Banking with Crypto: Where Will It Go Next?

This is a guest post written by Shannon Flynn, managing editor at ReHack.com.

Amid the market instability caused by COVID-19, a major shift seems to be taking place in the crypto industry.

After years of false starts and criticism from the banking sector and traditional financial institutions, new partnerships and legislation seem to suggest the industry may be on the verge of a large-scale crypto service adoption.

Here’s the current state of the crypto market, and how financial institutions are beginning to offer it in earnest.

The Current Health of the Crypto Market

Like other asset classes, crypto wasn’t immune to the crash caused by the coronavirus. In mid-March, as assets of all categories fell — even those typically more secure against market shocks, like gold — so too did major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Prices for both dropped sharply, with Bitcoin’s market value nearly halved.

Crypto, however, was remarkably quick to bounce back, with prices recovering to near pre-coronavirus levels over the next two months. So far, crypto seems to have come out as one of the better-performing asset classes, recovering much faster than others.The disruption caused by COVID-19 seems to have been small enough that banks and major financial institutions are continuing with plans to offer crypto services.

JPMorgan Announces Partnership With Crypto Exchanges

One of the biggest announcements of the past few months has been the partnership between JPMorgan Chase and crypto exchanges Gemini and Coinbase. In May, the bank announced it would accept the exchanges as banking customers — making them their first clients from the cryptocurrency industry.

Coinbase is the largest U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange. Gemini is less prominent but is notable in its moves to secure support from major institutions outside of crypto.

The partnership is big news for American cryptocurrency traders and firms, especially in light of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s previous comments on bitcoin. In 2017, Dimon famously bashed the currency as a “fraud” and said he expected that global governments would take action against crypto.The partnership isn’t JPMorgan’s first foray into digital currency, though. In 2019, the bank introduced its own version, JPM Coin. Each coin represented one dollar stored in the bank and could be used to more quickly settle transactions between members.

While the move isn’t JPMorgan’s first experiment with digital currency, it is a sign that traditional financial institutions may be getting more comfortable with the idea of trading in crypto. Large banks have traditionally been fierce critics of cryptocurrency.

Concerns about the inefficiency of blockchain and the potential environmental impact of bitcoin may be enough to dissuade broader adoption. After all, bitcoin miners use up the same amount of energy as 6.8 million average U.S. households.

However, investors seem like they are becoming more interested in crypto. According to the Wall Street Journal, “average daily trading volume this year of CME’s bitcoin futures contract has risen 43%” compared to last year. Other crypto vehicles, like Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, have also seen similar upticks in trading volume.

Even if traditional financial institutions shy away from full crypto adoption, cryptocurrency banks in the U.S. may still become a possibility over the next few years. In June, Former Wall Street trader Caitlin Long secured $5 million in funding for a cryptocurrency bank, Avanti. That gave the institution enough cash to follow through on filing for a charter with the Wyoming Division of Banking. The bank currently plans to open for business in 2021.

Banks Around the World Consider Crypto Service

The trend toward cryptocurrency banking isn’t limited to the U.S. In Germany, more than 40 financial institutions declared their intent to offer crypto services under new legislation. Two of Switzerland’s largest banks have also launched digital asset-based transaction services.

Earlier this year, India’s Supreme Court overturned a Central Bank ruling that prohibited banks from providing services to traders and firms dealing in cryptocurrencies. While it had signaled it would challenge the decision, it instead issued formal guidance giving commercial banks in India the green light on providing banking services.

Following the court’s decision, CoinDCX — India’s largest crypto exchange, which received a major investment from Coinbase in early June — integrated bank account transfers. This allows customers to purchase and trade cryptocurrency using their bank accounts.

However, as in America, trust remains a significant barrier. Even with the prohibition on services for crypto traders lifted, few Indian banks have moved to seriously integrate crypto offerings.

The Future of Cryptocurrency Banks

Despite the major instability caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the cryptocurrency market has managed an impressive rebound and emerged as one of the best-performing asset classes so far.

At the same time, major institutions — including JPMorgan and several European banks — are moving ahead with new plans to offer crypto- and digital asset-based transactions. There’s reason to believe that banks may soon provide financial vehicles that make it easier for investors to purchase and trade bitcoin. It’s hard to know what the future of crypto banking will look like right now. For the moment, it’s all good news in spite of current market disruptions.

Shannon Flynn is a technology and culture writer with two+ years of experience writing about consumer trends and tech news.

What is Next for Digital Transformation in Financial Services?

The following is a guest post by Natalie Myshkina, Strategic Business Development, FSI at Adobe.

Like many industries and businesses right now, financial organizations in banking are finalizing and implementing business continuity/contingency plans as well as enabling all employees to work from home. At the same time, they are diligently working to meet changing client needs and building new ways to serve clients. Beyond the operational actions underway, banks and capital markets need to start developing medium- and longer-term plans to address each element of financial, risk, and regulatory compliance, and create new environments to support the business in fully digital settings.

In late 2019, an Arizent survey commissioned by the Credit Union Journal and American Banker reported that only 30 percent of organizations have a digital first, enterprise-wide strategy and readiness. Other organizations are still in the middle or beginning of the digital transformation of their businesses.

While most organizations have business continuity plans, they have been heavily tested over the last few weeks. I’d like to highlight a few operational steps that are essential to consider now for banks:

  • Transparency and trust
    Continue to adjust a communication plan to quickly liaise with employees, customers, business partners, regulators, investors, and vendors. Keeping close communications with customers and other stakeholders creates the opportunity to strengthen the relationship.
  • Operating model
    Implement a dynamic, scalable, and flexible operating model to ensure business continuity in any scenario. For example, in the case of temporary closures, branches need to quickly train branch employees to provide online help or assist the call center in serving clients.
  • Remote services and capabilities
    Many enterprise organizations have an extensive set of workflow tools, document management tools, document collaboration, and electronic signature solutions in place, but they are not fully utilized. For example, one department in the organization may fully embrace digital documents and electronic signatures, while another department keeps receiving and sending snail mail. The solution here would be to review best practices and tools across the organization, understand the full capabilities of available solutions, and offer them to unit managers to utilize as immediate solutions.
  • Digital project prioritization
    Conduct project prioritization exercises, and speed up projects related to offering digital products and services (client onboarding, product enrollment, etc.) or operational inefficiencies. If possible, speed up time-to-market or release solutions with limited/partial functionality or limited integration points.
  • Organizational culture
    Communicating and fostering the culture that maintains employee morale is becoming extremely important, and it can be done in different forms: through top-down communication and leaders acting as role models, by encouraging grassroots initiatives, by providing platforms for team collaboration, creating virtual watercoolers, etc.
  • Peer communications
    Be in close contact with industry groups for information to get best practices and requests to obtain waivers from regulators if required.

The coronavirus pandemic is already leading to major changes in how customers manage their finances and how financial organizations support their customers. Next we would be seeing activities related to meeting changing client needs due to financial stress, supporting client activities in digital channels, rapid digitalization in commercial and corporate banking, and more.

Here are a few notable areas financial organizations should address:

  • Proactively address new customer needs
    To operate in the new environment, banks would need to rapidly meet different client needs and serve them in ways outside the norm. Scalable solutions to process and approve requests for forbearance, mortgage holidays, deferred loan repayments, etc. would need to be implemented quickly as well as quickly scale up the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) via the SBA program.
  • Branchless banking and self-service options in digital channel
    Due to the temporary closing of branches and reduced ATM availability and usage, the branchless banking or virtual branches idea is becoming more popular. As many interactions move online, expect to see more and more consumers want to use self-service tools on the web and in their mobile devices.
  • Rapid digitalization and digital service accessibility across all customer lifecycles stages
    For many organizations, their digital transformations began with onboarding new clients. But often we see that many other client touchpoints in the customer lifecycle are not fully digitized, and some require manual/paper steps. In the new environment, most of the client-initiated activities would be done on digital platforms. Automation is essential to provide clients with fast service and a consistent experience while keeping cost-effective operating model in place.
  • Expending successful digitalization of customer touchpoints beyond retail banking
    Over the last few years, we have seen substantial efforts and budgets spent on elevating customer experiences and moving clients to digital platforms. This has been done for many reasons, one of them was a demand from a digitally native consumer to have a better experience and the competition coming from neobanks (aka digital-only banks).

    Commercial and corporate banks were behind this trend partially because the lack of these drivers and the complexity of the processes. In the new reality, we would be seeing a lot of rapid digitalization of customer-facing and internal activities in commercial/corporate banking and capital markets.
  • Data use, extraction and manipulation
    Going forward, the ability to extract and process data from multiple documents will be essential to manage risks and to create cost-conscious processes. Immediately, we could see requests for solutions to process documents to feed systems assessing portfolio health in stressed markets, or complete search thought legal documents.
  • Adaption of cloud solutions
    As financial services organizations have been behind the curve in the cloud solution adaption, this situation will trigger a revisit of internal policies and expedite further cloud adoption for both client-facing and internal solutions to improve efficiencies, eliminating the need for a larger security and maintenance staff, and creating cost-effective, scalable environments.

During these trying times, banks can best serve their clients by delivering products and services for business continuity today while working on business resilience for the future. Industry experts predict that the current situation will accelerate the digital transformation in the industry over the a short period of time. That time starts now.


Photo by Twixes on Unsplash

What Can Fintechs Do to Compete with the Apple Card

Some of the biggest disruptions in financial services are coming from some of the least likely places. The challenger bank revolution, for one, is bringing new levels of competition to “old” finance.

The rise of challenger banks will be one of chief topics of our upcoming, all-digital FinovateAsia event next month. Helping drive that conversation will be Araminta Robertson of Mint Studios, a speaker, podcaster, and fintech writer who will moderate our Challenger Bank Power Panel on July 6th.

By way of introduction, we’ve invited Ms. Robertson to address another disruptive elephant in the financial services room: the rise of financial services offerings from popular technology companies with deep pockets and powerful brands.


Everyone working in the financial sector held their breath when Apple announced it was releasing a credit card.

Araminta Robertson

People have been discussing for years when the Big Tech companies will enter the world of financial service. In 2019, it became true. Apple released a credit card in the U.S. that allows you to sign up through your phone, connects with all your Apple devices and offers 2% cashback on transactions. Customers can immediately start using their Apple Card and even use the balance to send money to friends and family members. On top of that, customers can track all their spending on their phone and aren’t charged any late fees, international fees or general accounts fees.

How fintechs can compete with Apple

Fintechs, specifically challenger banks, are going to have to find new ways to up their game. Although some may not need to compete directly with Apple just yet (the Apple Card is only available in the U.S.), fintechs should start looking at strategies that will prepare them for a much more ambitious market. This is because Apple will soon be setting the bar for the industry, and customers will be expecting the same level of privacy, customer experience and quality of features as they get with Big Tech products. Here are a few approaches fintechs can consider in order to stand out.

Take branding seriously

To start with, it’s unlikely people will buy an Apple phone just to use the Apple card. This means that the Apple card will be primarily be used by iPhone and Apple fans. The good news is there is a large segment of the population that does not use Apple products and services or iPhones – and many who don’t want to be associated with the brand or would never trust Apple with their money.

This means that fintechs still have a chance to create their own brand, community, and customer base and should, therefore, take branding seriously.

Not only can fintechs use branding to stand out more, but with the appropriate licenses, they can offer other financial features that a Big Tech cannot. The Apple card does not allow users to invest in the stock market, buy cryptocurrencies, or perform bank-related actions. This is because Apple does not have a banking license, and will likely never hold one: becoming a bank is expensive, cumbersome, and not very profitable for a Big Tech.

Ted Rossman from CreditCards.com says so himself: he thinks people will only sign up to the Apple card because they love Apple. At the moment, they don’t offer any features that you can’t find somewhere else. Although they may offer unique features in the future, fintechs can still use this opportunity to position themselves as a trustworthy banking solution that is 100% devoted to managing people’s money securely. Apple does not have the flexibility to adjust its branding to a more banking-friendly image.

Focus on the underserved

The issue with Apple and the Apple Card is that it excludes a large section of the population. In fact, Apple as a brand does not work well with “financial inclusion”; if their phone costs $500, they can hardly say they are proponents of financial inclusion.

This is an important point because many challenger banks and fintechs have financial inclusion and literacy as a core principle, and are focusing on helping the underserved – it’s what drives them to create accessible products, offer lower fees and build a community around financial education. Those fintechs that are consumer-focused and take financial inclusion seriously can use this as a competitive advantage to build a brand that takes into account the underbanked. 

Apple will not become a brand that provides for the underserved anytime soon, so that’s a market that will always be open for fintechs.

Encourage localization

As mentioned above, Apple will raise the bar and set the standard worldwide. However, it also means that their products and features are more generalized and meet a broader spectrum of audiences.

This is where fintechs in different countries can gain a competitive advantage by partnering up with local businesses, offering location-specific services, and building a brand that is more regional. Spanish citizens will likely appreciate a neobank that partners with the local food delivery apps, offers a unique Spanish bank card, and a specific Spanish saving product. In addition, local fintechs may be able to take advantage of country-specific regulations that may favor local companies rather than international conglomerates.

Although Apple will be able to localize the more it grows, it will only be able to do so to a certain extent. In many cases, we may find that locals would rather use a product that serves them extremely well in their own country rather than one that works pretty well in several countries. Having said that, Apple aggregates tons of data every year and there is no telling what kind of features may attract locals as well.

Although Apple is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking Big Tech companies in the world, local fintechs still have a chance to build their own brand and community. If anything, this may propel fintechs to up their game and keep adapting their products to customer demand.


Araminta Robertson is a writer and content strategist at Mint Studios. She helps fintech companies from all around the world use content marketing to create a community, build trust, and acquire quality customers. She has worked with some of the fastest growing fintech startups in SE Asia and London, U.K., and regularly speaks at conferences and events.

Photo by Haris Irshad from Pexels

How Does Fintech Affect Ecommerce?

The following is a guest post by Jake Rheude, Vice President of Marketing for order fulfillment company Red Stag Fulfillment.

Fintech has dramatically shifted the way people and enterprises use and move money, and that’s increasingly impacting the world of ecommerce. While logistics is typically thought of a sloth when it comes to adopting innovative technologies, fintech may be a unique case because of the savings it generates, protection it offers, and where demands for adoption come from now.

The landscape is changing, and ecommerce is shifting in significant ways that are important to learn. If you’re in fintech, here are some major opportunities for your next solution.

Validation and KYC compliance

There’s a growing call for ecommerce brands and marketplaces to start focusing on better know your customer (KYC) compliance and services. Online payment fraud continues to rise and the European Payments Council notes that threats are demonstrating a greater degree of professionalism of cybercriminals.

Ecommerce companies are tantalizing targets as they grow larger or when it’s discovered that they lack significant security measures. KYC validation provides a very early deterrent by help collect and verify specific user information — from face IDs and credit card numbers to requirements to use only a verified current address.

It’s a security measure that ecommerce companies are happy to adopt. The lane for fintechs to work here is facilitating KYC programs (and even related AML regulatory checks) within their offering. In a growing number of cases, KYC is baked into fintech solutions, easing the burden on ecommerce and providing greater protection while also making it more of an industry standard.

Stores are looking beyond borders

Ecommerce makes more goods available to more people, regardless of where the company or the customer are. Early fintech helped establish the pathway that ecommerce-focused solutions are taking now.

SWIFT gpi (global payments initiative) made it easier for banks to manage and trace these payments. In early 2019, SWIFT announced a specific gpi link for ecommerce that included plans to use R3’s blockchain technology.

While much of the focus is on support bank payments and activities, this shift provides a unique opportunity for large ecommerce brands as well as those near country borders. When this or similar platforms become available, a company may not need a presence in another country to expand its reach there. Fast, affordable payment management could make it easier for ecommerce companies to work with a variety of payment providers for both their interactions with customers as well as supply chain partners.

When fintech simplifies cross-border payment management, it becomes easier for ecommerce to expand beyond greater boundaries or choose where to have fulfillment locations.

Ubanked shoppers are blending commerce

One of the more exciting fintech innovations for ecommerce companies is coming to stores near you. A well-known example comes from the Oxxo convenience stores in Mexico. More than half of Mexico’s shopping population lack bank accounts, but they still want to shop online. So, they make a purchase from select online merchants and then go to their nearby Oxxo store and pay for the products they selected. Someone who only has physical cash and no bank account is able to buy goods only sold online.

It’s a “low-tech” solution that takes innovative fintechs to pursue. It’s also an extremely rich opportunity. According to 2017 data, there are about 1.7 billion unbanked adults in the world. There’s a good chance, however, that this group overlaps with the ever-growing number of Internet users (about 4.54 billion as of January 2020).

We know about two-thirds own a phone, so as these consumers shift to smartphones and gain access, there’s a big place for fintechs to support ecommerce growth.

Better behind-the-scenes payments

Ecommerce relies heavily on the logistics sector and these both interest with fintech at multiple locations for every sale. The problem with all the financial movement of payments, insurance, product handoffs, etc., is that there’s a lot of opportunity for receipts and bills to go missing. Sometimes it is accidental, other times fraud.

Fintech services that aim to automate payment processing during handoffs can protect everyone. This potential is growing with the adoption of more supply chain DLT offers. Ecommerce companies are part of this when their fulfillment partners, suppliers, and manufacturers join such blockchains.

This cost-reduction and risk mitigation is often felt most by the carrier. The move into ecommerce is likely going to be driven by these carriers and logistics partners.

APIs will shape the future

In many emerging fintechs, as well as regtech (regulatory technology), the API dominates the way information is collected, used, shared, and reported. They simplify the way banks and fintechs interact with each other as well as how ecommerce companies manage payments and budgets.

Today, API use is somewhat limited, and most ecommerce merchants won’t think much about it beyond if a payment API integrates with their platform or not. However, this is likely the area of most impact for our future, even if we can’t see what that will be. It’s likely to be beyond simply moving to the cloud.

One possibility will be their ability to connect fintech and ecommerce companies in a way that customers don’t see a difference. Right now, if you shop on Amazon, you might get an offer like saving 10% by opening up an Amazon-branded credit card. API innovations could allow any ecommerce company, of any size, to offer the same based on user data.

Imagine instant (digital) point-of-sale consumer loans and financing, loyalty programs that work across merchant categories, mobile wallet integration, and more.

What might be the biggest fintech revolution, and one we hope to see, is easing ecommerce company requirements. Adopting a platform API might be all a company needs to do now to get continual access to the latest security updates and payment options when the fintechs that build these innovations join the API community.

APIs already run significant warehouse and fulfillment operations, meaning there’s a goldmine of data to be leveraged for everyone at the table, if fintechs make it easy for ecommerce companies.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

6 Things to Consider while Testing Financial Applications

Photo by jeshoots.com on Unsplash

The following is a guest post by Hemanth Kumar Yamjala, Associate Manager in Digital Marketing at Cigniti Technologies.

Testing financial applications is the need of the hour given the spectre of cybercrime. It should comprise conducting various types of testing such as functional, performance, and security, besides understanding the integrated domains.

Why test?

One of the reasons why mobile-based transactions have become such a rage is their convenience in handling financial payments. Whether it is the paying of utility bills, doing online shopping, booking movie or airline tickets, or paying for the tickets in a concert, app-driven financial transactions are here to stay. At the core of such services are the financial applications. These applications store, manage, process, or analyze financial data and information. Since so much is underpinned on the successful functioning of these applications, financial application testing becomes critical.

A multi-tier financial application allows concurrent user sessions. As it is integrated with various APIs of third-party applications, regulatory websites, trading accounts, and payment gateways, there could be complex workflows and value chains that make testing imperative. As a greater number of customers are using financial applications for making transactions on the go, Fintech companies are looking to set up platforms that deliver seamless customer experiences.

Factors to consider while testing financial apps

Financial services testing should follow an end-to-end methodology to test various aspects such as business requirements and banking workflows, functional testing, security testing, data accuracy and integrity, concurrency, performance testing, and user experience.

  • Business involvement
    The test specialists should collaborate with the business analysts and other stakeholders to understand the business requirements of the application. The business requirements and deliverables ought to be analyzed by specialists testing financial applications, development leads, and business analysts to obtain optimal testing results.
  • Domain understanding
    Given the various domain interfaces of a financial application, the test specialists should understand and possess adequate knowledge about them, which could be about the type and scope of testing – UI, security, load, stress, or functionality or aspects like brokerage, working procedures, or banking, among others. The testers, by knowing the respective domains, can write better test cases and simulate user actions to obtain better test results.
  • Impact analysis
    It is about analyzing how the changes made to the application can impact other aspects of the application. This calls for a calibrated regression testing involving automation, which would enable the BFSI testing team to identify the affected areas of the application and get them fixed.
  • Functional testing
    This type of banking application testing exercise requires access to all source codes and architecture to identify and fix glitches and vulnerabilities. The typical test activities comprise preparation and review of test cases and their execution, including application testing, integration testing, regression testing, and user acceptance testing.
  • Security testing
    Usually financial application security testing is conducted at the end of both functional and non-functional testing. Apart from looking at the resident vulnerabilities and glitches, the testing should ensure the application adheres to the industry regulations related to security like PCI.
  • Performance testing
    As more people are using such applications, they need to be tested for load and stress thresholds. It will help make the application robust, scalable, and resilient thereby ensuring better load management.

Conclusion

As financial services are expanding into new territories and gaining new customers, the need to foster efficiency, security, and risk management become apparent. By embarking on a massive testing exercise, financial institutions can ensure the success of such applications and secure customers against any security breach.


Hemanth Kumar Yamjala has 10+ years of experience in IT Services, predominantly Marketing, Branding, specializing in Digital. Currently a part of the marketing for Cigniti Technologies with functions such as leveraging digital marketing channels for lead generation and promotion.

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.

Protecting your Data Whilst your Employees Work from Home

The following is a guest post written by Josephine Jacobs, writer at Academicbrits.com and PhdKingdom.com and an executive coach and organizational consultant.

As we move into an unprecedented era of remote working (or rather, working from home!), companies and employees need to consider how to protect sensitive data. Several security considerations must be explored. Employees working from home will have access to work systems without the protections an office brings – they will be using different IT infrastructure, bandwidths and Wi-Fi connections that may not be secure. This all brings an element of danger to your company’s data – as your employees access your database or databases remotely, the risk to that data grows. Usually the risk is only between the server, internal network and end user machine. External working adds the risks of public internet connections, local networks and consumer-grade security systems.

Here are some of the best ways to protect your data whilst your employees work from home.

Tutor your Employees in Data Protection and Computer Security

“It’s worth giving your employees a basic training on how to stay safe online and digitally,” says Joey Garcia, a tech writer at 1Day2Write and NextCoursework. “This can include warning them about phishing emails, avoiding public Wi-Fi, securing home Wi-Fi routers and verifying the security of devices they use for work. Remind employees not to click links in emails from people they don’t know, not to install third-party apps, and to be aware that hacking and phishing attacks will increase during the quarantine period.”

Create an Emergency Response Team

Whilst teaching your employees some basic computer security is a useful preventative measure, you need an emergency response team for the unfortunate event of your data being compromised. Ensure this team can be contacted by everyone in the company and everyone knows exactly what to do in the event of a cyber-attack.

Provide your Employees a VPN

Using a VPN (virtual private network) is a good way to ensure data remains secure. A VPN provides more security by hiding the user’s IP address, encrypting data as it is transferred, and masking the user’s location. Most companies use some sort of VPN already – all you need to do is expand it to all of your employees as they work from home and allow them to use it for all business-related activity.

Security Software

Provide your employees with the best security protection on all of their devices – this can be anti-virus software, firewalls, and device encryption.

“Have a look at the best security software for Macs or Windows, depending on what devices your company employees use,” says Melisa Cueva, data analyst at Australia2Write and Britstudent. “Norton Anti-Virus consistently ranks highly, but there are many other options out there.”

Password Audits

It’s a good idea to have your employees regularly change their passwords, and to teach them how to make the best passwords. Perform an audit and ensure all passwords meet a strict security police: alphanumeric codes are much better than names or dates that are easily guessed. Two-factor authentication should be put in place as a mandatory procedure.

Update all Software

Windows and Apple Mac’s have their own useful security measures in place to protect devices from attacks. Ensuring all updates are completed and software is at its latest version can also prevent devices from attacks. Ask your employees to check their computers and phones are up to date and activate automatic updating on all devices.

Don’t Store Information Locally

You can instead store information on the cloud, using services like Google Drive or Microsoft Office 365 Online. This also includes avoiding the use of USB sticks, as these devices can be infested with malware. Content should be stored on cloud-based software wherever possible, and employees should use cloud-based apps, too. Locally stored information means it is stored on a physical disk, like the hard drive of a computer. Cloud software is great because you can backup all data here, too.

Backups

In case of any need to reset and wipe devices of viruses, encourage your employees to back up all their data – whether that’s on the cloud, or to local storage (but this isn’t recommended for reasons mentioned above!).


Josephine Jacobs is a writer at Academicbrits.com and PhdKingdom.com, an executive coach and organizational consultant with more than 10 years of experience enhancing the performance of individual executives, teams and organizations. Her background encompasses a wide range of programs and initiatives for individual development, team building, organization design, and facilitation. She also writes for Essay Help Service.

Cybersecurity: The Hidden Risks of Fintech Services

The following is a guest post written by Apoorv Gehlot, founder of Matellio LLC, a software engineering studio based in California.

Fintech has drastically improved the products and the services of the traditional financial services in the past few years. However, even after many financial institutions have readily adopted fintech services, there are still some hidden risks in the aforementioned industry. For instance, the integration of the fintech services in the existing banking solutions raised a severe concern for data security. Also, the rapid growth of digital platforms made the fintech industry and its customers uniquely vulnerable to various breaches in IT security networks.

Hence, it is vital to know about various hidden risks involved in the fintech services. Let’s discuss some of them here.

Trending challenges in fintech

Third-party security risks

Internal security is not always enough, especially when it comes to banks. Hence, much of the time, when banks or other financial institutions leverage a fintech service from a not-so-trusted service provider, they end up losing their data, experiencing service failures, and may even suffer a loss of reputation because of inefficient data. These types of damages occur due to third-party security risks. To eliminate third-party risks involved with fintech services, banks and financial institutions should consider the fintech relationship-related risks in their risk management assessment.

Malware Attacks

Malware attacks and hacking are the most prominent types of security issues that are prevalent in the global market. The hackers are now targeting the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) more easily. SWIFT systems are used by almost all the banks and top financial institutions to exchange vital financial information.

However, the recent cyberattack on the SWIFT infrastructure indicated the level sophistication of the hackers and malware attackers. The banks and financial institutions have vulnerabilities in their processes, and the hackers take advantage of these vulnerabilities to launch malware attacks.

Data Breaches

We all know that data plays a crucial role in every industry irrespective of their domain. And when it comes to banks and other financial institutions, data automatically becomes a matter of utmost importance. However, with the introduction of inefficient fintech systems in the finance industry, the problems of data breaches rose to a great extent.

Payment card details and user information are readily available to hackers making online transactions prone to cyber thefts. The financial institution partners with third parties, and then data losses may occur due to their inefficient fintech services.

Application Security Risk

Fintech applications are used by many banks to access the real-time financial information of their customers. They leverage this real-time information to carry out transactions and for performing other banking operations.

However, if a software application does not have foolproof security modules and efficient codes, then it automatically becomes more prone to cyber thefts. The attackers leverage the weak security of the applications to steal the customer data and other vital information. So if a person is planning to develop a fintech software solution they need to be very sure that the application has all the vital security features included in it.

Money Laundering Risk

Fintech-driven banks often use cryptocurrency for carrying out financial transactions. These cryptocurrencies are an integral part of the fintech ecosystem, and they are not formally regulated by any set of standards and global regulations.

Hence, the frequent use of non-regulated currencies results in illegal money laundering and even in terrorist funding. Since identifying the beneficiary in any fintech-enabled transactions is not possible due to fintech’s pseudonymous nature, the money laundering operations get enough support from the fintech services.

Digital Identity Risks

With the introduction of digital tools in the banking and finance industry, the use of mobile-based services that used one-time passwords and security codes increased drastically. These security codes and passwords are not as safe and can be easily accessed by a hacker.

The vital data of the banking customers could be easily accessed due to the faulty fintech system provided by some of the fintech service providers. Hence, financial institutions need to revisit their online security architecture to address these risk factors before planning for fintech implementation.

Legacy Banking Systems

Banks are struggling hard to develop and introduce advanced fintech services in their non-patched core banking systems. These traditional banking systems are very much vulnerable to all sorts of cyber thefts. And the main concern is way more than that.

When the tech-friendly fintech services integrate with the existing non-secured banking systems, there are chances that they will be at the target of attackers too. So, the first duty for any financial institution before implementing fintech in their organization is to refresh their core banking systems. That will help the company eliminate losses due to cyber thefts.

Cloud-based Security Risks

Cloud-based solutions are one of the significant aspects of the fintech industry. From payment gateways and digital wallets to secure online payments, cloud computing services offer everything in the fintech ecosystem. Maintaining the confidentiality and security of financial data is critical to banks and financial institutions.

Even though the cloud-based services are considered a secure means of storing the data, lack of adequate security measures can result in the corruption of your sensitive financial information. There are instances when the company partners with an inefficient, cloud-based solution provider and then deals with significant data losses. Therefore, stay updated and be wise while selecting your cloud-based service partner.

To conclude, we can say that, if hackers are unbeaten in their efforts to access the fintech platform with ease and efficiency, the faith of banking customers in the technology-driven fintech platform will be significantly reduced. All this will result in the slow growth of the fintech industry. Hence, balanced innovation is needed to promote the growth of the fintech industry and mitigate the hidden risks of fintech services.


Apoorv Gehlot takes a keen interest in exploring various aspects of the digital realm, and ideate solutions with his team of innovators. He believes in sharing his experience and knowledge with readers across the world to enlighten the audience through concise and meaningful write-ups.

Data Privacy in the U.S.A. Have We Hit a Stalemate?

This is a guest blog post by Steve Boms, President of Allon Advocacy. Boms, a featured speaker and panelist at FinovateFall 2019 last month, takes a look at the current regulatory landscape in the United States when it comes to data privacy, and why he thinks we’re a long way off from having a one-size-fits-all approach.

Steve Boms, President, Allon Advocacy sits down with David Penn, Research Analyst at Finovate to talk regtech, open banking and the intersection of two within fintech & politics.

Data breaches have dominated the headlines recently, but a federal standard is still a pipe dream in the current political environment.

Why? The answer is as old as the country itself: the tension between state and federal power.

In the current context, it is Republicans, typically strident defenders of states’ rights, who want a national system. House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has said, “Your privacy and security should not change depending on where you live in the United States.” Industry advocates agree with the GOP, arguing for a national standard because they worry compliance across 50 different state frameworks would be impossible.

Though several bills outlining national standards have been introduced in Congress, including some with Democratic support, the two parties still cannot agree. That’s because Democrats, along with consumer groups and privacy advocates, repeatedly have said they will not support federal legislation that supplants current and future state laws that may be stronger than a federal privacy regime.  

Given this ideological argument, federal action could still be years away.

If you want progress fast, better to look to the states.

Data privacy legislation has been introduced or filed in at least 25 states. Maine and Nevada enacted significant legislation this year. Colorado and Massachusetts also did, and proponents of data privacy legislation are active in New York. Connecticut lawmakers failed to consider several data privacy bills, but did pass legislation to establish a task force to examine what businesses operating in the state should have to tell consumers about the data they collect.

This trend – studying the issue – is evident in several states, and while such “study bills” are sometimes viewed as bureaucratic inertia against more powerful legislation, these mandates are quite often precursors to more meaningful statutory changes. That certainly could be the case over the next year.

The gold standard for state legislation is, of course, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020. In arguing against a uniform federal standard, it is the CCPA that Democrats are hoping to preserve.

Even though it will take several months, even years, to reach consensus, it is difficult to envision an eventual federal mandate that doesn’t look a lot like the CCPA. The CCPA addresses numerous measures that empower consumers to protect their data privacy, a common theme lawmakers, industry, and consumer advocates all embrace.

Specifically, the CCPA allows consumers to opt out of the sale of their information while embracing their right to know, access, and delete what companies know about them. The law also includes a 45-day grace period for businesses to comply with consumers’ requests and imposes penalties on companies for privacy violations, including the ability for consumers to exercise private rights of action for a security breach.

California lawmakers have introduced numerous bills since CCPA passage to clarify the law’s prior to implementation. Amendments include the removal of certain categories of data – namely employee and contractor information –and the need to protect businesses’ preferred treatment of consumers who are part of loyalty programs.

These changes might not be enacted, but they present debates federal lawmakers should watch.

Even with the CCPA as a guide, federal legislation must strike an appropriate balance between supporting consumer empowerment and supporting strong protection standards for consumers and businesses alike. Additionally, a major question still lingers in Washington over who should have authority over data privacy issues, and whether they should have the authority to establish rules or enforce current practices. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report points to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as the most reasonable choice. Many in the industry agree, citing the agency’s authority to weed out “unfair or deceptive” consumer practices and the FTC’s existing authority to issue and enforce regulations on the collection of data on children under 13 years old.

In its report, however, the GAO does question whether the FTC has the bandwidth to oversee such an enormous issue, or if a new governing arm, similar to the European Union’s European Data Protection Supervisor, should be established.

The most important issue facing federal lawmakers, though, is the need to protect innovation. The GAO urges Congress to consider how to “balance consumers’ need for internet privacy with the industry’s ability to provide services and innovate.” Strict privacy regulations may result in compliance costs that are too cumbersome for businesses, and consumer skepticism increases when privacy protections are too lax. Europe is starting to feel the effects of the General Data Privacy Regulation’s (GDPR) inability to balance the two (many U.S. businesses are not able to comply with the regulation’s excessively high bar or cannot pay the large fees and thus cannot offer their services).

Data privacy is front and center on the global stage. The United States will fall farther behind unless lawmakers focus on the common tenets of data privacy – supporting consumer control, ensuring proper regulatory authority, and embracing innovation – and pass a bipartisan bill.

Embracing Wealthtech Innovation and Avoiding Dreaded Return on Inertia

The following is a guest post by April Rudin, founder and president of The Rudin Group, a firm that designs marketing campaigns for financial services companies.

Rudin will host the Wealthtech and Investech stream at the Summit, which takes place right after FinovateFall on September 26. The event also features an AI stream, which will be hosted by Lindsay Davis of CB Insights. Tickets are available as an add-on to FinovateFall or as a separate event.


Wealth management has entered the digital age. While it might not be readily apparent given the breathless coverage of whether and when the industry will cross the threshold, rest assured, the moment is here. The question is: Are all firms ready to seize the moment?

The financial services industry has been historically reticent to adopt new technology. And for good reason — finance, and wealth management especially — is a client-driven business where discretion is valued as much as — if not more than — financial acumen. In the early days of fintech, financial firms could rest knowing that they were keeping their client’s data and dollars safe rather than chasing the new, shiny tech toy on the block.

But now, financial service firms cannot afford to rest on their laurels and their patchwork of clunky, proprietary, tech solutions. Clients are used to being able to access the world at their fingertips and are no longer willing to let their financial data live elsewhere. And it’s not just Millennials and Generation Z demanding the convenience. Mobile Baby Boomers also want to be able to safely access their financial data with just a few clicks of a mouse whether they’re at home or traveling.

But despite the demand, companies still delay implementing new tech solutions, citing both perceived costs and compliance risks. While these factors shouldn’t be brushed aside, wealth management firms must find intelligent ways to power through.

Whereas firms once had the luxury of relying on the anticipated return on investment when deciding to embark on new technology products, a new ROI has entered the block: return on inertia. Put another way, what is the cost of doing nothing while rival upstarts and incumbents alike find ways to intelligently integrate technology into their firms?

It used to be that technology was housed only in the IT department of financial services firms. These were specialists who mostly loaded computers with new programs and knew how to troubleshoot when things went awry. But in today’s world, IT can no longer be thought of as an ancillary part of the business. Everything from onboarding, performance tracking, to investment recommendations has the ability to be touched by technology — freeing up time advisors can spend doing direct client work. The whole wealth management supply chain is being automated and firms must have tech specialists at all levels.

Does this mean that firms have to jump into tech willy nilly? Not necessarily, but the time of taking a wait and see approach for technology has also passed. The technology is here and clients demand it.

Waiting to implement technological solutions will only lead to otherwise avoidable costs and heightened risk exposure, Ernst & Young noted in a recent report.

Client onboarding is one area where tech is sorely needed. While some clients may appreciate the personal touch of in-office meetings to handle paperwork and account transfers, others may see the analog approach as a red flag. How does a paper-based business ensure the safety of client records, they may wonder. Video conferencing, online ID verification, and e-signatures are just a few of the ways the onboarding process can be made less cumbersome and client friendly while still falling inline with compliance.

From there, wealth management firms can consider implementing robo-advisor-like technology into their practice to facilitate decision making. The human touch will always be important for wealth management but tech-aided portfolio construction and reporting will allow advisors to have more meaningful discussions with clients, freeing up time for more customized solutions.

The ease of making and monitoring recommendations becomes especially important as high net worth families often have their assets spread across multiple investment types and financial institutions. While 10 years ago having a dashboard that can provide real-time data of those assets was once considered a novelty, clients now demand that rapid transparency.

Firms can no longer get away with listing the reasons not to embrace technology. And while risks to data integrity and security should not be minimized, firms will have to think of ways to buttress their controls while also directing their firms into the new era.

The return on investment may at first appear uncertain, but the return on inertia is definite — and bleak.


https://blogs.cfainstitute.org/investor/2019/02/13/2019-us-wealth-management-outlook-the-old-guard-and-fintech-cozy-up/

https://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-digital-disruption-in-wealth-management.pdf/$File/ey-digital-disruption-in-wealth-management.pdf

https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/financial-services/articles/digital-disruption-in-wealth-management0.htmlh

Enabled by AI, Self-Service Is the Future of Banking

Guest post by Sudharshan Krishnan*, VP New Markets and Solutions, Personetics

Self-service banking is adapting to the digital age – though many customers believe that change isn’t coming fast enough. Here we look at the challenges banks face and how AI can be used to transform self-service banking.

Digital problem resolution is key to satisfaction and loyalty

A survey by Ath power consulting found that four in every five consumers prefer to conduct their banking via digital channels. Yet the firm also found that satisfaction with digital banking dropped significantly in the past year as customers began to expect more from their digital interactions. The latest J.D. Power report shows that unsuccessful problem resolution is highly correlated with this low level of satisfaction and high level of customer attrition. And while the branch has traditionally served as the go-to channel for handling problems, younger customers now prefer to resolve problems online or via social media.

Banks that take a more comprehensive digital approach are well positioned to increase satisfaction and fight off future customer attrition, but the payoff can be even more immediate in terms of reduced costs. According to Bain & Company, the top 25 US banks could save as much as $11.4 billion annually in aggregate by increasing digital interactions to the levels of some of their European counterparts.

Pillars of AI in Self-Service Banking: Conversational. Personal. Predictive.

By allowing customers to interact with the bank through natural language conversations, chatbots provide an intuitive channel for customer inquiries, facilitating user friendly interactions and delivering a better customer experience than the age-old FAQs and the dreaded IVR. While bank chatbots are still few and limited in functionality, over three quarters of all banks have active chatbot projects in place.

While the promise is great, a chatbot, just like a human banker, is only as good as the knowledge it possesses. To be helpful, a banking chatbot must understand the context of the bank’s services. Furthermore, it must understand the particular needs and situation of the customer, and incorporate this understanding into the conversation.

To truly delight customers, how about pre-empting them before a request is made? Better yet, how about alerting the customer in advance to avert potential problems altogether? A robust AI solution is predictive – monitoring a customer’s transactions and forecasting future cashflows to anticipate issues ahead of time – then prompting the customer with information, insight, and tips that can help eliminate fees and avert troublesome situations such as over drafting the account.

AI as an Augmentative Strategy

Implementations of AI-powered self-service at some of the world’s largest banks have shown that as many as 88% of incoming inquiries were resolved without requiring the help of a person.

However, as much as chatbots and AI can revolutionize self-service, they should not be viewed as a complete replacement for human bankers. A smart chatbot would know when the time is right to move the conversation to a human-led channel such as the call center or the branch.

There’s No Time to Waste

With practically every major bank getting ready to launch a chatbot solution, the bar for self-service banking is about to be raised once again. Financial institutions that fall behind in delivering new service capabilities will risk customer loyalty and face a cost disadvantage.

With that in mind, banks cannot afford to sit on the sideline or embark on multiyear transformative projects – the time to act is now.


*Sudharshan Krishnan is responsible for growing new markets and working with leading financial institutions to deliver Cognitive Financial Services Applications that are trusted by millions of customers – providing personalized guidance, conversational self-service, and automated money management programs.

Top Five Trends in Customer Engagement Technology

Guest post by Ian Dunbar, CEO of SuiteBox

Financial services businesses face many pressures – cost reduction, scalability, risk mitigation, compliance, and regulation. Technology is the solution, at least in part, to these pressures. However, technology adds to the friction or customer effort of engaging with the financial service. More effort = customer disengagement.

Cutting across fintech, there are rapid advances being made in technology that drives customer engagement. Here are some of the top themes in CETech – customer engagement technology – that are worth watching.

Social media delivering personalization (and profiling)

Social media, search history, and analytic tools leveraging our digital social footprint will become mainstream in building real time client profiles. This will enable financial services providers to engage with clients through highly-relevant personalized content and to leverage profiles to determine product suitability.

For example, being aware of changes in a client’s family situation (perhaps the death of a loved one or a divorce) may enable the proactive deployment of more effective financial strategies. Product designers can even leverage existing social media data to determine the risks associated with the delivery of a product or service. A life insurer can build an individual’s risk profile more accurately from social media data than from a questionnaire.

Artificial intelligence and cognitive learning

Conversational speech and facial expressions can be analyzed to determine customer emotions. Microsoft’s Emotion API, for example, can detect anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise from a voice stream and images.

Financial service providers can use cognitive tools to deliver their products in a more engaging manner. Meeting with a client in person, via video or on the telephone, can be analyzed in real time. Risk assessment for miss-selling, real timing adapting of what and how a product is presented, or even determining if client is misrepresenting information will all be possible.

The power of video

Most surveys continue to tell us that customers prefer meeting personally with their financial providers. However this can be costly and inconvenient. Do you or your clients want to spend time in traffic, battling for a parking spot, and suffering the stress of congested roads, for a personal meeting?

Of course not. So we use the phone as our primary non-physical meeting tool. But the problem with the phone is it doesn’t employ the power of sight. Eye contact is fundamental to human communication. We can tell a lot from a person’s eyes, what mood they are in, and their level of comfort. Avoiding eye contact with strangers is a common strategy to remain private, especially in situations of close proximity. Yet this is what we do in important telephone calls with our clients.

Biometrics gather momentum

Usernames and passwords are an enormous source of consumer frustration and customer effort. Fingerprint recognition of smartphones has led consumers to treat biometrics as mainstream. This will rapidly expand as biometrics allow a convergence between previously incompatible goals of enhanced security without customer effort.

Smarter virtual assistants

Natural language voice recognition combined with smart virtual assistants mean we will increasingly talk to our financial services websites or apps, rather than our fingers doing the work. Love or hate Siri, voice commands will be increasingly accepted as the norm.

Get ready

Embed customer effort reducing measures and customer-centric design into your digital strategies. Embed the customer experience into user journeys using the latest engagement technologies. Create your own “Customer Experience Lab” to test the experience. There is no better time to put your customer back into the centre of your IT strategy.


Ian Dunbar is the CEO of SuiteBox. SuiteBox enables a permanently open digital workspace to be established between a host and participants of a meeting, allowing participants to meet via video or physically, share and collaborate on documents between the parties, digitally sign documents, establish evidence of identify & record the meeting for future reference. Headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand and founded in 2013, the company demonstrated its technology at FinovateEurope 2016.