What We’re Reading: Retail Banking, Square, Voice Biometrics

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

  •  What’s Behind the Mobile Banking Boom (video)

American Banker

Mobile banking has expanded beyond the market for youthful early adopters and is rapidly becoming a mainstream product. American Banker reporters discuss who else is logging on and the hurdles the industry faces to keep the momentum going.

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  • Report: IT Spending in Retail Banking Will Reach $152.5 Billion By 2018

Bank Systems & Technology

Back-end investment for compliance and investment in digital channels will drive strong growth in IT spending among North American banks, according to Ovum. Retail banks will grow their IT spending to $152.2 billion by 2018 in response to rising customer expectations and investment in digital channels, a recent report by analyst firm Ovum predicted.

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  • Navy Federal Promotes Square For Small Business Payments

Credit Union Journal

Mobile payments provider Square could get a big boost from the nation’s biggest credit union. Navy FCU is promoting Square’s mobile card reader and payment processing services to its small-business members. The $56 billion credit union’s website now hosts a page that allows members to sign up for Square. By partnering with Square, Navy Federal is providing members with an easier way to accept credit card purchases and track their sales, according to Jim Salmon, vice president of business services at Navy Federal.

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  • Banking Insider: U.S. Bank tests voice biometrics to replace passwords

Las Vegas Review Journal

U.S. Bank is joining a short list of large financial institutions that are testing voice biometrics as a potential replacement for the traditional password. That list includes Wells Fargo & Co. and Barclays Plc. Voice biometrics software users log in to an application or website by speaking a word or phrase. The word or phrase is compared to a previous recording the customer has made to verify it’s the same user. U.S. Bank employees are piloting the software and using a simple passphrase such as “my voice is my password” to access credit card account balances, search transactions and make payments on accounts using a mobile device.

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  • Why There Is No Amazon Of Banking

Snarketing 2.0

There are no Amazon-branded products or services. As a result, there are no Amazon product managers with a vested interest in selling their product over some other brand. Can you walk into a Citibank branch and open up a JPMorganChase checking account? Nope. Can you go to the Bank of America web site and apply for a Wells Fargo mortgage? Nope.  But you can go to Amazon’s web site and buy just about anything that anybody else sells.

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  • Here’s the One Stat Big Bank CEOs Are Freaking Out About

TIME.com

A new survey shows that nearly a third of consumers haven’t actually set foot in a bank branch in six months, and one expert predicts that number could rise to 50% in just five years. According to Bankrate.com, 30% of respondents to a new survey haven’t gone to a bank branch in six months. And more than two-thirds of those — 21% of respondents — haven’t set foot in a bank in the past year or more.

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What We’re Reading: Unbanked, Twitter, BYOD

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

  • Gruenberg: Cell Phones May Hold Key to Access for Unbanked

American Banker

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. plans to issue a report next year exploring whether cell phones could help draw consumers not served by a bank into the mainstream financial system, the agency’s chief said Thursday. “We want to take a hard look at this issue from the perspective of economic inclusion to try to assess what the potential is here in a careful way of using this technology to expand access,” FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said at a conference hosted by the Consumer Federation of America.

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  • New Twitter Rules Stymie Credit Unions From Promoting Themselves

Credit Union Journal

New rules from Twitter have thrown a wrench in the social media works for some credit unions that want to use promoted posts to break through the clutter and highlight their offerings on the popular social networking site. Peach State FCU entered the social media realm in October with Facebook and Twitter profiles, using promoted posts on each site. (A promoted post pays the site to expose the tweet or post to a larger number of users.) But a recent change to Twitter’s rules sometime in November has shut out some credit unions from using this common business marketing practice. “We had some luck with Twitter in October doing promoted tweets and promoting the account as a whole,” said Meredith Olmstead, founder and social media marketing consultant at Social Stairway, who is serving as a social media consultant for Peach State.

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  • Mobile Wallet Collaboration Crucial for CU Success

Credit Union Times

A mobile wallet will only be successful if members adopt and consistently use the app to conduct daily transactions. Ultimately, merchants will play a critical role in the success or demise of each mobile wallet solution. Forging mutually beneficial relationships with merchants, navigating the various merchant requirements including point-of-sale technology preferences and negotiating pricing agreements can be a daunting, if not impossible,  feat for an individual credit union to accomplish, regardless of its size or resources.

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  • NAFCU – Strategic Growth Conference

The Financial Brand

According to data from FindABetterBank, consumers who are specifically interested in mobile banking services are very likely to believe they’ll bank 100% virtually in the future. While fewer banking “traditionalists” (those using checks, for instance) see an all-digital future, it’s still a healthy percentage — nearly two-thirds.

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  • Security and BYOD policy management key barriers to corporate mobile banking

Finextra

Corporate treasurers cite security challenges and bring-your-own-device business policies as the key obstacles to wider uptake of mobile banking platforms for treasury activities. Of 135 finance and treasury professionals collared by Capital One at the annual Association for Finance Professionals (AFP) gathering, barely one-in-three used a corporate mobile banking platform. Security challenges with sensitive corporate data was cited as the primary barrier to widespread adoption (66%), followed by obstacles for companies figuring out their BYOD policies (24%).

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  • Banks Face Losing To Google And Amazon, While Shortchanging Corporate Clients

Forbes.com

Two strong critiques of banking in the Financial Times today. Francisco Gonzalez, CEO of BBVA bank, writes that banks can expect competition from Amazon, Google and Facebook. BBVA is based in Spain but owns BBVA Compass in the U.S. Goonzalez writes that technology has transformed many businesses — next in line is banking. That may come as something of a shock to bankers who think they are on the cutting edge, but Gonzalez points to competitors in providing financial services including PayPal, Square iZettle, SumUp and Dwolla.

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  • Email Design: Discover Card’s “Statement Available” Message

Net Banker

Most statement alerts are simple one liners asking the user to do all the work: login, find the right tab, click on the correct button, and so on. Discover, on the other hand, positions key summary information right within the body of the email: statement end date, statement balance, credit available, minimum payment due, and due date. The company includes a button to view the statement at the top, but somewhat buries the payment link near the bottom. Analysis: This is one of the better (maybe best) statement-available message I get from the major brands. But it could still be improved

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Innovation: Both Homegrown and Outsourced

Let’s put it out there: The banking industry is rising to the many challenges it currently faces, and the key to that ascension is innovation. One clear indication comes from the new report Innovation in Retail Banking 2013, commissioned by IT services conglomerate Infosys and conducted by the European Financial Management & Marketing Association (EFMA), which features a raft of good news.

The study, which surveyed 148 banks in 66 countries, shows that retail institutions around the world are systematically investing in innovation specifically to boost revenue and cut costs. A remarkable 60% of the banks now actually have an innovation strategy, compared to only 37% five years ago. Among other highlights, more than half (58%) say their deployment of new systems will have a positive impact on their ability to innovate even further, 69% are making moves into mobile location-based offerings, and 61% are working on enabling customers to do some form of product personalization. And of course, 77% already have in place or are working on a mobile wallet solution.

What’s just as interesting, however, is how all this innovation is coming into the organization. For example, Denver’s FirstBank is about to become the first regional U.S. bank to launch mobile photo bill pay. But the $13 billion institution, which has  more than 115 locations in both Colorado and neighboring states, didn’t outsource the development of its technology—with 12% of its employee base working in IT, the company developed its own core banking software and 12% of its employee base of about 2,100 works in IT. FirstBank sees this as a competitive advantage, and a way to move fast in response to market demands.

On the other hand, there’s Tioga-Franklin Savings Bank, which has a 140-year history in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. The institution has long prided itself on its reputation for stability, but it has more recently recognized that there must also be change—its numerous manual processes required a major transformation in order to stay competitive. So, after a year-long search, Tioga-Franklin—the bastion of tradition—signed on with Data Center Inc. (DCI), of Hutchinson, Kansas, the force behind the iCore360 core banking software. The bank is now looking forward to significant enhancements in organizational efficiencies through workflow automation and regulatory simplification.

The big picture on change through innovation offers an even more diverse view. One interesting point: as noted in a recent column on the ABA Banking Journal, a remarkable amount of the real innovation seems to be happening in less developed markets.  Many market analyses make the same point.

For example, a broad study from consulting firm BearingPoint found that emerging economies are twice as efficient at innovating as their more developed counterparts. Similarly, PriceWaterhouse Coopers says that U.S. companies are certainly tracking with the shift in innovation strategy, but most pioneers in its study are actually not U.S. companies.

Finally, a contest launched by Accenture and EFMA to find winners of their inaugural global distribution and marketing innovation awards for retail banks handed out plaudits to entries from, among other markets, Nykredit in Denmark, Hana Bank in Korea, BRE Bank in Poland and Aktifbank in Turkey.

It’s not as if in the new world, all the rulebooks should be thrown out. In fact, we still should value industry best practices and see how they apply to us. But there’s also no question that at least some of the rules are changing, and we need to keep pace. Just think who our next great rival might be: Wal-Mart (which officially gave up the banking chase in 2007), Amazon (which clearly has many irons in the fire), Facebook (which has even more), some tiny technology startup, or someone different from all of the above.

In this competitive and rapidly evolving competitive environment, we know that innovation is both the best defense and the best offense. Where that innovation comes from, however, is a different question altogether.

What We’re Reading: Google Glass, Payments and Branches

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

  • Google’s Glass Guidelines Provide Clues to Future Bank Apps

American Banker

Banks will be prohibited from advertising on Google Glass, the wearable computing product the tech giant has just started releasing to privileged developers and early adopters. In guidelines and best practices Google released this week, the search engine company told developers it will reject apps for the device — so-called “Glassware” — that it considers an irritation to users. “Google is very clear about apps limiting distraction, not [bothering] people all the time, so this isn’t something that banks can use as a platform to coax their customers 100 times a day,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research. “But it is potentially a platform for them to deliver utility when it could be most useful.”

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  • Phablet, Superphone Shipments Expected to Reach 825 Million Units in 2018

American Banker

They may look ridiculous, but phablets and superphones — mini tablets and extra-large phones — have a bright future, according to research released today by Transparency Market Research. According to a new market report, “Phablets and Superphones Market — Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth and Forecast, 2012 — 2018,” the global phablets and superphones market is expected to reach $116.4 billion by 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 44.1% from 2012 to 2018. The number of units of the devices is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25.8% from 2012 to 2018, and reach 825 million by 2018.

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  • Critical Bank Management Skills for the 21st Century

Bank Systems & Technology

In the past, your teams needed to be able to demonstrate a detailed grasp of policy, rigor in analyzing reports, and dedication to data quality — but to tackle today’s challenges, a different form of expertise is required. The rapidly shifting economic and regulatory conditions of the 21st century, mean that market changes often outpace management skills. In the past, your teams needed to be able to demonstrate a detailed grasp of policy, rigor in analyzing reports, and dedication to data quality – but to tackle today’s challenges, a different form of expertise is required.

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  • How Apple and Amazon Will Shape Mobile Payments

Bank Systems & Technology

Apple and Amazon will continue to drive customer expectations and create big shifts in the retail world even if they don’t release a mobile payments solution. Many traditional payments players like banks have been worried for a while about the possibility of Apple entering the mobile payments space at the point of sale. Many speculated that the last iPhone release would include an NFC chip, which did not happen to the relief of those who would have to compete with Apple. Although Apple already has a bridgehead into the payments business thanks to iTunes, experts seem to think Apple will refrain from entering the mobile payments business.

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  • Small Banks Excel at Industry Specialization

Barlow Research Analyst’s Journal

Many business banking customers value financial institutions and banking relationships that cater to their specific industry’s needs. Unfortunately, not all business customers believe their bank is industry-focused. However, customers that believe their primary bank caters to their specific industry needs appear to be more confident about the financial condition of their company, as well as their industry and believe their banker is more knowledgeable about their business. Barlow Research’s Second Quarter 2013 Economic Pulse provides valuable information about business banking customers’ need for industry-focused financial institutions.

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  • The five layers of Online banking security

CIOL

It is becoming increasingly critical that financial institutions ensure their consumer and corporate banking customers are able to access their accounts with the highest reasonable security, using a process that is very straightforward and approachable. There have been significant changes in the threat landscape for online banking. In order to protect customers using Internet-based products and services, such as applications, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FIEC) and other regulators have instituted significantly more stringent requirements for financial institutions. Ensuring a compliant security program requires the execution of a good, multi-faceted authentication solution.

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  • Retailers likely to be winners in m-payments, with banks making it work, suggests leading banker

Internet Retailer

Mobile payments is currently a three way battle for consumers being fought out between retailers, banks and mobile network operators – each keen to ‘own the customer’ – but it will be retailers and banks that win, leading m-payment experts concluded at the International Payment Summit (IPS) in London last week. Mobile operators are likely to end up just as dumb pipes. Retailers, banks and operators are all looking towards mobile wallets as the key to mobile payments and this is likely how the technology will start to gain traction in mainstream retail and it is through this that mobile payments will start to be used. But who will brand the wallets and how do you make sure not every retailer, bank and brand that a consumer uses has its own wallet?

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  • What Bank Branch Closures Mean for Consumers

U.S. News

The traditional notion of banking, in which customers visit their local branch to deposit money, check their balance or take out a loan, may no longer be the reality. In the past year, American banks shuttered more than 2,000 branch locations—and news of additional closings appears on a regular basis. Banks cite rising operation costs and shifts in consumer-banking behaviors as primary causes for reducing the number of branches. For banks, these decisions are a matter of improving their bottom line, but for customers, these closings may force them to develop new habits. In one way or another, most people are likely to notice a change in how they interact with their bank.

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The New Paper Chase

It’s always interesting to examine trends taking shape at the intersection of financial services and technology, as this blog does so often. But there’s one issue that’s frequently gets overlooked and yet is still the giant elephant in the room: paper.

Yes, paper. We’re a couple of decades into the era of e-commerce, and for many of us even bills arriving via snail-mail seem like a rarity. We have a staggering array of online tools that enables us to do virtually everything financial, from anywhere at any time. What’s paper got to do with it?

The short answer is: a lot. This is particularly true of checks, as used by millions of consumers and even small and mid-sized businesses. But in many other areas too, it’s an area in which change has been surprisingly slow. On the flip side, doing away with paper will bring enormous benefits, from speedier transactions and greater savings to environmental preservation.

It’s been almost a decade since the Check 21 Act passed in late 2003, allowing financial institutions to create digital versions of original checks. Today, banks deal with each other almost entirely through electronic transfers—once the actual check has been submitted, it disappears from the process.

But tell that to the entities writing the checks in the first place. To be sure, the numbers are dropping, however slowly—there’s close to 2 billion fewer written each successive year. But at this rate, it will take until 2026 for paper checks to be eliminated altogether.

That’s the conclusion in a study published last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. According to the same report, the benefits are undeniable: getting rid of paper saves the banking industry $1.2 billion a year, while consumers and businesses keep $2 billion in benefits through faster payment processing.

Of course, few trends in technology stay at the same rate—there are frequent spikes and pullbacks, and unexpected accelerations that blow away all estimates. No one expected tablet adoption to grow at such a staggering pace, but it has. It took almost 10 years for smartphones to reach 40 million users (which admittedly meant replacing older models), while that number was crossed only two years after the emergence of the Apple iPad.

Just this week, Juniper Research estimated that tablet buying will lead to 200 million users of “transactional tablet banking services” by 2017. By that time, one in four tablet users will be paying their bills via those devices. There are other signs too—let’s not forget that Amazon used to accept checks, but discontinued the practice in 2008.

There’s now a broad variety of services designed in part to wean users off the habit of writing checks. For example, most banks now offer the ability to capture a check image via smartphone and make an instant deposit. And any number of other providers, from thriving vendors like Square to newer entrants like Zipmark—which styles itself as the digital checkbook—make it easy to avail of the new capabilities.

The changes will have tremendous ramifications: Intuit, which now has close to 30 million customers for its payments services and processes $38 billion a year in payments, estimates that it could increase its payments business by $4 billion by getting QuickBooks software customers, mostly small businesses, to use the payments service.

At this point, the use of paper seems almost a throwback to an earlier time, but the numbers clearly belie the perception. Getting rid of it from the world of finance would likely do a world of good. And given the justified concerns over rainforests and a rapidly declining ecosystem, it would actually do the world good too.

Platform Shift in the Making

What does the banking industry as a whole have to do with Amazon, Microsoft and Apple? Just about nothing—and down the road, it may turn into a major problem (if it isn’t already).

Consider the many stories emerging from the realm of technology that have to do with financial services. Just last week, Amazon unveiled Amazon Coins, billed as “a new currency for Kindle Fire.” To launch the program, the company will dole out coins to customers (each coin is worth a cent), giving them essentially free access to apps and other services available on Kindle. The company can afford the generosity; late last year, it raised $3 billion through its first bond offering in a long time. Giving customers some free money is a great way to raise goodwill and popularize a new program that represents a new channel for transactions. For their part, app developers get another source of monetization.

See which industry is missing from this process?

Actually, the new “currency” is just the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft to seed new apps on their respective platforms: Android, iOS and whatever mobile iteration of Windows happens to be in vogue. It’s not really about new software; it’s about creating mobile and other technologies that become increasingly embedded in the daily lives of consumers and business professionals everywhere. More apps, more users, more transactions, more money—that’s how it works. And at the core of this financially intense ecosystem will be. . .the technology platform companies.

In other words, it won’t be the banks.

The way these conglomerates (and it’s appropriate in this context to see Amazon as a technology provider) are driving app development is itself noteworthy. Each company is using a different model for the platform war, raising comparisons to everything from currency manipulation in China to ‘quantitative easing.’

For the record, it looks as if Apple still has a major advantage, thanks in part to being first to market with a smartphone and tablet. But few leads in the technology industry last very long. Kindle still has significant mindshare through its e-reader fan base, Google has racked up major partnerships for Android, and counting out Microsoft is often a mistake. (The company, which has at least as much in assets as Amazon, has been subsidizing developers to the tune of up to $600,000 per app for the Windows Phone, and the just-released Microsoft Surface Pro will likely have even more support, along with the massive user base for Windows PCs.)

We may also see more platforms emerge and find an audience. Facebook, which has already stirred interest with Facebook Credits, could yet become a financial services platform of its own, enabling consumers to pay bills and transfer funds when they go online to post a comment about a movie.

It’s not quite fair to suggest that banks are already irrelevant, but they may be in danger of getting to that point. The financial services industry has long been seen as the enabler for all other forms of commerce, which automatically brought with it a significant level of power. Is that power corroding?

If the role of enabler moves from banking institutions to technology platforms and the companies that own them, and the center of gravity shifts from Wall Street to Silicon Valley—a status some already crave—will that be a good thing?

We’ve commented earlier in this space how the two industries are dramatically different in their operating philosophies. New technologies considered “disruptive” win praise, while new releases from financial services providers that play the same role create instability and roil the markets. There are always new technology companies climbing into the upper echelons of the industry, while the top tier in banking seldom changes except through consolidation.

It’s not as if banks can’t handle technology—they have huge IT departments to run daily operations and regularly release custom apps designed to draw new business and ease customer engagement. But it may be time to go further.

Could banks do what Amazon did and release their own hardware? Should they partner with Apple, Google or Microsoft to gain more control at the platform level? Is it feasible to compete with those companies on their own turf and develop a banking-centric platform?

We don’t have the answers to any of this yet, but we may need some soon.

 

The World’s Most Innovative Companies: Where Are the Financial Institutions?

Forbes recently released its list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, aiming to answer the question, “Which leading-edge corporations are most likely to succeed now and in the future?”

The list, which is based on an eight-year study, used a unique methodology to calculate the companies that made the final cut. Rather than ask executives to vote on which companies should appear, factors such as financial performance, investors’ bids on stock prices and expectations of future results (new products, services, markets) determined the companies on the list.

Tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Oracle, Intuit and Salesforce were on the list, as well as consumer facing companies Starbucks, PepsiCo and Hershey.  One sector without a large presence on this list: financial institutions. You can view the complete list here.

As the Banking.com staff read through the list, we wondered, why aren’t there more financial institutions on this list? What are your thoughts? Leave us a message in the comments section below.