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Interviews

Digital Banking Innovation

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Digital Banking Innovation 1

As the first fully digital bank in Spain, Openbank is leading the way in banking innovation. We interviewed Patricia Benito, Chief Digital and Business Officer at Openbank to find out more.

To begin can you tell us a little about Openbank SA?

Patricia Benito, Chief Digital and Business Officer​, Openbank

Patricia Benito, Chief Digital and Business Officer , Openbank

Openbank is our digital native bank, our Fintech and the Santander Group digital bank. This gives us the best of two models: the dynamism of a startup and the solidity of a financial group of the size and trajectory of Santander.

It is a bank that today has one of the most advanced technologies in the world in terms not only of functionality for our customers but also in the application of intelligent algorithms and use of the cloud.

The recent relaunch of Openbank demonstrates the solid position and leadership that the Santander Group holds in technological innovation in a practical way, doing what we know how to do, which is banking for our clients, applying the latest technologies to their day to day banking.

We have adapted our culture and corporate philosophy to that of a digital bank, with all the flexibility, horizontality and efficiency that this implies.

Key Facts of Openbank.

  • Digital retail bank with € 7 billion in deposits
  • Investment platform with more than €1 billion AUM
  • More than 1 million customers
  • Fully cloud based digital front-end
  • Web-services and APIs for 100% of customer services
  • Artificial Intelligence based credit risk, anti-money laundering, fraud and commercial algorithms
  • Independent banking license, fully owned by Santander Group

You are the first fully digital bank in Spain. What are the advantages for customers?

The new value proposition of Openbank was designed from scratch, answering the following question: how would a client design a bank making the most of new technologies? The result is today´s Openbank, a bank that greatly simplifies things for the client such as:

  • Attention 24/7 and each client has a number of assigned relationship managers who will always look after them. Premium client segments have a dedicated manager.
  • Web and application built from scratch, with a modern, simple, customer-focused usability.
  • We have incorporated an expense classifier by type, where expenses can be compared to the previous month.
  • Also the possibility of turning off credit cards temporarily if misplaced.
  • We have also reinforced security, and simplified the operation for our customers, with four-position alphanumeric codes that are easy to remember and secure
  • Our new app and web include a photo or avatar chosen by the customer that enforces passive phishing security.
  • You can defer an expense made with the card, at any time, with just a few clicks with a smartphone.
  • We have integrated the most important functionality of a professional investment platform for everyone to use with the best usability. We have democratized investment.
  • We have incorporated what we call “social investing”: we tell you what equities are most bought and sold by our customers, in aggregate
  • All these features are available on the website or the app, one single app for everything.

openbank

Let’s talk about the technology you use. What role does artificial intelligence play?

At Openbank we use Machine Learning and other artificial intelligence methods across all our business cycle, including AML and fraud detection, credit risk algorithms, to improve customer experience, and of course, for commercial applications including product propensity.

We have already in place a new cloud based data architecture model that has enabled us to take 100% of our credit risk decisions based on Machine Learning algorithms. This has increased the access to credit of our customer base, and reduce the risk of default. This has also enabled us to do risk based credit pricing.

In terms of improving customer service and experience, Machine Learning allows us to offer a high degree of personalization understood at all levels, web content and communications, all tailored to each customer.

In general, we have the luxury of being a digitally native company, so it is easy for us to integrate the datification of every process into our business.

As one of the first banks in the world to use cloud-based IT infrastructure, can you explain the advantages of this type of infrastructure?

Openbank becomes one of the first banks in the world with a complete banking offering that houses its software and back office services, risk management, customer relationship management (CRM) and interfaces (APIs), all in a fully encrypted form, with the maximum security of the market and with replicas in different locations in Europe. This technology is fully tested and has the approval of the European Central Bank.

Advantage:

– High security levels (99.999999%)

– Operational flexibility for changes: campaigns, monitor what works best, weekly update of app and web.

– Customization of the offer to customers (ads, offers …): use big data

– Risk-weighting algorithms

Online security is a major concern for customers. What does Openbank do to help ensure a secure environment?

Innovation and user experience combined with the security and robustness of the Santander group, without losing sight of compliance to international regulations and high standards of security while adapting us to the demands of the digital world.

We innovate to reinforce our security; the bank is investing in security mechanisms to customize our web and app including, as I said before, a photo or avatar that the client chooses and that reinforces the passive security against phishing.

What are some of the new features clients can enjoy?

A) Openbank Wealth: new platform, open architecture in pension plans and funds, new broker (social investing, visual …)
B) OpenYoung: a range of products (account and card) for children to manage their savings with parental supervision.
C) A single App: an all-in-one app that customers can access to all the functionalities in one session.

  1. Single app
  2. Single session
  3. Simple to use
  4. Personal and fair
  5. Start from the customer

What are your future plans for development?

We have just completed our payment methods offer, now including, besides our own wallet, Samsung, Android and Apple pay. In the next two years we should work on our international expansion to other key Santander markets. We will also continue evolving our platform, including the launch of robo-advisory and next generation machine learning applications. Though you should expect to see a continuous release of new products and services every month, we will resist the temptation to use new technologies if they will not contribute to a better customer experience. At Openbank we think that technology follows the value proposition to customers, and not the other way around.

Interviews

Q&A with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder, Centropy PR

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Q&A with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder, Centropy PR 2

Clare George-Hilley is the co-founder of Centropy PR

Global Banking and Finance Magazine recently caught up with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder of fintech and financial services specialist PR agency Centropy, as the company toasts to three years of trading. We asked Clare about what life is like running an agency in the city, the trends she is seeing in the financial services space and what the future holds following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Why did you decide to set up Centropy PR?

I was looking for an opportunity to launch my own agency, both my husband and I had been in the public affairs and public relations industry for over a decade and we thought the time was right to go out on our own.

Clare George-Hilley

Clare George-Hilley

We could see that the financial services industry was surging, with challenger brands and new technology transforming traditional banks and setting new standards of customer service. There was a huge market opportunity to create and launch a PR agency that could provider first class comms support, alongside a deep understanding of complex regulations such as AML, KYC, and the GDPR. Likewise, many traditional technology firms are diversifying their offerings, to tap into the growing market opportunity posed by the fintech boom.

So, we worked on a business plan, designed a strategy for winning clients and officially launched in September 2017. Within a few months we had a growing portfolio of clients and a thriving business, since that point, we have never looked back!

How is Centropy doing now and what are you plans for growth?

The last three years have flown by and our client portfolio has grown and diversified quickly. We now manage PR campaigns for clients on everything from cryptocurrency, wealth management to payments and trading software.

We’ve also hosted parliamentary debates with key industry figures, including Members of Parliament (MPs) on topics such as the future of the financial services industry and the impact of challenger banks on traditional providers. The team is expanding quickly and we’re investing heavily in the latest training and support to ensure our team members are equipped to reach their full potential.

How do you see the next 12 months?

The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the economy, forcing millions of people to work from home due to the very serious health risks. The knock-on effect of this crisis will lead to companies cutting costs where possible to save jobs, so tech will play a vital role in ensuring many businesses stay afloat.

We are already working with contactless payments specialists and other fintech companies that offer solutions to help companies survive and thrive despite the inevitable challenges ahead.

We aim to continue building our portfolio of expertise, testing ourselves with new challenges and delivering the best possible service to clients

 

This is a Sponsored Feature.

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Interviews

Lessons from past recessions and advice for business owners during the coronavirus pandemic

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Lessons from past recessions and advice for business owners during the coronavirus pandemic 3

By Neil Davis, managing director and co-founder of Sterling Networks

What is Sterling Networks?

Sterling Networks is a professional organisation founded in 2014 which facilitates networking events for businesses across the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and the South West. Over 300 members attend our fortnightly breakfast and lunchtime meetings.”

What is your background prior to establishing Sterling Networks?

“During the 1990s, I worked in the corporate team for Halifax. My wife, Tracey, and I went onto own a manufacturing business, which was also called Sterling, and produced a range of gifts, merchandise and promotional items.

“We soon realised tradeshows were a great way to meet distributors and clients. From there, the business grew exponentially, and we managed to build a network of around 500 distributors. Eventually, we became ground down by the manufacturing business – in part because the local manufacturing sector was being devastated by competition from China – and took the decision to sell the business and relocate to Spain.

“After spending several years living abroad, we moved back to the UK to set up Sterling Integrity (EXPO’S) & Sterling Networks (Networking) We were inspired by a desire to help businesses make meaningful connections with one another, and we haven’t looked back since.”

The UK has recently entered a recession, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. What have you learned from past recessions and how are these experiences helping you to navigate the current crisis?

“I’ve lived through a number of recessions and have seen the pain that insolvency causes companies on a large scale. It’s taught me that there are those who win and sadly those who lose, and that businesses must adapt to a rise in demand for certain products or services at a time of financial crisis.

“Given the nature of what Sterling Networks offers [an opportunity for business owners to connect and grow together] I decided we could build upon the brand due to the demand for new business during the pandemic. We therefore moved our networking events from face-to-face to virtual via tools like Zoom and have gained a steady stream of new members in recent months, reaching an overall total of well over 300.

“On top of that, we’ve taken new staff on during the crisis and have launched a number of new regional groups across the country. I was determined that Sterling should come out of the pandemic with a head start, so my attitude to the recession has been much more positive than those who are forecasting nothing but doom and gloom.

“We can’t pretend high street retail wasn’t suffering long before the pandemic came along, and thousands of new businesses are sure to start up to meet the demand for the products and services that people require at a time such as this. In order to develop and grow businesses need to focus on where changes need to be made to meet this demand.”

Sterling Networks has been providing emotional support to its members throughout the pandemic. What advice have you been giving to members that could be useful to other business owners?

“I try not to be too opinionated and respect other people’s views when giving advice to members, as there are always two sides to every circumstance. I’ve been careful not to say to people that they should be doing one thing or another, as I don’t know their business and its needs quite like they do. The only thing that I have been telling members is the importance of setting up one-to-ones with one another. By doing so, they can listen to the needs and concerns of other, like-minded business owners and work out ways that they might be able to help one another.

“The pandemic has meant we all have a bit more time on our hands, so the advice I would give to people is to use this extra time wisely. Not having to travel physically from one meeting to another means there is a greater opportunity to connect with more people. It’s important to remember that individuals outside of your business can be just as valuable as those within it.”

What makes you hopeful for the future and are there any words of encouragement you can give to budding entrepreneurs?

“The key events that have happened to this country during my lifetime – whether wars, recessions, or the pandemic – have enabled me to take stock of things. While these experiences are certainly challenging, we all become stronger for living through them, and it gives me great confidence that the world will ultimately improve as a result of the pandemic.

“The whole world is effectively rebooting right now, as is the business community. I like to think entrepreneurs will recognise this opportunity to take better care of their peers, and this translates to greater collaboration between organisations. Speak to as many people as you can, ask all the questions that you need to and do your homework. This might well be a difficult time for us all but planning for the future must start now if it is to become as prosperous as I know it can be.”

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Interviews

Exclusive Interview with Ugo Loser, CEO of ARCA Fondi SGR

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Ugo Loser, CEO of ARCA Fondi SGR

 Arca Fondi SGR is a mid-sized Italian active asset management company. Founded in 1983 by a consortium made up of 12 regional banks, the company has grown in time, expanding its network of distributors and its client base. Nowadays Arca manages Mutual Funds, Pension Funds and Institutional Accounts with total AUM exceeding 30 € bln, reaching more than 100 banks and financial institutions and serving more than 800,000 final clients.

What are the key contributors to ARCA Fondi SGR’s success over the past 35 years?

Arca has always put clients and distributors first. That is to say we have always privileged fair pricing for funds and developing high quality products and services for our customers. This requires constant innovation as an objective and looking for people’s talent to be free to produce its effect

Why are people the founding element of ARCA Fondi SGR and how have you sustained this vision over the years?

We work in small teams, people are young and motivated and can perform duties with a high level of autonomy and responsibility. Innovation is asked to everyone, everyday

What makes Arca Fondi SGR different from other asset management firms in Italy?

Arca is a company focused on doing what it can do very well, that is to say mutual and pension funds, services for clients and banks. We never follow short term trends but always look for long lasting impact on the industry, like we’ve done may times in the past

What products/services has ARCA Fondi SGR pioneered?

Arca has been the inventor of “Arca Cedola”, fixed-horizon, coupon paying funds, which have been with no doubt the greatest product innovation of the past 12 years on the Italian market. This type of funds, at first strictly based on bonds and later as a balanced product, has encountered an enormous success both with clients and distributors due to its simple and effective value proposition. Arca is a market leader also in the “PIR” segment of funds, a range of product focused on mid and small sized companies, that have been the best performers in the Italian stock market for the last few years. In services, Arca is a leader in technology applied to asset management. Our website, app and digital services for clients and banks are award winning, state of the art combination of data, technology and channels, and the best is yet to come on this side.

What strategies do you have in place to sustain your market position and withstand professional competition in the country?

As I mentioned, we do not waste resources on projects with dubious results, instead we constantly invest on people, products and services. The high level of profitability that Arca has been able to maintain even in difficult years for the markets of the banking sector is a further testimony that this strategy works very well

How do you use technology to create meaningful experiences for your customers?

First of all, we have created a whole new division, Arca InnovAction Lab, dedicated to technology, data and processes. This ensures projects are delivered quickly and they are free to leave bad past practices behind. Arcaonline.it, Arca’s website, provides distributors with detailed information on clients’ portfolios, asset under management and subscription/redemption requests. It monitors aggregate selling data offering to our partners a suite functions and analytics to track commercial campaigns. And if the banks branches need assistance, they may ask Sara, our digital chatbot. A broad and timely multimedia production, covering exclusive reports, comments, presentations, videos, webinars and newsletters is also available on the website.

Customers, subscribing Arca’s funds through its distributors’ network, may access Arcaclick, a dedicated area on Arcaonline.it. With Arcaclick the client can easily browse through her portfolio of funds, analyze its characteristics, view transactions and historical funds’ performance in customizable views. Arcaclick is also a powerful source of information on Arca product range: Prospectus, KIIDs and other literature is easily accessible along with news, comments and reports. Arcaclick may also be accessed via Arca Fondi App, a free application for mobiles and tables, running on both iOS and Android. Available 24/7 and in mobility, Arcaclick gives clients the opportunity access information, news and details of their personal portfolio anytime and anywhere.

What key trends will drive pension growth in 2020 and beyond?

The Italian market for pension funds is still very small and therefore there is a great opportunity to grow. Arca Fondi manages the biggest open ended Italian pension fund and it’s been constantly at the top of its rankings. As people and workers are looking for yield and to weather short term volatility, the pension fund is very well poised to profit from this trend.

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