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FOR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN 2021, INTELLIGENCE IS A MUST

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By Ed Lane, VP Sales EMEA, nCino

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly transitioning from a “nice-to-have” technology to a key business driver for financial services organisations. Over the past few years, financial institutions (FIs) have begun to think about AI beyond the abstract and are discovering the many practical and profitable use cases for this emerging technology. A growing number of FIs have started truly understanding the importance of using AI to enhance the customer and employee experience.

As AI becomes demystified and valuable use cases emerge, FIs are becoming more attuned to the idea of adopting these technologies across a wide range of key business functions. In 2021, the time has come for FIs to evolve beyond agility and embrace intelligence by incorporating cognitive technologies into their operations. When FIs fully harness the power of AI to capture deeper customer insights, make informed, data-driven decisions, manage risk and increase efficiencies, they transform themselves into Intelligent Enterprises and bring more value to their customers and teams.

 

Agility is the Launchpad

Any discussion of the Intelligent Enterprise begins with an understanding of the Agile Enterprise as the necessary foundation. The idea of the Agile Enterprise centers around the industrialization of banking, the idea of turning every core banking function – from product development and customer acquisition to account opening and commercial lending – into a systematic, fast and seamless process. It necessitates a configurable and flexible system of engagement that allows multiple users – including executives, staff and customers – to collaborate in real time, with full transparency and visibility into every step of the process.

To fully leverage the Intelligent Enterprise, it is essential to first enable the Agile Enterprise. It would be incredibly difficult for an institution to effectively and efficiently make the leap into AI without first having established a strong foundation to support the myriad of back-office processes, including customer relationship management (CRM), document management, collateral analysis, covenant tracking, loan origination, portfolio analysis, regulatory compliance, customer service, the digital channel and on and on. Once an institution has established a foundation of agility through a single system of engagement, it can begin the journey toward becoming an Intelligent Enterprise.

 

AI is the Rocket Fuel

AI and related technologies, including machine learning, natural language processing and cognitive computing, serve as the foundation of the Intelligent Enterprise. There is a broad array of current and potential use cases within financial services for AI and related technologies, ranging from robo-advice and next-product recommendations to anti-money laundering (AML) compliance and credit card fraud protection.

Within the Intelligent Enterprise, cognitive technology can be utilized to bring a true return on investment to the institution. FIs need actionable insights to maintain competitiveness and serve their customers’ needs. The successful deployment of the Intelligent Enterprise checks one or more of these boxes to varying degrees, depending on the specific use case: increasing revenue, growing profitability, improving efficiency, reducing costs and mitigating risk. Embedding cognitive technologies into core banking processes can present FIs with measurable results, a positive ROI and benefits that continue to increase over time.

 

Challenges Along the Flightpath to the Intelligent Enterprise

All of this is not to say that widespread transformation to the Intelligent Enterprise will come easily. Incumbent financial services firms of all sizes come burdened with long-held processes and systems that serve as barriers to change. The industry faces a number of daunting challenges, including the burden of legacy systems, slow adoption rates, talent acquisition, competition from Big Tech and fintech upstarts, regulatory overreach and connecting the prediction with the customer.

The key is to focus on seamlessly incorporating cognitive technologies into existing processes while also maintaining a human touch with customers, i.e., to build AI solutions that engage employees and put the customer first. The most effective way to achieve this ideal is through the deployment of a single platform, a system of engagement that seamlessly integrates and analyzes data from all customer channels and across the organization. Only with the foundation of a truly holistic platform, which allows every employee to have access to the same information, can the Intelligent Enterprise really begin to take flight.

 

Achieving Orbital Flight Requires a System of Engagement

For FIs, the journey to the Intelligent Enterprise begins with defining the value you desire to achieve through the implementation of AI and related technologies. Too many FIs begin by building the rocket mid-mission – by creating the infrastructure without first understanding the true ROI of the endeavor. Start by choosing one use case that will return value to the organization – whether it is streamlining the financial statement data capture in commercial lending, employing next product to sell capabilities in retail customer onboarding or implementing risk-based pricing to help meet consumer fair lending compliance requirements.

Next, decide whether to buy or build the technology. For FIs that do not have the benefit of massive resources to create their own software, partnering with a vendor like nCino that has the expertise, experience and a track record of success working with AI-driven data insights may likely be the better option. Our AI application suite, nCino IQ (nIQ®), supercharges the nCino Bank Operating System® by leveraging AI, analytics and machine learning to enable FIs to become more predictive and proactive. nIQ offers an FI’s employees the opportunity to do more for the institution by, for example, saving valuable time through automatic data extraction and analysis of tax returns and financial statements. It’s no longer just about convenience, it’s about increasing profitability, safety, soundness and growth in a customer-centric banking world.

 

Conclusion

AI and cognitive technologies are transforming banking. They are enabling FIs to increase revenue, gain operational efficiencies and fully meet customer expectations. With this type of technology in place, FIs no longer have to spend time on cumbersome, manual tasks but can offer employees the opportunity to do more for the institution by saving valuable time. 2021 will be an exciting year as FIs continue to adopt new AI tools to transform the customer experience.

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Finance

WHY THE NORDICS WILL CONTINUE TO LEAD THE WAY IN DIGITAL PAYMENTS

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By

Kriya Patel, CEO, Transact Payments

 

While the recent introduction of PSD2 — the second iteration of the EU’s Payment Services Directive — has undoubtedly had an effect on the entire continent of Europe, some regions have been in a better place to take advantage of it than others. Largely thanks to a historical willingness to foster and embrace innovation, the Nordic nations were already something of a global leader in the electronic payments space even before PSD2. Now, it looks as if the Nordics is on course to be the first region in the world to fully realise digital transformation in payments.

With a combined population of 21.39 million, the Nordic markets of Sweden, Denmark and Norway have the highest penetration of electronic transactions anywhere in the world. It’s estimated that cash is only used in 3% of transactions in Norway, with this number only slightly higher in Sweden. Given this context, it’s no surprise that there are nearly twice as many payment cards as there are people, at 41.86 million cards. These cards are used for around 7.8 billion transactions annually — worth more than £205 billion — made at just under 600,000 point of sale (POS) locations and online.

You could be forgiven for thinking that given the advanced state of play in the payments market that there would be few opportunities left for incumbents or new entrants to take advantage of. However, for those who are willing to innovate and diversify there could be market share up for grabs. And there are also plenty of things that payments players in other regions can learn from this market. In this article, we will examine what these opportunities and lessons are.

 

Highly developed market

E-commerce accounts for a very large proportion of overall electronic transactions in the Nordics at between 19 and 22%. It’s a segment that is continuing to grow rapidly, even though cards remain the preferred way to pay online and in person.

In fact, cards account for a huge 85% of all in-person transactions in the Nordics, with debit cards used for two-thirds of all purchases in Denmark, for example. In the background, this is enabled by a highly functional consumer-permissioned digital identification system known as BankID that makes Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance for e-commerce much more straightforward for vendors and customers. This scheme, which was first envisioned more than 20 years ago, is one of the key reasons why this region has made such strong advances in digital payments.

Since 2015, all three Nordic markets have embraced digital wallet solutions – Norway’s Vipps, Sweden’s Swish and Denmark’s Bankort. In the case of Denmark, their digital wallet grew from the Bankort debit card solution shared by major Danish banks. Across all three markets, these home-grown wallets have seen strong growth, with Swish reporting the fastest usage growth in the over-45 segment. These domestic wallets are currently looking to grow their functionality, with parking and bill payments being added on top of peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers and a debit function.

 

Digital wallets to expand functionality

As digital wallets rise and cards continue to be used for a very wide range of purchases, the Nordic markets continue to seek opportunities to reduce cash use for everyday, low-value purchases such as parking and street vendors. This will create room for mPOS (mobile Point Of Sale) and soft POS systems providers, as well multi-function card products. Loyalty is also likely to be another area for growth, with players keen to ensure that they can retain existing customers and attract new ones from their competitors.

One of the most interesting areas in the Nordic region’s payments landscape is how these digital wallet solutions can expand internationally. While digital wallets are growing rapidly in the domestic space, the capacity of these wallets to be used outside the Nordic region is still very limited. Creating international links for Nordic-only solutions will certainly be an area of growth in the coming years, so providers looking to partner with banks or wallet providers should find a receptive audience in these markets.

As with other European markets such as Spain and Germany, we’re also seeing the rise of specialist banks built to meet the needs of smaller companies in the Nordics. Banks such as Norway’s Aprila are expanding rapidly by taking advantage of PSD2’s Open Banking mandate to access SME credit data and deliver innovative payment products and lending solutions. Corporate credit and debit card products will be a major growth area in the near future as SMEs will finally get the attention they deserve.

There’s a great deal that other regions can learn from the Nordics. While the combined population of the three countries adds up to only around one-quarter of Germany, for example, the relatively low population density has proved a fertile ground for digital payments. It will be interesting to see how some of the more innovative services we see in this region can make international links, or how players in other regions try to replicate them.

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Banking

THE GROWTH OF DIGITAL BANKING: WHY COLLABORATING WITH FINTECHS IS CRUCIAL TO ADAPT TO CUSTOMER DEMANDS IN LIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC

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The growing customer demand for a seamless digital banking experience looks set to transform how the entire banking industry operates. Traditional banks have been left playing catch up with the emergence of new fintech players and challenger banks. The demand for slick digitally finance solutions is led by the digital native generations, the millennials and Gen Z. However, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the uptake of online shopping and remote working for whole swathes of the population. Even the older generations have been left wondering why accessing banking services online remains so cumbersome.

Consumers’ growing desire to access financial services through digital channels has already led to a surge in various new banking technologies which are reconceptualising the banking industry. Consumers have rapidly moved to adopt payment solutions such as those offered by apps like Revolut.

Manoj Mistry

Retail banks continue to launch platforms in the Banking as a Service (BaaS) space, in an effort to remain competitive. An example of this in the UK is how NeoBank (Starling) used to only offer business to consumer (B2C) retail banking services. However, once it launched its BaaS platform, Starling was able to rapidly diversify to include consumer services.

New technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to evolve, and look set to have an enormous impact on banking over the next three to five years. The type of cryptocurrencies that we have seen to date look set to be far more tightly regulated, given significant governmental concerns about their potential for misuse in cybercrime and money laundering.

In the blockchain space, the transformative development which will accelerate the rise of digital finance is the advent of central bank-backed digital currencies. The US Treasury has described the creation of a digital dollar as a high priority project. China is already trialling its digital Yuan. Meanwhile, the ECB is actively pursuing its plans to launch a digital Euro. The launch of stable, highly secure digital currencies, underpinned by major central banks, looks set to ensure that digital finance will permeate every area of our lives in the not too distant future.

How we use digital finance is also set to change radically. We are used to seeing new technology emerge from Silicon Valley. However, an analysis by KPMG Australia suggests that a new breed of apps which prefigures the future of digital finance has already emerged in the East. The report notes that “super apps” are “already encroaching on traditional financial services territory”.

Super apps are defined as apps which “essentially serve as a single portal to a wide range of virtual products and services. The most sophisticated apps – like WeChat and Alipay in China – bundle together online messaging (similar to WhatsApp), social media (similar to Facebook), marketplaces (like eBay) and services (like Uber). One app, one sign-in, one user experience – for virtually any product or service a customer may want or need.

“Due in large part to their versatility, super apps have quickly become ingrained into users’ daily lives. It is not unusual for a WeChat user in China to set up a date with a friend via instant messaging, make dinner reservations, book movie tickets, order a taxi and pay for every transaction along the way, all using one single app.”

We are already beginning to see trends in this direction in the Western world, with Facebook launching a marketplace and even a dating service within its social network. Facebook also attempted to launch its own digital currency, Libra, but this move stalled when it ran into significant governmental opposition. However, Facebook hasn’t given up, and it is determinedly pursuing the launch of a revamped stablecoin, Diem, which has been redesigned to address regulatory concerns.

A group of Citi analysts recently wrote an interesting research paper, which predicts that “the story of digital money in the 2020s will be the growth of tokenised money”. Noting that both Big Tech and Central Banks “are building new payment formats and rails,” they say that “while stablecoins such as Diem await regulatory approval, they could benefit from the huge network effects of their Big Tech sponsors. In fact, Diem could be an effective tokenised payment format inside the Facebook universe.” The paper predicts that “Stablecoins, such as Diem, could benefit from the huge network effects of their Big Tech sponsors”. With 3.3 billion monthly users, Facebook certainly has remarkable global reach.

The idea of an integrated tech platform which enables people to interact and purchase goods and services – including financial services – is now being pursued by many major players.

Amazon has long been rumoured to be planning to launch its own bank. Yet, research by CB Insights concludes that, “from payments and lending to insurance and checking accounts, Amazon is attacking financial services from every angle without even applying to be a conventional bank.” This is perhaps not surprising. After all, tech companies rarely replicate existing models. They usually find disruptive new ways to achieve the outcomes that consumers want. Even the messaging service, WhatsApp, has recently moved into financial services with the launch of WhatsApp Pay.

As money becomes digitised and tokenised and ever more areas of our lives move online, the distinction between an online marketplace, a social network and a financial services provider will continue to blur. How traditional financial services companies react to these developments remains to be seen. Some may partner with tech companies in creating new services. For example, Visa and Mastercard were involved with Facebook’s Libra stablecoin project. Visa also responded to the popularity of peer to peer payment services such as Revolut by launching Visa Direct, which enables users to make payments directly to another account in 30 minutes. Most major banks now support Apple Pay, which enables users to authorise payment by scanning their face or thumb.

Banks can also collaborate with tech companies in terms of data sharing, in order to better understand what their customers want. A company like Amazon knows what books people like, what music they listen to and what they purchase. By combining such data with wider financial data, remarkably predictive Big Data models could be created. Some banks might increasingly pursue opportunities to monetise data, while others might make privacy their unique selling point.

The banking sector fundamentally deals with money. Yet, the very nature of money is set to change, as it becomes digitised. Banks are no longer merely competing with each other, but they are both competing and collaborating with tech companies and social networks. Looking ahead, the only certainty we have is that we are in for a period of remarkable change.

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