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HOW CONSUMER TRUST CAN ELEVATE DIGITAL BANKING

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Digital Banking

By Ian Bradbury, CTO for Financial Services at Fujitsu UK&I

 

The rate at which bank branches are closing has been a concern for many in the industry, as people continue to lose access to their local high street banking service. And it goes beyond taking an extra bus journey into town; some people need to travel up to 15km to be able to access a ATM

A recent Which? report found that a third of bank branches have closed over the past five years as a result of changing consumer habits and better access to online banking. As a result, we have seen a push in the industry to support access to cash in local communities.

Yet, while the future of banking increasingly looks digital, cash as a concept will still play an important role for many consumers.

 

Ian Bradbury

Cashing in on a digital future

Cash will continue to play a vital role in society as banks digitise and even without physical money, some form of anonymised payment will always remain.

For now, access to cash and physical bank branches remains important to many Britons; two-thirds of consumers are more likely to do business with a bank if it has a high street branch according to our recent research. So, for banks, the challenge now is how they can continue to adapt their technology offerings while maintaining a physical, branch presence.

The truth is, banks want to digitise. There’s a lot about physical cash that isn’t sustainable: it can be easily stolen, damaged, or defaced; and it’s historically been easy to mint illegal tender. But people like it – the private transfer of value is considered by many to be a basic human right, something that will always drive cash’s popularity.

The issues around anonymity could be solved by digital currencies. The rise of cryptocurrencies raised the eyebrows amongst many in the industry as a possible alternative to physical cash but ultimately, it lacked monetary stability. As a result, governments that seek to find a digital alternative to cash have been unable to find an answer.

 

The bank of tomorrow

One of the key reasons why cash is still so vital for society is that there remain a group of consumers who are ‘unbanked’ – unable to open a bank account due to insufficient identification documents. But offline digital wallets have been improving and will be critical in providing a solution to this; by creating a functional, off-the-grid cash system.

Technologies such as biometrics, that are already being used in contactless payments, have moved society in the right direction to reduce the need for physical banks. Biometrics can break the barriers required to get the right level of identification for a bank account, providing a solution for those who are ‘unbanked’.

The rise of challenger banks has also impacted consumer expectations towards banking. Yet, the digital-only model is still a long way from truly dominating the banking industry. Our recent research found that consumers still prefer banks with high street branches, as 40% don’t trust challenger banks at all. So, while digital banks continue to gain popularity, traditional banks continue to have the edge with the offering of the human touch.

This shows that there is still a way to go for digital banks to break into the mainstream. The fundamentals are there for a society where digital banking is the standard payment, but consumers are not yet read.

Consumer trust will take time to build and until it has been developed, people will take time to adopt digital-only banking methods. That makes maintaining the banking systems in rural areas even more important; while offline digital wallets will become standard over time, they are not yet used widely enough to fully replace the traditional banking system.

 

Most of the challenges are disappearing, but there’s still a way to go

Many of the challenges that banks have faced in the past are being solved with the technology that is available. Biometrics can help solve the problem of identification, rural areas are increasingly becoming more connected and digital wallets are already widely available in some places.

Digital currencies offer the opportunity for anonymous, flexible and secure payments, addressing the concerns consumers have about them. But governments, consumers and even employers all have the same issue in trusting this form of money.

Moving forward, all parties involved in cash such as central governments, banks, employers and retailers should work together to move on from the challenges of physical cash. Consumers will always adapt to whatever currency we trade; we started with sticks and stones and have moved a long way to get to the dollar bill. It’s about time that the industry decides to take the next step.

 

Banking

WHY THE TIME IS NOW TO BANK BEYOND BORDERS

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by Lili Metodieva, MD of Monneo

 

As our world becomes more interconnected, so too does the need for banking systems to follow suit. In the past, businesses and individuals were often restricted to banking in a single country, but the rise of borderless banking is enabling both to benefit from greater financial freedoms. In this article, we will examine why this trend is so important and explain how Fintech companies are helping to make it possible.

 

What is borderless banking?

Simply put, borderless banking refers to any bank account, which allows users to spend, send and receive money across different countries and currencies, without incurring heavy fees. The concept has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more people now working in cross-border job roles and with many businesses requiring capital in a different currency than that of their country of origin.

For customers, borderless banking is making cross-border financial transactions more efficient and cost-effective. Through its rise, businesses and individuals can gain easier access to international streams of capital, which is crucial in this current moment of economic uncertainty. In fact, 74% of companies say cross-border payments have helped their business to survive [1].

 

Where do IBANs come in?

International Banking Account Numbers (IBAN) play a crucial role in facilitating borderless banking. The globally recognised system enables cross-border transactions to happen safely, by providing each international bank account with its own unique 36-digit alphanumerical code. On account of this code, financial institutions can quickly identify where funds are coming from, as well as where they’re going to.

More recently, providers such as us have been able to deliver Virtual IBANs (vIBAN). Working alongside a network of well-established European and International banks, we’re able to offer businesses a single platform interface that consolidates the management of all IBAN accounts. In turn, our multi-currency service makes conducting global financial transactions incredibly straightforward.

 

How has Brexit affected borderless banking?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of borderless banking and services related to it, but other developments, such as Brexit are beginning to stand in its way. Most notably, the drawn-out withdrawal process has seeded a growing reluctance amongst risk averse, larger organisations to settle transactions using UK bank accounts or IBANs, due to unfounded concerns around regulatory complexity.

Despite leaving the EU, the UK remains a member of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), so it’s unclear why these concerns around British IBAN accounts exist. Regardless, this unfortunate development must be addressed quickly as it has the potential to adversely affect the livelihood of businesses and individuals at a time of critical need.

 

What does the future hold for borderless banking?

There’s clear demand for borderless banking and borderless payments, but the discrimination of certain IBAN accounts represents a major obstacle, which could stand in the way of their widescale adoption. Moving forward, there needs to be a push towards borderless IBANs, which will make international financial transactions more reliable. At the end of the day, this is what IBANs were originally created for, so it’s important the current problems are rectified quickly.

To ensure this can happen, the industry needs protection and clarity from regulators. Likewise, it’s now time for membership organisations to stand up on behalf of the sector and lobby for the financial inclusion of businesses.

If the confusion regarding UK IBAN accounts can be sorted in a timely manner, businesses across the nation, as well as those further afield can look forward to a future of more streamlined and effective financial services. With this support, the diverse sector can deliver further access to innovative financial services and products, which improve outcomes for businesses and consumers alike.

As a sector, Fintech has the potential to provide vital assistance to the wider economy, particularly in an era of increased cross-border business. At Monneo, we’re committed to being part of that change and as a part of organisations like ‘Accept my IBAN’, are working towards reporting and ending IBAN discrimination.

[1] – https://www.mastercard.com/news/research-reports/2021/borderless-payments-report/

 

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IT’S TIME FOR BANKS TO SIT THEIR CUSTOMERS DOWN AND TALK OPEN BANKING

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Eugene Danilkis, CEO at Mambu

 

We are living in an experience economy, and banking is no different. Customers need innovative payment and finance management solutions. New entrants are edging into the landscape and challenging existing players. This should mean users have a better view of their finances and the tools they need to manage their money – but banks are failing to deliver.

Personal finances are a complex beast, emotional pulls are strong, and the worry of financial security is always on the mind. It’s the job of banks to be the shoulders customers can lean on and trust.

Open banking was supposed to take this to the next level, enabling banks to deliver personalised products and services based on improved data sharing and customer insights. But three years on, adoption remains sluggish. So, why is open banking failing to live up to its promise?

 

A missed opportunity

Open banking was introduced to the UK in 2018, but consumers are still mired in confusion as to what it means and how it helps them. According to Mambu’s global open banking survey, 61% of consumers say they’ve never used open banking, despite more than 8 in 10 using one or more mobile banking apps.

Eugene Danilkis

This is a problem for banks and consumers alike. Lack of understanding around the technology is hindering its adoption, despite this being in the best interests of both. By enabling the secure sharing of financial information, open banking creates an improved customer experience. Not only does this minimise friction and make online payments faster and easier, but allows for personalised services and greater automation, enabling customers to take advantage of tools like budgeting apps.

For banks, open banking is an opportunity to build innovative new products that will improve the customer journey, helping them retain accounts and acquire new ones. By collaborating with third parties, banks can hyper-target customers and build services that address specific user needs, increasing customer satisfaction and in turn brand loyalty.

It’s true there’s been a recent spike in open banking users. According to Juniper Research global, open banking users rose from 18 million in 2018 to 40 million in 2021. But this can be traced to the necessities of a pandemic rather than any sudden clarity in communications.

 

Putting customers at the heart of communication

Mambu’s research shows more than half of consumers (52%) have never heard of open banking. COVID-19 may have increased the uptake of the technology, but it hasn’t increased understanding among users.

So, what can banks do to encourage consumers to embrace open banking? Fundamentally, they must better educate their customers in terms they understand. This means talking to them like human beings, using clear and transparent language to simply explain the personal benefits open banking brings and why it’s really just smart banking.

The understanding gap between technology and terminology shows that consumer demand is there, but better communication is needed. Making sure consumers truly understand the tools they’re using, the control they now have over their finances and how open banking improves the customer experience is vital to dispersing the current fog of confusion. It’s the benefits of this technology that banks need to hone in on: customers ultimately care about what open banking can do for them and how it’s going to make their lives easier.

Centering the customer and their needs in this way will allow banks to fully realise open banking’s potential. The technology has already given them the opportunity to develop valuable services for customers that help build brand loyalty. But the industry has failed to put the customer at the heart of their communications and processes, and show them how much better banking can be.

 

Building trust

Key to reversing this trend is addressing consumer concerns around data privacy and financial safety. Yes, banks need to prioritise simplicity and clarity in messaging, but this isn’t an excuse to shy away from important conversations. Just because there’s an understanding gap around open banking doesn’t mean consumers aren’t switched on about tech and financial issues.

Mambu’s survey found nearly three in five customers have concerns about privacy and security in relation to open banking. So, it’s vital that banks provide reassurance and relevant information about data sharing from the outset if they’re to assuage these fears.

The industry can also encourage greater adoption by developing and improving open banking interfaces. Banks are the gatekeepers to how easily end-users can authorise certain actions, manage third-party access and navigate different open banking functions. If the interface is user-friendly, customers will have a better experience of the technology and be more likely to use and recommend these services.

 

Time to get talking

Customer communication is holding the industry back.. The ability of open banking to transform financial services is a concept that industry players are well-versed in. But the feeling isn’t mutual for customers.

Banks are failing to capitalise on the open banking opportunity by engaging with new and existing customers about what the technology can do for them. Debunking  common myths can open the door to increased growth and trust for banks, as they seek to open up new revenue streams post pandemic..

Make no mistake, open banking isn’t going away. But customers will if banks don’t get talking.

 

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