With customer demands and behaviours evolving quickly in light of Covid-19, Will Hurst, Head of Commercial Development at Monevo, looks at whether traditional banks are failing to keep up with their expectations and what key trends and changes have opened the door to the rise of fintechs.
The financial services competitive landscape has evolved in recent years and it’s clear that fintechs have certainly disrupted traditional banks.
Fintechs include any financial tech company that serves any of the following areas; lending, blockchain, reg-tech, personal finance, payments and billing, insurance, capital markets, wealth management, money transfer and anything to do with the mortgage process.
While digital banks are referred to as fintechs, and have certainly challenged traditional banks in terms of luring away their customers, it would be simplistic and inaccurate to identify that all fintechs are in direct opposition to traditional banks.
In many cases, fintechs are often working in tandem with traditional banks, and allow market incumbents to diversify their suite of products and further monetise their client base.
As with other sectors over recent years, the financial services sector has experienced rapid digitisation and a shift towards online operating models.
Traditional banks have seemingly struggled to keep pace with the ever-changing tech and resource demands of consumers, while the stellar rise of the challenger bank certainly indicates they’ve met consumer demand and they’re here to stay.
In recent years, it’s easy to identify the winners, with the likes of Starling bank voted best British bank for three years in a row, and the losers, as Natwest decides to kill their app-only digital bank Bo after just 5 months.
Not only does this serve as a cautionary tale to other incumbents that harbour aspirations to make in-roads into the digital bank space, it indicates that challenger banks aren’t just a pretty fad with cool messaging slogans, but address very real and immediate needs of consumers with innovative product offerings.
Partnerships for the win
In recent years, we’ve seen big tech partnerships that allow well-known names in consumer finance to partner with and harness the bright sparks of the fintech world. Whether it’s Marcus – the online bank from Goldman Sachs – partnering with Saga to offer savings accounts, or in the price comparison world, where CYBG and Go Compare partner for energy switch services, or consumer brands such as the AA partnering with the personal loan marketplace platform Monevo.
These developments come down to two things; driving down the cost of customer acquisition for banks and lenders, but more importantly, meeting the requirements of the consumer with products and solutions to the problems they face. Strategic partnerships allow both parties to achieve greater scale, and improve customer reach.
Further fuelling the drive towards collaboration and partnerships has been spurred by the onset of open banking.
We’re still very much at the start of the open banking revolution, but essentially, open banking means the use of open APIs that enable third-party developers to build applications and services around financial institutions. In layman terms, this means under new open banking rules, your bank must let you share your financial info with third party providers – should you choose to do so.
You may decide to share your spending habits, or details of regular payments, or companies you use. All of this allows consumers to access additional products and services such as personal finance apps that analyse and help manage spending, or offer a centralised overview of all financial accounts in one place.
Yolt, from ING Bank, is one such example of an app that helps centralise all of a consumer’s financial accounts in one place, set financial goals, and “spend smart”. Open banking has driven competition and innovation within the financial services sector, as it was designed to do so, and the pace of change in all areas of fintech banking will continue to revolutionise both the customer experience and financial products.
As credit providers get their head around the vast volumes of data available on their potential and current customers, intelligent product builds will help lenders and other other financial services companies to filter data into what is useful to them, and optimise revenues accordingly.
Another factor that helps explain the heating up of the fintech banking sector in recent years is the change in consumer demographics. Since the financial crash in 2008, younger generations have had to struggle with multiple financial challenges including the increase of house prices, the rise of the gig economy and lower comparative wages.
Against this context, it’s no surprise that Millennials’ demand new and innovative financial products to help them overcome financial hurdles of plunging levels of savings and soaring debt – something incumbent banks have arguably been slow to move on.
Without the cost of physical high street branches, digital-only challenger banks such as Monzo, Revolut, Starling Bank have been able to focus investment on tech and partnerships to provide a range of products marketed specifically to the first wave of cost-sensitive “digital-natives”, pitching brightly-coloured bank cards with frank and friendly tones of voice when communicating to their customer.
Above all, Millennials value products and services that deliver convenience and simplify their lives – an element that Monzo, Revolut and Starling have all embedded successfully into their respective brands and product offerings.
Predicted trends indicate disruption to the banking sector via fintech innovation is set to continue, and indeed we see more examples of smaller fintechs springing up to serve the underbanked, or those struggling to manage their cash, or build credit scores – areas historically ignored by the major banks.
NO SAFE HARBOUR FOR DIGITAL BANKING
by Konstantin Bodragin, Business Analyst and Digital Marketing Officer at Bruc Bond
At the beginning of 2020, the future of digital banking was pretty clear. Between Open Banking initiatives, regulatory frameworks like the PSD2, and growing customer demand for more advanced digital services, bank-watchers the world over felt confident in their predictions. The course was set for full digitisation, likely brought about by victorious challenger banks replacing stuffy and lumbering traditional banks. Then the winds changed and ongoing disasters shook the world’s seemingly endless confidence in fintech and the bright future it promised to the core.
COVID-19 dropped on us like a sudden thunderstorm on a birthday party. Sure, experts, analysts, prognosticators (and perhaps even meteorologists) all warned of an inevitable pandemic event. But the rest of us, including most leaders and financial giants, were taken almost entirely by surprise. A majority of us managed to get drenched, even though the forecast predicted stormy weathers. Now, leaders and investors are scrambling to reach high ground and keep whatever they can from being swept away in the torrential floods.
In practice this means redirecting funds from aspirational projects towards more immediate goals, and shedding as much unnecessary weight as possible, in case the water rises higher. In the year of COVID, who gets what is not so much a question of wants, but of pure necessity. Unless you’re a government with bottomless pockets, superb credit rating, and a deep desire to stave off a Great Depression-style downturn by means of public works, chances are you too are cutting costs. Big Business is doing the same. Autonomous car projects will be put on hold (if they haven’t been frozen yet), status symbol product launches will be postponed until customers feel confident to spend their extra cash again, and ambitious digitisation projects will be slowed unless their worth can be demonstrated even for the current times.
As they say, when it rains it pours, and this year is particularly wet for fintech. Even if Hurricane Covid hadn’t battered the shores of the global economy quite to so hard, the void left by the sinking of the titanic WireCard would suck much of the industry down beneath the water with it. Just last month, WireCard served as the main provider of banking infrastructure for much of Europe’s Non-Bank Financial Institution industry. NBFIs, tautologically, are not banks. As a rule, until they grow large enough to acquire a bank or banking licence of their own, NBFIs rely on financial and banking facilities provided by another. This is by design, with frameworks like PSD2 regulating access and relationships between various institutions.
Such relationships, under the watchful eyes of local and international regulators, are meant to best serve the interests of customers and consumers. And for the most part they do. Failing or unscrupulous institutions get sidestepped and the system heals around them. Unless, of course, the problem actor is too large. WireCard is one such giant dud, and the sinking of this fintech suppliers will have repercussions that will be hard to mitigate.
WireCard served so many financial institutions that many millions of customers have been affected. Many of these institutions will not be able to survive, and one can only hope that end consumers will be protected from the fallout. On the business end, such hopes for salvation could be too optimistic. Many companies don’t have the resources to withstand several weeks or months of inactivity while they work to replace their financial infrastructure, especially not with extremely depleted budgets due to the ravages of COVID-19.
Those institutions that do survive will face a new reality of confused and likely higher costs, which will almost necessarily have to be passed on to consumers. The more savvy of WireCard’s survivors will try to shore up their defences against the recurrence of such a disaster by spreading the risk and their activity between several providers. This will hopefully lead to a normalisation of costs and a reduction in fees, but by then consumers could once again be too wary to take the risk with digital services whose fees could seemingly spike at any moment.
Loss of confidence won’t be limited to the consumer side, either. Regulators, wary of being made the fool again, are likely to treat fintech and the NBFI sector with much harsher gloves than it did so far. Increased scrutiny, stricter regulatory requirements, and a general lack of cooperation from regulators could sink any hopes of quick recovery for the battered industry. Not to mention the increased costs from such requirements, that are, again, liable to be passed down to the consumers.
Regulators and authorities are not the only power brokers digital banking suppliers will have to contend with. Partners in the banking industry were already eyeing fintechs with suspicion, not least thanks to the egregious claims of the latter to replace the former. Little wonder then, now that the seemingly unbeatable leviathan of WireCard has sunk to the bottom of the deep, that banks will loath to lend a helping hand to NBFIs struggling to find replacement providers.
So what will happen? In this climate, with demands for justice at their peak, some funds will surely be diverted from risky digitisation projects to PR-friendly investment in diversity. Behind the scenes, certain players will carry on their digitisation projects, but their approach is bound to change. The three Ss – slow, steady, stable – are likely to reign supreme, at least until Hurricane Covid passes, and the economic seas are calm once again.
WHY OPEN BANKING SHOULD BE EVERY MARKETER’S BEST FRIEND
By Kathryn Wright, CSO, Upside
To date, Open Banking has been mainly utilised to help consumers with account switching and account aggregation. Being able to have a birds-eye-view of our spending always helps us realise how much money might be slowly ‘leaking out’ of our pockets. As useful as some of the applications have been so far, they are somewhat passive in nature and there is a bigger opportunity at play with Open Banking.
Personalisation has been the holy grail in sales and marketing for some time now, often twinned with omni-channel propositions. According to a study by Gartner in 2018, the brands who personalised discounts and calls-to-action outperform their competitors in revenue by at least 20%. The demand for a completely personalised customer experience has seen many SaaS offerings come to market, promising a complete understanding of your customer.
Many of these technologies are riddled with challenges though, such as customers flitting between devices, moving from mobile to tablet to laptop, and all at different IP locations – which is where omni-channel solutions are needed, but only work reliably when a customer is ‘logged in’. Cookie tracking, or the lack of it, also impacts what is shown to a customer. There’s nothing worse for a customer than clicking through an email and landing on a website just to see a large pop-over asking them to sign up to emails and offers. That’s clear evidence and an example of personalisation not working!
Another bad example in basic segmentation is generalisation. Businesses often take a few pieces of demographic data and then make wildly inaccurate assumptions about the customer. No retailer or marketer needs more data. They need actionable data with insights which can drive action and engagement.
And this is when Open Banking comes into play. By pairing past spending data through Open Banking, marketing teams can better understand their customer base, and brands can personalise which products and offers are shown and when. The end-result is an all-round better experience for the customer, which in turn means an increase in their brand loyalty.
Single Source Of Truth
Businesses currently struggle to know who really is a new customer. It’s kind of tricky when all of the largest discounts are designed to get a new customer on board and marketing teams are heavily focused on new customer acquisition and the cost per new customer.
So who is a new customer? Someone with a new email address that you haven’t seen before? But what about a different delivery address or using PayPal one time and then a card the next time. One customer can potentially register as a ‘new customer’ up to around seven times. Additionally, if I leave my broadband provider this year and come back after a year, am I a repeat or new customer? Brian Dunne from Gift Card Consulting, advisor and investor to Upside puts it well: “There is no such thing as new customers, they’ve all seen you at some point. You are just not getting all their spend most of the time.”
False customer categorisation affects all other business metrics. CAC, CLTV, Repeat purchase rate, customer churn – and these are not trivial metrics, these are metrics upon which huge budgets are committed to or culled. The answer to these questions and challenges in customer personalisation lies in Open Banking. The single source of truth where money can only come out once. Of course, there are credit cards and multiple bank accounts, but the idea is for the customer to have all of these linked.
A new world of data analysis opens up when Open Banking is applied. Retailers can see the frequency of spend, location and average order value. Most brands have this information, but only for themselves. Outside of their walled-garden, it’s more of a mystery. Open Banking allows businesses to benchmark all of these metrics against the rest of their industry, showing what percentage of wallet share they have, which is more meaningful as a metric than an incorrect measure of new customer sign-ups.
For Open Banking to fully show its potential, the conversation with customers needs to change. Brands need to reward repeat purchases and loyalty, instead of offering all of the best discounts to ‘new customers’. Leveraging new fintechs and Open Banking, retailers will be able to know for sure who is a new customer, which will allow them to attract new, win back old and delight their most loyal customers more accurately.
Open Banking – Fiction or the Future of Retail?
Pairing machine learning with Open Banking brings personalisation to a whole new level above simple segmentation and improves the customer experience. Machine learning and AI, combined with Open Banking, are ways to create insights from the masses of data that businesses have. As an example, over time, businesses will be able to recognise when a particular customer looks like they are going to lapse into no longer shopping there, or shop less regularly, and suggest to the brand that at this stage, they offer a special cashback rate. Rather than a ‘spray and pray’ attitude to marketing it means brands can give customers what they need at the right time and ensure their communications are relevant.
Does this sound like a dream? It is not – the technology is ready. Open banking and machine learning can change the way marketing and sales work for any industry. Estimates sit around 95% for the prediction of future revenue which will come from as little as 5% of a brand’s existing customer base. A study by the Center for Generational Kinetics reveals 80% of consumers would visit a store they hadn’t visited before if given a direct cashback. Given statistics like these, retention through delighting and rewarding existing customers, as well as new user acquisition, is imperative.
It’s only the mindset which often holds businesses back. Those retailers, businesses and Open Banking providers who grasp this opportunity and move away from the old discounting culture will rise in the post-Covid-19 world.
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