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Kriti Gupta

The Google, Citigroup Partnership: Another Sign that the Banking Ecosystem is Evolving | Blog

By | Banking, Financial Services & Insurance, Blog

On November 13, Google announced that it will partner with Citigroup and a credit union at Stanford University to launch a checking account that will be linked to Google Pay.

Citi and the credit union will be taking care of the financial and compliance aspects, while Google will ensure that customers can access their accounts via the Google Pay app. This partnership is similar to others – like Apple’s co-branded credit cards with Goldman Sachs, and Uber and BBVA joining hands to launch banking accounts on the Uber app for drivers – wherein big technology companies make inroads into the financial services sector by front-ending the program while the bank manages the finer aspects of regulations and compliance.

This partnership is yet another sign that the future of banking is slowly changing as BigTechs enter into the financial services industry. Indeed, tech firms’ ability to consume the APIs that are exposed from the banks’ core systems is rendering banking a plug-and-play service. Banks are now providing an as-a-service platform to help third parties integrate with them. The focus is on enhancing the customer experience and bringing in a single view of the customer. This is turning banks into ecosystem enablers, while the technology companies are entering and embedding themselves in this ecosystem.

The value of these partnerships for banks: gain/retain their customer base

Even though banks are rich data houses, they struggle with analyzing and gaining insights from data. Because of their demand for digital experiences, customers are increasingly embracing the financial services offered by technology companies. Banks understand the need to partner with these companies to remain in the ecosystem and retain their customers. Indeed, the Stanford credit union defined its recent partnership with Google as “critical to remaining relevant and meeting consumer expectations.”

The value of these partnerships for tech firms: access to customers’ financial data

By their very nature and design, the BigTechs have built a comprehensive ecosystem that gives them access to data on their customers’ behavior, choices, and habits. However, the data on customers’ finances still eludes them. As strict regulations and managing compliance prove to be barriers, collaboration is the only way they can get a foot in the door.

What will happen next?

The partnership trend will continue, because both the banks and the tech firms stand to gain so much from them. But the tech firm side of things is a bit troubling. Getting access to the goldmine of banking customers’ financial data will make them nearly invincible. They’ve targeted the front-end of banks’ target operating model, where customer-facing applications, and thus customer stickiness, live.

Further, what is stopping technology players from offering other allied banking services like issuing loans and providing interest payments? Even though lawmakers and regulatory bodies would meticulously scrutinize such models, we are fast-moving to a world where alliances between technology firms and banks will become more frequent.

Of course, it remains to be seen how customers adapt to this new way of working. We are already seeing privacy concerns arise over the financial data in such partnerships. This will lead to the emergence of a data exchange platform to control data access and set terms of use.

The next wave of change in the banking ecosystem will be when banks move to an as-a-lifestyle model. In that model, banks will define an IT strategy with customers at the center, and integrate with allied businesses. But to be successful, banks would need to ensure that they are able to influence the customer experience over all channels…theirs and third parties’. With technology players entering the financial services space, the banking IT landscape is already undergoing a shift. To remain relevant, banks will have to move upstream and coordinate the entire ecosystem while getting integrated into everyday transactions.

Future of Credit Unions: Do Digital Different, or Perish! | Blog

By | Banking, Financial Services & Insurance, Blog

For more than 100 years, not-for-profit credit unions have effectively provided their members with a wide range of financial services at comparatively affordable rates. However, they’re falling far behind in all aspects of what it takes to compete against large banks and FinTechs in today’s digital world. And, per our recently released report, Future Proofing Credit Unions from the Digital Onslaught, that’s causing credit unions to close at a staggering rate of one every two days.

To be fair, a good number of credit unions have invested in next-gen technologies like voice banking platforms and distributed ledgers, and made other moves to bridge the digital divide.

For example, Canadian credit union Meridian is launching a full-service digital-only bank named Motusbank in spring 2019. One Nevada Credit Union, Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union, and Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union have begun their implementation of a voice-first banking platform from Best Innovation Group (BIG). The following image shows other digital initiatives in the credit union space.

Future of Credit Unions blog image

But overall, credit unions’ digital investments pale in comparison to their competitors. For example, our research found that less than five percent of credit unions in the U.S. have a mobile banking app. And the top four banks in the U.S. spend five times more on technology than does the entire credit union industry.

Credit unions’ move to digital is hampered by multiple factors including dearth of talent and relatively small technology budgets that make it challenging to decide on run versus change investments.

But the biggest hurdle they face is lack of an overall organizational IT strategy for transformation. Their intent to invest and transform is there, but disjointed. This siloed approach fails to create a satisfying omnichannel experience for members. A glaring example is Navy Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in the U.S. It faced multiple outages from December 2018 to February 2019, during which members couldn’t see the deposits in their accounts, the bank’s phone lines and digital channels, both mobile and online, weren’t working, and reporting delays led to inaccurate account balances.

So, how can credit unions stay relevant and afloat?

Share Costs with Other Credit Unions

We believe a solid short-term solution to delivering a better member experience is moving to a partner network wherein multiple credit unions mutualize costs. In this collaboration, the participating companies would share run-the-business costs. They might even co-invest in or co-secure funding for the latest technologies. One such example already exists: CU Ledger is a consortium of American credit unions that is exploring use cases for distributed ledger technology (DLT); and it’s already secured US$10 million in Series A funding.

A partner network with pooled resources would also create leverage for credit unions to collaborate with technology service providers. In a mutually beneficial situation, credit unions could share run-the-business costs while the providers could gain economies of scale.

Become Experience Orchestrators

In the longer-term, credit unions should embrace the role of lifestyle experience orchestrators. This means that they should orchestrate and integrate their offerings with those of third-party providers, serving as service and product aggregators to offer rich experiences to their members.

This could take on multiple shapes and forms. For example, they could integrate with a local car dealership and leverage data and analytics to recommend and finance purchase and lease options. Members would undoubtedly be more comfortable with their credit union’s recommendations than those from an unknown organization.

Future of Credit Unions

Future of Credit Unions

There’s no question that credit unions need to modernize their digital touchpoints to deliver experiences that will retain their members. The types of creative partnerships we outlined above will help them survive – perhaps even thrive – in today’s increasingly competitive and digital financial services industry.

Is your credit union undergoing some type of transformation journey too? Please write to me at [email protected] to share your experiences, questions, and concerns.

In the meantime, to learn more about the future of credit unions and the modernization journey they’re facing, please read our recently released report, Future Proofing Credit Unions from the Digital Onslaught.