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Tracking fintech, banking & financial services innovations since 1994
Brands spend a lot of time, effort, and money ensuring that first impressions are strong- strong enough to encourage customers to buy. Acquiring new customers is important to any business, but how do you make a good impression on someone you’ve never met?
During this webinar, we addressed the importance of building a relationship with current and potential customers and the importance of creating a self-service offering, all while helping your organization deliver an exceptional customer experience (CX).
Dan Latimore, Senior Vice President with Celent, discussed key elements to build a customer relationship both in the branch and digitally and why the use of digital is essential to delivering an exceptional CX today. He discussed three key areas:
How customers are actually interacting with their banks today
How banks are approaching their digital initiatives
What banks can do better – across channels – to attract new customers and deepen new and existing relationships
Andrew Stevens, Banking & Financial Services Specialist with Quadient concluded the webinar with practical lessons on how to ensure your customer feels they are a part of the banking relationship in the face of using digital channels.
Adding to our line up of leading women in fintech, we speak to Emma Margetts, Head of European Operations at Visible Alpha, about how she made it in the financial services space, having started out at just 16 years old.
How did you start your career?
While growing up in South Africa, I always had a passion for capital markets and entrepreneurship. I started investing in the stock markets at 16 years old and later started the non-profit Business Learning Network, the first women’s accelerator for female entrepreneurs in the townships of South Africa. Straight after university, I moved to London and worked in asset management for five years. This is where I met my co-founders for Alpha Exchange and the idea for our company was born.
What sparked your interest in fintech?
I’ve always loved the financial markets coupled with knowing definitively that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The problem was: I didn’t know where to start.
Many people starting out in fintech ask me if it’s possible to run a tech company without being technical. Well, if you don’t count being able to turn an iPhone on or off as technical, then “yes.”
The truth is, I surrounded myself with a best-in-class co-founding team with complementary skill sets, which proved to be the optimal way forward. I had the vision and drive to make up for the shortfalls in my technical skills. But even so, it was an extreme learning trajectory for the first 18 months.
What was your lightbulb moment?
Two and a half years ago, the initial idea behind Alpha Exchange came to me and my co-founders, Alex Santos and Scott Winship, while we were working in asset management in London. During this time, the average investment analyst we worked with would receive upwards of 1,000 emails daily containing investment research – only 5-10% of which was ever opened. We saw research distribution as an inefficient, legacy-driven process that had seen little to no innovation. Research pricing was also a problem in that it lacked transparency, as it was typically “bundled” in with a broader set of client services.
We knew there had to be a more intelligent and efficient way to quickly surface relevant insights, cut through the noise, and create an investment edge. So we set out to do just that. Despite daunting competition from the likes of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, we built Alpha Exchange, a platform that aimed to transform the way institutional participants interacted, shared knowledge, and discovered investment insights.
At the same time, the world of investment research was rapidly evolving before our eyes. Asset managers were battling some of the most widespread regulatory challenges of our time brought about by a revamped version of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, MiFID II.
We then had the opportunity to join forces with Visible Alpha, which acquired Alpha Exchange in November 2017. By joining our two platforms, we have created a robust end-to-end MiFID II solution. This has opened up many more possibilities, and I’m proud to be leading Visible Alpha’s European operations.
What inspires you?
I surround myself with people who approach life with passion and enthusiasm. I get so much out of this – I think that kind of energy is contagious and necessary in life.
I’m inspired by remarkable people who are courageous and brave. My mum is one of these people. She is a strong woman who has faced entrepreneurship battles whilst raising a family and being a constant source of excitement in my life!
Why is the #WomenInTech movement important?
When I started Alpha Exchange, every pitch, every boardroom, every investor, mentor or advisor was male. Also, being in my mid-twenties, the amount of times I get a look of surprise and have to repeat who I am and what my role is always makes me laugh.
I made an active choice many years ago not to focus on being just one of a few women in a field or an industry, but instead to concentrate on always improving my skills, going for every opportunity presented to me, and being an expert in my industry of choice.
I feel empowered knowing I’ve not let stereotypes hold me back. My best advice for women is to spend your life doing something you love, regardless of how male-dominated the field may be.
I have been lucky to have incredible female fintech mentors as part of my work life (big shout out to the incredible Jenny Fielding, MD at Techstars).
What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in fintech?
Go for it! There is never a perfect time to take the leap and start something new. There is always a reason to wait another day. I guess the critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something about it. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but very rarely do people action on them.
I ripped off the band-aid and resigned from a stable job in order to start something that I had barely figured out myself. It probably took me more by surprise than it did anyone else. I was terrified, but I quickly discovered that as a fintech founder you only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror.
It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and your abilities. There are countless examples of women who triumphantly navigate through male-dominated landscapes, and there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.
What is AI and how can financial services companies leverage it to their advantage? Simply put, AI – or artificial intelligence – is the development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.
What does AI do better than humans?
First, analysis. AI thinks faster, processing far more information at a much more rapid rate than a human mind.
Next, learning. AI designs better and more efficiently by leveraging faster thinking and data aggregation to build and select appropriate models.
Finally, creating. AI can build stronger solutions capable of self-improvement and optimization beyond original instruction.
The top three ways financial services companies can leverage the AI advantage are:
One: Predicting risk. This includes optimizing investment and tax strategies as well as proactively preventing fraud and bolstering security.
Two: Examining data: In addition to marketing, banks rely on data analytics for regulatory compliance and underwriting
Three: Emulating human behavior. Financial services companies can use natural language reporting capabilities, bolster the user interface with speech recognition, and enhance customer engagement using chatbots.
For more ideas on AI and a look at how other companies are leveraging the enabling technology, check out the Finovate blog and search AI.
FinovateSpring was a hotbed of future-looking technology. We spoke to Theo Lau, Innovator Technologist and Connector, Unconventional Ventures about why she thinks voice is the next UI.
Although voice may not a solution for all situations, there is no denying that the momentum and interest for voice technology is growing. In the Q3 2017 earnings report, Amazon disclosed that it has sold “tens of millions of Echo units” since the first release in 2015. According to “The Rise of Voice” report by Invoca, the voice opportunity is predicted to be worth more than $18 billion by 2023. Consumers have been using voice assistants from seeking information to playing music and shopping. Accessibility, convenience, and simplicity are some of the main reasons behind the user adoption. For those who cannot read or who may have trouble navigating the menu options on an app or website, ability to speak to a device offers a more intuitive option to obtain real-time information. Voice technology is also life-impacting for those suffering from isolation/loneliness. In all, it has the potential to become a more inclusive technology that can appeal to a board audience and serve a wide purpose.
Recognizing the potential and appeal, financial institutions such as Capital One, USAA, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and Ally Financial have begun experimenting with various use cases. Applications thus far are still fairly rudimentary and focused on basic interactions such as checking balance, paying bill, and tracking spending.
Though voice banking is still at its infancy, the industry is quite bullish on its future. Capgemini predicts that 3 years from now, 40 percent of consumers will use voice assistants rather than website or app, and 31 percent will use a voice device instead of visiting a store or branch. Separately, Medici forecasts that approximately 1.83 billion customers will be using voice assistants by 2021. Financial institutions should leverage insights harnessed from these interactions to adapt the conversation to reflect their brand identity and user’s profile. As suggested by Mark Taylor from Capgemini: “A brand today is an image, a set of colors, something you see on TV, on a website or in a store. With a voice channel, you see nothing, so a brand needs to have an audible image.”
While we might not be at the “promise land” yet where the virtual assistants become truly conversational, we have made great strides. As with any technology, empathy is key. AI and voice technology has the potential to make businesses more human, allowing banks to truly focus on their customers and become their true partners.
Coming into effect on May 25th, GDPR represents a significant sea change in terms of data privacy and data protection and designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy. This webinar provides actionable guidance on how to determine if your selected data processors are, in fact, fully compliant, how processes have been vetted and guiding you to ask the right questions in order to provide you a little peace of mind. Hearfrom Jumio, Fintrail and leading banks discuss the challenges – and opportunities – of GDPR within the digital identity sector.
Today’s customers demand that every experience provide immediate value on multiple levels. They require a competitive, friendly, quick and personalized user experience. They swear allegiance to no brand and are ready to jump ship to the first competitor that can offer them what they want, when they need it, and at the level of service they feel they deserve. Grant Thorton discuss the what this means in practical terms.
Tech giants, such as Amazon or Netflix, have set the bar high for intuitive personalized user experiences. Many industries, including financial services, are rethinking their own customer service approach to match this new standard and meet the expectations of modern consumers.
It is increasingly evident that the future success or failure of financial services institutions will hinge on their ability to provide personalized user experiences. Institutions must seize the rich customer data that they already possess in order to optimize customer experience and differentiate from their competition. To achieve this outcome, they must shift their mindset, from one focused on what they want to offer to the customer to one that prioritizes what creates immediate value for the customer. In addition, they must be willing to allocate the necessary resources to drive this goal. To this purpose, they can use artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve brand differentiation.
We recently explored issues and opportunities related to customer experience in a joint webinar with Finovate – Data overload? The impact of AI on the customer experience – moderated by David Head, managing director, Grant Thornton, with panelists Carrie Russell, executive strategic advisor, Finn.ai; Tariq Bakhari, CEO, Aggresant, Inc.; Dave Brodsky, VP digital innovation, Wells Fargo; and Katy Gibson, vice president of product applications, Envestnet | Yodlee.
Webinar panelists discussed various ways in which AI can help financial institutions solve their differentiation-through-customer-experience challenge. While currently AI is still in its infancy, the technology has the potential to transform customer experience by enhancing the interaction with the customer, rather than replacing humans with bots.
Paving the way for AI, many banks have implemented machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), primarily in their back office, to reduce labor costs and increase productivity. In the near future, AI can revolutionize retail banking and other financial service offerings by becoming an omnipotent artificial brain behind the scenes to improve customer interaction and increase personalization.
Here are several insights from the webinar, regarding applications of AI (and of other related technologies) that can create immediate value for the customer:
Allow customers to execute simple transactions through user-friendly tools that leverage their data. In this way, they will see how access to their data creates direct, personal value.
Offer customers personalization and optimization of their experience based on live data.
AI can replace annoying surveys through real-time data mining and by interacting with customers in real time, eliminating the need for the survey feedback loop. As a transformative technology, AI empowers automated financial assistants that provide updated, real-time customer interactions.
Offer recommendations to motivate financial customer behavior.
Savvy financial services institutions can partner with fintech companies to establish trusted relationships and create a financial wellness experience for their customers. This includes using customer data to help them achieve their short- and long-term goals. Institutions can create tools to help customers: 1) keep on top of day-to-day finances to answer immediate questions quickly (e.g. a financial calendar that can keep track of a customer’s account balance until payday and send bill payment reminders, etc.); and 2) think through long-term financial planning.
Use AI or related technologies (e.g. ML, NLP) to enhance rather than replace human interaction.
AI can enhance the customer experience even when it is not customer facing. For example, call centers can follow 2 paths for interaction with customers: 1) they can be fully automated and chatbots can simply answer calls; or 2) they can use a mix of human and artificial intelligence, where chatbots can aid human call center representatives interact with customers effectively. So far, the second has proved more effective than the first.Turnover and training are well known challenges for call centers. Customers can feel dissatisfied with a call center representative that does not have an answer to their query; the representative can feel that, despite his best effort, he does not have access to the right information to answer the query. AI can help with this issue, not necessarily by replacing representatives and human interaction, but rather by facilitating speed and access to information to help representatives create an outstanding customer experience. This can be particularly effective with new hires that have to get up to speed fast.
Get the right channel. Go where the customer is likely to be.
Customers expect personal experiences that make their lives easier. For example, customers spend most of their time on their cell phones and have started using virtual voice-enable assistance more and more. Financial institutions need to meet the customers where they are to offer convenience and ease of use. This insight should guide investment in new tools. Conversational assistants/virtual assistants can be used for day-to-day transactions and allow customers to explore additional products and services, policies and other information.
Think through infrastructure challenges that limit the customer experience.
When planning investments in AI tools, financial institutions need to think proactively about current infrastructure challenges and future infrastructure advances. Delivering differentiation through technology depends on the capacity of the technological infrastructure to support the tool. At the high end of the technology infrastructure spectrum, 5G capabilities may enable the Internet of things (IoT) new data sources. Are banks/financial institutions prepared to collect and leverage this new data? At the low end, many US citizens barely connect to broadband because of the areas in which they live. Are they untapped customers? What tools/channels work for them, as they are dependent on the limited availability of infrastructure now and in the future?
Financial services institutions are in an excellent position to build a solid technological foundation that will make use of new customer data in meaningful ways. At this critical point, the question remains how to evaluate and select the appropriate tools and how to find a manageable pace of adoption.
Cyber security is finally at the frontline of conversations, but is it that easy?
Today we chatted with Sean Sposito, Security Analyst at Javelin Strategy, about the challenges that financial services companies have when dealing with cyber security. While awareness of cyber security has never been higher, Sposito asks whether that really equals an impenetrable safe wall?
Banks: who do you want to be when you grow up?
We ask John Waupsh, Chief Innovation Officer at Kasasa, where the branch stands? “Consumers, including millennials, still want to go into the branch and talk to somebody,” Waupsh says. But he counters with the fact that banks should be investing in a future of embedded banking.
FI + Core Vendor + Fintech: What it takes to make the partnership work
Tina Giorgio, President & CEO of ICBA Bancard, speaks with us live at FinovateSpring 2018 about the three Ts – time, talent, and treasure – that can guide community banks as they seek to adopt new technologies.
Financial wellness first: transforming the digital experience
“As a financial services industry, we have not yet been able to help a customer understand that the decisions that they make today impact their short and long-term goals,” says Tiffani Montez, Retail Banking Senior Analyst for Aite Group. Taking a new perspective on the digital experience, Montez addresses the key themes that can be facilitated by keeping financial wellness at the forefront: mobile experience, the role of the branch, and reinventing the checking account.
Security scars are key to innovation
“What’s your surface area and what are you defending?” is the first question you should be asking yourself when considering cyber security, according to Ben Johnson, CTO & Co-Founder, Obsidian Security. We speak to him live at FinovateSpring 2018 about the best practice and innovations in cyber security today.
“Banks can’t be everything for everyone”
We speak to Alex Jimenez, Vice President Senior Strategist, Zions Bancorporation about the key takeaways from the panels he participated in that addresses payments and platformization.
A couple of years ago, Ron Shevlin predicted that banking would move to become banking platforms “much like how Amazon is a platform in retail.” Usually, it takes a few years for banking executives to latch on to Ron’s ideas. It’s no surprise then that the idea peppers many strategy documents throughout the US banking industry today.
There are some early signs that the US banking industry is moving towards this future state. While we can point to open banking and PSD2 in Europe, there are significant differences in the regulatory environment between markets that makes such a jump merely speculative. Instead, I point to two separate trends: banks publicly publishing their APIs, and early examples of banking platforms.
Publicly publishing APIs isn’t a new practice, but it is in banking. Without getting into the possible impact of the recent Facebook API controversy, some of the more forward-looking banks in the US have public pages where developers can access their APIs. This practice doesn’t constitute open banking, but a permissioned extension to the banks’ model. A developer applies for inclusion, downloads the API standards, builds experiences around the APIs, tests it in a sandbox, applies for certification, and then deploys with the bank. Some of the US banks that have published their APIs are doing it because they are international, like Citi, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase. However, there are others that have some international business but are focusing on building a US platform, like CapitalOne and Silicon Valley Bank.
Beyond the banks, companies that form the technology backbone of many community banks and credit unions have also begun to publish their APIs. FIS offers CodeConnect “a centralized fintech hub that gives developers access to the FIS product catalog in one central marketplace.” Similarly, Fiserv offers their DNAappstore “a collaborative community and online marketplace for trying, buying and selling custom DNAapps that enhance and extend the robust functionality of” their DNA® account processing platform.
Further, APIs are a topic of discussion for most bank CIOs, and increasingly throughout the executive suite.
We will see banking-as-a-platform as a regular banking model alongside the laggards in the industry with a traditional model. Ultimately, where the future lies will depend on what resonates with banking customers.
How do traditional financial services firms successfully innovate to move nimbly from fintech idea to full customer availability? Ahead of speaking at FinovateSpring 2018, Jim Van Dyke, Founder & CEO at Futurion reveals his truths around the idea of ‘successful innovation.’
Last year, I interviewed leaders from banks, credit unions, and other FIs (ranging from the nation’s largest to smallest) to reveal specific speed bumps, potholes and pitfalls amidst rare fast stretches of smooth pavement. These leaders all know that without finding a faster and better way to innovate quickly on the path toward fulfillment of customer, competitive and market opportunities, organizations will quickly become irrelevant. This research report asked 30 leaders the same three questions about their largest innovation processes: how they work, how long they take, and what they’ve learned along the way.
Project durations vary widely—ranging from a 6 months to five years—with the most common response being 21 months and the average being 24. Specific project management methodologies make all the difference.
Innovation practices at financial services firms appear to be significantly less mature and productive than those at software firms, representing risk that the latter will outmaneuver the former. Financial sector firms’ project stages vary dramatically among all respondents and had very inconsistent mention of lean methodologies (such as prototyping or customer journey maps).
Some traditional financial sector firms only allow innovation ideas to originate from top executives. At all such firms, demonstrated respondent confidence and morale was markedly lower (when compared to all other interviewees).
There was a strong observed (i.e. generally not explicitly stated) correlation between an organization’s current ability to rapidly execute and a respondent’s demonstrated morale and level of engagement. In turn, the author predicts that a likely by-product of the ability to rapidly innovate with high alignment to customer needs might be the benefit of a stronger ability to attract, motivate, and retain top quality talent in the competitive fintech labor market.
Many top innovations are viewed as neither discretionary nor of direct contribution to customer value, but are ultimately viewed as no less important than others. For example, many cited efforts to adopt an API framework or particular vendor relationships that only make future areas of direct customer value more possible. In addition, several smaller FI executives lamented actions on the part of their technology vendors that they viewed as standing in the way of their ability to release new innovations to market.
Risk or security-focused team members are unexpectedly incredibly valuable in ideation or problem-solving at several FI shops, possibly because they are required, on an ongoing basis, to creatively address dynamic and formidable problems.
Join Van Dyke at FinovateSpring 2018, May 8 through 11, 2018 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. Find out more >>