The Best Global Banking Innovations in 2019

Innovation has become the foundation for digital transformation at financial institutions globally. Now more than ever, banks and credit unions are increasing the pace of innovation and generating measurable results. Here is a summary of the best-of-the-best recognized by Efma and Accenture's innovation awards program.

For the past seven years, Efma (an association of 3,300 financial institutions in 130 countries) in association with Accenture has reviewed hundreds of applications from organizations globally to select the best retail banking innovations in the world. Each year, the innovations have grown more ambitious, and the winners keep setting themselves further apart from the rest of the industry with their vision, implementation and, most significantly, measurable results.

In 2019, the competition attracted more than 600 innovations from 235 institutions in 70 countries. These innovations were submitted through the Customer Insight and Growth Banking Innovation portal that showcases hundreds of innovations that have been submitted through the years.

Since the first year of the event, over 3,000 innovations from 734 institutions in 97 countries have been reviewed. While the specific innovations recognized have differed over the years, a surprisingly few organizations and geographic regions continue to excel. Since 2013, the five institutions that have won the most awards have been mBank (Poland), Intesa Sanpaolo (Italy), Deniz Bank (Turkey), Idea Bank (Poland) and CaixaBank (Spain).

The Banking Innovation Awards aim to identify and award the most innovative projects in the retail banking sector at a global level. A panel of judges creates a shortlist for the seven categories (excluding the Global Innovator award), with voting based on the following criteria:

  • Originality: The uniqueness of the idea in the marketplace and the potential for the nominee to be a “game changer.”
  • Impact: The innovation’s capacity to generate a superior, long-term competitive edge and significant return on investment.
  • Universality: The innovation’s adaptability across markets and countries.

The Global Innovator category was evaluated by banking executives and innovation specialists, determining which organization had the most impressive body of work.

Innovations in seven categories were recognized, as well as the Global Innovator of the Year. The categories in 2019 were:

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

(Read More: The Best Global Innovations in Banking for 2018)

“The future of banking is in the platform economy and these awards showcase banks and their journey to transforming their business models, with retail banks rising to the challenge of competition from non-traditional providers,” stated Piercarlo Gera, Global Managing Director for Financial Services Distribution & Marketing Services at Accenture. “The geographic range of this year’s winners indicates that innovation knows no boundaries, as competition intensifies across all markets.”

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

Using Analytics and Advanced Intelligence – CaixaBank

In a context of permanent change and aware of the evolution of the mobile channel as a point of dialogue between company and customer, Neo was born – the artificial intelligence chatbot from CaixaBank.

In February 2018, Neo was launched, with work done in 2019 to improve this cognitive system through in-depth training and evaluating the points to be improved. Within the CaixaBank app, the chatbot is a personal Customer Service assistant (24/7) able to accompany customers throughout the contracting, operational and resolution processes. The chatbot can communicate in English, Spanish and Catalan. Furthermore, the technology developed allows the bank to adapt to the different language requirements without needing to develop any new technology.

The app is used for consultations as well as for managing operations (balance inquiries, expenses per month, etc.) and for expanding the portfolio of messages with the aim of improving the assistant’s sales capacity. The goal is to expand these types of messages based on the client’s browsing experience and the type of queries made.

Neo consists of a cognitive system of more than 60,000 inputs with the aim of covering all types of conversations. This allows CaixaBank to offer customers a tool based on natural language that encompasses all the company’s products and services.

Some quantitative results:

  • 3,500,000+ customers have been made aware of the service
  • 2,500,000+ customers have chatted with Neo
  • 23,000,000+ conversations have taken place
  • 20% reduction in calls to the contact center
  • 85% correct answers without further engagement required

Silver went to Akbank (Turkey) and bronze to Isbank (Turkey).

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Digital Marketing and Communications – Bradesco

Bradesco Bank, headquartered in Brazil, wanted to reinforce its role as a bank that includes and values everyone, regardless of color, race, creed or gender. The bank decided to show its commitment to diversity and inclusion during the most important time of the year – Christmas.

The highly emotional Firefly campaign addressed social inclusion and also the concept of overcoming daily challenges. The story is about a firefly that leaves the countryside and pursues its dream in the city, enchanted by the lights and sparkle. The firefly ended up being overshadowed by a cold, hard and unwelcoming world, similar to what minorities face regularly.

In addition to representing a mix of ethnicities, genders, social classes, and disabilities, the film illustrated that anyone can conquer their space. It also showed that together, without discrimination, interior light can make a difference in the world. In a surprise move (certainly by a traditional bank), Gloria Groove, a famous drag queen artist, recorded the Christina Aguilera soundtrack, “Beautiful.”

The film was shown during prime time on the biggest TV broadcaster in the country and on YouTube. The Firefly campaign was also integrated with other media, with the video becoming the most viewed commercial in YouTube Brazil history (Cannes Lions campaign overview).

Silver went to CaixaBank (Spain) and bronze to Frankfurter Sparkasse (Germany).

New Product Innovation – KEB Hana Bank

Global Loyalty Network (GLN) from KEB Hana Bank in South Korea is a global payment hub where each country’s financial institutions or payment service companies share merchants network, user bases, and loyalty programs. Financial institutions participate in the network to enable their users to make payments, remittance, and ATM withdrawal overseas with their e-wallets without installing a separate app.

The concept recognized that local payment companies have the appropriate knowledge of their local market and regulations to provide services with the most localized benefits. By sharing their infrastructure to create a more globalized platform, all members of the network would benefit.

To develop such a platform, KEB Hana Bank formed a business development organization with a UI/UX team that collaborated with IT and compliance departments. GLN has established a consortium with 25 companies from 9 countries since 2017, and it’s under discussion with 53 companies including 14 global financial institutions.

Silver went to KBC (Belgium) and bronze to BMO Bank of Montreal (Canada).

Neobank and Specialized Player – Bradesco

Illimity Bank from Italy is a new institution, specializing in three relevant and underserved markets in the Italian marketplace – SMEs, Corporate NPL and Direct Banking. The neobank relies on strong information technology providing new levels of quality, service and efficiency – without losing the human connection. Its innovative business model makes it possible to deliver a best-in-class value proposition to its customers, through open banking-powered products such as loans, insurance, foreign exchange and mortgages.

The bank’s competitive advantage is:

  • Zero legacy bank (no IT legacy systems, business model fitting this purpose)
  • Fully Digital (no physical channels)
  • Human Touch (skilled SMEs tutors and Smart Customer care to effectively serve direct banking customers)
  • Lean&Fast (flat agile organization with delivery and time-to-market of a real start-up)
  • Cost Effective

In 6 months, Illimity evolved from being a concept, to raising 600m € capital (being the most successful European SPAC — special purpose acquisition company — in 2018), to being a fully operational bank listed on the MTA, part of the Italian stock market.

Silver went to Santander (Spain) and bronze to Discovery (South Africa).

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