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WHY – IN BANKING AND BEYOND – TECHNOLOGY HAS TO BE RIGHT FIRST TIME

By Karen Quinn, Head of Marketing at biometric security specialists AimBrain

Technology has embedded itself within our lives: it’s trained to recognise us, second-guess us and make our lives easier. In areas such as biometrics, adoption has been rapid and enthusiastic.

Banks have been early adopters of biometric technology: selfie-enabled mobile banking, document scanning, and other means of user authentication have been actively explored and deployed by many financial institutions. The introduction of the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) has also increased this technology adoption.

PSD2 and biometrics

PSD2’s Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) is putting technology at the centre of open banking, requiring certain transactions to authenticate using two factors from three; the well-discussed knowledge, possession, and inherence. Biometrics are providing the inherence factor and becoming a familiar and trusted step.

But for all the enthusiasm around biometrics, the implementation hasn’t always been smooth. The trouble with our appetite for technology is that anything less than perfect doesn’t pass muster. When one bank rolled out its customer acquisition programme that onboarded users with document scanning, there were some issues with certain smartphone models – which ultimately required owners of these devices to take photos of their documents with a webcam before uploading them to the online service.

This was a frustrating process for customers, and some went directly to a competitor after a few failed attempts to provide their documents. First impressions matter: technology has progressed to a point where customers have an extremely low tolerance for imperfection – causing banks that fall short to miss out on relationships that might otherwise last decades.

Banking of the future

Newer organisations aren’t bogged down with legacy systems, processes and mindsets spanning several decades. Challenger banks are putting customer experience at the very heart of what they do and designing their services around what the consumer wants today and in the future. This has included simplifying authentication by ditching passwords for facial or voice authentication –  although, until now, this has focused almost exclusively on the mobile channel. It’s now easier to access banking services through biometrics linked to your smartphone, but the average consumer now has 3.2 devices. What happens when they’re using their tablet or work laptop or at home? Does fixing one channel represent progress if there’s no continuity or synchronicity across all channels?

Customers demand the same experience and excellence in every way they interact with an organisation. Security is more important than it’s ever been, and the rise of biometrics in mobile banking has been swift and impressive. But unless it’s part of a cohesive strategy to synchronise the experience across all channels, it’s simply another different, disjointed way to reach the same organisation. The customer has to remember passwords, PINs, special phrases and more to access internet banking – and provide telephone banking codes, bill information, and other evidence of identity to reach their bank by phone.

It’s similar to selling a car with a different key for every door: frustrating, inconvenient, and needlessly complex when a master key to open every door would be far more effective. Institutions must be the same brand and adopt the same technologically-savvy, customer-first approach across every channel.

This isn’t always easy.  One MIT Sloan report found that “companies with multiple channels to the customer are experiencing pressure to provide an integrated experience” – and that “multichannel services require envisioning and implementing change across customer experience and internal operational processes.”

But times have evolved, and technology can now provide easy ways to deliver an integrated, consistent customer experience. By using a BIDaaS (Biometric Identity as-a-Service) provider, a bank can use an Application Programming Interface (API) to improve security and experience in a consistent way across any channel. AimBrain’s facial authentication technology lets a user enrol on one channel – such as a laptop or smartphone – and then log in using any other channel with a camera. Its voice authentication module lets a customer enrol using one device, then authenticate across any channel that features a microphone. The combined AimFace//LipSync module can be used across any device with both a camera and a microphone to enable a simple, Snapchat-like authentication. AimBrain’s behavioural authentication component also continually analyses in-session gestures and movements – whether via mouse, keyboard, touchpad, screen or phone. As all data is captured (within the bank’s infrastructure), encrypted and converted into a pseudonymised form in the cloud – away from any personal or financial information – the biometric template serves as a digital identity upon which a user can be authenticated across any channel.

This means no more PINs for the ATM, telephone codes for the call centre, one-time passcodes, call-backs, errant SMS codes, online passwords, or physical ID in a branch. The customer’s voice, face and behaviour will be all that’s required however they interact with their bank, which makes for a simple, smart solution to customer authentication that offers a  universal key for all doors – and one that can’t be lost or copied.

Banks which focus their efforts on providing such a key will be rewarded; those which continue to patch-fix, upgrading one door at a time, may find that their customers have traded them in for a faster, safer, more modern alternative.

 

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Banking

THE CO-BRAND CREDIT CARD MARKET – SINK OR SWIM

CREDIT CARD MARKET

By Chris Vinnicombe, VP Financial Services at Acxiom

The co-brand credit card market is the result of the partnerships between many of the world’s largest credit card issuers and consumer goods businesses like airlines, hotels, and retailers. By leveraging existing technology investments in digital, data, and analytics, the co-brand credit card market has attracted affluent consumers over the years. Indeed, it has remained a powerful component of retail loyalty programmes and strategies that generate revenue not only for the issuer, but for retail partners as well.

 

The market today

Historically, rewards have been critical to retaining and attracting consumers. However, businesses are increasingly finding that this benefit alone is not enough. In today’s world of data, one-size-fits-all loyalty programmes show little customer intimacy, since they don’t pay attention to individual attitudes, behaviours, and expectations.

Co-branded credit cards have faced competitor pressure to sweeten the rewards pot to draw customer traffic and differentiate their card programmes. Above that when consumers around the world are used to relevant adverts, offers and suggestions, the market increasingly seems out of touch when the offers don’t hit the mark.

It is now time for credit card companies to take a hard look at their proposition to determine which offerings consumers still value and to create benefits that are digital first, easy to use and truly relevant to how they live.

 

Increasing cardholder engagement

Today, engagement has become a significant part of this challenge. Cardholder engagement is critical in the market since it measures who has an active relationship with their card, rather than those where it sits unused at the bottom of a draw.

One of the issues is that many cardholders feel they are of little interest to the card issuer after starting the relationship. When offerings remain the same and don’t reflect consumer lifestyle changes, it leads to a decline in spend and balance activity.

For example, if a person is consistently purchasing long-haul, luxury summer holidays on their card and receiving a reward of discounts on Christmas staycations it just won’t be claimed. Ultimately, if the user isn’t likely to claim a reward it defeats the whole point of user offerings in the first place and will lead to a decay in the relationship over time.

To change this dynamic, card issuers need to focus on becoming far more customer-centric, addressing pain points, fulfilling desires and engaging with the consumer as an individual. Whether they are frequent travellers, trend setters, have an affinity to luxury products, cash back collectors, etc. Keeping up with interests and offering tailored rewards will create a more personalised experiences for customers and increase loyalty.

 

Customer experience – reach for the skies

A key example of this is the airline sector. Co-branded credit cards play an important role for airlines and their card issuers, each of which benefit from credit card engagement and purchasing behaviour. The cards also play an integral role in frequent flyer programmes, helping drive flyer loyalty.

Nowadays, airline customer interactions can come through many channels like customer service centres, online travel agencies, websites, and more which can create a complex ecosystem of customer data. The co-brand card partners see significant transaction data that identifies travel activity and purchasing patterns that are strong triggers for airline marketing programmes. All these interactions generate crucial information on passenger needs and preferences that enable up-sell/cross-sell, pricing and preferred experiences (i.e. early boarding or flight update notifications).

 

Better together

For the co-brand credit card market to work, partners need to work together seamlessly. Sharing customer information is vital to the interwoven marketing capabilities needed to be successful.

It all starts with the data foundation. A shared space for data to be safe provides a privacy-compliant environment that allows marketers and partners to connect different types of data while protecting and governing its use. This is the bread and butter for people-based marketing that enables partners to engage consumers across today’s highly fragmented landscape of channels and devices.

These data safe havens provide the ability to ingest customer records from partners, as well as core campaign and engagement logs used where businesses can measure and analyse success. This data can also be enhanced by third-party sources (demographic data, propensity models) to enrich the view of the consumer and create new insights to support new audience creation for marketing programmes.

However, organising, managing, and deriving insights from large sets of consumer data is complicated. To overcome this, companies should rely on connectivity solutions that integrate data to provide a single view of the customer. These identity resolution services resolve first-, second-, and third-party data, exposure and transaction data to represent real people in a privacy-compliant way.

Having this omnichannel view of the consumer can then be utilised to support consumer targeting, personalisation, and measurement bettering the offering to the user and maintaining relevance in the customer’s wallet.

Ultimately, data is helping the co-brand credit card market to stay relevant to consumers today. It is no longer enough to offer one-size-fits-all rewards to card users as competition in the industry hots up. Increasing customer loyalty and engagement is name of the game and using data from across both partners is helping firms to be more competitive, responsive and personalised than ever to drive new business uptake while keeping existing customers coming back for more.

 

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Banking

FOUR WAYS OPEN BANKING AND AI WILL REVOLUTIONISE ACCOUNTANCY

BANKING

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of cloud accounting software company, FreeAgent

 

It’s been just over two years since the term Open Banking became a tangible reality in the UK. Since then, the nine largest banks and building societies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland have signed up to take part in the initiative, meaning they must allow regulated businesses to access their customers’ financial data, as long as the customer has provided permission.

Open Banking was imposed by the Competition and Markets Authority to spur competition between banks and make customers’ banking information more accessible to third parties. And this phenomenon has already been transformative for accountancy, providing third-party financial service providers standard ways to access consumer banking transactions, and other data from financial institutions – a seamless alternative to the teetering piles of paperwork traditionally associated with accounting. Paired with other new innovative technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), Open Banking has the power to change the day-to-day lives of accountants and more broadly, the world of finance.

This article examines the fundamental ways Open Banking and AI can and are already being utilised by accountants.

 

Real Time Insights

Through the use of Open Banking, accountants can have real-time access to their clients’ most up-to-date banking data every single day. This means no more chasing clients for the necessary information that you need to do your usual day-to-day work. This also benefits your clients, as they can continue with their daily workload knowing that their bank transactions are being shared with you directly, accurately and automatically. Suddenly their do-list looks a bit shorter!

 

Adios paperwork

Traditionally, accountants have had to deal with an enormous amount of paperwork, including invoices, expense receipts, bank statements and other important documents. Combined across the profession, this amounts to mountains of paper that have to be analysed and filed. One of the greatest benefits of technology and digital accounting is that it alleviates the stress of keeping important information in physical files. As well as less mess in the office, this means invoices, expenses, receipts can be kept in one place – online. This enables accountants to be more efficient on a day-to-day basis as they are able to easily find documentation by simply typing in what they are looking for to search for it.

Luckily for accountants, and also for the environment, Open Banking and cloud software platforms ensure that important data can transfer seamlessly and safely between your bank and your financial accounts. Already, cloud accounting software makes it possible to have one tidy dashboard that gives an overview of the business in its entirety. As well as being the guardian of files, using technology to set up a bank feed will allow accountants to track incomings and outgoings, link invoices and payments and view interactive charts of all their clients’ accounts.

 

Working from anywhere

The last five years have seen the progression to flexible working increase significantly. Millennials in particular have a desire to work out of the office. A survey conducted with over 19,000 working Millennials across 25 countries revealed their top five priorities when looking for a job, with 79% stating flexible working was a must. Further analysis from BBC 5 Live revealed a 74% jump in the number of people working from home between 2008 and 2018.

As well as the natural increase in the number of people working remotely, accountancy is one of the many professions being affected by the current turbulence being caused by the Covid-19 virus. This month, the government announced everyone should work from home if they can. Now, more than ever, people are away from the traditional office space and working instead from the confines of their own home, with technology acting as the glue that in many cases is keeping their business together. For accountants this means remote access to financial data is an absolute essential.

 

Add consultancy to the equation

With more efficient processes and easier methods of making and tracking transactions, technology and Open Banking will ultimately free up a whole lot of time for the accountants. Clearing up the calendar will make room for new kinds of work and enable accountants to spend more time on consultancy and value-added services, where previously these may have been perceived as a bonus service or from the client-side, a service at a much larger additional cost.

As well as consultancy, these technologies will have other, less direct impacts on the client-side. For example instead of needing a shoebox full of receipts, Open Banking and AI will lead to more confident and self-managed clients. If a client is keeping accurate books themselves, then the accountant no longer has to do all of the numerical admin. Rather, the value add lies in providing higher-level insights around the numbers and offering useful advice such as “it is time to put your prices up, as your profits are lower this year“.

Ultimately, AI and Open Banking are opening the gateway to a more efficient and effective accountancy industry. While benefiting the clients by making new space for consultancy and added value services, new technology ultimately streamlines an accountants’ entire job. Because they are constantly dealing with stacks of financial information, the consequences of misplacement of one document or inefficiently tracking systems hold higher stakes than usual. Luckily there is no need for accountants to grapple with old-school methodology anymore as AI and Open Banking are already readily available and at their fingertips.

 

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