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Disruption is something you can bank on

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BoE’s warning on digital transformation disruption is misleading, says TmaxSoft

Over the next three years, the UK-based fintech scene is expected to grow by 88 per cent, pushing the amount of disruption to the traditional banking system to an all-time high. Offering smarter services to time-poor, savvy and always-on customers, the fintech startups – with their speed and agility – are putting more and more pressure on the legacy banks who are increasingly at risk from falling behind, weighed down by their sluggish processes and bound by red-tape.

That’s not to say innovation isn’t happening inside the big banks – there is important work being done to create solutions: the concern is that, while they offer a short-term fix, these innovations are not being delivered quick enough to solve the ever-evolving problems of tomorrow’s customers. Could the long-term solution lie in collaboration?

Dan Archer, Marketing Director of digital experience studio 383 explores how legacy banks can improve their disruptive game, at-scale, and considers how a collaborative approach between legacy banks and fintech startups could yield positive results for all.

The challenge for established banks in delivering meaningful innovation is of their own creation.

As organisations grow, so does the red tape. These are often, point in time self-created rules and regulations that become the organisational accepted norms, they become ingrained and cultural. They may have had a purpose years ago but often don’t get revisited or revalidated in the context of today.

This leads to restrictions and constraints where innovation is suffocated. New ideas can’t flourish and if they do, the ideas generated often fall back into Business As Usual (BAU) delivery processes, slowing the momentum.

Dan Archer

Dan Archer

These cultural restrictions are very much linked to size and time. Because size and time are a critical factor, these types of restrictions do not yet exist within startups, allowing them a greater level of freedom and agility to deliver disruptive innovations.

Historically, established banks seemed almost un-disruptable. Customer churn rates were very low and they existed within a highly regulated industry, which required enormous investment, so presented a significant barrier to new market entrants.

The reality is that at this time processes were slow, technology was poor and customers had no real alternatives. On top of which moving banking provider was difficult. In 2016 the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) investigation into the banking industry found that only 3% of current account customers had moved their account in the previous year.

But digital technology has changed that, providing a catalyst for new entrants in the market to rethink banking and provide better products and services.

Since its launch in 2015, UK startup bank Monzo has grown from 0 to over 750k current account customers. While this is only circa 1% of the total UK current account market, there are hundreds of Monzos out there, gaining momentum and market share. 

So how are startups doing this and is it too late for the big banks of old?

Recently, disruption and technology have become intertwined. But let’s be clear, disruption and new technology are separate things. Technology is a means through which disruption can be delivered, but it’s not what disruption is.

Disruption is large market change. This happens because disrupters are delivering better products and services. So how are they doing this?

In order to deliver disruptive services and products, we first need to fully understand the customer, their motivations, what they are trying to achieve and the frictions in their journey. People don’t want a bank, they want an easy way to manage their finances.

How to disrupt banking?

  1. Identify the customer.
  2. Identify customer frictions.
  3. Move quickly to address those frictions.

If you are one of the big banks, how do you protect yourself against disruption? The answer is simple, be the disrupter. The best defence is a good offence.

Delivering meaningful disruptive innovation is difficult for established organisations. This type of innovation requires a space outside of established organisational norms and restrictions to provide room for organisations to fundamentally challenge their accepted norms.

Collaborative solution
One way to circumvent the time required for organisational change at this scale is to work with external partners.

Fintech startups are sometimes painted as the opposition, competitors that are looking to take your market share. But this isn’t always the case. As Chris Skinner, an independent commentator on the financial markets and the chairman of the Financial Services Club has said, “By partnering with finch startups, banks give their account holders the right measure of security and speed. Account holders can know that their money is safe, and they can enjoy the latest financial technology. This is the way to become a digital bank.”

Working with companies that exist outside of your organisational restrictions allows you to innovate at a pace you may never match internally.

External partners are free of the politics, process and vested interest you and your employees have. This allows them to really challenge in a way that your own employees often can’t.

Using agile approaches, tools and technology you’re more likely to find in startups than large established business, there are external players who  are not restricted by their client’s processes. As a result, they can become a critical friend, who is not afraid to ask the difficult questions. Not being tied to business as the usual activity there’s also the advantage of being able to move at a faster pace, taking projects down from months to weeks.

If you’re still on the fence about taking a collaborative approach to get your bank fit for the future, here’s a round-up of some key benefits that might help you decide, one way, or the other:

  1. Partnering with an agile startup can shave weeks off your total development timeline, bringing projects to fruition in weeks, not months or years
  2. External partners can help you get a fresh perspective of your organisation, opening your eyes to the real areas that need change
  3. Your commitment to your customers’ security won’t be compromised – they’ll still feel safe, and will also feel the benefit of the latest technologies
  4. The layers of change you need to implement to existing legacy systems will most likely be costly and time-consuming – with a ‘joined-up force’, you’ll navigate these layers quickly and cost effectively, and will invariably improve both the user experience and functionality

Banking

Hackers can now empty out ATMs remotely – what can banks do to stop this?

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Hackers can now empty out ATMs remotely – what can banks do to stop this? 1

By Elida Policastro, Regional Vice President for Cybersecurity, Auriga

In 2010, the late Barnaby Jack famously exploited an ATM into dispensing dollar bills, without withdrawing it from a bank account using a debit card. Fast forward to the present day, and this technique that is now known as jackpotting, is emerging as a threat and is growing as an attack on financial services. Recently, a hacking group called BeagleBoyz in North Korea have caught the attention of several U.S. agencies, as they have been allegedly stealing money from international banks by using remote hacking methods such as jackpotting.

The reality behind jackpotting

Jackpotting is when cybercriminals will use malware to trick their targeted ATM machine into distributing cash. As this criminal method is relatively easy to commit, it is becoming a popular tool for cybercriminals, and this trend will sure continue in 2021, unless financial organisations implement policies to prevent this and protect consumers.

During this difficult time, when access to cash has never been more important to banking customers, it is imperative that banks give their customers reliable ATMs that work, 24/7, 365 days a year. However, due to the sensitive data that ATMs possess, such as credit card or PIN numbers, they have now become a profitable object for cybercriminals to manipulate. As cybercriminals have been evolving in their efforts of attacking the IP in ATM machines, we will definitely see more jackpotting stories emerge in the coming months, especially with the large return on investment.

How criminals exploit the vulnerabilities found in ATMs

Since ATMs are both physically accessible and found in remote locations with little to no surveillance, this gives an opportunity for criminals to carry out jackpotting, especially with the software vulnerabilities that may exist in many ATMs.

ATM machines have been easily manipulated due to the outdated and unpatched operating systems that they run on. If banks wanted to resolve this issue and update these systems, it would take large amounts of time and money to do so. However, some banks do not have such resource and because of this, cybercriminals take advantage by penetrating the software layers in ATMs and exploiting the hardware to dispense cash.

How can banks tackle this?

As the sector has a complex technical architecture, banking organisations will have to make sure that they have control over the transactions that take place, and this includes the management of security when it comes to communication between various actors. When financial organisations are reviewing their ATM infrastructure, they will also need to protect their most vulnerable capabilities within their cybersecurity. Banks, for example, can encrypt the channels on the message authentication, in the event bad actors try to tamper with their communications.

Because ATM networks need to be available 24/7, banks not only, need to implement greater protection over their systems, but they need to do so with a holistic approach. One action that banks can take is to implement a centralised security solution that protects, monitors and controls their various ATM networks. This way banks can control their entire infrastructure from one location, stopping fraudulent activities or malware attempts on vulnerable ATMs.

Another way for banks to reduce the risk of jackpotting attacks is to update their ATM hardware and software. To do this, they will need to closely monitor and regularly review their machines in order to spot any emerging risks.

What the future holds for the banking industry

As confirmed by the warnings from the U.S. agencies, jackpotting remains a very serious threat for financial organisations. Evidence has also emerged, which shows hackers are becoming more innovative in their tactics. It was reported last year, for example, that hackers stole details of propriety operating systems for ATMs that can be used to form new jackpotting methods.

The emergence of jackpotting highlights the need for banks to actively work to protect their customers’ personal information and critical systems now and for the foreseeable future. In order to stay secure and reduce the risk of attacks, they will need to put in place the aforementioned solutions, which include updating their ATM hardware and software as well as closely monitoring and regularly reviewing their ATMs. As cybercriminals continue to become more innovative in their ways of attacking the machines, the issues mentioned will only continue to rise if they are not addressed. Although the method of jackpotting requires little action from cybercriminals, if financial organisations can implement a layered defence to their ATM security, they can stop themselves from becoming another victim to this type of attack in the future.

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Banking

SoftBank Vision Fund set for new portfolio champion with Coupang IPO

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SoftBank Vision Fund set for new portfolio champion with Coupang IPO 2

By Sam Nussey and Joyce Lee

TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) – SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund is poised to have a new number-one asset in its portfolio with the upcoming floatation of top South Korean e-tailer Coupang, furthering a turnaround that has seen the fund yo-yo from huge losses to record profit.

The $50 billion target valuation that Reuters reported this month would likely see the decade-old firm surpass recently listed U.S. food deliverer DoorDash Inc on a roster of assets that also includes stakes in TikTok parent ByteDance and ride-hailers Grab and Didi.

The Vision Fund built up its 37% stake in Coupang for $2.7 billion, mostly at an $8.7 billion post-money valuation, a person familiar with the matter said. The fund is not expected to sell shares in the initial public offering (IPO) that Coupang filed for in New York, the person said, declining to be identified as the information was not public.

SoftBank Group Corp and Coupang declined to comment.

Achieving a $50 billion valuation would add to good news for the fund which is bouncing back from an annual loss in March. This month, it announced record quarterly profit, driven by the listings of DoorDash and home seller Opendoor Technologies Inc and share price rise of ride-hailer Uber Technologies Inc.

HIT PARADE

The fund has written big cheques for late-stage startups to fuel rapid growth, with two-thirds of the value of its portfolio concentrated in 10 assets including Coupang.

The 10 include 25% of British chip designer Arm – to be sold to Nvidia Corp pending regulatory approval – but not stakes in high-profile stumbles like office-sharing firm WeWork.

The fund’s largest assets include its 22% stake in DoorDash, whose share price has doubled since the firm’s December IPO, sending its market capitalisation to $65 billion.

FACTBOX: Vision Fund’s investment hit parade

SoftBank initially invested in Coupang in 2015, adding it to a stable of e-commerce hits that included 25% of China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, before placing it under the fund.

The e-tailer has grown rapidly during stay-home policies while the COVID-19 pandemic has forced other portfolio firms like Indian hotel chain Oyo to scramble to preserve cash.

Analysts see Coupang’s $50 billion valuation as feasible given its first-mover status and as it expands beyond replacing brick-and-mortar retail with a rising number of online channels.

It is the biggest e-tailer in South Korea that directly handles inventory, with 2020 purchases at about 21.7 trillion won ($19.62 billion), showed data from WiseApp.

“The market’s assessment isn’t exaggerated,” said analyst Park Eun-kyung at Samsung Securities. “Coupang’s market leadership is a premium factor.”

($1 = 1,106.1800 won)

(Reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo and Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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Five things to look out for in HSBC strategy update

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Five things to look out for in HSBC strategy update 3

By Alun John

HONG KONG (Reuters) – HSBC Holdings PLC will update its “transformation” plan announced a year ago on Tuesday, when the Asia-focussed lender also reports annual results.

As part of its latest strategy, the bank said in February last year it would shrink its investment banking operations and revamp its businesses in the United States and Europe resulting in 35,000 jobs being cut.

HSBC’s pretax profits for 2020 is expected to fall 38% to $8.3 billion, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by the bank, because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are five key things to look out for in the new plan to revive its growth —

1. How will HSBC boost fee income?

The bank has promised details of its plans to make more money from the fees it earns from selling products to customers than it does by pocketing the difference between the interest rates it offers savers and charges borrowers.

This could involve selling more products to wealth management clients, charging corporate clients in different ways, and maybe even charging retail clients for basic banking services.

2. What do the plans to double down on China and Asia mean?

HSBC intends to refocus resources from elsewhere on what it calls its “high returning Asia business”, but investors want to know what this means in practice for markets and business lines.

Politics could make this harder. HSBC has been attacked by British lawmakers for assisting Hong Kong police with investigations into pro-democracy activists, including freezing some bank accounts.

CEO Noel Quinn said last month the bank had to comply with police requests and he could not “cherry-pick which laws to follow”.

3. Will HSBC resume paying a dividend?

HSBC has not announced a dividend since the third quarter of 2019, on instructions from the Bank of England. This angered retail investors in Hong Kong who tried unsuccessfully to have the policy changed.

The regulator has since lifted the ban, and British rival Barclays said Thursday it would pay a dividend of one pence a share. However, despite beating analyst expectations with its 2020 results, Barclays shares fell as a vague outlook without profit targets left investors underwhelmed.

HSBC investors will be looking beyond the day’s numbers for concrete commitments towards improved returns and a more positive outlook for key economies.

4. How will HSBC shrink its U.S. and European footprint?

HSBC’s French high street banking operations are up for sale, but it has had trouble finding a buyer.

The market is due an update on whether HSBC has managed to find a buyer on terms it will accept, or whether it will seek to wind the business down more gradually.

HSBC will also give details of how it will accelerate its existing efforts to shrink assets, staff and branches in the U.S., which accounted for 0.5% of the group’s pre-tax profit in the first half of last year.

5. More job cuts on the way?

HSBC employed 307,000 people at the end of 2010. The bank’s management said last year it was aiming to reduce the headcount of 235,000 closer to 200,000 by 2023. Investors want to know whether the new plan will mean deeper cuts. Nearly every new strategy launched by HSBC in the past decade has resulted in fewer people being employed by the bank.

(Reporting by Alun John; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee & Shri Navaratnam)

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