Welcome to the inaugural Future Banking Awards, which honour the most forward-thinking and technologically savvy players across the banking industry. In this issue, we announce the winners in categories that illustrate 2013’s key financial sector trends and strategies, and underscore how competition and innovation are growing in equal measure throughout the fast-paced arena of global finance.
Best banking innovation
Winner: Virgin Money
New challenger banks are putting established names under pressure and Virgin Money is a leading player in terms of consolidating the current-account market and highlighting the need for a fairer, more trustworthy banking experience.
Founded in 1995 as Virgin Direct, it launched its first deposit account in 1998 and became Virgin Money two years later with a firm dedication to transparency and the creation of truly compelling banking services.
As competition has increased from non-traditional sources, Virgin Money has challenges ahead, but is in a strong position to excel beyond its rivals by sticking to its fundamental principles, whether that's offering more effective products in a relaxed atmosphere or empowering youth through financial literacy. Offering more responsive alternatives to consumer preferences is key as customer knowledge and demand grow in equal measure.
Top customer experience initiative
DNB is Norway's largest financial services group and one of the Nordic region's biggest in terms of market capitalisation. It was one of the first banks in Norway to pilot mobile payments solutions and is ramping up its ability to harness the digital revolution through an enhanced understanding of customer behaviour, coupled with a more targeted and tailored customer service; its Facebook page, for instance, has over 220,000 'likes' - which is about one in every 19 Norwegian Facebook users - and it is launching advertising via YouTube to stand out.
By creating around-the-clock customer service departments, DNB is able to collect and evaluate valuable feedback, and turn this into a more streamlined face-to-face or digital experience for customers and a better-equipped organisation overall.
Leading technological innovator
Winner: Standard Chartered
Standard Chartered is leading the way in the banking industry by using pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) technology as a means to create a completely new customer experience with a focus on speed, accuracy, convenience and security. The adoption of natural language processing as a way to interact with services, such as Siri or Google Voice, has had massive uptake as well. So - as opposed to traditional methods of customer interaction - something unified, instant, intelligent and near-human that can sit on every channel is starting to emerge.
Knowing what customers want in terms of basic transactional conveniences is fundamental to adding new and useful experiences that go beyond the traditional domains of banking, and evolving AI is a key component of that push forward in terms of investing resources to make it as 'smart' as possible.
Most impressive GRC strategy
Winner: Saxo Bank
Since it was founded in 1992, Saxo Bank has grown to manage more than kr35 billion ($6.35 billion) in client funds. But, with the influx of big data, understanding of more complex risks and adherence to increased regulations come immense challenges in effectively targeting services. To overcome these hurdles, its IT function, with a dedicated governance, risk and compliance (GRC) arm, goes deep into data to isolate certain subsets, and mine insight that feeds into the bank's product development efforts in order to better understand client needs.
Horizontal and vertical approaches are essential to data management, as demonstrated by www.tradingfloor.com, Saxo Bank's online platform, which has been designed to bring trading communities together in a similar vein to social networking sites. Also, with investment in its compliance infrastructure, Saxo Bank's trading model and IT system infrastructure reflect the simplicity of having one solution that encompasses all activities, asset classes and products on a common platform on the same technology.
Best in-branch experience
Winner: Air Bank, Czech Republic
PPF Group, one of the largest finance and investment groups in Central and Eastern Europe, has designed a unique bank store concept in the Central European retail market that effectively simplifies the complex nature of banking. Blending peer-to-peer and digital environments, and using technology as a key component, Air Bank has created a seamless integration to which customers are responding.
Today's more discerning banking consumers seek out branches that offer experiences, rather than those that just sell products. Because of its transparency and ease of understanding, Air Bank is engaged in a new journey to offer a more integrated destination for retail banking based on the ancient Greek design idea of Agora, a 'place of assembly'. This concept of a gathering place is translated into the Air Bank branch, fostering an environment that feels simultaneously free and reassuring.