There is a societal and human need to transform our financial institutions if we want to see an impact on the overall economy and society. To realize this fundamental change we have to create leaders with transformational skills and a deep understanding of cross-cultural management.
Transforming financial institutions
There is a societal and human need to transform our financial institutions into a more sustainable and value driven business.
The banking sector is one of the most internationalized services in our world, as we have experienced in the recent worldwide financial crisis. Changing the way of banking is a huge challenge for bankers, governments and academics. In the last few decades our financial institutions have been expanding and growing by mergers and acquisitions and through this expansion we have created international operating banks and insurance companies. Because of this globalization, these institutions are too big to fail and difficult to control.
It is time to reconsider our worldwide financial institutions and raise the question how we are able to create financial services that support global development combined with local presence and transparency. Building alliances might be a solution in transforming financial services that are focused on real economy and connected to local communities.
International collaboration in alliances
In our global world international collaboration in alliances is developing very fast, however many international mergers or takeovers fail because cultural differences are neglected.
Alliances of international firms are more successful then mergers, especially when cultural differences are taken seriously in development of the alliance.
To transform our financial institutions we need to think in terms of cultural transformation and building alliances with transparency and local presence. This transformational challenge is closely connected with the values of CEMS, the alliance of 28 prestigious business schools worldwide (www.cems.org):
– Pursuit of excellence with the highest standards of integrity, humility, and ethical conduct.
– Professional responsibility and accountability in relation to society and the environment
– Drawing upon the value of cultural diversity with respect and empathy
When we take these CEMS values seriously, the banking sector is one of the most important businesses that needs to change in order to create a better world.
Cultures in the banking sector
The banking sector culture differs enormously across countries.
Shareholder value is a main driver in the banking sector in the Western world with a short-term perspective on profit. Profit goes before people.
In South-East Asia harmony and loyalty are important values and these influence financial services in Asia. Islamic banking means that banking activities are consistent with the principles of the Sharia and the Sharia prohibits acceptance of specific interest or fees for loans of money; you are not allowed to make money out of money.
In China the principle of Guanxi is important to understand banking activities – it is based on trust to people you know and distrust to strangers. Intermediaries are required to overcome mistrust. In China profit is important but it is based on a long-term perspective.
India has unique geographic, social and economic characteristics and these features are reflected in the banking sector. The banking sector has to serve the goals of economic policies and India has a huge experience in micro finance.
These examples make clear that it is impossible to speak about the banking sector culture in general. We need a deep understanding of country cultures and banking habits if we want to build new financial alliances and contribute to a fundamental change in our financial institutions.
Deep cultural changes
Deep cultural changes within banks in our Western world are forced by governmental regulations, which means that change on a deeper level of values and basic assumptions is not obvious. Shareholder value and short-term profit still go before people.
Cross-cultural and global management skills are necessary when we really want to transform our international banking sector and effect deep cultural changes. Transnational leadership is a quality, more than a competence. It is related to the quality of life and the quality of our society.
Transnational leaders have a worldwide view, are open-minded and willing to experiment with new behavior. They are cultural sensitive and able to develop a deep understanding of guiding values in human interaction. They are social aware, interested in the needs and values of people around them and they recognize what inspires and fascinates them. Maybe most importantly: they know where they come from and understand their own cultural values.
Value based banking
There are good examples of value based banking worldwide.
In Europe Triodos Bank is an excellent example of a bank that pays attention to sustainability and the needs of customers and society. Worldwide, the Global Alliance of Banking on Values (GABV. www.gabv.org) is one of the most remarkable initiatives of banks that puts people before profit and is based on values like transparency, long-term resilience, investing in real economy and long term client relationships.
The alliance comprises 28 financial institutes operating across 31 countries in Asia, Africa, Australia, Latin America, North America and Europe, serving 20 million customers. It is a growing movement that influences the way people are doing business and create a living.
The glue in the alliance is based on their key values: Long term orientation, transparency and respect for people and nature. Being a manager in a GABV bank is quite a difficult task since it is not about making money but about being reasonably profitable in a people centered organization with strong values.
One of the toughest challenges in values based banks is recruiting executives that combine banking experience and technical knowledge with the right values so that they become role models within the bank and promote a value based banking culture.
Young talents exploring value based banking
Last spring almost fifty CEMS students at ESADE business school collaborated with the GABV and have developed an interesting tapestry of ideas with regards to the banking industry. One of the most important insights is that value based banking is possible all around the world, in almost every country, including Russia, China and India.
The students presented findings about cultural differences in banking around the world and offered ideas for new member banks for the GABV in India, China, Russia, Latin America, Africa, South-East Asia and Arab countries. Next to this they shared ideas to develop the GABV as a worldwide movement to change the way of banking.
The GABV representatives who experienced the research and contributions of the students, commented: “A group of 50 students with 22 nationalities took our breath that day at ESADE Business School in Barcelona. The quality of ideas and their positive energy opened-up our minds. That day we had an excellent experience that really contributed to Value Based Banking. With all that talent at hand, we didn’t miss out on the opportunity to ask these young talents what it would take to get them interested in working in the banking industry.
They framed it as “the five I’s”:
- International experience
- Impact for a better world
- Intrinsic values
- Interactions with people of different backgrounds
Sharing knowledge and reflective learning
Working on transformational issues in banking by students opens up new perspectives on worldwide banking and at the same time contributes to reflective learning and transforms the way students think about finance in business schools.
Transformational change in finance starts with the engagement of young professionals because they are the future in our businesses. Reflections of the students who participated in this mutual learning experience express that transforming financial services is valuable and possible.
“I heard in the past years various stories about certain irresponsible and careless behavior of professionals working in the banking area. Therefore, I see the coming years as a real clarification phase for myself in terms of how my generation can change banking and how the whole market values develop.“
– Christopher Brunert, ESADE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.
“My first impression was “ah yeah, sustainable banking, how is it possible? Banking is the least attractive sector for sustainability”. However, by the end of the course I had changed my mind: we need to tackle the toughest sector if we want to see an impact on the overall economy and society!”
- Arturo Villa, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy
“After interacting with GABV and getting to know their business model, it is inspiring to think beyond the existing culture in the banking sector. Having worked in a bank it was refreshing to see the norms challenged.”
– Divya Patodia, Ivey Business School, Ontario, Canada
“Involving huge international bank into value based banking will be a very challenging and beneficial thing because huge bank groups have more capital capability and more relationship and management experience in local markets. Then they can help more people and don’t need to worry about lack of local relationships and responsibilities any more.”
– Mengyao Ma, Shangai Lixin University of Commerce, Shanghai, China.
“I liked especially the collaboration between corporation and university working on practical issues that are supportive to the further development of value based banking. It is a perfect opportunity to apply what I have learnt. Such experience also inspires me to make a contribution, more or less, to change the world.”
– Ying Zhou, University of Sidney, Sidney, Australia
“To put it simply, it is all about humanizing your environment and making it personal”.
– Yves Patoux, University of Economics, Prague, Czech Republic.
How open banking can drive innovation and growth in a post-COVID world
By Billel Ridelle, CEO at Sweep
Times are pretty tough for businesses right now. For SMEs in particular, a global financial and health crisis of the sort we’re currently witnessing represents a truly existential risk. Yet there is hope of a brighter future. Digital transformation is already helping organisations in countless sectors, with everything from building supply chain resilience to rolling out potentially life-saving contact-tracing schemes. Yet it’s not just delivering transformative benefits in grand projects like this.
Thanks to open banking rules, a new wave of fintech innovation is sweeping the globe, offering business leaders a new launchpad for success. Even something as simple as corporate expenses can be transformed by the power of open data — to help firms cut costs, reduce fraud risk and become more productive.
Opening up data to innovation
It’s easy to get bogged down in the technical details of open banking, and the slew of new acronyms it has ushered in: Third Party Providers (TPPs), Account Information Service Providers (AISPs), Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs), and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Yet at the heart of the open banking revolution is a simple concept: the idea that forcing banks to open up their customers’ financial data will create more competition, and fresh opportunities for market entrants to create innovative new services.
This was at the heart of the UK government’s world-leading strategy when it was introduced back in 2016. A revised EU payment services directive (PSD2) gave it legal teeth, mandating that all payment account providers in the region provide third-party access for customers that want it. The push is also about reducing banking fees and enhancing financial inclusion, of course, but it’s in competition and innovation that the benefits really shine for businesses.
Access to real-time financial data via open APIs has already resulted in a range of new services which are helping businesses ride out the current economic storm. Whether it’s capabilities that can help freelancers prove loss of income to receive targeted loans, or services designed to streamline business processes to reduce costs and fraud — examples of innovation are endless.
What’s more, it’s already global. Aside from the PSD2, open banking rules are taking shape in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico and elsewhere. According to frequently cited Gartner predictions, regulators in around half of the G20 countries will create an open banking API regime over the coming year.
In the UK alone this is set to create a £7.2 billion revenue opportunity by 2022, with 71% of SMBs and 64% of adults expected to adopt it by then, according to PwC.
Making expenses pay
Corporate expenses and travel management might not be an area one immediately associates with high levels of innovation. But here too, open banking is having a profound impact. By combining automation, in-app approvals, integration with corporate policy and secure open banking APIs, companies like Sweep are offering new ways to solve old problems.
Part of the legacy challenge relates to productivity. Managing corporate travel costs and expenses was cited last year as the biggest concern of the UK’s small and mid-sized firms. Separate research claimed that SMBs are estimated to lose over £8.7 billion annually due to the time it takes employees and managers to complete these menial tasks. By automatically integrating real-time corporate bank account information into an easy-to-use app, we can save up to 15 hours a month on data input and travel administration per employee. That’s all time they could be spending on growing the business.
Another key area of concern is fraud. According to some estimates, fraudulent expenses claims could be costing UK firms £1.9 billion each year. In the US, the figure could be approaching $3 billion annually. Whether it’s the result of submitting expense claims for personal purchases, claiming for additional mileage on work trips, or over-claiming for other items, it all adds up. What’s more, fraud tends to spike particularly during times of recession, when normally diligent employees look for ways to supplement their income.
In this use case too, there are benefits to be had from open banking-powered solutions. Traditional manual processes offer too many gaps that can be exploited by fraudsters. Submitting paper receipts to finance departments — which must then input the information into spreadsheets or accounting software — is slow, error-prone and lacks accountability. However, with modern digital systems, transactions are automatically fed through from bank account to expense management platform. Here they are seamlessly checked according to policy and automatically approved, rejected or flagged for further investigation.
The future’s open
Thanks to the power of open banking, innovative fintech use cases like this are transforming operational challenges into opportunities to cut costs and fraud risks, improve employee productivity and become more strategic. With real-time data fed through from corporate bank accounts, finance directors can better understand spending patterns, react with greater agility and gain the insight they need to run their businesses more efficiently.
So what of the future? The good news is that open banking is only just getting started. As more sophisticated machine learning algorithms are developed, it has the potential for even greater disruption by empowering SMEs with predictive analytics and forecasting tools, or more accurate fraud checks, for example. Those in Europe may benefit most as PSD2 allows businesses to use tools that work seamlessly and securely across markets, without requiring any duplication of work.
In fact, open banking is not just good for individual SMEs, it’s important for Europe as a whole if we are ever to nurture successful digital unicorns to compete with those coming out of the US and China.
Open banking been described in the past as a quiet revolution. With the right buy-in from business and the continued innovation of digital platforms, it may soon become a full-throated roar.
Banks take note: Customers want to pay with points
By Len Covello, Chief Technology Officer of Engage People
‘Pay with Points’ – that is, integrating the ability to pay with loyalty reward points directly into the online check-out process – is a trend that is growing exponentially with big-name brands like Amazon, PayPal and American Express leading the way.
The past few months have posed an unprecedented challenge in the loyalty space, especially with the pandemic’s impact on travel. The unforeseen impacts across the board have caused institutions with premier incentive credit cards to feel increased pressure to retain their loyalty members. As such, exploring innovative ways to create a personalized loyalty experience for customers is at the forefront now more than ever.
Offering the flexibility to pay with points is certainly one option that can help transform financial institutions’ (FIs) loyalty programs. With the evolution of consumer preferences – like relying on other forms of payment outside of credit and the move towards contactless payments – viewing points as currency naturally ties into the “new ways” in which American consumers bank, pay and shop.
Personalization is a win-win for banks and loyalty program members
As the world continues to evolve in light of the pandemic, consumer habits like mobile banking and shopping online for groceries are likely to carry over long-term. As a result, consumers will expect their loyalty programs to provide new incentives to fit their ever-changing needs. By offering loyalty program members the ability to pay with points for the items they want or need during the online check-out process, FIs are creating a more personalized shopping experience. This can help increase member retention, especially compared to dated loyalty programs that offer limited options for point redemption.
As we’ve learned with iPhones, tap to pay and other technologies that reduce friction, once consumers begin using a new and convenient digital service, there’s little desire to go back to the old way of doing things. By incorporating pay with points into loyalty programs sooner rather than later, FIs will be setting themselves apart in terms of meeting their member’s needs with modern payment offerings.
Outside of providing a personalized experience to loyalty program members, pay with points as a program perk also has specific benefits when it comes to a bank’s bottom line. Currently, there are billions of dollars in liabilities in the form of unused points sitting on banks balance sheets. This is in part due to loyalty program members inability to spend their points how they want. By allowing a more personal and flexible way to spend points, banks can reduce those liabilities while creating a more engaging experience for their members.
Meeting consumer demand is easier than you think
Incorporating the infrastructure to power new digital capabilities is more often than not a cause for concern: how expensive will it be? What does down time look like? How long will it take to get up and running?
Luckily for banks, the process is actually quite simple – and inexpensive. With a lightweight integration of a few APIs, banks can tap into a pool of retailers to make their merchandise available for purchase with points by loyalty program members in no time. And as the retail network expands, there’s no need for additional IT work to add new brands into the fold. Ultimately, API integrations upfront create a frictionless and scalable solution for FIs and a preferred shopping experience for members. And based on market feedback, the personalized experience that results from giving customers the option to spend points as easily as they would cash or card, far exceeds any initial inconveniences that may arise.
According to our recent Customer Loyalty Survey, 75% of customers are more likely to spend loyalty reward points to make a purchase over other payment methods. The findings also indicated that 72% of customers are actively engaged in loyalty programs because of the available redemption options.
Long-term loyalty is not just about acquisition or promotional material, but rather the experience of redemption and viewing loyalty points through a fresh lens. Customers today are well-versed in what’s available to them online. The more redemption options offered to the consumer, the more appealing the FI becomes.
Loyalty point redemption in action
In April of 2020, when the world was mostly in lockdown, we looked at how a select group of approximately 3,000 consumers spent their loyalty reward points, comparing April 2020 to April 2019. Key findings suggest that, if given the opportunity, consumers will spend their loyalty points to buy what they want or need based on their specific circumstances. For example:
- Significant increases in the purchase of outdoor items like BBQs and smokers (+3401%), fire pits and heaters (+2644%) and pool and patio accessories (+1297%) suggested people were making the most of the spaces around them.
- Consumers were focusing on their personal health and well-being with the increase in points spent on fitness accessories (+1664%), bike accessories (+1453%) and fitness trackers (+536%).
- Finally, the increase in purchases of hand-held power tools (+3076%), smart control lighting (+1750%), stick vacuums (+1096%) and specialty small appliances (+531%) suggests consumers took advantage of the opportunity to check projects off their at-home to-do lists.
We’re keeping a close eye on how loyalty point purchases evolve as more retailers and FIs get on board with viewing points as a true form of currency, especially in a post-pandemic world. Which items will rise to the top in the coming months and years as the payments ecosystem evolves? Will flight purchases or experience-based purchases regain popularity?
What’s next in the loyalty payments space?
As consumers continue to look for alternative payment methods, offering the flexibility to pay with points is the perfect opportunity for FIs looking to reinvent their loyalty programs. Engage People has always viewed loyalty points as a fiat currency, creating innovative technology that allows for easy integration that satisfies loyalty program members’ needs.
In the future, there’s a real opportunity to incorporate loyalty reward points into everyday life – extending beyond the online shopping experience. Imagine a world where you can pay for coffee, your bills, monthly subscription services like Netflix or make charitable donations with loyalty points just as you would with a credit card or cash. The future involves a mindset shift by consumers, financial institutions and the entire payments ecosystem, and that shift is viewing loyalty points as a true form of currency. Like reaching for cash, a debit or credit card, loyalty points can easily become a payment option of choice for consumers. FIs that are at the forefront of this trend now have the most to gain long term.
The Importance of Liquidity Solutions
By Justin Silsbury, Lead – Product Manager at Infosys Finacle
Economic uncertainty and business complexity have made a deep impact on corporate treasury management in recent years. With regulations getting tougher, funding becoming elusive, and profits shrinking fast, the way liquidity is managed is making a real difference to companies’ survival. As corporate treasurers around the world struggle with the challenges of liquidity management, they are turning to their banks for support; it is imperative that the industry respond with digital solutions that enable clients to manage money efficiently at low cost.
Why corporates need liquidity solutions
Corporate banking customers need a liquidity structure that maximises security, liquidity and yield. Even today, treasurers in multinational corporations lack visibility into their companies’ overall cash position across countries and currencies. Delivering returns on excess cash, although important, is not a priority for them, but making sure the money is safe and available when needed, is. Therefore, a liquidity solution should be able to consolidate a company’s cash position across all its accounts around the world, provide a unified view in real-time, as well as offer timely suggestions on maximising utilisation and yield. It should automate all these functions as far as possible to reduce both manual overheads and the risk of moving money manually on a daily basis.
Broadly, liquidity solutions are of three types – cash concentration solutions that automatically move money around the world; interest optimization solutions that reward customers based on their aggregated balances without the need to move any money; and investment sweeps that move all the consolidated funds to a money market fund or other short-term investment to earn extra returns.
And why banks should provide them
There are several reasons why banks should invest in a sound liquidity solution. The most important one is that without it, a bank can never become a customer’s principal financial institution. A large corporation will have many banking providers, each one trying to increase share of wallet; in this situation, a high involvement product such as a liquidity solution is particularly effective for building stickiness and strengthening a bank’s position vis-à-vis others. An illustration may be useful here: say a food retail chain banks with Santander in the U.K., and other banks across Europe. If the retailer chooses to consolidate its cash daily into its U.K. account using Santander’s liquidity management solution, where the excess cash can then be swept into an investment vehicle overnight, over time, Santander can cross-sell other products to the client to increase revenue and stickiness.
Technology does it
Corporate banking has historically lagged retail banking in technology adoption. It is high time that banks remedied this by digitizing their corporate solutions. Specifically, they can leverage a variety of digital technologies to provide clients instant access to liquidity, global visibility into the overall cash position, and efficient working capital management. With robotic process automation and machine learning, they can simplify and automate processes to cut cost and lead-time. Blockchain enables banks to offer fast, secure, cross-border transactions, while open APIs ease collaboration and co-innovation with Fintechs, customers and developers.
Banks need to deliver frictionless, personalized, “retail banking-like” experiences over customer-centric corporate banking channels. Instead of channel silos – one for liquidity, another for payments and so on – customers will see data from all their accounts in one place, from where they can manage liquidity, forecast cash flows, secure trade finance etc. On their part, banks can use 360-degree customer insight to issue not just timely alerts but also contextual recommendations. For instance, being able to alert a customer that a large payment is due the following week, but also suggesting the best options for arranging those funds.
Apart from improving the customer journey, a real move in corporate banking is towards cloud adoption. Many banks have started the cloud journey, but many still have some distance to cover before they are fully cloud-enabled; mainly, they are migrating monolithic, on-premise workloads to the cloud. Early adopters, such as JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and Citibank, are setting the pace by developing their own capabilities as well as procuring certain components from Fintech partners to plug into their overall solution.
One size doesn’t fit all
In the past, corporate banking solutions were largely meant for big companies, but today they are relevant to enterprises of all sizes. Internet and mobile have enabled even small local firms to scale far and wide, creating a need for solutions to manage their money across borders. Therefore, banks need to make sure their liquidity solution can accommodate the different needs of different clients. Only a flexible, componentised solution can do that.
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