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: Cybersecurity, Tablets in CUs and Consumer Spending

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.

 

  • Cybersecurity Should Not Come at Expense of Privacy: White House

American Banker

The White House says the nation needs new laws to reinforce its cyber defenses but that the push should not come at the cost of privacy. The House of Representatives on April 18 passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, which would encourage owners of financial networks, utility grids and other critical infrastructure to share information about digital threats with the government and one another. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, saying it lacks sufficient privacy protections. Civil liberties groups and other critics of the measure charge that it would allow companies to share people’s emails and text messages with U.S. intelligence agencies.

Read more

  • Small Business Owners Big on Mobile Technology

American Banker

A survey of 1,305 small business owners conducted by Constant Contact in March found that 66% currently use a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet in their work. Of the non-mobile users, 65% have no plans to use a mobile device in the future, many citing a lack of demand for mobile access from their customers. This segment is partial to Apple devices, according to the survey — 66% use iPhones, while 39% use Android phones. About 49% use iPads; only 15% use Android tablets.

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  • Keep Wal-Mart Out of Financial Services, Bankers Ask

BusinessWeek

A group of bankers advising the Federal Reserve urged U.S. regulators to consider preventing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from offering some financial services. The Federal Advisory Council, a body of bankers that includes PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and BB&T Corp., said at a Dec. 19 meeting that Wal-Mart’s sales of prepaid cards warranted greater federal oversight. Minutes of the meeting were obtained yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act.

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  • Consumers spending nearly 10% more than in 2009

CNN Money

American consumers are spending nearly 10% more than they did four years ago when the country was reeling from the effects of the financial crisis, according to an analysis of the spending behaviors of millions of Mint.com account holders. In the first quarter of 2013, the average household spent roughly $4,220 per month — up from about $3,870 in the same period of 2009, according to the inflation-adjusted consumer spending index released Wednesday by Intuit, which owns personal finance site Mint.com.

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  • Why CUs Can’t Afford To Be Left Behind On Tablets

Credit Union Journal

It’s estimated that nearly half of the U.S. Internet population will be using tablets by 2014, which means increasing pressure on credit unions to adapt and conform to the trend. “The proliferation of tablet devices in the U.S alone is impacting everyone who manages their finances via a digital channel, including credit union members,” said Kenneth Hans, executive director of Blackstone Technology Group’s Financial Services Practice. “Much like banks, credit unions are looking for ways to cater to this latest form-factor that offers the power of a laptop in a much smaller and convenient size.” Among credit unions encouraging members to use tablets is the $5.3-billion Suncoast Schools FCU, which has 549,303 members that it has traditionally served via its 53 branches, but mobile devices such as tablets have changed that equation somewhat.

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  • Credit Cards – Game ON!

Gonzo Banker

Credit cards in circulation hit a peak in 2007 at 710 million cards, according to a 2013 Nilson Report. Then the crash of 2008 hit, the Card Act went into play in 2009, and consumer spending changed. From the low point in 2010, the number of cards increased by roughly 50 million in 2011 and continues to climb today, when we have 520 million cards in circulation. Credit card interchange has not been Durbin-damaged as of yet, and interchange is still high. In the United States, 10 issuers own 85.4% of the cards on the market (Source: The Nilson Report, February 2013).

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  • New Fed Report: U.S Mobile Payments Landscape – Two Years Later

Payments News

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has just published a new report titled “U.S. Mobile Payments Landscape – Two Years Later.” Based upon ongoing meetings of the Mobile Payments Industry Workgroup (MPIW) convened by the Federal Reserve, the report updates an earlier paper from 2011. It examines changes in the evolution of mobile POS retail payments over the past two years, characterized by an expanding fragmented market environment and frequent technology innovations.

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Are Office Depot, Google and Wal-Mart Disrupting Small Business Lending?

In recent weeks Office Depot and Google announced credit programs aimed at small businesses. Office Depot is partnering with Superior Financial Group, a non-bank SBA lending company, to offer small business loans up to $25,000.

Google is offering small businesses a credit card that can only be used to pay for AdWords, Google’s keyword advertising program. Google’s credit card offers a very competitive interest rate and no annual fees.

These companies join another corporate giant – Wal-Mart – in providing credit services to small businesses. Wal-Mart, also in partnership with Superior Financial Group, started offering small business loans last year.

These firms illustrate a broader trend of nontraditional competitors targeting the financial services industry. These new competitors include some the world’s largest corporations and best-funded, venture-backed startups. They are hoping to use disruptive innovation based on both new technology and the shift to online banking to attract customers and gain share in the financial services industry.

Disruptive innovation is a term coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. It describes a process by which a product or service creates a new market or reshapes an existing market by delivering simple, low-cost innovations to a set of customers who are ignored or underserved by industry leaders.

Industry leaders ignore these customers because they aren’t viewed as important enough, or profitable enough, to pursue. After a disruptive competitor establishes themselves with this group, these firms often move up-market, eventually challenging traditional competitors for their best and most profitable customers.

The classic example of disruptive innovation is Southwest Airlines. Southwest initially targeted price sensitive vacation travelers, a segment considered unattractive by the airline industry. Ignored by larger rivals, Southwest moved up-market and over time firmly established itself with business travelers, the airline industry’s most coveted customers.

We think something similar may be happening in the small business credit space.

The customers targeted by Wal-Mart, Office Depot, Google and others are very small businesses, most with less than $1 million in revenue -  a segment seen as unattractive by many financial institutions. But by ignoring this segment, financial institutions are providing an entry point for new competitors who may leverage this beachhead to become significant players in the financial services industry.

 

About Steve King:  Steve is a Partner at Emergent Research. His current research and consulting is focused on economic decentralization, the growth of small business and the future of work and workplaces. Steve has extensive consulting, marketing and general management experience with both large and small companies.  Steve is a senior fellow and board member at the Society For New Communications Research, a research affiliate at the Future of Work and an advisory board member at Pond Ventures.

About Carolyn Ockels:  Carolyn is the Managing Partner at Emergent Research.  Her current research and consulting is focused on economic decentralization, the growth of small business and Gen Y.  Carolyn has extensive consulting experience, and prior to Emergent Research managed Cambridge Energy Research’s Asian energy consulting business, led market research in Japan for RCM Capital Managment, and held a variety of domestic and international consulting positions with the economic forecasting and planning consulting firm Data Resources, Inc.