.  Those addressing “everyday problems” may find inspiration from the work being done and/or want to explore partnership opportunities.

Payments + Transfer

When one thinks about payments — and the movement of  value via cash, credit card, check and other transactions — some big names come to mind: Apple Pay, Chase Pay, Square, Paypal, etc.  But don’t sleep on these companies:

Lending

In the lending sector, a lot of people continue to talk about LendingClub’s travails, scoff at SoFi’s change of heart from anti-bank to pro-partnerships and follow Prosper’s efforts to shore up its business.  Within the lending space, these companies also deserve time and attention:

  • Affirm, a digital lender that provides installment financing;
  • Orchard, a technology and infrastructure provider for marketplace lending;
  • Lendio for small business loans;
  • Even, a new kind of financial app that turns variable pay into a steady, reliable income; and
  • Earnest,  a technology-enabled lender that enables one to consolidate and refinance  student loans.

Retail banking

Considering the core functions of retail banking remain the establishment of deposits and making of loans, those pushing the envelope in a way consumers desire include:

  • Ally Bank, known for its “No Branches = Great Rates” tag line;
  • Atom Bank, one of the first Challenger Banks in the UK;
  • Tandem, a new digital bank in the UK;
  • Moven, a pioneer in smart phone banking; and
  • Simple, part of the BBVA family that is reinventing online banking.

While these banks are pushing forward, many legacy institutions will be challenged to meet the expectations of their customers.  They will need to assess the additional risks, costs and supervisory concerns associated with providing new financial services and products.  Accordingly, I’m not alone in believing that financial institutions need to invest in services “for life’s needs” through collaboration and partnerships with companies like those shared in today’s post.

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I realize there are a number of companies “doing it right” in these three sectors – and this simply highlights some of the players that standout to me.  Feel free to comment below on others that I might highlight in future posts.

Without A Destination, What Good Is A Map?

Highlight: as executives grapple with a fast-changing operating environment that requires partnerships and collaboration, many wrestle with where they want to be vs. where they need to be.

In this video, I share my thoughts on growing through partnerships (between traditional banks and financial technology firms), becoming “data richer” and enhancing the customer experience you’re delivering.

FWIW, this video lives on FinXTech.com, a site designed to provide authoritative, relevant and trusted content to a hugely influential audience, specifically:

  • Fintech companies who view banks as potentially valuable channels or distribution partners;
  • Banks looking to grow and/or innovate with fintech companies’ help and support; and
  • Institutional investors, venture capitalists, state & federal regulators, government officials and academicians helping to shape the future of banking.

As a platform powered by Bank Director, FinXTech connects this hugely influential audience around shared areas of interest and innovation.  FinXTech specializes in (1) bringing valuable bank relationships to fintechs, and (2) offering banks valuable relationships with fintechs in a way no one else does.