How are banks and fintechs leveraging the lessons learned during the global health crisis to provide consumers and businesses with financial products that do an even better job than before of addressing their needs? And when it comes to innovation in technology and financial services, is disruption or collaboration dictating the pace of change?
To talk about these and other issues, we caught up with Andrea Zand, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of FISPAN. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, FISPAN made its Finovate debut in 2017, demonstrating its cloud-based platform that leverages APIs to enable banks to deliver new business banking solutions to their corporate customers.
How are the banks you work with doing now – a little over one year after the onset of the pandemic?
Andrea Zand: Open-banking infrastructure and data sharing are helping banks and governments around the world better respond to the recovery post-pandemic. We are starting to see evidence that governments are beginning to use open banking data to help inform their pandemic responses and help small businesses. The banks we work with are feeling positive about the recovery going into 2021.
In what ways should banks expect customer behavior to change and how should they respond?
Zand: We’ve already seen that the pandemic has sped up innovation in financial services. Customers are getting more and more comfortable doing their personal banking online, and business banking customers are also turning to digital banking platforms as an alternative to in-person branch visits. Banks are struggling to keep up with this rapid shift in the types of online service offerings their clients are demanding.
Because of this, banks are looking to deploy innovations that will have an immediate impact on the client experience. This is where we see a huge opportunity with embedded banking. By embedding the banking experience inside the platforms that business customers use to run their businesses (such as ERPs or accounting software), banks are able to easily provide their business clients with a more automated and streamlined treasury management process. The banks that are ahead of the curve and partnering with fintechs like us are beginning to better understand how their customers use their products in context, allowing them to innovate smarter and faster.
Technology has moved too fast for the banks to build those capabilities themselves. The best way for B2B banks to manage the impact of rapidly evolving customer expectations is to partner with agile, innovative fintech services.
Connecting with their clients as much as possible and understanding their needs will be essential in driving the agenda for the new capabilities the banks should be focusing on. Leveraging tech and automation will manage and rise to customer expectations while still allowing for more face time during this transition period to explore and understand customers’ needs and wants.
What are some of the other challenges that banks will encounter as the recovery picks up steam – and how will FISPAN help them?
Zand: Banks will continue to be challenged by continually changing customer expectations. They will also be challenged by the need to adapt to an open exchange of data that will happen as a result of the many new fintech upstarts that are creating new business models and finding ways to better meet these changing client demands.
FISPAN helps by collaborating with FIs to understand what will make their customers happier by joining forces across all levels of the product discovery and implementation phases. Getting in front of the customers and understanding their day-to-day ERP and accounting struggles is a large part of how we meet and overcome the challenges that have risen due to the digital shift during our global pandemic. More specifically, we enable banks to extend their service offering to their business clients by embedding commercial banking applications within the organization’s ERP or accounting software.
For those institutions that engaged in digital transformations, how do they make sure those efforts truly pay off?
Zand: Continue to be open to new ways of thinking and working with new partners. In partnering, serving, or investing in innovation by way of technology upstarts, financial institutions are able to position themselves for future growth and adaptation through real-time, easy access to products, services, data, and channels. Delivering a product or service that truly resonates with their customers and meets them where they are with the current challenges they face in a rapidly growing digital market.
What does collaboration between banks and fintechs look like in a post-COVID world?
Zand: Collaboration between banks, fintech, and other providers is becoming more important as the payments landscape is becoming more complex. Banks that are open to partnering have a competitive advantage because they can provide better services at scale. Not to mention that some banks are at risk of getting disintermediated by nonbank providers for some of these types of solutions. The time that bank partners spend helping integrate their banking services into different platforms is markedly less than the time it would take for the bank to develop it themselves. That same time investment from the bank also leads to countless saved hours for their business clients, increasing their value as a business bank.
What has been your biggest professional takeaway from 2020?
Zand: If 2020 taught me anything, it was to always remain flexible and open-minded. One of the big plans we had was to go to some in-person events and start to talk face to face with end-users and really understand what kinds of pain points they were experiencing with their treasury management process. All of our events were either canceled or transferred to digital. We were still able to get the information we needed from customer interviews and case studies, but it just goes to show that sometimes your best-laid plans aren’t going to be in the cards and you need to pivot quickly.
What are you looking forward to most in 2021? Where do you see the greatest opportunities?
Zand: Besides being able to see our bank clients and end-users face to face, in 2021 I am looking forward to watching banks, payments providers, and fintech companies launching services and solutions that can help small businesses across the country emerge from 2020. I think the greatest opportunity for economic recovery and success post-pandemic lies in banks being better able to serve their small business clients.