The Best Global Innovations in Banking for 2018

While innovation has become a primary emphasis of many financial institutions, a select few continue to excel at creating market-leading innovations that can disrupt an entire industry. Here is a summary of the best-of-the-best recognized by Efma and Accenture's innovation awards program.

Every year, there are two innovation award ceremonies that recognize the best-of-the-best in financial services innovation in an array of categories. Both Efma (an association of 3,300 financial institutions in 130 countries) and the Bank Administration Institute (BAI) review hundreds of applications from organizations worldwide and ask members and judging panels to determine which new innovations stand out from the rest.


While the specific innovations recognized often differ between these competitions, surprisingly a few organizations and geographic regions seem to excel each year. For instance, the top five organizations that have been recognized by Efma over the past six years have been Intesa Sanpaolo, Banco Bradesco, CaixaBank, Deniz Bank and TEB.

The Efma–Accenture Banking Innovation awards program aims to identify and award the most innovative projects in the retail banking sector at a global level. The goal of this program, now in it’s sixth year, is to identify and share worldwide best practices in the retail banking distribution and marketing arena.

Innovations in ten categories are recognized, including two overarching awards for Global Innovator of the Year. The categories in 2018 were:

  • Best Use of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence
  • “Phygital” Distribution and Experience
  • Digital Marketing and Communication
  • Neobank and Specialized Player Innovations
  • New Product Offering Innovation
  • Social, Sustainable and Responsible Banking
  • Workforce Experience
  • Global Innovator of the Year (both Challenger and Established players)

(Read More: Innovation Driving More Consumers to Switch Banks Now)


A total of 185 financial institutions from 59 countries submitted 433 innovations for the 8 award categories in 2018. The three criteria used for evaluation included: Originality — uniqueness of the strategy; Impact — strategic capacity to generate long-term competitive edge and return on investment; and Universality — adaptability for use in other markets and countries.

“It’s been another strong year for innovation in the industry, so we’re excited to recognize the best innovations in the banking industry,” stated Piercarlo Gera, Global Managing Director for Financial Services Distribution & Marketing Services at Accenture. According to Ambrogio Terrizzano, Accenture Interactive Financial Services Lead, “The boldest common ground we saw this year among innovation efforts was the focus on creating human experiences.”

According to Accenture, the keys to building a human experience include:

  • Setting a human purpose: Solve bigger and deeper needs of a customer, with the aim of then shaping the product or channel experience accordingly.
  • Alignment of front line: Make sure your customer contact employees “live the brand” of being human-focused.
  • A singular experience: Create consistency in terms of the tone of interactions you offer to  customers across all touchpoints.
  • Giving back to people: Reward valuable interactions with tangible and emotional benefits that customers value the most (beyond points).
  • Engage beyond traditional boundaries: Develop solutions that are available where the customer lives, works and interacts without regard to market footprints.
  • Sharing the customer dream: More than just providing financial services, deliver solutions that help the customer achieve non-banking goals.
  • Nurture a fan base: Become so obsessed with a better customer experience that customers become fans.

I was fortunate enough to be the co-master of ceremonies for the second year in a row this year, where bronze, silver and gold awards were presented. The award presentation was broadcast live globally. Below are the gold level award winners from the competition.

Using Analytics and Advanced Intelligence to Help Small Businesses

Plink from Bancolombia is the gold award winning analytics and advanced intelligence solution that brings together merchants and consumers, providing value to both based on the vast amount and richness of data Bancolombia has on Colombian consumers and retail businesses, and their analytics and AI capabilities.

For merchants, Plink provides access to a wealth of information on the health of their business, how their sales are evolving, how they compare with their competitors, who their customers are (demographics, income, profession, etc.), where they live (through heat maps of their customers locations), purchasing habits, etc. This helps merchants make the best decisions on their business.

Plink even includes a platform where offers can be uploaded for targeted delivery. Bancolombia sends the right offers to the relevant customers only, via the Plink app. The monetization of this innovative service comes from merchants. While there is a free model, with a basic tier of reports, more advanced reports and capabilities are available for a fee.

The key benefits of Plink are :

  1. Merchants. Availability of data and insights to improve their businesses on a daily basis, bringing a powerful differentiation for Bancolombia.
  2. Consumer. Plink provides an intelligent platform that delivers relevant and timely offers, with data captured and analyzed by Bancolombia. Plink also helps drive adoption of digital payment alternatives.
  3. Bancolumbia. Plink represents the first platform business for the bank, generating an alternative source of revenue, positively impacting non-interest income.

Total implementation time was 12 months, from the original idea, through validations, business case approvals and building the scalable platform and launch.

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Expanding Payment Functionality With Biometrics

Winning a gold award for ‘phygital’ delivery, PeoPay is a mobile banking application provided by Bank Pakao S.A., representing the first application in Poland to take advantage of biometrics in transaction confirmations. It allows customers to pay abroad in foreign currencies and enables online shopping to be paid for directly from the phone. It also enables payments in all contactless terminals in Poland and abroad.

The bank took advantage of a hybrid model — combining the PeoPay application functions (using telephone native functions) and the m.pekao24.pl mobile service. The result is an application which contains all important functions of Pekao24 electronic banking and the older PeoPay payment application, preserving ergonomics and responsiveness to customer needs at the same time.

The growing number of customers traveling abroad was an impulse to introduce a unique solution enabling convenient phone payments from currency accounts without additional currency conversions. Some of the more unique features include:

  • Approving transfers and withdrawals from ATMs up to a specified limit with a fingerprint.
  • Paying by phone abroad directly in the local currency. The customer uses the phone at the terminal (as a card), and the application recognizes the currency of the transaction and collects money from the foreign currency account.
  • Paying for internet shopping by the phone without logging into online banking. The customer chooses “I pay with Pekao Bank” on the website of the store opened on the phone, then selects “Pay with PeoPay.” The application opens automatically and asks the customer to approve payments.
  • The ability to scan the invoice number from a card, invoice or e-mail instead of rewriting. The transfer form with the completed invoice number is automatically opened.

Using Social Influencers to Connect with Millennials

One of the more unique gold winners was Brazil’s Banco Bradesco in the digital marketing and communication category. As a sponsor of the 2018 Brazilian edition of Lollapalooza, one of the world’s largest music festivals, Bradesco developed a four-phase strategy: promotion, pre-event, event and post event.

The main objective of the multichannel initiative was to allow the public to know about and interact with the festival either in person or virtually. Bradesco enlisted the help of social influencers, including YouTubers, photographers, artists, music specialists, and professional Twitter communicators who co-created content during the entire campaign.

In pre-event phases, posts focused on the activation of the bank’s customers and non-customers, who could apply for tickets, and provided guides on how to enjoy the festival in the best way. During the three days of Lollapalooza, social content covered, in real time, everything that happened on the stages including posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In the post-event phase, festival creators and the Bradesco team shared — by means of music, videos and pictures — all the highlights of the event. During the communication period, over 53 million users were reached on Facebook and Instagram, 30 million on YouTube, with 655 million impressions, 102 million views, and 3 million clicks. The hashtag #todosnolollaBR was used over 29,000 times.

The sponsorship and associated communication served to link the music universe to the Bradesco brand, in addition to democratizing the access to anything that was happening at the event.

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