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Delivering services to the unbanked through Corresponsal Banking

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Mike-Alford
By Mike Alford, CEO of Alaric International

Central and Latin America are seeing the rapid growth of ‘corresponsal banking’. This is where retailers, with a wide geographic presence outside of the urban centres, are using a correspondent relationship with major banks to provide a broad and increasingly diverse range of banking services at the point of sale. Mexico is leading the charge and its citizens are benefitting from the convenience that corresponsal banking offers.Mike-Alford

Mike Alford the CEO of Alaric International believes that this trend points the way for many Western economies.  However, corresponsal banking organisations now have rigorous demands for the payment systems required to support such an increasing range of services.  With Alaric’s Authentic payment system already meeting these criteria with Central American retailer Grupo Sanborns, he draws on his own company’s experience to explain the benefits and demands of this retail based form banking service provision.

The payments market in Central and Latin America has some special characteristics which may serve to inform or even inspire developments in other parts of the world. Most governments in the region want to encourage their populaces to become banked to improve money circulation, to foster economic growth and, last but not least, to enable them to get a level of control over the cash economy and thus improve tax revenues.

Taking Mexico as just one example, there is a large unbanked population, with just 25 million bank account holders out of a total population of 120 million. Thus, with the proliferation of mobile phone usage (in total some 70 million handsets in Mexico) cell companies are vying to offer mobile banking services and to encourage their clients to become banked.

In addition, the banking infrastructure is predominantly urban in all the region’s countries. Mexico is no exception. Consequently, there is little in the way of a traditional branch network in remote locations or in those areas with difficult terrain. With only about 150 branches per million population in Mexico compared to nearer 400 or more in countries like the United States, Germany or France, the limited branch network is a serious handicap in reducing the unbanked population.  With the Mexican government’s active encouragement, this has given rise to the concept of ‘corresponsal banking’.

Corresponsal banking enables retailers with a wide geographic presence to have a correspondent relationship with one or more banks and therein to enable their clientele to perform a range of banking transactions in-store at the point-of-sale.At the most fundamental level,this delivers services such as balance enquiries, transfers, bill payments and also withdrawals. And it is important to note that these are account based banking services and not just an extension of the standard card transactions.

It has proved be a very popular development and as a result there has been significant growth in the provision of these retail based banking services. Many people prefer to withdraw money in-store rather than from a street-side ATM due to concerns about the risks of mugging and other criminal activity in exposed external locations. The long opening hours (for instance 7am to midnight) and weekend opening of the retail stores allows people to access their funds day and night, within the comfort and security of their local store.

Another noticeable sign of the success of this approach is the proliferation of services now available in-store. Some of these services are standard banking functions such as withdraw cash, pay in cash, cash cheques, transfer funds between accounts or get an account balance. But they are extended with a large range of functions.  Bill payment services such the payment of credit card bills, loan installments, utility bills and insurance premiums are common.  And some specific functions are also available such as the purchase of mobile phone top ups or paying for airline tickets.  So the retail store is providing the full gamut of banking services a consumer would expect to find in a bank branch.

The challenge for retailers like Sanborns is the need to handle traditional card based shopping transactions that will be authorised through the mainstream card processing channels, the retailer gift card or store card purchases which will be managed by the retailer themselves or a processor acting on their behalf and these more complex banking payments which need to be channelled to the specific bank involved.

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However, the benefits to the retailer of delivering these services are significant as they will attract customers into the stores with the opportunity to engage them in sales activity.  Although there is the additional complexity of training staff and deploying systems to handle these additional transactions, the additional footfall created and sales generated outweighs these challenges.  And there is a fee income stream generated for these banking services.

For the banks involved, extending their reach through partnerships with retailers allows them to grow their customer base without the significant cost of creating bank branches.  The major retail chains have typically thousands of outlets, a network that would be unachievable for any bank.  So the fees payable to the retail chain are a financially viable route to enabling wide access to the bank’s services.  The bank still needs to ensure its products and services are promoted in all regions to drive new customers.  And as these previously unbanked consumers become comfortable with making use of the banking system, there is the opportunity to engage with them through phone or internet banking or, more likely, mobile banking.

With the availability of systems capable of being deployed in-house to support the increasing sophistication of corresponsal banking, the chances are that its spread will continue. It is also fair to say that whilst the populations of Central and Latin American may remain relatively unbanked in the traditional sense, the facilities offered in such countries will continue to be more advanced than those in some other Western countries.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Banking

The future of offshore banking

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The future of offshore banking 1

By Granville Turner, Director at Turner Little.

Despite its misconceptions, the popularity of offshore banking is growing. Not only is it a perfectly legal way of holding your money, but with the right professional advice, it is also reassuringly simple to open an account.

This ease-of-use is prompting many offshore banks to change their offering to compete and make overseas banking even more accessible. No longer is it limited to just the super-rich.

So, what does the future look like for offshore banks? We’ve compiled a list of the top fundamental changes happening in the realm of offshore banking.

Catering to niche markets is the future

Rather than managing account holder’s money in general, offshore banks are tapping into how they can best serve different demographics. Essentially, it is about taking a more bespoke approach to managing money at various stages of life.

But catering to a variety of markets doesn’t just stop there. Many overseas banks are now accepting crypto as a form of currency to appeal to digital, tech-savvy generations.

Cryptocurrency is also attractive for those who see the security benefits it can offer.

Paper chains are fast becoming a thing of the past

As banks move away from paper in favour of digital, security is on everyone’s minds. This is because information is an important asset to many businesses, so protecting it is vital. As such, banks are securing data with the most vigorous encryption security standards.

For account holders, this means digital bank transfers and communication become less of a risk and the smarter thing to do. Paper chains are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Instant access, day or night

In today’s digital world, you don’t need to travel overseas to open an offshore bank account; everything can be done online or over the phone. And like most UK standard current accounts, many offshore accounts now offer online and mobile banking features. So account holders can manage their offshore finances and investments while transferring funds with ease.

Branchless banking

Offshore banks are following the same route of challenging onshore banks by going branchless. This offers substantial benefits for account holders, as branchless offshore banks don’t pass on as much overhead costs to the customer. Ultimately, this means customers can earn better interest rates and other returns on their investments.

Happy to help

At Turner Little, we work closely with offshore banks to provide you with quality service tailored to your needs. With over 20 years of international banking experience and specialist expert knowledge, we will assist you with your enquiries, no matter how complex. And every account we arrange comes with internet banking, card facilities and the ability to transact internationally.

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Banking

Hong Kong’s First Multi-Cloud Challenger Bank Goes Live with Temenos

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Hong Kong’s First Multi-Cloud Challenger Bank Goes Live with Temenos 2
  • WeLab Bank designed, built and launched using cloud-native Temenos Transact in less than 10 months
  • WeLab offers next generational digital services for the 7.5m people in Hong Kong to access from their mobile phones
  • Customers can open accounts remotely in just 5 minutes with bank reporting 10,000 account openings within 10 days of launch

Temenos (SIX: TEMN), the banking software company, today announced that WeLab Bank, Hong Kong’s first homegrown virtual bank, has publicly launched using cloud-native Temenos Transact to provide a range of next generation digital services for customers to enjoy 24/7 from their mobile phones. Designed, built and launched in less than 10 months, the fully digital bank has seen rapid take up with a reported 10,000 account openings within the first 10 days of launch.

WeLab Bank is powered by cloud agnostic Temenos Transact for core banking along with Temenos Analytics and Financial Crime Mitigation. Implemented on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, WeLab is the first multi cloud digital bank in Hong Kong. Operating on multiple clouds at the same time gives WeLab increased operational resilience and disaster recovery capability and is a regulatory requirement of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for new digital banks. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit 2020 report for Temenos, 81% of global banking executives surveyed believe a multi-cloud strategy will become a regulatory prerequisite.

Developing a cost-effective and scalable core banking solution was paramount for WeLab. Temenos cloud native software is built for the digital age using API-first and DevOps principles and engineered to deploy in containers and microservices. This makes it easy for WeLab to scale for future business growth efficiently and eliminates the need to provision for peak processing volumes so that the bank only pays for its actual usage, yielding significant cost savings.

Critically, with NuoDB the solution delivers a cloud-agnostic, distributed relational database that enables WeLab to deploy an active-active on-demand database across multiple cloud providers with near zero downtime failover.

Temenos Transact is a preconfigured system and so requires very little coding and with Temenos model bank to address local practices and regulations, WeLab was able to bring its service to market faster and extend its innovation with more than 400 out-of-the-box APIs.

With Temenos, WeLab bank is set to transform banking in Hong Kong. In as fast as 5 minutes, customers can remotely open a WeLab Bank account with $0 monthly fees and start enjoying differentiated services such as time deposits with competitive rates, an interest-bearing deposit account with an instant virtual Debit Card, and real-time payments powered by Faster Payment System (FPS). Everything can be done on a mobile phone, simply and effortlessly.

Adrian Tse, CEO at WeLab Bank, commented: “WeLab Bank was born from an initiative to reimagine the banking experience for the 7.5 million people of Hong Kong. From the start, we knew this vision needed the most advanced cloud native technology and a partner that shared our vision for digital transformation. With Temenos we have efficiently built WeLab Bank from scratch, free from any legacies, with innovative features that proactively help customers to take control of their money and their financial journey.”

Max Chuard, Chief Executive Officer, Temenos, said: “Congratulations to WeLab Bank on the launch of their trailblazing new digital bank. Building and launching a licensed bank in such a rapid timeframe is a fantastic achievement and we are proud to have supported them in becoming the first multi-cloud digital bank in Hong Kong. Temenos cloud-native, cloud-agnostic strategy means we can satisfy the needs of the most innovative and ambitious neobanks like WeLab Bank to run on multiple cloud providers. We know this is just the beginning for WeLab and we are excited to be part of their story as they revolutionize banking for people in Hong Kong.”

Bob Walmsley, CEO of NuoDB said: “We are excited to be partnering with Temenos to help WeLab Bank achieve their aggressive launch timelines and deliver innovative banking services to its customers. We were inspired by the technical vision of WeLab and knew that executing an on-demand, multi-cloud strategy was a perfect fit for NuoDB. Our enterprise-class, distributed SQL database combined with Temenos’ cloud-native technology helps banks of all sizes around the globe migrate to the cloud to improve agility and reduce costs.”

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Banking

The Bank is Where the Heart Is

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The Bank is Where the Heart Is 3

By Nick Barnes, Practice Director, Financial Services & Customer Success at JRNI

When unexpected events occur, people turn to their banks to provide a sense of trust, security, and stability. They need to be available anywhere, anytime, and from any device. As it’s a business based on trust, one-on-one communication is key.

With the world still emerging from the COVID-19 crisis and endeavouring to avert a possible second wave, every country, state, and region has their own unique requirements. Plus, every customer or member has their own demands. Experts and pundits have discussed a new normal, but what’s normal for now involves keeping customers and employees safe while also providing the same sense of stability as before.

For banks, building societies and credit unions, the main concerns include how to maintain personal relationships amidst social distancing; how to be available at any time on any device; and how to provide a sense of calm and security amidst the chaos.

Adapt or fall behind

Customers are quickly learning which of their service providers are adapting best to this new world. Are financial services providers like banks and credit unions adapting, or falling behind?

Finances are a highly personal topic, and often, illogical or emotional. Will I have enough? Will it be available when I need it? It is always a hot topic of conversation, but especially during a pandemic when unemployment rates are rising, and the economic landscape is unsettled. In the past, a customer could walk into the bank, have a reassuring conversation with a representative and move on.

So, how can banks help their customers through tough financial times during the current crisis, when in-person communication is nearly impossible? One solution is to provide helpful, personalized customer service through digital channels.

While in-person assistance will remain important after COVID-19, customers are looking for assistance now.   Banks are turning to remote video and voice appointments to boost customer satisfaction and meet customer expectations.

3 reasons to use remote appointments

1. To comply with social distancing

Our Modern Consumer Banking Report​​​​​​​ last year showed that when consumers visit branches, it’s primarily to talk face-to-face and ask questions/get help.  Research from Bain reinforces this, and emphasizes that “many retail banking customers think it’s easier to purchase through a human channel, or prefer to speak with an employee before buying a product.”

Due to social distancing measures, branches cannot be customers’ primary way of managing their finances during this pandemic. However, this doesn’t mean that customers aren’t interested in personalized attention that can be made available via video and voice.

2. To meet new demand 

Although spending habits may have changed, consumers are still making critical financial decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individuals: The financial effects of coronavirus are drastically different from one customer to the next. While some are counting down the days to receipt of their unemployment check, others may be taking advantage of low-interest rates to buy a house. Ultimately, banks and credit unions need to address each customer segment with a unique message and way of providing assistance.

Small business banking: Countless small businesses around the world have been forced to close their doors. Whether they’re needing loans, payment deferrals, or advice, small businesses are looking to their bank as a guide, and a comfort.

Investment management: A recession is upon us, and with that comes a new approach to investing. Financial advisors are fielding questions, providing recommendations, and staying up to date on the market. Beyond this, many are building entirely new strategies for their clients.

Regardless of customer type, it’s clear that each subset of customer needs help from their financial institution at this time.

3. To boost customer retention

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Financial institutions cannot afford to lose customers during the pandemic, so customer retention is crucial.  Great customer service boosts customer loyalty, and research from Bain shows that loyalty is key to retention:

  • Customer loyalty increases revenue, and loyal customers are less likely to switch to a competing bank.
  • Customers who are a bank’s “promoters” recommend the bank to others as much as six times more than “detractors.”
  • A bank’s “promoters” spend one-quarter more than detractors on their primary credit card.

Ultimately, being able to connect with a customer in need using video or voice can give customers peace of mind and boost loyalty. Delivering personalized financial services without interruption is crucial.

Initial results from video banking show that consumers consider the service valuable. Phoenix Synergistics’ survey from December 2019 found that 17% of customers polled had used video chat through a website or app with their financial institution. Of those that had used video chat, 89% found video chat valuable.

Some suggestions for banks using remote video or voice appointments would be to: firstly ensure your solution is secure and doesn’t expose personal information outside of the conversation; secondly create a culture of consultation to alleviate outstanding fears; thirdly leverage appointment setting to allow customers to pre-schedule consultations and enquiries; finally include remote appointments as part of a wider suite of ‘touchless’ offerings.

The dos and don’ts for bank branches

Forty-three percent of banking customers have expressed their desire to change the way they bank due to the pandemic. As with retail and hospitality, several key customer segments have doubts about visiting physical locations and are transacting more remotely.

The challenge for banks is to make services available wherever customers want to bank – be it by phone, online, or in branch – and when it comes to any transaction, the key is to make customers feel cared for, heard, and secure.

With social distancing parameters in place along with other health and safety measures, there’s significant focus on the need to retool the branch experience. Here are a few suggestions as we move into that next stage of business and interaction:

DO: Have a plan.

Nick Barnes

Nick Barnes

Think about how customers will enter and exit each location. Plan for increased space between people in line, how to attend to at-risk customers, properly spaced lobbies, and waiting areas. Consider your employees and what they need in order to stay safe including break rooms with increased space between lounging areas, removal of shared snacks, availability of hand sanitizer and masks.

DO: Make sure you can effectively manage footfall.

Overcrowding will create fear and loss of trust. Make sure you have plenty of directional signage, crowd control measures, and staffing. Solutions including people counters, occupancy managers, and pre-booked appointments​​​​​​​ both allow for the throttling of traffic, and the ability to build in cleaning time.

DO: Hire the right team and staff adequately.

Being courteous and in control will be the most important ingredient to success. Have enough staff, you will need the extra hands to ensure that all staff is properly trained and ready to enforce new protocols.

Some customers will be understandably anxious going into branches, and some will want to feel that everything has returned to normal, so staff may need to be very firm and well-versed in a new operating style.

DO: Offer customers the ability to bank when and how they prefer.

We’re not suggesting that you remain open for 24 hours, but the goal is to make it easy for the customer. Adding the ability to set an appointment with a wealth manager or an advisor online will enable customers to bank from home, and will enable banks to provide the personalized service customers have come to expect.

Leverage online appointment confirmations to remind customers to have key documents available if they need them. Virtual solutions position the bank to serve as an advisor rather than just a financial institution.

DO: Demonstrate your commitment to a safe environment.

Use clear signage to convey the measures in place to ensure customer and employee safety. Make hand sanitizer or wipes available throughout the branch, and in all high-touch areas. Ensure cleaning supplies are visible, around doorways and ​​​​​​​near greeters to provide customers with an added sense of security. And make sure that employees are following every measure required of customers.

DON’T: Lose customer confidence.

If you are not prepared, it will show, and it will be very hard to gain back customer confidence once compromised. Social media will not be your friend. Forrester Research reports that 52% of US online adults prefer to buy from companies that demonstrate how they are protecting customers against the threats of COVID-19.

DON’T: Overcrowd or fill your branch to capacity.

Consumers are being trained to avoid crowds, so failure at the branch to comply could result in losing their business. Most physical locations are operating with fewer staff and accommodating 10 – 25% of the traffic once allowed. Keep in mind that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression on customers, and they’re looking to trust you have their best interests in mind.

DON’T: Understaff.

You will need to expect the unexpected and having more hands-on deck will prove to be beneficial in the long run.  Having the wrong staff, or those that don’t take the time to learn new operating procedures or feel comfortable telling that customer who won’t keep a mask on, may not be the best fit.

DON’T: Make it difficult for customers to do business with you.

Social distancing introduces a number of disruptions to the way you’ve traditionally done business. So limiting options to customers – providing no ability to bank online or via phone, not having a live customer service voice or chat option – is not going to help. In addition to making sure the services are available, it is imperative to communicate all options to customers.

DON’T: Assume someone else will do it.

Bank staff need to show that the branch is being tended to, cleaned between visitors, and before opening each day. It is important that staff jump in to help move customers safely through the branch, ensure their questions are answered and overall, take a proactive approach to service without assuming that a sign or another staff member will take care of it.  Customers will come to the branch, but gaining their confidence is everything. Don’t lose it by not being prepared. It will be very hard to win it back.

With the constant threat new restrictions in response to COVID-19 outbreaks, banks will need to take a long view on how they enable the operational flexibility that will be needed to adapt to fast-changing conditions.  As people prepare to live more risk-averse lives, banks will need to go the extra mile to ensure customers feel less wary about visiting in person whilst also offering a seamless experience for those customers who prefer to remain in the safety of their homes.  Those that manage to do so will emerge from the crisis with a sustainable advantage over their competitors.

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