A Technology Takeover on BankDirector.com

For the next 5 days, I set up shop in my former home of New York City for FinTech Week NYC.  Hosted by Bank Director’s FinXTech in conjunction with Empire Startups, the week can best be understood as a confluence of conferences, round-table discussions, demo days, meetups and networking events across the city.

If you’re not familiar with the various events taking place, here is a quick snapshot of three we’re primarily involved with starting today and running through Friday, the 28th.

The common thread throughout each of these days? A desire to help leaders in the financial sector to better understand how when/where/why to engage with emerging technologies.

Given our cultural mindset to help make others successful, we’re kicking things up a notch with our on-line efforts.  Indeed, we’re “taking over” BankDirector.com and loading the site up with strategic issues and ideas that a bank’s CEO, board and executive team can immediately consider.  In parallel, we’re developing even more content to benefit technology companies keen to work with financial institutions and have some really interesting things planned for our FinXTech.com.  Three examples of this free content:

  • On BankDirector.com, Tips for Working With Fintech Companies by our editor, Naomi Snyder, provides insight from executives at Wells Fargo (one of the country’s biggest) and Radius Bank (a very strong community bank) on how they handle fintech partnerships.
  • On FinXTech.com, Advice for Fintech Companies Working with Banks by our editor-in-chief, Jack Milligan, shares suggestions from SF-based Plaid Technologies and Chicago-based Akouba as to how banks and tech companies can set realistic expectations in terms of cooperating to their mutual benefits.
  • Finally, I authored a piece on a major challenge I see confronting banks when it comes to their digital futures with A Roadblock That Ruins Futures.  As an optimist, things aren’t hopeless; you will see I find inspiration from the CEOs of U.S. Bancorp, PNC and Fifth Third.

10 Banks and Fintechs Doing it Right

In advance of April’s FinXtech Summit
By Al Dominick, CEO of DirectorCorps (parent co. to Bank Director & FinXTech) | @aldominick

Quickly:

  • An increasing number of financial institutions are using partnerships with technology companies to improve operations and better meet customer needs.
  • For the past few months, banks and/or fintechs submitted case studies on specific technology solutions helping financial institutions produce real, quantifiable results to our team at FinXTech.
  • With more then 100 submissions in hand, a committee of FinXTech advisors worked with our team to compile a top-10 list during Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference in Arizona last week.

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Throughout Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired conference, I found myself in quite a few conversations about the continually changing nature of financial services. Many of these discussions revolved around the possibilities generated by traditional institutions partnering with emerging technology firms.  Some of these took place on-stage; for instance, I opened the second full day of the conference by polling an audience of 900+ on a variety of technology-related issues:

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With results like these precipitating editorial coverage from our team and attendees alike, you’ll probably understand why I find the just-released ten finalists for our “Best of FinXTech Awards” so compelling.  Indeed, as the financial landscape continues to evolve, and executives grapple with a fast-changing operating environment that requires partnerships and collaboration, each of these relationships shows what is really possible when leaders explore something new together.

  • Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) + Sensibill: Scotiabank’s customers can store, organize and retrieve paper and electronic receipts through the Toronto, Canada bank’s mobile banking app and wallet, the result of a partnership with Sensibill, also based in Toronto. The service was launched in October 2016.
  • Franklin Synergy Bank + Built Technologies, Inc.: Built Technologies, in Nashville, Tennessee, improved the loan administration process for Franklin Synergy Bank, in Franklin, Tennessee. The $3 billion asset bank now manages a greater number of construction loans with fewer staff.
  • Green Dot (Go Bank) + Uber: Pasadena, California-based Green Dot Corp., which issues prepaid credit cards, partnered with Uber to provide the San Francisco transportation company’s drivers a fee-free debit card and an instant pay solution that allows drivers to be paid instantly.
  • IDFC Bank + TATA Consultancy Services (TCS): Due to a regulatory mandate, India’s IDFC Bank had just 18 months to expand into rural areas to better serve unbanked customers. The bank’s partnership with TCS, based in Mumbai, India, included the use of micro ATMs, which are modified point-of-sale terminals that expand the bank’s reach in rural areas.
  • National Bank of Kansas City + Roostify: San Francisco-based Roostify improved National Bank of Kansas City’s formerly inefficient and incomplete digital mortgage application process. Customers at the bank, based in Overland Park, Kansas with more than $600 million in assets, can now fill out a mortgage application in a little as 20 minutes, with no need for a phone call or trip to the branch to visit a loan officer.
  • Somerset Trust Company + BOLTS Technologies: BOLTS, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, improved the account opening process at Somerset Trust Company, saving the $1 billion asset community bank in Somerset, Pennsylvania, roughly $200,000 in the first year by better automating the process and reducing error rates. Customers can start and complete the process on multiple channels.
  • Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Bank) + Moven: TD Bank, based in Toronto, Canada, launched a real-time money management application in April 2016, developed by Moven in New York.
  • USAA + Nuance: USAA, based in San Antonio, Texas, made its website a little smarter in 2016 with the virtual assistant Nina, which provides support for USAA’s members. This use of artificial intelligence is the result of a collaboration with Nuance in Burlington, Massachusetts.
  • Woodforest National Bank + PrecisionLender: Partnering with Charlotte, North Carolina-based PrecisionLender to improve its loan pricing strategy helped $4.8 billion asset Woodforest National Bank, in The Woodlands, Texas, grow commercial loans by 16 percent and gain almost 20 basis points in net interest margin.
  • WSFS Bank + LendKey: WSFS Financial Corp., headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, with $6.6 billion in assets, partnered with the lending platform LendKey, in New York, to expand the bank’s consumer loan portfolio with a student loan and refinancing product.

All ten of these partnerships demonstrate the strongest combination of collaboration and results.  For those interested, my colleague Kelsey Weaver (the President of our FinXTech platform) announces the three “winners” on April 26, 2017, during the FinXTech Annual Summit, at the Nasdaq MarketSite.

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Closing bell ceremony at Nasdaq / Bank Director + FinXTech’s FinTech Day (March 1, 2016)

In advance of that announcement, 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 where and how this annual Summit — and these awards — fits into FinTech Week New York that we are hosting along with Empire Startups starting April 24.

Inspired by U.S. Bank’s CEO at Acquire or Be Acquired

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

Quickly

  • Most M&A activity will continue to take place among banks with assets between $1 billion and $10 billion.
  • For an acquirer, the level of underwriting for deposits can be more rigorous then underwriting for loans.  Indeed, because of BSA & AML concerns, it takes a high degree of effort to realistically measure the risk of buying “someone else’s cooking.”
  • This year’s keynote, Richard Davis, is the Chairman & CEO of U.S. Bank — which has $446 billion in assets.  FWIW, he started his career as a bank teller at Security Pacific Bank in Los Angeles on his 18th birthday.

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Over the past decade, U.S. Bank’s consistent results made it, according to the Wall Street Journal, a darling with investors and analysts.  While impressive, their CEO’s perspectives on where we are now — and where we might be heading — inspired this short video recap.

In addition to his remarks on building a great team, his perspectives on technology struck a real chord given my background (I worked at great technology company in Bethesda, MD for 6+ years).  Specifically, his encouragement to focus on:

  • Tokenization/EMV/mobile
  • Real time payments
  • Open APIs
  • Identity management
  • Distributed ledger / blockchain
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • Machine learning

In subsequent posts, I’ll elaborate on these issues.  But for those interested in following the conference conversations that are more M&A-oriented via our 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.

Expect the Unexpected

“If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians.” – Warren Buffett

#AOBA17 pre-conference intel
By Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director | @aldominick

This may be a phenomenal—or scary year—for banks. Banks have benefited from rising stock prices and rising interest rates, which are expected to boost low net interest margins. Indeed, the change in the U.S. presidency has resulted in a steepened yield curve, as investors predict improved economic growth. Currently, many anticipate regulatory relief for banks and the prospect of major corporate tax cuts. Such change could have a significant impact on banks; however, those running financial institutions also need to keep an eye on potential challenges ahead.

As we head to our 23rd Acquire or Be Acquired Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, with a record breaking 1,058 attendees Jan. 29-Jan. 31, I am expecting the mood to be good. Why wouldn’t it be? But what is on the horizon are also fundamental changes in technology that will change the landscape for banking. What will your competitors be doing that you won’t be? Our conference has always been a meeting ground for the banking industry’s key leaders to meet, engage with each other and learn what they need to do deals. It is still that. Indeed, most of the sessions and speakers will be talking about M&A and growth.
But this year, more than 100 executives from fintech companies that provide products and services to banks join us in the desert, on our invitation. We want to help banks start thinking about the challenges ahead and how they might solve them.

Here are some things to consider:

  • How will the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s limited-purpose fintech charter enable more established fintech companies to compete with some of the incumbents in the room?
  • If smaller banks are indeed relieved of many of the burdens of big bank regulation, will they use the savings to invest in technology and improvements in customer service?
  • How will customer expectations change, and from whom will customers get their financial services?

To this last point, I intend to spotlight three companies that are changing the way their industries operate to inspire conversations about both the risks and rewards of pursuing a path of change. Yes, it’s OK to think a little bit beyond the banking industry.

Spotify
Rather than buying a CD to get their favorite songs, music-lovers today favor curated playlists where people pick, click and choose whom they listen to and in what order. There is a natural parallel to how people might bank in the future. Just as analytics enable media companies to deliver individually tailored and curated content, so too is technology available to banks that might create a more personalized experience. Much like Spotify gives consumers their choice of music when and where they want it, so too are forward-looking banks developing plans to provide consumer-tailored information “on-demand.”

Airbnb
The popular home-rental site Airbnb is reportedly developing a new service for booking airline flights. Adding an entirely new tool and potential revenue stream could boost the company’s outlook. For banks, I believe Airbnb is the “uber-type” company they need to pay attention to, as their expansion into competitive and mature adjacent markets parallels what some fear Facebook and Amazon might offer in terms of financial services.

WeChat
One of China’s most popular apps, the company counts 768 million daily active users (for context, that’s 55 percent of China’s total population). Of those users, roughly 300 million have added payment information to the wallet. So, WeChat Pay’s dominance in the person-to-person payments space is a model others can emulate. PayPal already is attempting such dominance, which Bank Director magazine describes in our most recent issue.

Many of those attending our conference also have done amazing things in banking. I can’t name all of them, but I’d be remiss to not mention CEO Richard Davis of U.S. Bank, our keynote speaker. After a decade leading one of the most phenomenal and profitable banks in the country, he is stepping down in April. We all have something to learn from him, I’m sure.  Let us think about the lessons the past has taught us, but keep an eye on the future. Let’s expect the unexpected.

*note – this piece first ran on BankDirector.com on January 26, 2017

Departing Administration Leaves Gift of Fintech Principles

By Al Dominick | @aldominick

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 today’s perspective.
  • I shared these thoughts on both our platforms – BankDirector.com and FinXTech.com earlier today (so apologies if you’ve seen this already).

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.

The Promise of 8 Blockchain Companies

Yesterday, I spent the majority of my day at the Economist Conference’s “Finance Disrupted” in New York City.  As an early hook to their first panel discussion entitled ‘Building the blockchain: The promise and perils’, we learned that venture capitalists invested nearly $500 million in blockchain business last year — up from $2 million just three years ago.  While I’ve shared my perspectives on the potential applications for blockchain in previous posts (Blockchain 101 – a Primer for a Bank’s CEO and Board), panels like these underscore the immense potential of this technology.

“Blockchain technology continues to redefine not only how the exchange sector operates, but the global financial economy as a whole.”

– Bob Greifeld, Chief Executive of NASDAQ

Like many, I see potential for blockchain technology to revolutionize many areas of the financial industry — think securities trading, payments, fraud prevention and regulatory compliance.  Moreover, a new report from Deloitte explores how blockchain could be used in loyalty rewards programs.  Still, as our industry transforms, there is real uncertainty around what the future of the banking industry will look like.

This is why I take note of comments like those from BNY Mellon’s CEO, Gerald Hassell. On his Q1 earnings call, he opined “we think blockchain can be transformative.  We’re spending a lot of time and energy on it, but I think it’s going to take some time to see it play out in a full, meaningful way. We actually see ourselves as one of the major participants in using the technology to improve the efficiency of our operations and the resiliency of our operations.”

While additional big-time players — such as Goldman Sachs, Visa and NASDAQ — garner headlines for their investments in crypto-currencies & blockchain technology, I spent last night and this morning looking at eight blockchain companies that might help you to form your own opinions on the potential of this technology:

For more about these companies — and their funding sources — I encourage you to check out this piece on Lets Talk Payments.  Not familiar with LTP?  It is a fast-growing global destination for news, insights & data-driven research in emerging financial services.  Much like the information shared by both FinXTech and Bank Director, LTP’s content is fiercely independent, thought provoking and always up-to-date, in a way that continues to inform, engage and inspire.