As we move closer to the end of January 2017, one thing’s for sure: digital financial innovation shows no signs of abating in Asia Pacific, and a series of financial technology (fintech) startups continue to put Singapore and Hong Kong firmly on the innovation map. Just last week Next Money held its Fintech Finals 2017 (FF17) in Hong Kong, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) also announced that it will hold the Singapore Fintech Festival 2017 in November, the second year in a row that the regulator will be hosting the event.
FinovateAsia 2016 in Hong Kong and the Global Fintech Hackcelerator in Singapore last year gave us a glimpse into how fintech in the region will develop in 2017:
Asia’s governments are playing a pivotal role in driving fintech investment. MAS has committed nearly $160 million through 2020 to the Financial Sector Technology & Innovation (FSTI) scheme to fund infrastructure and deliver fintech services aimed at establishing Singapore as a smart financial center, as part of the Singapore government’s Smart Nation initiative. The Hong Kong government has announced a $370 million Innovation and Technology Venture Fund aimed at encouraging private venture funds to increase their investments in technology startups through a matching process. Both MAS and InvestHK have established dedicated fintech teams.
This time of the year is significant not only because of the never-ending amount of Christmas log cakes (or puddings) that we guiltily consume without restraint at our offices, it is also when we sit together to talk about everything that has transpired in the past year. As we go into the festivities over the next few days, this is the time for us to pause and reflect on the things that have gone well, and those that haven’t quite gotten to the stage of being ideal.
For the financial services sector in particular, this means taking stock of your digital transformation journey by evaluating your progress in digital banking in the age of the customer.
At Forrester, we have done extensive research that involved speaking to incumbent banks globally and leveraging our consumer technographics data for our digital banking strategy playbook. We have recently published the digital banking strategic plan, processes, and benchmark chapters.
Every fall, more than a dozen Forrester analysts across multiple roles meet to discuss what executives and leaders at financial services firms should anticipate over the next year. Driven by our ongoing research, the result of this brainstorm is now available as the just-published “Predictions 2017: Pioneering Financial Providers Will Partner With Fintech To Build Ecosystems” report. Forrester clients can read the full predictions report by clicking the button here:
For non-clients, here are three of the 16 predictions we outline in our new report:
Leading providers and fintech firms will partner to build ecosystems. Dynamic ecosystems of value threaten traditional, vertically integrated financial firms that want to stick with the old-school value chain. But ecosystems also offer opportunities to financial providers that think carefully about the roles they want to play in the ecosystem — and by extension, the role they want to play in customers’ lives. Pioneering financial providers like BBVA have built ecosystems with fintech firms like OnDeck, and we predict that in 2017, more leading firms will follow suit and build dynamic ecosystems of value.
Companies of all stripes are getting bot happy, rolling out bots for third-party platforms like Facebook Messenger, Kik, WeChat, Slack, and more. Firms like Yahoo, H&M, KLM Airlines, and others use these chat bots — software built to simulate human conversation and to help consumers complete tasks — in an effort to better win, serve, and retain customers.
A few banking providers are beginning to dip their bank-shaped toes into the bot space: Capital One allows customers to take actions like paying bills via Alexa on Echo devices; Bank of America has announced plans to roll out a bot on Facebook Messenger; and numerous Chinese providers offer banking services via WeChat.
But while a few banks are in a position to experiment, digital business executives at most banks must decide whether to use precious resources to build or buy a chat bot offering. Forrester’s brand-new research report argues that most of these executives should hold off on launching chat bots for messaging platforms. This is because:
Today’s bots often lead to uneven — or worse — experiences for customers. In our research, we found many instances where a chat bot offered a quick and effective answer to a consumer’s question; however, about one-third of the time, existing chat bots either failed to complete the consumer’s request or provided a clunky, awkward experience.
Too few digital banking teams allocate significant resources to their alerts efforts — as evidenced by the mixed results in the Alerts category of Forrester’s Digital Banking Benchmark scores. But some banks have recently sought to improve their email, SMS, and in-app alerts (also called “push notifications”).
Bank of America has now launched the latest updates to its alerts. Just a couple of years ago, the bank’s email alerts were text-heavy, unwieldy, crowded messages with little clear guidance for customers. But through multiple iterations, Bank of America redesigned its alerts to be clean and simple with a clear call to action based on the purpose of the alert (see images below).
Forrester spoke with Alex Wittkowski, VP and senior product manager of mobile banking and commerce at Bank of America, who discussed how the bank redesigned its email alerts “to focus on just those few crucial elements” at the heart of an alert’s value to the customer. According to Wittkowski, the redesigned alerts are now:
Finovate, KPMG, and CB Insights are all reporting on record investments in financial technology (fintech) in 2016.[i] According to Finovate, the total number of deals year-to-date stands at 737, double last year’s 371. The amount invested has more than doubled, too — from $8.4 billion raised during the same period a year ago to $17.4 billion year-to-date.
There seems to be a lot of optimism in fintech, especially when you consider this chart:
Source: Yahoo Finance.
The share prices of fintech darlings in peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, small-business lending, and mobile payments have collapsed post-IPO. And devaluations aren’t affecting only publicly owned companies. Zenefits — which offers cloud-based software to manage payroll, health insurance, and other benefits — was valued at $4.5 billion in May 2015. Since then, Fidelity, which led the funding round, has written down the value of its investment, now estimating Zenefits' share price at $5.60 — down from $14.90 a year earlier.[ii]
Despite being geographically far away from the rest of the world, Australia's financial services sector has found its place on the world stage. Australian banks are some of the most innovative in the world. As our 2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark has shown, some Australian banks have overtaken their global counterparts, with Westpac taking the coveted top spot.
The question that I often get asked from Australian digital banking teams is, "so what's next in financial services?"
And I think that's a great question. As uncertain economic conditions, wavering markets, and tight budgets continue to increase the pressure on Australian digital teams to deliver better experiences and increased sales through digital touchpoints, we believe that digital business executives have to drive digital transformation. And this means far more than simply developing a "digital strategy".
Digital banking executives must make mobile the hub of customer interactions, and not treat mobile as if it were just another channel. They should develop mobile banking as a platform to engage customers. To continue to win and retain mindshare and increase wallet share, the next step digital banking teams must focus on are ways to create new sources of value for their customers, not just meeting their basic needs.
I started my corporate career in financial services – working for several large, global high street banks in Asia. During my time “in the trenches” of wholesale and mass affluent consumer banking, I watched a number of ambitious and well-intended new product and service ideas rise through the ranks of budget approvals and stakeholder support only to make it to market and then die a slow death on the vine when customer adoption or planned value failed to meet expectations.
Notwithstanding, the ideas were good – many smart people worked on these projects. However, equipped with the clarity of time, I reflect back on some of those projects today and see a common thread between them. Fundamentally, those shipwrecks all shared one thing in common – they were never properly vetted with the customer before they were commercialized.
Today, while financial institutions are getting smarter at collecting quantitative data around channel experiences; the qualitative validation piece, the ethnographic research piece, the co-creation with customers piece is still missing in most organizations. In some cases, it’s only happening at the bleeding edge. While agile methodologies and minimum viable product-quick-to-market thinking has closed the gap on aligning with customer needs and expectations, the industry as a whole would benefit from an injection of human centered product and service design thinking to move the industry’s CX from good to great.
Join us for our inaugural invitation-only Next-Generation Financial Services summit in Sydney on Thursday, August 4 where I will delve into the topic of design thinking for financial services with my presentation, Fix your Products and Services with a Dose of Design Thinking.
The race to digital is heating up in financial services (FS) organizations; increasingly, the engine making this happen is Agile. Why? Quite simply, it is software that makes any financial business truly digital. Organizations are therefore in a rush to become great at rapidly innovating, developing, and delivering new software products to win new clients and retain and serve existing ones.
Oliwia Berdak and I have just published twin reports — one for eBusiness and channel strategy professionals, and one for AD&D leaders — that share our findings on how FS organizations are trying to ramp up their digital innovation capabilities rapidly by leveraging Agile and other innovative models.
Our key finding comes in response to a question: Are you building a digital lab that contains great developers but is isolated from key business leaders and other technology management teams? If the answer is yes, don’t! If separate digital units pursue disruptive opportunities, they will often end up with just front-end apps or proofs of concept that are impossible to integrate and scale with same speed they were developed.
Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in Italy on a vacation with my wife and some friends. As we walked the Path of the Gods, made our own Neapolitan pizze, and enjoyed the gorgeous views of the Amalfi coast, different people in our group would pay for a limoncello here or a glass of aglianico there. As such, our financial activity was a mix of different individuals spending various amounts for a range of stuff. But our group was often too busy having fun to carefully track who paid how much for what and when.
Enter Splitwise* a non-bank mobile app that lets groups of people easily track their spending and settle their short-term debts to each other (see screenshots below). We used it throughout our trip, and it was a breeze.
But why didn’t a bank build this kind of convenient digital offering first? Or why don't more financial providers integrate with Splitwise and other disruptors to build ecosystems of values for their customers? Many bank executives and digital banking teams say their goal is to help customers better manage their finances (and increase retention and engagement by doing so). But too few financial institutions have focused on what Forrester calls the shared finances opportunity. Forrester defines shared finances as:
Any situation in which a person acts as an observer of, partner in, or proxy for another person's finances.