Tech, Trust And Teamwork: How Innovations in Banking are Changing Financial Services

Chris Fletcher, Global Head of Digital & Channel Partnerships, Western Union Business Solutions

Chris Fletcher, Global Head of Digital & Channel Partnerships, Western Union Business Solutions

There is an energy in today’s payments world that I haven’t seen before in my 20 years in the industry. The sheer scale of the innovation and collaboration taking place is driving unprecedented interest from new and existing players. Yet the speed of transformation raises its own challenges whether navigating new regulations, improving customer experience or considering how to best share data; the sector must be aware of these challenges and be ready to adapt as needed.

"Collaborations should also have a focus on mutualism, where long term relationships are formed for a collective benefit and open banking has been helping to drive this shift"

Technological innovation is encouraging established players to rethink the traditional boundaries of their products and services while also enticing new challengers to enter the market. This innovation is also enabling more collaboration across businesses, and partnerships remain at the forefront of new developments. Examples of this include Western Union’s recent partnership with Visa and Mastercard’s collaboration with the P27 Nordic Payments platform.

With increased collaboration, there lie additional challenges, such as how to seamlessly and securely share sensitive data between players or how to adapt to new regulations such as PSD2. Encouragingly, however, the industry is creating new solutions for old problems with increasing vigour. It is this truly innovative thinking that inspires me.

Take for example, the recent launch of PayCode by Amazon and Western Union, an example of a company with a long-established physical reach joining together with a digital-first business. Launched earlier this year, PayCode allows people to shop and pay for Amazon items using local currencies that previously would not have been accepted, such as Chilean peso or Kenyan shilling. Shoppers in these markets can now pay for their Amazon purchases in cash. In emerging economies, card and bank account penetration are much lower than established markets, and this partnership neatly helps to even things out.

Collaborations should also have a focus on mutualism, where long term relationships are formed for a collective benefit and open banking has been helping to drive this shift. Start-ups are turning to established players for access to more channels, and for their compliance expertise that has been built up over time. Meanwhile, traditional incumbents are turning to agile fintechs for their specialist digital assets.

The partnership between mobile bank Starling and the UK Post Office is an example of how companies can leverage their unique assets for mutual benefit. Starling’s banking-as-a-service software combined with the reach of the high-street Post Office branches created a footprint more substantial than all the banks and building societies in the UK put together. Again, this collaboration required an understanding of how to handle a significant amount of new data to be successful.

With this focus on customer experience (CX) we have an essential role to play in managing compliance alongside customer expectations. While seamless and frictionless user experience is often desirable, especially on digital platforms, in financial services some friction can be valuable. For example, an extra check such as two-factor authentication during a transaction can be reassuring when money is digitally changing hands.

Another concept gaining favour is that of dynamic risk profiling, where limitations on a customer’s account are removed as they use a service. In other words, the more you do, the more I let you do. This means we can provide a customer with a functioning account within hours, or even minutes, but it doesn’t give them immediate access to higher risk transactions.

Dynamic risk uses AI and machine learning to provide different levels of certainty to decide when to give customers this extended access. Many companies are increasingly investing in technology that enables customers quick access to limited functionality, such as making a simple payment to a known supplier. Over time with continuing verification and data enrichment, more complex transactions such as hedging are allowed.

So, what does this mean for the Chief Information Officer? Well, an open API platform is the first step; especially if it can be wrapped around the trust assets often associated with larger longer-lived companies and their years of investment in compliance. It is therefore unsurprising that Capgemini’s 2019 World Fintech report’s survey of banking executives found 89 percent of banks leverage APIs to collaborate with Fintech firms as part of their business strategy.

I think the C-suite needs to go one step further. They need to be prepared to give access to all their assets and to build an architecture that facilitates sharing what historically has been considered proprietary. They also must accept that customers will benefit through the safe sharing of data across corporate boundaries, and they should advocate this new way of thinking about customer data.

At Money20/20 Europe this year, ING’s Chief Innovation Officer Benoît Legrand said, “we’re now in the third stage of innovation, where it is all about the impact you make for the customer.” For me, that means asking yourself what do you have that provides real customer value and how much are you willing to share to create even more?

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