Financial services organizations have made significant strides in adopting automation, but they have a long way to go to maximize the opportunity because they tend to face adoption challenges.
To reverse their precipitous loss of competitive advantage and market share, traditional banks are increasingly transforming themselves from financial products/services providers into customer lifestyle experience orchestrators. One of the key levers they’re pushing to bring about this innovation turnaround is expansion of their ecosystem to include academics, regulators, FinTechs, telecom firms, and technology vendors.
Everest Group’s recently-released report, Guide to Building and Managing the Banking Innovation Ecosystem – Case Study and Examples from 40 Global Banks, revealed four distinct ways in which banks are working with the ecosystem to drive their innovation strategy.
This is all about exploiting the symbiotic relationship between banks and FinTechs. Serving as “enablers,” FinTechs are helping banks provide more choices to customers and expand the set of services and features in their current offering. For example, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) collaborated with WaveApps to integrate invoicing, accounting and business financial insights into its online business banking platform. This enables RBC’s small business clients to seamlessly manage their full business financial services’ needs — from banking and bookkeeping to invoicing — in a single place with a single sign-on.
Taking on the “enabler” role, banks allow FinTechs to gain access to their customers, data, capital, experience, and platform. This collaboration helps FinTechs avoid the challenges they face in scaling their services independently.
Banks and FinTechs are also combining their unique strengths to solve specific business/customer issues in co-branded partnerships. As the banking industry moves towards lifestyle orchestration services, banks need to launch products that cut across industries such as travel & hospitality, manufacturing, and retail & CPG. This can be achieved by meaningful cross-industry collaborations like the one between Citi and Lazada Group, an e-Commerce site in Southeast Asia. The partnership allows Citi card holders to enjoy a discount of up to 15 percent on selected days when shopping on Lazada, while shoppers who sign up for a new Citi credit card receive additional discounts on Lazada. The move drives growth in Citi’s cards business via increased customer loyalty.
To build their internal innovation ecosystem, banks are conducting hackathons and establishing digital R&D hubs that help them retain talent and bridge the digital skills gap. For instance, Bank of America launched its Global Technology and Operations Development Program – which is called GT&O University – to train workers for new and evolving roles related to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This has helped the bank not only upskill its workforce but also enhance its retention-oriented employee value proposition. And banks, including ING, are tapping open banking by providing external developers, industry innovators, and clients with access to their APIs. This helps them expand their offerings, provide new channels to serve customers, build new experiences for clients, and enable open collaboration.
Banks are closely tracking the innovation ecosystem through multiple programs such as investments, incubation support, and partnerships to avoid threats of disruption and competitive disadvantage. This includes investments across academic institutions, startups, and service providers. Interestingly, our research suggests that banks are likely to continue investing in startups via acquisitions or venture capital financing to accelerate their transformation efforts. This is evident from TD Bank’s recent acquisition of Layer 6, a Canada-based AI startup, which adds new capabilities to TD’s growing base of innovation talent and know-how.
Through co-innovation partnerships with startups, consortiums, academic institutions, and technology giants, banks are jointly developing innovative solutions and technology. Leading banks are forming consortiums with other banks, technology firms, and other participants across industries to solve industry-wide issues such as cybersecurity, API security, and regulatory technology, building platforms and standards for the industry. For instance, TD Bank joined the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity to co-develop new cyber risk management technologies. And HSBC is working with IBM to jointly establish a cognitive intelligence solution combining optical character recognition with robotics to make global trade safer and more efficient.
To learn more about banks’ leverage of the extended ecosystem to drive competitive advantage, and details on the “why’s” and “where’s” banks are focusing their innovation efforts, please see our report titled “Guide to Building and Managing the Banking Innovation Ecosystem – Case Study and Examples from 40 Global Banks.”
Apple’s March 25, 2019, announcement of a physical credit card, called Apple Card, might initially seem like a strange step away from its highly entrenched Apple Pay digital wallet. That Apple and Goldman Sachs partnered on this initiative might also seem odd, as neither operate in the consumer banking space. But when you take a closer look, you realize this is actually a very well-crafted go-to-market strategy for both Apple and Goldman Sachs.
What’s in it for Goldman Sachs?
Goldman Sachs wanted to enter the retail banking space with a credit card. But the U.S. cards market is already crowded and growing at 6-7 percent, payments is a volumes business, and it would have taken a long time to gather significant market share if it went solo. And while the wallet market is growing fast, a standalone wallet is unlikely to make a near-term impact. Goldman Sachs chose the best of both worlds; a card in partnership with a wallet service provider. This helps it enter the cards market while getting easy access to Apple’s wallet user base and future proofing the business.
What’s in it for Apple?
For Apple, this physical credit card partnership opens the path to new customer segments, particularly baby boomers who are still more comfortable with a card and have been slow to adopt digital wallets like Apple Pay. It will also help Apple expand more quickly into geographical markets beyond the U.S., where it doesn’t dominate the mobile devices market. And because Apple sells the synergy of its ecosystem and ease of use, and is promoting the card’s intuitive design, simplicity, and transparency, Apple might also boost its device sales.
Apple Card comes with an EMV chip but there is no number on the card, which means that users will have to use Apple Pay to use the card online or for NFC transactions. The physical card can only be used at point-of-sale (PoS) terminals. This may translate into a higher fee for Apple Pay and explains why Apple chose Goldman Sachs over other banks.
Further, Apple lags a bit behind some of the other BigTechs in the war for data. For example, Facebook has massive amounts of social data, and Google has enormous quantities of location and search data. Goldman Sachs can help Apple with financial analytics, an area in which it’s not particularly strong, and having access to financial data surely gives Apple an edge in its marketing efforts.
All in all, we firmly believe that Apple Card is a sound and strong market entry and growth strategy for both Goldman Sachs and Apple. Indeed, this move could prove to be a strategic masterpiece in the dynamic payments industry.
What does it mean for BigTechs and banks?
We can expect to see BigTechs like Facebook and Google make similar partnering moves to enter the cards market and tap into the larger PoS network to attract new users with their marketing power and brand name cachet.
Banks need to move faster on their journey towards digital payments or risk losing market share to other more nimble companies or partnerships like Apple/Goldman Sachs. To accelerate their move into the digital payments space, increase customer satisfaction, and avoid making huge investments on their own, banks should strongly consider partnering with FinTechs, which can be more agile and respond faster to the changing market with the right infrastructure and technology capabilities.
What’s your reaction to the Apple/Goldman Sachs partnership? Please share your thoughts with me at: [email protected].
Apple Pay Timeline
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