Financial Services Are Hot – Who Would Have Thought?

Not a day passes without more millions pouring into start-ups bent on disrupting retail financial services. Yesterday it was the payments start-up Zooz with US$12 million, today it’s the peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle with US$65 million. Venture capitalists have obviously sniffed an opportunity in an industry characterized by high margins, underserved customers, and accumulated inefficiencies.

The economics of start-ups are ruthless, and you shouldn’t expect many of these upstarts to survive or expand beyond their narrow niche. Still, don’t miss the wood for the trees. As my colleague Bill Doyle and I write in our new report on digital disruption hitting retail financial services, conditions are now ripe for financial services to join the music and publishing industries in experiencing the power of the digital punch.

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Few Insurers Are Currently Proud Of Their Mobile Offerings, And Rightly So

Have you ever had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Maxwell the Pig? Maxwell is a likeable if slightly assuming animated pig. At times he can be a bit dismissive of those who aren’t as digitally savvy as he is.

Maxwell is also a celebrity, featuring in a number of videos promoting Geico’s mobile insurance offerings.  In one he bewilders a policeman with his digital insurance ID, in another he demonstrates how time and space have been obviated by the convenience and ubiquity of mobile insurance. Talk of the mobile moment!

Even if you don’t know Maxwell, perhaps you know other such celebrities? I thought not. That’s because there aren’t many companies that are willing to advertise their mobile insurance services as proudly as Geico is doing. For my new report, I surveyed the mobile offerings of more than 30 insurance companies in developed economies. The results clearly show that plenty remains to be done, both in terms of customer adoption and what’s on offer.

The big US insurers such as Geico and Progressive are leading the pack, offering a growing range of mobile functionality that lets customers get quotes, file and track claims, locate a repair shop, pay bills, and save documents simply by taking pictures with their smartphones. Offering functionality that makes it easy for customers to achieve their insurance-related aims seems like the basics, but a lot of companies still haven’t got it right.

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Is Peer-To-Peer Lending A Threat To Banks?

Social lending, or peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, is not even ten yet, but it has caused a great deal of commotion already. Consumers, regulators, and banks continue to be perplexed by a business model which is so emblematic of the digital economy, or of digital disruption. Thanks to digital tools, potential lenders and borrowers can interact with each other online without the involvement of banks, credit unions, and other traditional financial institutions. And nothing epitomizes the confusion about how banks should respond to the phenomenon better than the initial ban of Wells Fargo on its employees investing in P2P loans, lifted only a few months down the line. So is P2P lending a threat to banks or not? We think it is.

Forrester first wrote about peer-to-peer lending in 2006, soon after the launch of the first P2P lending marketplace Zopa. We argued that lending would never be quite the same again and indeed, it hasn’t been. As we write in our new report, a lot has happened in those eight years:

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Why You Should Turn To Poland For Digital Financial Services Inspiration

“How come America put a man on the moon 45 years ago but still has not produced decent online banking?” asked recently on Twitter Michał Panowicz, mBank’s Managing Director for Products, Digital Channels and Marketing and one of the speakers at last week’s Net Finance Conference. As provocative as the question is, Panowicz is in a strong position to ask it. After some big investments in the bank’s online and mobile offering, the bank has just announced record profits for the first quarter of 2014. Digital innovation is obviously paying off. But once you’re on that road, there’s no turning back. You can’t "undisrupt" yourself.

As my colleague Benjamin Ensor wrote some time ago, innovation often happens in clusters.This means that innovation by one company causes its competitors to not only match it but also to try to leapfrog it — resulting in rapid cycles of innovation. This is what is happening in Poland right now. During my trip there last week, a few bank executives told me of the increasing internal and external pressure not to fall behind digital innovation. There a couple of other reasons why Poland is a great testing ground for new financial services ideas; it has:

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European Insurers Wake Up To Digital Disruption

Calculating and avoiding risk is at the core of insurance. So what are we to make of the fact that insurance executives top our list of professionals who think that the digital disruption of their industry is imminent?[i] We should take it seriously, seeing it as admirable clairvoyance rather than blind fear. Unlike many other industries, at least insurers know the risks they’re facing. But will they act upon this vision? They might have no other choice.

Digital disruption has arrived in insurance. In our new report on trends in European digital insurance, we show that years of slow growth, low consumer trust, and heavy regulation have weakened incumbents. Meanwhile, customer expectations have been rising, fuelling the appetites of startups and companies not traditionally associated with insurance, such as digital platforms, car manufacturers, utility companies, telcos, and sensor and wearable manufacturers, whose utility and access to consumer data has placed them dangerously close to the core of insurance.

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The Country With The Most ATMs Per Capita? The Contest Re-Opens

At a time when mobile banking and mobile payments dominate the financial news, it is easy to forget about the humble automated teller machine (ATM). Customers take them for granted, until an IT glitch prevents them from withdrawing their money, that is. Only a couple of weeks have passed since the latest media uproar caused by a computer failure at the UK’s Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest. The Daily Mail responded immediately with an alarming title, “'Cyber Monday' computer meltdown EMPTIES customers' accounts and leaves millions unable to access cash.”

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UK Mobile Banking Can Finally Embrace Remote Deposits

January is a time of lists. For some, it’s their 2014 resolutions. For me, it’s my post-Christmas to-do list. Inevitably, there will be quite a few thank-you letters to write (even for those unwanted presents that feed the January eCommerce activity). I will also be making my way to the bank to cash the checks I’ve received from the more removed (and dare I say older) relatives. And I won’t be alone: 23 million checks were sent as gifts in the United Kingdom in 2012. This unwanted yet unavoidable annual visit to the branch means that whilst checks might be a less risky present, they are not hassle-free. But hopefully not for much longer. In 2014, the UK government will finally consult on introducing legislation to speed up check payments, including through smartphone-enabled remote deposit capture. And about time.

In the US, bank customers have been using services like USAA’s Deposit@Home since December 2006. Remote deposit capture was initially only possible through a high-resolution scanner. Innovations in mobile technology have made remote deposits easier and more popular. By 2012, 13% of US online adults who have done mobile banking activities in the past three months reported depositing a check by taking a picture with their mobile device.

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