Does Your Company's Tax Policy Matter To eBusiness?

Today is, apparently, Cyber Monday in the UK. But there's a more interesting story in the UK's eCommerce market. It's about tax.

The debate is about the tax policies of a number of prominent multi-national businesses that operate in the UK, including Amazon, eBay, Google, Starbucks and Vodafone, most of which pay little or no Corporation Tax, which is levied as a percentage of profits. (It's relatively easy and perfectly legal for a subsidiary of a multi-national company to avoid taxes on profits in one country by buying services from a sister company in another country so that it makes no profit in the first country.)

Today, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons published a scathing report on tax avoidance by multi-national companies operating in the UK. As the report puts it about Starbucks, which has made no profits in the UK for 14 of the past 15 years: "We found it difficult to believe that a commercial company with a 31% market share by turnover, with a responsibility to its shareholders and investors to make a decent return, was trading with apparent losses for nearly every year of its operation in the UK." What the committee says about Amazon is, if anything, worse.

What's the relevance to eBusiness? While it's uncomfortable for Google and Starbucks to be in the limelight for the wrong reasons, demand for both information and coffee is (presumably) fairly constant through the year. But for retailers Amazon and eBay, the timing couldn't be worse, because this debate is taking place in the run-up to Christmas, the crucial sales period for all retailers in the UK.

This debate raises three questions:

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Why Visa’s Digital Wallet Matters To eBusiness

I attended a briefing from Visa Europe yesterday, about its digital wallet. Here’s what Visa by Visa

  • is more than a mobile digital wallet. Customers will be able to use to make online payments too. It lets users check out at online stores using a one-click solution that remembers card details from multiple providers (including MasterCard and American Express cards) as well as billing details and postal addresses.
  • is not just about mobile contactless payments. will support a variety of ways to initiate payments including bar codes and QR codes, as well as NFC.
  • Visa intends to distribute through its member banks, much as Visa cards are distributed today. BBVA will be the first issuer in Spain.
  • is already in extended pilots in the UK and Spain to test the system and will launch formally in both countries soon. France will be next. will start rolling out into stores in the UK next spring. Officially will be available in France, Spain and the UK by next summer. (Visa Inc has already launched in the US).
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Innovation Lessons From BBVA

BBVAI spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Forrester’s European Customer Experience Forum in London, which was based on the theme of Outside In, Forrester’s new book. One of the most interesting sessions I attended was ‘The Customer Centric Bank’ from Gustavo Vinacua, Innovation Center Director at BBVA’s Centro de Innovación in Madrid.

Over the past decade, BBVA has worked hard to become more customer centric and match its offerings to its customers’ needs. Given the pace of technology change, customers’ rising expectations and the digital disruption those forces cause, innovation is a critical part of the role of eBusiness and channel strategy executives. I thought I would share a few of Gustavo’s insights here for those of you who couldn’t attend. BBVA has become systematically innovative, launching a continuous succession of innovations many of which were a first in Spain, in Europe or in the world, such as:

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Why Contactless Cards Aren’t Taking Off In The UK

The other day, Smile*, one of the banks I have an account with, sent me a new contactless card.

The contactless symbolThe striking thing about this otherwise ordinary event was that the bank didn’t mention that it was a contactless card. I know it’s a contactless card because it has the contactless symbol on it. But nothing in the letter the bank sent with the card so much as mentioned the new contactless functionality. Logically, one of the following must be true:

  • Uncharitably, it could just be that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and the product team forgot to tell the marketing team it was doing anything new.**
  • Possibly, some slip meant that my envelope didn’t contain any marketing. But there’s no mention of contactless cards on the bank’s website either.
  • Alternatively, the bank simply reckons that the benefits of promoting the contactless functionality are so marginal that it’s not even worth the effort of changing its standard letter (which promotes card protection insurance in extensive detail).
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Mobile Banking And Payment Innovation In France

Myriam Da CostaThis is a guest post from Myriam Da Costa, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals.

France has been quick to embrace mobile banking. Banks like BNP Paribas and Société Générale were among the pioneers of mobile banking in Europe and since 2009, all of the big French banks have launched iPhone mobile banking apps, so most French banks now offer several forms of mobile banking. The first wave of mobile banking was about getting the basics down and offering customers functionality like balances, transaction histories and SMS alerts. The second wave now focuses on money transfers and payments.

As we wrote in our report on The State Of Mobile Banking In Europe 2012, mobile banking is the foundation for mobile payments. France's banks and mobile operators are moving fast to seize the opportunity. In the past two years there has been a wave of new mobile payment initiatives in France: Buyster, Cityzi, Kwixo, Kix and S-money.

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Digital Banking Innovation In Turkey

In our research on eBusiness and channel strategy, we often come across clusters of innovation where innovation by one company in a sector causes its competitors not only to match it, but to try to leapfrog it -- resulting in a rapid cycles of innovation. Among the examples of these clusters are insurance companies in the US (Progressive, Geico and a growing number of others) and banks in Spain (Bankinter, La Caixa, BBVA and Banco Sabadell).

Another of those clusters is the retail banking market in Turkey. Last week I was in Istanbul and was able to see some of the innovations in person and meet a number of heads of eBusiness at Turkey's big banks. Turkey's banks have been quick to adopt digital technologies and achieved some world firsts for the banking industry. Here are a few examples you might like:

  • Ziraat Bank's video teller machineZiraat Bank has deployed a network of unstaffed video kiosks (see picture, right), which it calls video teller machines, that use video-conferencing to connect customers with agents in the bank’s contact centre. Customers can use the kiosks to deposit and withdraw money, buy and sell foreign exchange, pay bills, transfer money and buy bonds. The kiosks let the bank expand its network much more quickly than building conventional branches would do.
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The Business Case For Personal Financial Management

Back in November 2006, a startup called Wesabe first showed the potential of online money management. Packaged personal financial management (PFM) software for PCs like Intuit's Quicken had existed for years, but Wesabe, and a handful of other startups showed the value of using customer data, and community, to help people understand their finances better.

Since then, hundreds of banks, credit unions, wealth management firms, and other companies have launched a range of spending categorization, budgeting, peer group comparisons, and other money management features for their customers.* The leaders are increasingly making money management available in mobile and tablet apps, as well as on their websites. Fuelled by the poor state of many of the world's developed economies and growing use of digital channels, customer interest in online money management is substantial, as my colleague Reineke Reitsma wrote on her blog a few months ago.

Yet despite the growing number of firms that already offer money management, and the evident interest of some customers, many financial services eBusiness executives still question whether the business case adds up. Our new report on The Business Case For Personal Financial Management addresses that question. Here's what we found:

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One Fifth Of European Mobile Users Use Mobile Banking

The longer we spend researching mobile banking, the more convinced I become that mobile banking is the most important innovation, or cluster of innovations, in retail banking in years, arguably in a century. Here’s why I think mobile banking is a much bigger deal than cash machines (ATMs), credit cards or home-based online banking:

  • In developing economies that lack a dense infrastructure of branches, ATMs and fixed-line telecoms, mobile banking and payments are bringing millions of people into the formal banking system for the first time.
  • In developed economies mobile banking will become the primary way many, perhaps most, customers interact with their banks. Banks need mobile banking to provide a platform for mobile payments and to protect their retail payments businesses from digital disruption as mobile payments start to replace card payments in shops.
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We're Hiring: Analyst Serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy, Amsterdam Or London

We're looking for a new analyst or senior analyst to join our eBusiness and channel strategy team, based in either Amsterdam or London. We're looking for someone with an analytical mind, good communication skills (listening, not just talking!), strong views on the impact of digital technologies on eBusiness and channel strategy, and experience of the complexities of retail financial services and of different European markets to help our clients make great business decisions and shape their firms' strategies. 

If this sounds like you, or like someone you know, please contact me at or see the full details in the job description.

What Can Bank eBusiness Executives Do About The Euro Crisis?

These are worrying times for people across Europe as the euro lurches towards another crisis, with leaders talking openly about the possibility of Greece leaving the euro and reports of customers starting to withdraw deposits from banks in Greece and Bankia in Spain.

It's easy to feel powerless in the face of such powerful forces, but fundamentally the repeated euro crises are about two things: debt and confidence. Lots of individuals, small companies, banks and governments across Europe have a large amount of debt, and lenders -- depositors, investors and other banks -- aren't completely confident that all of them will be able to pay it back. It's critical to avoid a vicious spiral of declining confidence that will harm Europe's economic prospects and the livelihoods of its peoples.

What can bank eBusiness executives do about it? Remember that you control two of your bank's critical communication channels:  the website and email. Use them to reassure customers. How?

  • Help customers understand what the crisis is about. Banks aren't just about products. Your purpose is to help customers manage their money. Help your customers understand the causes of the crisis and the reality of the hard choices facing Europe. Nobody likes realizing that they are poorer than they thought they were. Without getting political, help customers understand the situation and what it means to them.
  • Spell out why your firm is safe. My bank emailed me on Thursday to remind me that it's covered by the British government's Financial Services Compenstation Scheme, covering up to £85,000. Put a similar message on your home page and onto the secure site, where online banking customers are most likely to see it.
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