Brett King

Posts Tagged ‘BankSimple’

Movenbank’s Reboot of Banking – now the work really starts…

In Bank Innovation, Future of Banking, Mobile Payments on September 20, 2011 at 18:47

As some of you may have heard, our team formally launched the Movenbank project at SIBOS yesterday. It’s an auspicious start, for a very ambitious project.

The buzz at SIBOS was stellar, with some major support coming from the Twiteratti, from the “InnoTRIBE” and the bloggers in our unique community. Having said that, I’m under no illusion that this was only the start and we’ve got some heavy lifting over the next few months before we launch our consumer service. I thought in the spirit of Innotribe’s theme this year I would talk briefly about what the launch means, and what we’re going to do. But more than that, I wanted to share with you the specific challenges we’ve had to fight to overcome and why I believe we very aptly classify this as a reboot of banking. I don’t want this to be an advertorial for Movenbank – I’d like to expand on what was discussed at SIBOS, and I think sharing our thinking and challenges is instructional if you really want to change the way your institution engages customers.

CRED™ and the Movenbank Ecosystem

We believe that generally the way banks work with customers is totally broken/screwed. How many customers want a more transparent relationship with their bank (and I don’t mean just fees and interest rates?) How many have had a request for credit turned down and scratched their head to understand why? How many wonder what those mystery fees are on their statement, or why they were even charged in the first place? How many have wanted to increase their credit limit on their card or get a loan, but simply didn’t know how? These are questions the average bank consumer asks all the time – let alone questions about complex products, or the dizzying array  of choices around asset class, rate, features, etc. The industry talks about ‘educating customers’ so that customers understand products. But we believe if you have to educate customers before they understand your product, you’ve already lost the opportunity.

In trying to find a way to better articulate the day-to-day relationship with customers we realized that lack of trust, the systemic resistance to transparency that has become apparent as a result of social media, etc, the tendency to leverage information scarcity as a revenue/margin tool, and the lack of flexibility in current risk assessment models – all needed to change if we were really going to do something new. Fortunately, the solution manifested itself in the form of CRED™.

In creating a behavioral, social, viral, gamified engagement system, what we were really trying to do was change the way our bank communicates with customers about their relationship, and the way we assess their value to us as an institution. It had to be something visible and easy to understand for consumers, but it had to have enough depth that it could not only accurately assess risk, but also enable us to satisfy the requirements of regulators. Sounds complex right?

Well it turns out that if we ask questions of customers gradually, allow them to transact, and tell us how they spend and save on a daily basis, we can build up not only a complete KYC/CIP profile, but we can also start to help customers manage behavior that is risky. The problem with current credit scoring models is that they only record a failure after it’s happened, but we realized we should be able to anticipate that failure by watching the way customers behave. Rather than being invasive, most of this was available based on the current aggregated data for a ‘banked’ customer. If the customer was unbanked, we were going to have to build it over time.

The final element is really the gamification. What I don’t want to do is give the impression that we’re making banking a ‘game’. We’re using the principles of gamification for engagement. We will have some of the standard bells and whistles like badges, rewards and incentives, but the real secret to understanding CRED gamification is understanding how we will deliver banking products and services. One simple trick – if you want someone to keep a positive balance in their savings account – then allowing them to see that balance or reminding them that a specific transaction or event will take them into negative territory, makes the spend a conscious decision. Is it gamification? It is when you ‘game’ the messaging, and make it frictionless or even fun. We’re playing with that messaging and engagement layer to influence your financial health positively. So maybe we should more accurately call CRED Engagementfication or Contextualization, rather than pure gamification. We’re all about positive persuasion, based on very clear and ethical permission sets.

Getting over the ‘hurdles’ for the new thing…

One of the real questions was should we or shouldn’t we start with our own license and charter, or do we go the BankSimple route and work with partner banks. In the end this decision was really taken out of our hands because there were no guarantees on either the outcome of the license/charter application process or the timing of such. Purely on a commercial basis, if we wanted to go to market, we couldn’t wait on the regulators to make the call. That’s not to say we might not acquire a bank in the future or build our own for purposes of scale.

So what about KYC (Know Your Customers)? It turns out that KYC requirements in most jurisdictions are not that exhaustive – it basically boils down to name, date of birth, physical address, unique identification (Passport, Social Security Number, TIN, etc) and verification of that identity. The rest of the ongoing KYC stuff is typically around transactional behavior (e.g. AML suspicious transaction reporting). The fact is, the workload of this stuff is not erroneous, nor does it require an absolute physical presence (at least the way we read the regs). In fact, we will have much more data on the behavioral side and on the customer’s profile than an average bank. For example, which bank do you know that requires you to have a Twitter or Facebook account and a mobile phone number before you can sign up? That’s much more useful than insisting on utility bills before you open an account in our opinion.

Lastly, on the product side, CRED™ will simplify much of this space as well. In most cases, customers will be engaging with Movenbank for a facility, whether it be a day to day transactional account, a savings ‘bucket’ for a specific goal, or a line of credit for those times you need a bit of extra cash. The utility of banking means that we believe as long as the rates are competitive, you don’t need to describe or understand the features of that product – you just want to use the ‘utility’ of the product. So CRED will be the interface to this, and we’ll turn on and off the utility of those products or services as required. Given we’ll already have all of the KYC up front with CRED as the engine of the relationship, you won’t need any application form, it will just be turning the facility on or off.

What’s next?

CRED will launch initially with a financial personality profiling tool

The Alpha Release of Movenbank’s site is scheduled for October the 1st, where customers will get their first glimpse of the CRED ecosystem through a financial personality profile. Then we’ll be ramping up for a staged commercial release next year – with broad availability schedule for the summer of 2012 (summer in the Northern Hemisphere that is).

It’s an exciting time. We’d love your feedback and love to have you along for the ride.

Rebooting banking will require your participation as well. Thanks for your support and encouragement.

The Total Disruption of Bank Distribution – Part 3

In Bank Innovation, Customer Experience, Future of Banking, Technology Innovation on July 12, 2011 at 07:37

Massive spend on innovation at the front-end of retail financial services

Putting aside conjecture of whether or not we are in a bubble at the moment around tech, social media, and mobile services (which I believe we very well could be), the reality is we are seeing a flurry of massive investment in new distribution models and organizations acting as either technology or behavioral enablers. We’re used to seeing big numbers for M&A activity in banking, but we’re not used to seeing such a flood of start-ups and non-traditional competitors facing off against traditional players at the retail side of the business.

In just the last 3 years there has been more than $7Bn in private equity, venture capital and private investment made into non-traditional financial services start-ups that challenge existing models. This is the first time globally that there has been this scale of challenge to the traditional retail financial services space from start-ups in the technology arena. To illustrate the level of activity, here are just a few recent investments in the New York fintech space alone (source: Quora):

SecondMarket ($15mm)– marketplace for illiquid financial instruments; secondmarket.com
Kapitall ($7.3mm)– discount brokerage with gaming elements; kapitall.com
Betterment ($3mm)– online brokerage for small investors; betterment.com
Plastyc ($2mm)– mobile based banking for the underbanked; plastyc.com
AxialMarket ($2mm)-
online middle market i-bank; axialmarket.com
BankSimple ($3mm)- online/mobile banking interface; banksimple.com
Covestor ($11mm)- platform to find SMA providers and invest with amateur traders; covestor.com
Hedgeable next generation investment management firm; hedgeable.com

However, in addition to these plays you have very some serious initiatives now doing major business in the space that used to be considered the sole domain of ‘banks’. Here are four examples:

Personal Financial Management

Mint was acquired by Intuit in September of 2009 for $170m. Mint has experienced meteoric growth in customer base. Today Mint has more than 5m customers willingly giving their personal financial data, bank account and spending information to receive the benefits of fine tuned recommendations for financial services investments and credit products.

Businesses like SmartyPig, which has a collaborative play with the industry, are very successful at stimulating simple behaviors like savings for specific goals. SmartyPig has raised over $1.2Bn in deposits for the partners banks it works with such as Citi, West Bank, BBVA, ANZ, etc. They utilize social media to encourage your friends and family to assist you in your savings goals. For example, my kids were able to use SmartyPig to solicit assistance from their grandparents, uncles, aunties, etc to help with their savings goal.

Admittedly, we also seen Blippy and Wesabe crash and burn in recent times. However, the readiness of the investment community to experiment in the space of services that are complimentary or competing directly with traditional FIs is clearly increasing.

P2P Lending

Lending Club, Prosper and Zopa are just three examples of recent successes in the P2P lending space. Lending Club is lending around $20m a month in loans, and have lent more than $300m, with an average loan size around US$10,000. In France, FriendsClear has recently announced that Crédit Agricole will be joining their efforts in a collaboration of sorts; exactly how this will work is still under wraps.

Zopa has lent more than £150m which means they are now approaching a 2% market share of the total UK retail lending market. Zopa’s average loan size is around GBP 5,000, but what is more significant is their Non-Performing Loans (NPL) ratio. Major U.K. banks typically recorded NPL ratios in the 2%-3% range from the mid-1990s through to 2007, but by the end of 2009 Lloyd TSB’s gross NPL was as up to 8.9% and HSBC’s hovering around 3% (source: Standard and Poors). So how did Zopa perform in this environment? Zopa’s NPL ratio sits at around .9%. That’s 10% of Lloyds and 1/3rd of the best bank in the UK HSBC!

Zopa's NPL Ratio is 10% that of Lloyds TSB in the UK

So how is it that a social network that lends money between its participants is better at managing loan risk than banks that have been at this for hundreds of years?

The key here is the positive psychology of social networks versus banks. If I lend money off a bank and I’m having difficulty paying that back due to loss of income, or just having a hard time making ends meet, I’m likely to let the loan slip and wait for the bank to chase me. P2P networks like Zopa, on the other hand, are finding customers proactively contacting them to make payment arrangements when they can’t meet their monthly commitment. Why?

Firstly, there are people at the end of the loan – not a big bad bank who “can afford the loss”. Secondly, the fact that there are people at the end of the loan versus a bank means that people are more inclined to prioritize paying back their loan to other people, over that of a large institution. This positive peer pressure is producing astounding results. I also asked Giles Andrews from Zopa about why he thought Zopa was better at managing lending risk than banks…

“I think our low defaults aren’t just because of P2P but because we built a better credit model, taking more account of over-indebtedness and affordability than banks”
Giles Andrews, CEO, Zopa.co.uk

Who would have thought that social networks would be better, safer, and more efficient at lending than retail banks?

In fact, P2P lending has been so successful that in recent times both Umpqua Bank and Fidor Bank (a start-up online, direct bank in Germany) have incorporated some P2P as a component of their bank platforms. Why take all the risk yourself as a bank, when some customers are willing to cover the risk themselves? But don’t think that P2P is just easy money. Wall Street Journal reported in June of this year that 90% of Lending Club’s applications were refused.

Maybe that’s why P2P is good business – because they actually take fewer risks than banks?

Pre-paid debit cards, E-Money Licenses and Payments

Amex, Greendot, NetSpend and Walmart are just three organizations that have recently made big pushes into the prepaid debit card arena in the US alone. Significantly, the US now has 40-60 million underbanked consumers (source: FDIC, Financial Times), half of whom have college degrees, and 25% of whom are prime credit rated. Many of these are opting out of the traditional banking system, but carry a pre-paid debit card. The pre-paid debit card industry will account for more than $200 Billion in funds by the end of 2011 along (source: Packaged Facts).

Top 5 reasons people get a prepaid Debit Card

The financial crisis has accelerated the increase in those whom no longer participate in the formal banking system. Since the financial crisis 60% of new mobile phone users in the United States have been no-contract, pre-paid phone users.

“As an economy becomes richer and incomes rise, the normal expectation is that the proportion of the unbanked population falls and does not rise as is now happening in the United States…”
Washington Post, December, 2009

Combined with increased account fees from big banks recently affected by reduction in interchange revenue, and modality changes, I think we can expect that increasingly customers who don’t need complex banking relationships will opt out of the banking system by using prepaid debit cards and in the future prepaid wallets enabled via NFC and mobile Apps.

In the UK Google, O2, BT and others are looking seriously at the combination of prepaid debit cards type functionality into a wallet. Google already launched their Google Wallet earlier this year, and we can only see more and more of this action in the coming months.

The raft of P2P payments, mobile payments and mobile enablement are bewildering at the moment. Undoubtedly, we’ll see many variations of mobile payments in the near future. With PayPal predicting $3 Billion in mobile payments in 2011 alone, the future of mobile-based prepaid debit cards looks very healthy.

Conclusions

We’ve never had such a concerted, technology-led explosion of retail financial services solutions that are directly in competition with the traditional players in the space. While some of these initiatives are complementary, increasingly we’re seeing startups that realize you don’t need a banking license to play on the fringes of the banking system. When you only know one way of running your business you will be increasingly challenged by customers who don’t relate to the questions you ask, the processes you have in place, and the insistance on using outdated physical artifacts and networks.

This is the first time we’ve seen a global attempt at reinventing the way banking fits into our lives on a day-to-day basis, and it is bound to create massive friction for a sector known to be very attached to traditional modes and models. One thing is clear, increasingly banks will be competing with new businesses that are faster, better, more relevant and aggressive than the long-held bastions of traditional savings and loans.

These businesses will embrace and exploit changing modality. These businesses will love disruptive customer behavior, they’ll encourage it!

Resistance is Futile – the banking industry is changing

In Bank Innovation, Customer Experience, Future of Banking, Social Networking, Strategy on May 20, 2011 at 15:07

My pals at BankSimple soft launched their debit cards internally for their staff this week, which is big news because it signifies the acceleration of the big shift in the BANK 2.0 landscape. Interestingly, though, this launch wasn’t easy, as the team at BankSimple articulated on their blog post of today.

The last many months have taught us greater patience. It is difficult to change an industry. But we’re leaning into it and can’t wait to show you what we’re building. Thank you for your patience.
Bank Simple Blog Post – May 20th, 2011

The BankSimple launch is significant for a number of reasons. First of all, when was the last time you heard of a new bank having 50,000 customers signed up or registered before the bank launched?? Secondly, the fact that BankSimple doesn’t have a banking license of their own, is no hindrance in offering better banking service today. Lastly, if you are going to change an industry, be prepared for some resistance.

Viral Banking – who’d have thunk?

Banks are notoriously hopeless when it comes to social media. However, Apple, Google, Mint, BankSimple, Square and others who are increasingly stepping on the toes of traditional banking players, are extremely adept at garnering customer support for their initiatives through viral marketing, social media and digital advocacy.

It is incredible that in an age where LinkedIn is worth $9Bn (40 times revenue), there are still some major bank players like RBS and HSBC that don’t have a Twitter account. I know the transition from a controlled media and brand messaging environment to a conversation sometimes dominated by customers, is a difficult leap, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live in this new social world.

I know there will be cynics out there that would say that RBS and HSBC probably hasn’t actually lost any revenue from not being on Twitter – personally I wouldn’t be sure about that. One thing I am sure of though, is that I can guarantee that they haven’t signed up 50,000 new customers as a result of digital presence on social media like BankSimple has.

This is the new way of acquisition. Be a part of the conversation, garner customer advocacy, simplify the engagement and enable relationships digitally. If you aren’t living in the viral, social, conversation space – be prepared to be marginalized as a service provider in the retail banking landscape.

The separation of the bank and the customer

I’ve previously talked a great deal about the customer experience gap and how banks are moving further and further apart from their customers due to lack of behavioral sensitivity and poor user experience, but this is more. BankSimple is working with a raft of back-end providers that hold a banking license and can offer an FDIC guarantee on the deposit, but that doesn’t mean that the holder of the deposit or the issuer of the credit product, actually owns the customer.

For years we’ve seen this in other industries where manufacturing of products and services is separate from the distribution network. The distribution network of the retail banking sector is under enormous pressure today. The BankSimple approach is the first of a massive shift away from traditional distribution channels where owning a branch network no longer means squat. Physical distribution network didn’t save Borders from collapse, nor did it save Blockbuster, Encyclopedia Brittanica, MGM or countless music stores.

In this shift away from physical to digital distribution, it is almost always new players that start to dominate. In the case of books – Amazon. In the case of music and video – Apple.

In banking, it is too distributed and widespread, along with too heavily regulated, for one single global player to dominate the new banking interface. But one thing is for certain. We are about to see a whole new layer of retail banking interface or customer experience that doesn’t need a banking license. If you think banking is “special”, then just keep thinking that while you slump into irrelevance.

The new bank is the customer experience bank.

Resistance is futile

The chaps at BankSimple have found out that trying to change the paradigm of retail banking takes cojones. It also takes patience.

There are a whole raft of embedded bankers who don’t want to see the world change. I liken this to the MPAA’s response to the whole bittorrent landscape, or the RIAA’s response to Napster. When the shift started to happen the traditional industry first denied it would ever happen, when it did start to happen they fought it with everything they had, and in the end they were screwed anyway.

The same thing will happen with banking. No matter how secure you think your relationship with the customer is today as a bank, the fact is if you can’t enable me to bank in a better way, then you are irrelevant. Someone else can put a new layer of customer experience over the top of your banking license and do it better, faster, cheaper and sexier than the traditional players.

At the end of the day physical cash, cheques, plastic cards, and branches are all elements of the banking system that are ripe for digitization. The longer you keep fooling yourself that this transition is going to take years, and the banking sector has plenty of time to adapt – the easier it will be for BankSimple and others to eat your lunch.

The Best–Practice Engagement Bank

In Bank Innovation, Customer Experience, Engagement Banking, Future of Banking, Retail Banking, Social Networking, Strategy, Twitter on April 27, 2011 at 13:09

Recently when I posted on reforming customer journeys in the banking space I got some push-back for using Apple as an example of best practice. Surely there are banks I could have used as an example of best practice??? Well… not really. There’s no bank, and believe me I’m looking everyday, that has the whole multi-channel customer experience locked down across the board. So I thought if we could Frankenstein a bank together from banks that are there and are getting certain aspects of the engagement right, it might actually be possible to construct a sort of best-practice bank. Even then, the reality is that there are gaps in what is best-practice because by looking at other industries we find better examples of specific channels than in the banking space.

I realize this is arbitrary and there are probably some other great examples out there. If so, feel free to add those in the comments and if I agree with you I’ll make the appropriate amendments or additions and attribute them to your Twitter ID. Here we go…

Best Branch Experience

What identifies a best-in-class branch experience? Well a key here is not how sexy the branch looks but whether a branch redesign resulted in a net improvement in customer engagement and in resultant metrics – namely increase in acquisitions and in cross-sell or up-sell. Recently Citi relaunched their “Apple Store” concept branches in both Shanghai and New York, but there is no evidence that plastering tech around your square footage is an immediate guarantee of success. Creating retail spaces that are hi-tech meccas works for Apple because they sell tech, not banking products and services. So what is the goal of the banking space?

Currently there are two goals for branches, the first is to effectively serve transaction or task-focused customers as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible, and the second is to engage the customer around their needs in a friendly and revenue-conducive manner. In respect to the first, it’s my belief that transactions in-branch are fast becoming problematic for most retail banks and the trend is toward strong sales and service over costly transaction handling. This is part of the reason for SNS in Utrect, Netherlands deciding in 2009 to remove cash from their branches, and why others are focusing on strong service centres.

Metro Bank in the UK unquestionably has a very high quality ‘store’ experience (they don’t call their retail points of presence branches), as evidenced by their Net Promoter Score which is higher than any other retail bank in the UK.

We use Net Promoter and currently we have a Net Promoter score of 87% which I believe is among the highest anywhere in the UK — and eight out of 10 of our new customers come as recommendations from existing customers — 97% of our customers rate our service as being exceptional.
Anthony Thompson, Chairman and co-founder Metro Bank

Deutsche Bank with their Q110 branch in Berlin and Jyske Bank in Denmark, have taken the retail concept to its ultimate with advisors strolling the store and products bundled in packaging you take off the shelf. The point is that the best branches remove the barriers to engagement with customers, and are not transaction points, but conversation hubs. Some other notable designs are North Shore Credit Union in Vancouver and Che Banca in Italy.

The key here is that the retail space is opened up, barriers to conversations are removed, and a warm space is more inviting, more engaging. Transactions which are a cost to the bank, and are redundant for most customers, are relegated to automated cash and check deposit machines or to digital channels.

Best Online Banking Experience

This is a little tough. Firstly, I don’t believe that public websites and personal internet banking sites should be two separate entities, but the fact is that is the reality for most banks today is that their basic online banking experience hasn’t significantly changed in the last 10 years since the dot com. Awards given by EuroMoney, FT and others for the ‘Best Internet Bank’ or similar, are frankly laughable. Compared with the best online experience in other industries, banks are years behind.

Banks have to start thinking about the online channel as a dialog, as an engagement platform – not a transactional or functional platform. The most basic logic dictates that your secure Internet banking portal should be as much about engagement, service and sales, as it is about transactions. However, the level of complexity of selling and engagement behind the login as an industry is appalling.

So who’s the best? At the moment there’s only one bank I would put even close to living up to the promise of User Experience on this channel, which is Fidor in Germany, but even Fidor doesn’t have the sales experience and recommendation engine capability. Mint, Geezeo, Meniga and others are taking on the PFM battle, to transform the advisory space behind the login. Geezeo has recently launched a referral engine that will enable banks and credit unions to engage customers with smart engagement strategies within the secure internet banking space, but also extending this out to platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

In terms of banks…

It’s very quiet. There’s lots of talk about reinvigorating this space, but the only action on the horizon is our friends at BankSimple.

BankSimple doesn't look like a traditional Internet Bank, because they understand context.

If you want best practice in online banking, there is not one bank that has this sorted. There is best practice in functionality, there’s some best practice in transactional platforms, bill payment and the like – but there is no bank that provides a model that represents best practice of where banking should be online today from an engagement perspective. Not one.

Mobile and ATM on Page 2…

Pages: 1 2 3

SXSW: Where’s the Bank Innovation coming from?

In Bank Innovation, Customer Experience, Future of Banking, Strategy, Technology Innovation on March 13, 2011 at 02:12

South-by-Southwest’s Interactive sessions in Austin, TX are a major creative and customer-focused experience. The amount of networking that is taking place, the amount of active innovation and discussion on taking it to the next level is awesome and mind blowing. There’s only one thing…

If there was a game on at SXSW to find 20 bankers – It is highly doubtful that anyone could win that one.

There’s innovation discussions occurring around mobile, gaming, social media, user experience, geo location, but it appears SXSW only has 4 sessions that are connected with banking, which is indicative of the level of engagement. There are payments and retail engagement discussions, there are gaming and social discussions, there are startup and venture discussions, health and work discussions, but not so many on banking.

In our session today where we attempted to discuss innovation in the banking arena, we had spirited discussion around who are the innovators, but the reality is we didn’t get into really sexy innovations. We didn’t get into how mobile payments would change the world, the emergence of new digital currencies, virtual banking models that cross borders, distributed and pervasive banking content embedded into the retail experience, Infographics style PFMs transforming customer engagement, new banking models leveraging off the likes of P2P, social or community enablement, reinventing the credit score or improving financial inclusion through cheaper smartphone platforms. The reason we didn’t get into any of the really sexy stuff is that the problems of innovating the banking sector are much more fundamental today.

Some of the Twitter feedback based on the #BankInnovation hashtag from the session “Banks: Innovate or Die!” indicated frustration at not diving into more deeper matters of innovation.

One blog response from Oscar Llarena (aka @softwaremono) asked the question “Does Customer Service = Innovation?“. In many ways, this very question and the amount of time that was spent talking about customer behavior and the ability of banks to match customer expectations is very telling when it comes to what innovation is needed in the banking arena.

Organizational Inertia
One of the key issues and the reason expectations are low in the financial services space is that most banks don’t even classify these things as innovation. When you ask a die-hard banker about innovation you are more likely to hear about Collateralized Debt Obligations, Derivatives, Barbwire Hedge Contracts or Swaptions than technology integration or customer experience improvement. This is because fundamentally banking has really never had to rapidly innovate the basic model of engagement of customers; branches, cheques (checks), credit cards and other such mechanisms are innovations that occurred over the space of decades or centuries.

The other issue is that risk aversion, philosophical marriage to traditional distribution models and embedded metrics around products sold through branches, mean that organizationally the bank has to first start thinking about changing the way the performance of the business is measured, and structured, before serious innovation can take place. This will take time.

In the meantime the easiest way to create innovation (that goes against the grain of long-embedded business practices and performance structures) is to simply circumvent the traditional bank organization. It could be argued this is why UBank, Jibun Bank, First Direct and ING Direct have been so successful at doing banking better – because they didn’t have to solve the organizational problem first. However, when we see more fundamental business model innovations like P2P lending and new payments systems like M-PESA, these have circumvented banks all together.

Banks will eventually get their act into gear and either replicate alot of this stuff, or acquire it to get the innovations, but such an approach would be like Blockbuster putting up a website that looks like NetFlix. Unless you fundamentally redress the organizational reliance on a very traditional business model and structure, then it’s never quite going to work.

Why innovation has to start with the customer…
In retail banking or financial services, one of the reasons we get so hung up on just some simple elements around customer service, the user interface between the bank and the customer, transparency and the way a bank assesses the risk of an individual consumer is simply that these are the areas that are now so glaringly obvious that they need a more rapid solution. Why? Because they are the very areas where the gap between customer behavior and expectations is growing rapidly with the delivery capability of the average retail bank. Before you can really start with breakout innovation you need to be able to meet customer needs.

Can you do that if you are trying to convince customers to buy irrelevant products because they are higher margin, or if you are trying to force customers into a branch because you’ve got a substantial investment in real estate? No.

So is customer service innovative? Transforming the customer experience and engaging customers in new ways, is a massive leap forward in banking – it may not be sexy innovation, but it is transformational for a sector who thinks they make profits despite their customers.

Why SXSW still matters for banks
In this environment, there are massive opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to create bridges between the customer and the institution. This will be through start-ups, new apps or UIs, new user experience models, gaming, and all the sexy stuff that SXSW at large is discussing. But it likely won’t be through traditional banks (sorry @annaobrien). Why?

Probably because you will never see a traditional banker at SXSW because they don’t get the imperative for customer innovation. They send along the geeks, who they expect to build the apps and to maintain the social media presence, but those resources won’t be sitting in the boardrooms talking about new organizational structures, different performance metrics and how to transform the business wholesale.

In the end, the success of start-ups and innovators like SmartyPig, LendingClub, BankSimple and MovenBank will be initiatives that banks feel compelled to follow because customers feel affinity with these new brands. But don’t expect them to rush into it…

In the end customers will win and I guess that is all that matters.

Retail Banking Innovation Infographic

Is product innovation enough?