The Not-So-Secret Secret to Getting Innovation Right

In the midst of the myriad challenges COVID-19 has thrown up for financial institutions and the people and businesses they serve, the crisis is also propeling innovation forward, proving the worth of past technological investments, and shifting the view of digital initiatives from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘need-to-have’, particularly in a time of social distancing.

Against this backdrop of crisis-galvanized change, senior content producer Laura Maxwell-Bernier caught up with Sunayna Tuteja, Head of Digital Assets and Blockchain at TD Ameritrade, to talk about how she is seeing this play out, and how financial institutions should approach digital transformation to ensure relevance in the ‘new normal’.

We are also delighted to announce that Sunayna will be expanding on the themes covered in our conversation at FinovateFall in September, where she will look at the next phase of this trajectory, how changed consumer behaviors will drive further change, and what role technology will have as the dust settles.

Laura Maxwell-Bernier: Crises like COVID-19 have historically shown us how quickly technology can go from a nice-to-have to a real necessity for consumers. How are you seeing this play out in the context of COVID-19?

Sunayna Tuteja: Innovation often gains traction in times of turbulence. We are certainly witnessing that play out at massive and magnified levels in the context of COVID-19. Technologies and trends that were already in motion reached escape velocity – in scale and speed of both investment and adoption accelerating in the span of weeks vs. years. Examples include tele-medicine, online learning, and omni-channel commerce. The necessity of solving a pain point combined with a sense of urgency is activating laser-focused action that otherwise might be slowed down by inertia. In short, digital transformation is now a matter of business resiliency, representing an ultimate shift from “nice-to-have” to “need-to-have”. 

Perhaps my favorite example is the Supreme Court of the United Sates (SCOTUS), an institution steeped in tradition which until recently conducted all oral arguments in person, behind closed doors and without cameras present. They too have had to adapt and transform. Last week the SCOTUS moved to hearing arguments via tele-conference, and also opened it to the public to listen in real time. While the new format may lack the usual pomp & circumstance, it ushers in an era of transparency & inclusivity. It’s a joy to witness this epic transition. Necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case adoption!  

LMB: What similarities are you seeing in the way financial services organizations are responding to COVID to how they responded after the 2008 financial crisis? What lessons should we be drawing from this in our planning for the longer-term repercussions of COVID?

Tuteja: An imperative for institutions (private and public) to innovate is the rapidly closing delta between novelty and necessity. It wasn’t that long ago that the notion of banking and trading on your mobile device was unfathomable – mobile phones were for playing Candy Crush and Angry Birds!  But within a matter of years, driven by a shift in consumer behaviors and expectations plus the rise of Fintech, incumbents have had to evolve and for many, the nice-to-have digital venues are now need-to-have primary on-ramps to attract, engage and retain consumers. Ergo, shocks like the global financial crisis and COVID-19 further reinforce and validate that tapping into the power of nascent yet powerful technologies to break down barriers and create next generation products/client experiences must be an evergreen endeavor. You need to maintain a persistent and pervasive focus on client-centric innovation to keep up with and surpass the evolving expectations and norms. 

At TD Ameritrade, we saw this thesis come to fruition as we embarked on transitioning our employees to work from home in a matter of 10 days whilst serving millions of clients during tumultuous market conditions. The firm’s steady investments over the years in capabilities like cloud, Artificial Intelligence, messaging, mobile etc. enabled a speedy and smart transition.

LMB: What implications do you see this crisis having for the rate of adoption of digital assets – stablecoins, CBDCs and the like?

Tuteja: Digital assets are uniquely qualified for these present times. Be it as an investment vehicle akin to bitcoin’s value proposition of ‘digital gold’ or the prospect of modernizing payments, remittances, money movement or banking the unbanked/underbanked driven via stablecoins, digital wallets and CBDCs, the opportunities abound. It’s fertile ground for projects in the digital assets space, including DeFi efforts currently focused on solving these important problems. Again, this momentum is driven by heightened need as we reimagine and reconfigure our day-to-day norms in the time of/after COVID. For example: In my role leading emerging tech and partnerships, I had the opportunity to work with several Asia Tech firms in China. As someone who needs her daily dose of Starbucks, it was always amusing when I tried to pay for my drink with cash or credit card. In a society that has adopted end-to-end digital payments driven by digital wallets embedded within messaging apps like WeChat, the notion of a cash or physical credit card interaction could not be more antiquated. While the proliferation of digital wallets and QR codes have been slow to gain momentum in the U.S., current circumstances may mark a significant shift as consumers are more conscious and concerned about what they touch and who touches their card.

In this new world order, businesses will have to strike a balance between efficiency and resiliency, and as business leaders we must deliver a compounding and comparative advantage to our constituents – customers, employees, and the communities we serve. All of which will enable a good deal of change management and digital transformation to ensure long-lasting relevance. Yet in these times of hyper-change, innovation guided by the voice of the customer is always in vogue.

The confluence of these developments combined with the current macro environment garner an important inflection point in the proliferation of this nascent technology & asset class. It is therefore incumbent on the institutions that consumers know and trust, to lead with prudence and pragmatism in addressing this growing demand from consumers for education and access to digital assets, and continue the journey of bringing Wall Street to Main Street.

LMB: What does the path forward for digital transformation look like as a whole, and what do you anticipate the long-term effects on technology adoption being?

Tuteja: I’ve long maintained that anything that can be digitized will be digitized, it’s a matter of timing and led by the consumer, with technology as the enabler vs. the driver of change. An evergreen approach is key because the timing and pace of adoption is often influenced by external factors as we are witnessing at the moment. I’m reminded of examples like Webvan and Pets.com, which are often cited as failures of the dot.com bubble. Yet their contemporaries, Instacart and Chewy.com, are gaining tremendous adoption today. As an organization, you don’t want be caught off guard and unprepared, hence a persistent evaluation of the evolving consumer needs combined with a “perpetual beta” mindset in deploying new technologies is critical.

While starting with the technology can be alluring, it can lead to “shiny object syndrome” and innovation theater without much value for the end constituents. The not-so-secret secret sauce is an obsession with customer-focused innovation. A myopic focus on solving gnarly problems to deliver meaningful value by breaking down barriers that enable consumers to take charge of their financial future with confidence. If that’s powered by blockchain and AI, great, but the tech ought be secondary to the problem statement. The litmus test we apply is: What is the problem we are solving? Why is this problem worth solving? And why are we or is this tech uniquely qualified to solve this problem? It’s always better to be solving the hard problems and shipping pain-killers vs. vitamins. A strong anchor to the problem statement is also useful in maintaining focus on investing in, experimenting with and operationalizing new capabilities while averting the trappings of fads or fear of missing out.

In this new world order, businesses will have to strike a balance between efficiency and resiliency, which will enable a good deal of change management and digital transformation to ensure long-lasting relevance. Yet in these times of hyper-change, innovation guided by the voice of the customer is always in vogue.

Customer Experience and Member Engagement in the New Era

Financial services organizations have significant and unique roles to play in the societal responding to COVID-19 – both as we are in the midst of the global pandemic and as we emerge and eventually start to rebuild and recover. In light of this unprecedented challenge, Senior Content Producer at Finovate, Laura Maxwell-Bernier, spoke with Norman Buchanan, First Vice President of Design & Transformation at Alliant Credit Union, to discuss the implications of these unprecedented times for the customer experience and member engagement.

LMB: Thanks for taking the time to join me today. Let’s start with how customer experiences are changing… what does a good customer experience look like in these unprecedented times?

Norman Buchanan: The definitions and fundamentals of member experience stay the same no matter what external forces are at work. Throughout our 85-year history, Alliant has been committed to serving and supporting our members in good times and in bad. 

However, times like these do reinforce the human condition and highlight the importance of a human-centered member experience.  Establishing authentic, empathetic connections in these times is even more appreciated and critical during the crisis.

LMB: So, how can financial services institutions offer support and reliability to customers when they need it most?

Buchanan: It is critical for financial institutions to show support to our members and customers in this crisis. At Alliant Credit Union, our lending, product management and marketing team quickly developed a new unsecured loan product offering for our existing members within the first week of the crisis. In addition to our unsecured loan product, we have also made our Payment Deferral, Modification and Payment Reduction programs more readily available and easily accessible. These offerings are critical to providing a small amount of relief and peace of mind to members who are experiencing a sudden and dramatic change to their financial condition. 

We have been doing scenario planning for the last 10 years and some of the scenarios track closely to what we’re seeing in the market now.  We’ve prepared for times like these and will continue to monitor the situation every day so we can make rate change decisions that are in the best collective interests of our more than 500,000 member-owners nationwide.

LMB: How is Alliant Credit Union responding from the customer and member perspective?

Buchanan: During this uncertain time, we are focused on four priorities: continuing strong service to our members, employee and member safety, helping members impacted by COVID-19 and keeping members and employees informed.

Alliant instituted an initial work from home policy on March 13 and implemented a 100 percent virtual work from home call center within 3 business days to help support our members.  We had never implemented this type of a call center before in Alliant’s history, (and honestly something I never thought we would ever see) but we were able to accomplish it in rapid time thanks to our resilience as an organization.

Our contact center NPS Scores for the first month of being 100 percent remote are 2 points higher than the same period last year.  We mobilized a 100 percent work from home call center and have had slightly improved YOY satisfaction response from our members.  This is something our credit union takes a great deal of pride in having accomplished.

LMB: With social distancing now the norm, how can we harness digital services to best serve customers and engage members?

Buchanan: Digital Transformation has been the lynchpin of Alliant’s strategy over the last five years.  As our CEO, Dave Mooney puts it, “Banking is something you do, not a place you go.”  This strategy has driven the transformation of our Mobile and Online Banking offerings based in research and continual feedback from our members as well as investment in our call center infrastructure and analytics.  This strategy enabled Alliant to be in a position to close the majority of our branch network in 2018 so that we could focus on serving our members needs exclusively through our digital and phone channels. 

LMB: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge COVID-19 presents us in terms of delivering best-in-class customer and member experience?

Buchanan: The COVID-19 situation highlighted that a frictionless member experience needs to be supported by a frictionless employee experience, especially when that employee experience is 100 percent remote! 

Areas of the operation that historically have been underinvested in automation have been highlighted by this historic experience.  Operations like loan deferrals and modifications, which typically handle transaction volumes in the teens per week for us, have been overwhelmed by the current environment.  This allows us the opportunity to re-prioritize our focus to ensure that we can support our members with optimized and automated back office processes.  That will be an immediate legacy of the COVID Member experience challenge. 

A Journey to Purposeful Fin(tech)

The following is a guest post written by Theo Lau, Founder of Unconventional Ventures, Public Speaker, Writer, Podcast Host of One Vision.

2020 did not turn out the way we expected. With a tsunami of megadeals being announced in the first few weeks of the year, many predicted that it would yet be another banner year for fintech funding and M&A activities.

Then came the pandemic. And the economy came crashing down like Jenga blocks.

As COVID-19 has destabilized pretty much every aspect of our lives – companies big and small are preparing themselves for the long-term impact of the extended shutdown and economic downturn. With jobless claims hitting unprecedented levels, what do consumers need the most? How will financial services react and what roles do fintechs play?

Does the world need (yet) another metal credit card or another investing app? Do we really want to talk to our virtual assistant to figure out how much money we spent at Starbucks last month?

A new normal – and a different world

The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent this month — a devastation not seen since the Great Depression. According to MarketWatch , “as many as 43 million new jobless claims have been filed since the pandemic began in mid-March, using unadjusted figures. That is one of every four people in the U.S. labor force.”

Goldman Sachs projected that the unemployment rate in the second quarter could hit 25%.

The health crisis has laid bare the structural inequalities that we face in the society, for those who are poor, non-white, women, and gig workers. According to the Washington Post , “20 percent of Hispanic adults and 16 percent of blacks report being laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began, compared with 11 percent of whites and 12 percent of workers of other races.”

Unsurprisingly, 70 percent of the people in line at a food bank had never been in a food line in their lives, according to Feeding America, the largest US hunger relief organization.

With so many who have yet to recover from the Great Recession, the added stress from the current downturn is unthinkable. How do we begin to think about recovery, when so many are in need? How do we build not only financial value, but also economic value? How do we, as an industry, put our focus back on the human experience? It is time to refocus on what matters.

Back to the basics

Give cash – fast

First and foremost, we need to get money in the hands of those who need it the most. Propel, a New York-based fintech startup and maker of Fresh EBT app, widely used by millions of SNAP households, is doing exactly just that. In partnership with non-profit GiveDirectly, the team delivers $1000 direct cash to 100,000 low income families in dire need of assistance amid the
COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Citizens Bank of Edmond, a community bank in Oklahoma, and Chime, a challenger bank, have both offered consumers early access to government relief.

Expand digital offerings

With more than half the world’s population in some form of lockdown, online and mobile banking adoption has increased dramatically for both incumbents and challengers. My favorite story is the one from PayPal, who reported that people over 50 were the company’s fastest growingsegment from March to April.

At a time when consumers are looking for safer and more convenient options to bank – this is the perfect opportunity to double-down and expand digital footprint.

  1. Be where your customers are. Engage with them via digital channels; augment capabilities of conversation interface and leverage online communities to share information and provide assistance.
  2. Create self-help or “how to” guides to walk users through different features of the digital offerings. And keep in mind accessibility needs – ensure that the design is inclusive of the demographics you are serving.
  3. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What information would they be looking for and what services would they need the most? Do they know what bills will be due – and if they would have sufficient funds to cover the expenses?

When deploying new digital solutions, design the experience around the end user – your customer – by having a deep understanding on what they want to be able to do with their money, not by what your legacy processes have dictated.

Improve long term financial security

While COVID has accelerated the move towards digital, financial institutions have the opportunity to become heroes in helping consumers tackle financial challenges and achieve long term financial well-being, beyond managing day-to-day transactions.

According to estimates by TransUnion, nearly 15 million credit card accounts and almost three million auto loans are in “financial hardship” programs. Using insights drawn from consumers’ financial activities, financial institutions can work with them to find best possible solutions to
navigate the outstanding debt. Fintechs such as BillShark can also be employed to help bank consumers trim monthly subscriptions.

Now is the time to help consumers better understand their full financial picture, and offer guidance on next steps forward – beyond offering insights on past behavior. Take into account their life stage, not age – and the financial obligations they have.

Another untapped opportunity is financial caregiving for loved ones. With older adults being physically isolated at homes, adult children need ways to help their parents manage finances. But beyond paying bills, consumers can leverage fintech solutions such as those offered by Eversafe, which can analyze activities across financial institutions and help protect their assets
from financial exploitation.

(You are) Always on my mind

It is as much the title of a song from Pet Shop Boys, as it is what firms should be telling their customers. As the saying goes: Actions speak louder than words. How companies treat their employees and their customers during moments of crisis speak volume – to their true values.

Now is the time for incumbents to partner with fintechs and offer the best-in-class solutions for consumers – as we slowly emerge from the crisis and navigate towards an uncertain future. We must turn our focus back at the core of what financial services is about: It is time for purposeful fintech – one that uses technology to do good – and serve the true needs of the society – beyond a shiny user interface.

Webinar: Critical Steps to Accelerate Digital Transformation in Customer Support

Webinar: Critical Steps to Accelerate Digital Transformation in Customer Support

When COVID-19 hit, the financial services sector was faced with an abrupt realization that digital transformation needed to accelerate. While moving to a digital-first approach is a massive undertaking, it can be tackled over a period of time. Financial services can see impactful digital changes implemented in hours, not years.

Most importantly, digital transformation places clients at the center of business. An exceptional customer support experience distinguishes leading financial services from the rest, helping to retain clients well beyond these unprecedented times.

Watch Zendesk’s Alex Mack, Sr. Solutions PMM, and Bank Novo’s Head of Customer Success, Brian Kale, for a live webinar. They’ll discuss quick steps financial institutions can take to digitize their customer experiences at a time when scaling support operations is crucial.

They’ll walk through digital customer support initiatives that are quick to deploy and can deliver big results. Learn how to:

  • Express empathy and build trust through personalization
  • Scale customer support with help centers and AI
  • Move customer conversations to SMS, social, and third party messaging platforms
  • Empower remote collaboration to expedite requests

See how these customer-centric initiatives can help scale your support today while strengthening your client experience for the future.

What Leading Challenger Banks Have Learned on Their Journey to Build a Digital-Only Bank

What Leading Challenger Banks Have Learned on Their Journey to Build a Digital-Only Bank

Finovate’s Charlotte Burgess spoke to Michal Kissos Hertzog, CEO, digital bank Pepper and insha’s Founder and Managing Director, Yakup Sezer, about the challenges of setting up a digital-only bank, and how to get the customer experience right with zero face-to-face interaction.

What key lessons have your challenger banks learnt as you looked to be digital only?

Michal Kissos Hertzog: One key lesson businesses have learned is that you can’t just paste a “digital core” over an incumbent bank. They have to be truly digital or there will be limitations and barriers.

The benefits of having a business model that is digital to its core is that banks can adapt quickly to constantly evolving customer demand, technology and innovation. Incumbents with legacy systems need to adjust quickly or partner with tech and fintech companies, or innovation will always be slower.

Yakub Sezer: The learning curve is very steep. When building a bank from scratch, especially in countries with strong regulatory bodies such as Germany, there’s a myriad of things to consider on the way, and many hurdles to overcome.

Courage is a necessity: If you have too many reservations about what you do as an entrepreneur, you’re inclined to fail. Learning to fail fast and get back on track even faster is crucial, and so is a strong partnership network. With Albaraka Türk, we’re lucky to have a strong investor with roots in our market segment behind us, but building a fintech-spirited bank out of a corporate culture is a completely different challenge.

Why do you think we have seen such a boom of “digital-only banks,” and do you think these challengers have the ability to take on those more entrenched players?

Sezer: Consumers are used to a level of convenience from their personal lives that it’s only natural they want to handle their finances in an equally convenient way.

Challenger banks have much faster innovation cycles and often enable a company culture that encourages a team to try out things, and fail where necessary, and learn from that, and then go on and improve, facilitated through digital organizational patterns, something legacy banks have been lacking for the longest time . However, I don’t necessarily see challenger banks and legacy banks as mutually exclusive. We’ve seen many great partnerships developing over the last years and both sides can benefit from each other in various areas.

Hertzog: The profit and loss model no longer works. Unlike the incumbents, digital-only banks have the advantage of being able to utilize data to operate on customers first, profit second basis. Customer needs and demands are changing and they expect so much more from the companies they engage with on a daily basis.

For example, Pepper’s research found that two thirds (67%) of Brits don’t feel well-equipped to make the best financial decisions for themselves, yet nearly half (47%) believe it’s a bank’s duty to help them make better financial decisions. This shows that banks need to do more in providing the necessary tools to help consumers make the best financial decisions.

This is something that many challengers have already achieved and are excelling at, so for the incumbents, it really is a question of adapt or die.

How do you ensure a great customer experience when you are a digital bank?

Hertzog: Unlike traditional banks who have implemented technology solutions to improve how they currently work, digital banks tend to do things differently. They work hard to identify customer pain points and then implement tech solutions to solve them.

Another way is by leveraging data. Digital banks might not have the long history of data that the incumbents do, but they are far better at utilizing it to adapt to consumer demand and offer personalized services. This typically creates a much better experience for the customer. For example, we know that debt is a huge problem for many people, so at Pepper, we use data to provide our customers with the necessary guidance before this happens; such as suggesting cheaper loan alternatives to an overdraft.

Sezer: For us, it’s been very important to find a strong niche. As a digital bank, we’re obviously attracting people that are looking for a very high level of convenience in banking; but we also have strong moral principles when it comes to what we do with our customers’ money. We’re also convinced that legacy banks have been doing certain things right: personal customer service is definitely a plus.

We’re combining the best of both worlds: a mobile-first banking experience, that offers consumers the possibility to get in touch with their beliefs and moral convictions through a personal banking partner.

Finally then, how do you see fintech as a whole evolving over the next decade?

Sezer: B2B solutions, especially will continue to gain traction across the board, and co-operation between digital and legacy banks will play an increasingly important role throughout Europe. But B2C is going to evolve as well; handling your financial situation will not be only banking anymore. With the ability to monitor personal spending habits and saving goals on your phone, customers will always be aware of their financial situation.

Hertzog: In the next decade, we can expect to see a lot more partnerships and collaborations – not just between banks and fintechs, but also fintech to fintech partnerships. Many successful businesses realize the importance of collaboration, so they can focus on what they do best and use other companies for the rest.

The other trend we can expect from fintech is increased personalization through the use of AI. At Pepper, we envisage a world where a consumer enters their favorite coffee shop, and we drop money into their account to pay for their coffee as a reward. This level of personalization and customer obsession will dramatically reform the banking industry in particular, as consumers opt for products that truly understand them and their needs.

How Accusoft’s FormSuite for Invoices Puts Machine Learning and RPA to Work

How Accusoft’s FormSuite for Invoices Puts Machine Learning and RPA to Work

This is a sponsored post by Accusoft. For more information on sponsored contributions please email sponsor@finovate.com.

Machine Learning continues to dominate conversations across the fintech ecosystem, but one aspect that rarely gets into the limelight is where the data to train the algorithms actually comes from.

Finovate sat down with Tracy Schlabach, Senior Manager, Product and Customer Marketing at Accusoft to discuss the company’s latest technology, the data challenges they overcame, and why having a symbiotic relationship with their clients drives their strategy.

Finovate: Give us an overview of what FormSuite for Invoices does.

Tracy Schlabach: FormSuite for Invoices is a toolkit for developers that are building invoice processing software solutions. FormSuite for Invoices does the heavy lifting of invoice processing, solving the hard part of finding and extracting data, such as invoice number, purchase order number, total due, line item quantity, line item description, and other data. It is configurable by the developer to extract the data specific to their needs.

Finovate: What are the technical differences between FormSuite for Structured Forms and FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: FormSuite for Structured Forms deals with fixed forms, where the location of the information doesn’t move, such as a tax form, while FormSuite for Invoices deals with what we call semi-structured forms since the locations of certain values might move around the page based on the data.

For example, the “Total Due” field would move down in an invoice that has more line items. While FormSuite for Structured Forms does use AI to identify which form was passed in and to extract the data, the AI is more limited than what is required to process more dynamic content such as invoices.

FormSuite for Invoices uses some of the latest machine learning (ML) to be able to extract data from the line item tables found in invoices. This type of ML is what you hear about most often these days; deep learning with supervised and unsupervised training of a custom ResNet convolutional neural network. This technology “learns” from the changes that users make to the output results. For example, if the Total Due information on ABC Company’s invoice is located in a different quadrant on the document, the user will correct the output information. The ML technology in FormSuite for Invoices learns from these corrections, ultimately increasing confidence values.

A lot of our customers are dealing with both types of forms, structured and semi-structured, so we see people using these toolkits in combination to solve their overall forms processing challenges.

Finovate: What role does Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) play in FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: Both FormSuite for Invoices and FormSuite for Structured forms have been used to serve as a data input source for RPA. When companies are using RPA to automate data entry on legacy systems, that data has to come from somewhere. Before RPA, a data entry person might key data from a piece of paper or from a computer screen into another screen that has the legacy application running on it. RPA performs the typing in place of that person, but now that data has to come from somewhere. If the data isn’t digital, for example, it is on a piece of paper, that paper can be scanned and the data extracted with one of our FormSuite products allowing the RPA robot to type that data into the legacy application.

Document capture and RPA make great partners in this way, automating what was previously a tedious and time-consuming job. Having that data available in systems quicker allows people to have quicker access to the data and make decisions faster. And the people doing the data entry are freed up to do more valuable work.

Finovate: What was the biggest challenge your team had to overcome in launching FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: Line item tables are particularly challenging on multiple fronts. Their format varies a lot. Some have graphic lines surrounding each cell, but some are what we call white space tables which just use spacing to align the rows and columns. All the variation makes it really hard.

In addition, in order to use any ML, you have to have a lot of data to train with. We tried to solve the table detection and recognition using data from the leading research papers in this space, those that were winners of various ML competitions. But, we found they always fell short in some subset of our test data. 

Eventually, after working with various algorithms, one of our Principle Engineers identified a way to make a significant improvement in the ML algorithm, and the results are quite impressive. To solve the data challenge, we used a number of unique ideas to source the invoice images and used raw manpower (internal crowdsourcing) to create the “ground truth,” the correct values that are used in training and testing the machine learning.

It was an impressive effort that had the entire Accusoft organization contributing to our training data. We even had our CEO helping with the data creation at one point.

Finovate: Aside from the obvious benefit of saving time on data entry, what other benefits does FormSuite for Invoices bring to an organization?

Schlabach: There are several benefits. With Accusoft specializing in solutions for content processing, conversion, and automation solutions since 1991, developers can focus on their core strengths and let Accusoft handle the heavy lifting of content capture. As a toolkit, FormSuite for Invoices helps developers solve the most challenging aspect of the invoice process: data extraction. By embedding FormSuite for Invoices, developers significantly shorten their product’s time to market.

On the end-user side, automating invoice processing has been shown to contribute many benefits. The data entry, as mentioned, is the obvious benefit. However, companies also see dollar savings by paying invoices sooner and recognizing early payment discounts. In addition, with the speed of business today, having visibility to data is important. Invoice processing automation helps companies see a more accurate picture of their cash flow much quicker.

Finovate: So, what do you see as the next evolution of this technology?

Schlabach: As customers provide feedback, sometimes in the form of challenging images, we make improvements to the technology. That is the symbiotic value we have seen in many of our partnerships for document capture products. When partners report challenging images, we incorporate improvements into our products to better handle those images. We see this in our forms processing solutions, our barcode recognition product, our OCR and PDF products, and our viewer. We continually evolve our products, and as the exposure to documents in the wild increases, our products improve. 

We also see this technology expanding into other semi-structured forms use cases. Credit card statement processing, bills of lading, and purchase orders are just a few of the documents that could be processed using this technology. There are some different challenges in those types of documents, but there are also a lot of similarities to invoices that we can take advantage of.

Webinar: Loan Defaults are About to Surge – What Have We Learned from Past Crises?

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold, loan servicers are experiencing unprecedented call center and default volumes as customers struggle to stay above water. With a looming global recession in 2020, financial institutions are reevaluating their loan servicing operations across the board (mortgage, auto, commercial, and personal).

During the last financial crisis in 2008, the rate of foreclosures in the United States more than quadrupled over five years, reaching a high of 1.18 million homes as falling valuations and high unemployment pushed people into default. At the same time, 3.7 million homes were in serious delinquency.

Watch the DXC Technology discussion on what lessons can be drawn from previous downturns and how institutions can better prepare their operations, technologies, and customers for what’s ahead. Topics included:

  • Scalability
    How to rapidly scale capacity and quickly train internal resources and customers while maintaining customer satisfaction.
  • Self-service and a single source of truth
    How to give customers more control over the process
  • Speed to change
    How to proactively react in a matter of days– not weeks or months– in a dynamically changing environment.
  • Auditing
    How to maintain a consistent audit trail throughout the process

Featuring Bart Bailey, Head of Global Lending Product Management, DXC Technology and David Penn, Research Analyst, Finovate.

Celebrating #WomenInFintech

Celebrating #WomenInFintech

At the beginning of this week, Greg Palmer wrote,

In order for fintech to be for everyone, it needs to be from everyone.

It’s a line that will strike a chord with anyone, across industries, who find themselves in the minority within teams and businesses, or even the sole representative of a different background or perspective.

Addressing gender-gap challenges in the finance industry is on-going, and a key part of this is providing a platform for women to share their insights and vision for the future of fintech. As part of this endeavor, we brought together some of the leading women from FinovateEurope to share their thoughts not only on issues on diversity in the workplace, but also on the key pain points in their field and their ideas on how to overcome them.

First, here’s a look at an interview with Dr. Louise Beaumont, Tech U.K.’s Co-Chair of the Open Banking & Payments Working Group. Beaumont was the Chair of the Open Banking Industry Stage at FinovateEurope last month and spoke with Finovate Research Analyst David Penn on the future of open finance, why banks need to believe they are trusted, and creating a full data daisy.

Penn also interviewed Ghela Boskovich, Founder of FemTechGlobal and Chair of the Digital Future Industry Stage at FinovateEurope. In this conversation, Boskovich explores why culture is the cornerstone on which financial institutions built looks at and the need for more public education around data.

The next interview was with Theo Lau, Founder at Unconventional Ventures and Chair of FinovateEurope’s Future Tech Industry Stage. Lau explores the challenges AI presents to legacy businesses and gender diversity in fintech.

Finally, here’s a conversation with Simone Vroegop, Head of European Product Management of Financial Technology at Brown Brothers Harriman. Vroegop discusses why it is crucial to have an open mind and look to where value can be added to an asset manager’s operating system, and why she’s surprised that hasn’t been more disruption in the sector.

Watch all our interviews with #WomenInFintech now >>


To promote the gender goal of 50/50 diversity in financial services, women who register by this Friday, March 13, can purchase a ticket to any 2020 Finovate event at a 50% discount. Just enter the code EQUALITY on the booking form.

What Leading Challenger Banks Learned While Building a Digital-Only Bank

As part of our ongoing #WomeninFintech series, and to celebrate International Womens’ Day, we sat down with several women leading the way in their sector and picked their brains on their role and the future of the industry. First up is Michal Kissos Hertzog, CEO of digital bank Pepper on the challenges of… challenger banking.

Finovate: What key lessons have challenger banks learned on their journey to be digital only?

Michal Hertzog: One key lesson businesses have learned is that you can’t just paste a “digital core” over an incumbent bank. They have to be truly digital or there will be limitations and barriers. The benefits of having a business model that is digital to its core is that banks can adapt quickly to constantly evolving customer demand, technology, and innovation. Incumbents with legacy systems need to adjust quickly or partner with tech and fintech companies, or innovation will always be slower.

Finovate: Why have we seen such a boom of “digital-only banks?” Do you think these challengers have the ability to take on the more entrenched players?

Hertzog: The profit and loss model no longer works. Unlike the incumbents, digital-only banks have the advantage of being able to utilize data to operate on customers first, profit second basis. Customer needs and demands are changing and they expect so much more from the companies they engage with on a daily basis. For example, Pepper’s research found that two thirds (67%) of Brits don’t feel well-equipped to make the best financial decisions for themselves, yet nearly half (47%) believe it’s a bank’s duty to help them make better financial decisions. This shows that banks need to do more in providing the necessary tools to help consumers make the best financial decisions.

This is something that many challengers have already achieved and are excelling at, so for the incumbents, it really is a question of adapt or die. Ultimately, this customer-first approach will benefit the bank, as their customers are more likely to opt for greater profit-producing solutions such as mortgages or investment products. For example, Pepper Invest provides customers with tips, guidance, and insights to break down the barriers to the investment market for all consumers, regardless of their financial ability.

Finovate: How do you ensure a great customer experience when you are a digital bank?

Unlike traditional banks who have implemented technology solutions to improve how they currently work, digital banks tend to do things differently. They work hard to identify customer pain points and then implement tech solutions to solve them.

Another way is by leveraging data. Digital banks might not have the long history of data that the incumbents do, but they are far better at utilizing it to adapt to consumer demand and offer personalized services. This typically creates a much better experience for the customer. For example, we know that debt is a huge problem for many people, so at Pepper, we use data to provide our customers with the necessary guidance before this happens, such as suggesting cheaper loan alternatives to an overdraft.

Finovate: How do you see fintech as a whole evolving over the next decade?

In the next decade, we can expect to see a lot more partnerships and collaborations – not just between banks and fintechs, but also fintech-to-fintech partnerships. Many successful businesses realize the importance of collaboration, so they can focus on what they do best and use other companies for the rest.

The other trend we can expect from fintech is increased personalization through the use of AI. At Pepper, we envisage a world where a consumer enters their favorite coffee shop, and we drop money into their account to pay for their coffee as a reward. This level of personalization and customer obsession will dramatically reform the banking industry in particular, as consumers opt for products that truly understand them and their needs.


To promote the gender goal of 50/50 diversity in financial services, women who register by this Friday, March 13, can purchase a ticket to any 2020 Finovate event at a 50% discount. Just enter the code EQUALITY on the booking form.

The Best of Europe’s Fintech at FinovateEurope 2020

The Best of Europe’s Fintech at FinovateEurope 2020

Fintech innovation is growing at an exponential rate and the need for financial institutions to embrace digital transformation has never been more urgent. We are at the beginning of a new S curve; just as the smartphone began to transform financial services in 2007, we now face unprecedented change driven by artificial intelligence, 5G and quantum computing.

In Berlin in February, FinovateEurope brought together 140+ expert speakers; 50+ cutting-edge demoing companies and 1,000+ attendees to explore the road to success in a brave new digital world.

The first day got off to a rousing start with a keynote address from Steven van Belleghem, author of Customers The Day After Tomorrow. His key message? The number one resource that we are all short of is time; the companies that save customers time are really solving a problem for them. The tech giants are excelling at this – how can financial institutions emulate their approach? If they don’t address real customer pain-points they risk losing them to new competitors.

In a new initiative for 2020 we then offered the audience the choice of five industry stages to attend – Digital Future, Open Banking Future, Future Tech, Future Payments, and Future Insurance. Themes that cropped up repeatedly across all five stages were the critical importance of the customer experience, the ability to effectively leverage data, and the need to embrace new technologies for real business reasons– not just for window dressing.

Two days of over 50 live demos followed, once again putting innovation front-and-center on the stage. Our unique demo model showcased the most transformative solutions currently being created across the whole fintech value chain and gave the audience the chance to speak to the innovators behind the most exciting tech in finance.

Across the whole event we covered a myriad of topics – from digital journeys to customer experience, open banking to payments, challenger banks to insurtech, digital identity to financial crime, AI to blockchain – and we launched three new initiatives.

Our Start-up Booster program was a huge hit with startups seeking expert advice around funding, scaling, and partnerships.

The Executive Reboot program allowed C-suite executives to brainstorm how to address their legacy culture and find a path to change with our keynote speakers.

And our Women in Fintech program brought together a highly engaged audience to explore the critical need for of diversity in financial services.

It was a jam-packed three days and the feedback was amazing – we look forward to returning to Berlin for more next year.

-Katie Gwynn-Williams, FinovateEurope 2020 Director

Catch the photos from FinovateEurope 2020 >>

Photos from FinovateEurope 2020

Improving Payable Processes: An Implementation Primer

Improving Payable Processes: An Implementation Primer

This is a sponsored post by Accusoft. For more information on sponsored contributions please email sponsor@finovate.com.

Accounts payable (AP) processes remain a sticking point for many organizations. Caught between the efficiency issues of paper-based solutions and the potential complexity of adopting technology-driven services, stagnation often results. Accusoft explores its top five tips to smooth out your system and reap the rewards.

Businesses now recognize the necessity of change, but many aren’t sure where to start. When it comes to new permutations of payable processes, a roadmap is invaluable. Here’s a look at five key forms completion and invoice processing improvements to help companies account for evolving AP expectations.

  1. Identifying errors

Staff remain the biggest source of AP errors. There’s no malice here; humans simply aren’t the ideal candidates for repetitive data entry. In this case, effective implementation of new processes depends on customizable software tools capable of accurately capturing forms data and learning over time to better identify and avoid common errors. The benefit? Staff are free to work on time-sensitive AP approval and reviews rather than double-checking basic forms data.

2. Improving invoice routes

Invoice routing is time-consuming and often confusing for AP staff. To avoid potential oversights, most companies use two to three approvers per invoice, creating multiple approval workflows. While the process reduces total error rates, it also introduces new complexity. What happens if invoice versions don’t match or approvers don’t agree on their figures? In the best-case scenario, your company needs extra time to process every invoice. Worst case? Double payment of AP invoices or payments result in missed critical deadlines. Here, a single-application approach to invoice processing helps improve invoice routes and reduce redundant approval steps.

3. Integrating data location

Where is your accounts payable data located? For many companies, there’s no easy answer; some invoices are paper, others are digitally stored on secure servers, and there are still more trapped in emails and messages across your organization. Instead of chasing down AP data, implement an invoice rehoming process. Solutions like Accusoft’s FormSuite for Invoices support thousands of invoice formats and keep them all in the same place.

4. Innovating at speed and scale

Complexity holds back many accounts payable programs. If new technologies complicate existing processes, employee error rates will go up and there’s a chance they’ll avoid digital deployments altogether in favor of familiar paper alternatives. In this case, automation is the key to implementation; speedy solutions capable of scanning paper forms, identifying key data, and then digitally converting this information at scale. 

5. Increasing visibility

You can’t fix what you can’t see. Paper-based invoice processing naturally frustrates visibility by making it difficult to find key documents and assess total financial liabilities. Integrated APIs that work with your existing accounts payable applications can help improve inherent visibility by creating a single source of AP data under the secure umbrella of your corporate IT infrastructure.

Want to learn more about the potential pathways available for companies to improve their AP processes and reduce total complexity? Check out Volume 1 of our Accounts Payable eGuide series, No Pain, No Gain?

Future Banking: Creating an ‘Incumbent Challenger’

Finovate talks with Ronit Ghose, global head of banks research and co-head of the fintech theme group at Citi about the future of challenger banks and why some shouldn’t be calling themselves a “fintech” at all.

Finovate: How would you define the different types of challenger bank that exist today, and what are the key differentiating factors between them?

Ronit Ghose: Challenger banks are designed around the digital revolution and are able to leverage data insights via advanced technology stacks. I’d say there are three types of challenger banks that have emerged:

  • The first are standalone challenger banks, which are primarily Fintech companies leveraging technology and data to streamline retail banking by offering better convenience and pricing.
  • The second are incumbent-led challenger banks, started within legacy banks through investment in technology and by creating new digital-only banks.
  • Finally, we’re seeing BigTech-led challenger banks who can use their vast networks to acquire customers quickly as they branch out into financial services.

Finovate: Interesting! So, we’ve seen many incumbent banks attempt to set up their own challenger banks – how successful has this been, what lessons should others learn, and how can banks make their back end look more like a digitally-native company’s?

Ghose: Over the past five years or so, especially since 2016 through 2017, incumbent banks have moved from ignoring or mocking the new entrants to engaging with them and giving them the best testimonial possible: They have begun copying them by setting up their own new businesses. While the results have been mixed, the success or failure of incumbents in this field could be characterized using three factors: markets, technology and operating model or culture.

So in most cases, incumbent banks launch a challenger bank in a market where they are already active; albeit they use their new proposition to better target a specific segment, such as millennials or digitally-savvy customers. With regards to technology, in the past 12 to 18 months incumbent banks appear to be moving to consider more disruptive technology and business model approaches, and to attempt to actually build new brands or businesses “like a startup”. If you aren’t doing new tech, then stop calling yourself challenger or fintech. ‎

Finally, we have to consider bank employee incentives, training, and formation are the human capital equivalent of a fixed income instrument. By contrast, fintech founders work and their employees are growth equity to the bank employees’ fixed coupon bond. In the language of financial instruments, can banks become convertibles not just bonds? ‎

Finovate: Moving away from challenger banks to other new market entrants, to what extent do incumbent banks fear big technology companies over fintechs?

Ghose: The emergence of BigTech has led to heightened competition in the financial services sector. I think the challenge BigTech poses for incumbent and standalone challenger banks is daunting, given the absence of any cost drag from legacy information technology (IT) systems and underused branch networks (common problems for banks) and their natural advantage in customer acquisition owing to their high user engagement models.

One of the most prominent of these is in Korea, where popular social messaging app Kakao Talk launched a digital-only bank in 2017, acquiring two million customers in a short span of just two weeks from launch date. Similarly in China, challenger banks such as WeBank, backed by Tencent, respectively, have seen strong user growth following their launch in 2015.

The experiences of Korea and China are successful examples of internet companies venturing into banking. There are many lessons to be learned from this. Firstly, incumbent banks should not be overly complacent with their existing customer base – the speed of customer acquisition could be much faster through digital channels than the traditional distribution channels. Secondly, internet giants have a clear edge in certain areas of banking, especially around payments and mobile money. Finally, there are opportunities to cross-sell and scale to other products.

Finovate: So there’s potential for a lot of change and upheaval then. What will the bank of the future be characterized by?

Ghose: Legacy banks often have data that is stuck in multiple silos supported by core banking technology that was literally built in the era of black and white television. Manual intervention is high, which slows down operating speed, reduces flexibility, increases costs, and ultimately degrades efficiency and experience. Creating an incumbent challenger sounds like an oxymoron, but as legacy banks recognize the threat that new entrants into banking are posing to revenue and customers, they need to reinvent themselves and reimagine banking. This involves legacy banks partnering with technology companies to create effective joint ventures as well as moving into more disruptive technology and business models to transform themselves into digital competitors. By creating their own Bank X, we believe some legacy banks can transform themselves from slow moving caterpillars to agile butterflies.