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Banking

OPEN BANKING: THREAT OR OPPORTUNITY?

By Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence at SAS UK & Ireland

Redefining banking in a financial services market where your biggest competitor may be Amazon or Google, not a traditional bank.

Open banking may not have made much of an impression on consumers yet. But it’s a topic that the industry cannot afford to ignore. Tier one UK banks are already bound to grant licensed startups access to transaction-level data, and smaller banks are likely to have to follow suit in the near future. The potential impact on the banking landscape is profound.

Today, the standard business model for retail banks is to build strong relationships with their customers by offering free current accounts and other incentives. These services are a net cost to the business, but they help the banks win trust and provide a channel for marketing more profitable products, such as mortgages, loans and wealth management services.

Open banking threatens to sweep this business model away like an avalanche. Agile fintech companies are already developing apps that aggregate all the financial services that a customer receives from any provider, creating a single point of control.

This will certainly improve the banking experience for most consumers. But it will also add a new layer between banks and their customers. All communication with the customer will happen via the app – and the app provider will control that communication channel, not the banks.

According to market analysts, this poses a real threat. If a bank can’t upsell high-value services to its customers, it may be left with a thin share of the market. Banks could be drowning in current accounts while app providers skim the cream of profitable loans and investment services off the top. Bain & Company point out that similar disruptions in industries, such as music and travel, have seen incumbents’ profits fall by 10% to 20%, often within fewer than five years.

Threat or opportunity?

While the stakes are high, the odds are still in the banks’ favour – at least for now. For decades, they have collected data on millions of customers and billions of transactions, across the whole spectrum of financial services. This data is a priceless source of insight that banks can use to create customer experiences that their data-poor fintech competitors simply can’t match.

For example, instead of just helping customers make payments or check their balance, a new generation of banking apps could provide users with much more relevant, personalised advice. By comparing individual spending patterns with the behaviour of a wider population of users, they could pinpoint topics that users really care about –reducing utility bills, for example, or paying off a mortgage – and suggest helpful strategies for meeting their financial goals.

Serious competition

Banks aren’t just worried about competition from fintech startups. There’s also a risk that other data-rich companies could make a beeline for the financial services market. Amazon, Apple, Google and other tech giants already have enormous quantities of information about consumer spending habits, as well as some of the world’s most talented data scientists, UI and UX developers. If they want to build the world’s best banking app, they seem to have all the right tools already. What’s to stop them from seeing financial services as their next market to dominate?

Again, the answer is that banks still have the advantage, at least in the short term. There is more to a user’s personal finances than just online shopping habits. And banks have a much more complete picture of how people borrow, spend and invest their money across mortgages, loans, credit cards, savings accounts, stocks and funds.

More importantly, customers trust their bank to manage both their information and their money. As a heavily regulated industry, banks simply cannot afford to play fast and loose with their customers. Meanwhile, barely a week goes by without another scandal about an internet company selling, losing or misusing customer data.

So while you probably trust online retailers to deliver your shopping, you might still have a few qualms about letting them manage your pension.

That said, customers’ trust and loyalty are finite commodities. If banks don’t act on their advantage now, they will lose it little by little. An outstanding user experience can easily seduce customers. And if you can’t provide one, your competitors certainly will.

On your marks

In short, the race to build the killer banking app is on – and banks, fintechs and other players are all in the running. Whoever gets there first will win it all, leaving the others scrambling to redefine their role in a banking industry that bears little relation to today’s world.

The difference between winning and losing, as we’ve already hinted, will be in the data. If banks can mobilise the treasure trove of data they already possess and harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring insights closer to the point of customer interaction, then they will be in a powerful position to lead the next stage in the evolution of financial services.

And that’s not just wishful thinking. Take a look at our case study with ICA Banken. SAS solutions are helping ICA Banken analyse customer behaviour online and combine it with historical banking data to create a fully personalised and customised user experience. While customers browse the ICA Banken site, intelligent algorithms automatically assess their needs and display helpful information and relevant offers in real time, resulting in a tenfold increase in conversion rates for the bank’s campaigns.

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Banking

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.

Konstantin Bodragin

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.

 

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Banking

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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