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How to Evaluate Platform Partners for Loyalty and Rewards Programs

How to Evaluate Platform Partners for Loyalty and Rewards Programs - Global Banking | Finance

By Shawn Conahan, Chief Revenue Officer, Wildfire Systems

Shawn Conahan rectangle - Global Banking | Finance

Shawn Conahan

As an enterprise-grade rewards platform, Wildfire has deployed hundreds of consumer-facing products across dozens of customers. Some of those customers are very large, with hundreds of millions of end users of their own, while some of them integrating the platform even before their initial launch. 

Because of this experience, we have seen many technical product roadmaps, many strategies, and many different approaches to engaging with a technology partner. The following three best practices, based on our years of experience across all of our partner deployments, will help FIs successfully evaluate a prospective platform partner.

1.Do not issue an RFP. RFPs are good for comparing homogenous products from undifferentiated vendors in a mature industry. The value of an RFP in such a setting is to identify the small areas where the vendors may have different features that may be better at meeting your needs. It is NOT a good way to evaluate a small number of key players where a large amount of customization and configuration will be required to suit your needs. In a fast-evolving industry such as ours, significant features may be on product roadmaps that are only weeks or months from release. If you create an RFP based on what you currently see in the market, you will only get answers to the questions you can ask, and you may very well miss the opportunity to deploy a truly differentiated product.

Instead, you are far better off structuring a conversational approach to uncovering what is possible. As a partner, you can do this by communicating your goals, rather than your requirements. Enabling potential partners to present their creative solutions to help you achieve those goals may help you end up with something better than what you thought you wanted.

This cuts both ways: while it is true that the platform providers you want to evaluate are not homogenous, so it is true that your business is not homogenous: For example, I can show you 10 different banks using the Wildfire platform, and you will see 10 vastly different deployments. 

A well-constructed platform is flexible and modularly built to enable customization and configuration that gives everyone true differentiation. By contrast, relying on an RFP constrains you to a comparable list of checkboxes and “one-size-fits-all” mentality.

2.Give ‘ability to deliver’ the same importance as ‘features and functionality.’ Wildfire’s customers are some of the largest companies on the planet, doing business in some of the most regulated industries, like telecom and financial services. These partners are in a rarefied world where “enterprise-grade” means something far more than what it means in the dotcom world. Regulatory compliance is not something to be trusted to a fly-by-night software startup that adheres to the fast-company mantra of “ship product at 80% completion and fix it in production.” 

If you are a bank, card issuer, or fintech held to the higher standard of financial services regulatory compliance, you should have zero sense of humor about how a platform provider handles your data, agrees to your operational management framework, or adheres to your deployment milestones.

Ideally, you should be looking for a partner who complies with industry-standard security and data privacy initiatives such as SOC 2 and PCI-DSS. They should adhere to a business continuity plan protective of their partners, and they should maintain and attest to strict system access security. 

Can your vendor demonstrate adherence to these high standards? Do you want to assume the risk if they cannot?

The intentional and methodical pace of the banking industry is that way for a reason. The rapid collision with the technology sector lately can sometimes be jarring. Pick a platform provider as much for their demonstrated bank-grade stature as for their slick marketing.

3.Talk to other customers. A platform provider is only as good as their happiest customers. The cornerstone of your diligence when making an important selection that may mean the difference between success or failure should be primary research of other customer deployments. If a vendor cannot come up with but a few references, and none of them match the size and stature of your business, nor the depth and complexity of the scope of your vision, then perhaps they are not the platform provider for you.

In conclusion, the regulatory environment in the banking industry is only going to get more stringent in 2023. FIs would all do well to apply greater care to the selection of the key technology partners that will power aspects of their businesses for years to come. Prudence doesn’t require a sacrifice of innovation; extra diligence can in fact help you procure a better solution than you might have imagined, and with a partner you can be sure you can trust to deliver it. 

About the author

Shawn Conahan is currently Chief Revenue Officer at Wildfire Systems, where he develops strategic partnerships with major finance, banking, and fintech companies to enable the creation of new revenue streams and modernizing their customer experience to position them competitively for the future of banking and money. He has been an entrepreneur, senior executive and investor in the wireless, technology and Internet industries for over 15 years, having previously built and sold three companies. His industry experience ranges from digital media to wireless technology to big data where the common thread has been building platforms with broad applicability.

Global Banking & Finance Review


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