Last month, RFi Group hosted the second annual Global Digital Banking Conference in Toronto. Part of a global series, this conference looked at all things to do with digital banking from a consumer perspective, from the impact of open banking, to the threat of Bigtech, to the role of banks in fostering financial literacy. The day was a fantastic success, and I would like to share with you what were, in my humble opinion, some of the key highlights of the day.
Following a brief intro from our indelible Group Media Director, Chloé James, our first presenter of the day was RFi Group’s Managing Director of North and Latin America, Cyrielle Chiron. While there has been a lot of noise in the media and from other sources surrounding the rise of digital and the impact of changes like PSD2, Cyri shared insights from several of our most recent studies and aimed to cut through this noise, to show what customers were really thinking. One thing was clear - while digital engagement is increasing globally, consumers are increasingly warming up to the idea of tech companies entering the financial space, and traditional players need to compete on innovation or else risk losing the customer of tomorrow.
After Cyri’s presentation, we moved on to our international keynote - Rafael Fragoso, Head of Mobile Banking, Banorte Bank. Travelling to Toronto for the very first time, Rafael gave us a riveting view of Banorte’s meteoric trajectory as it grew from a regional bank into the second largest national bank in Mexico. While the growth of digital channel usage by their customers was undoubtedly impressive, of particular interest to me from this session was hearing about Banorte’s partnership with Amazon, which has yielded significant results - 55,000 users since its launch 6 months ago, of which just 5% were existing customers! With results like these, I’m sure many in the room were paying just as much attention as I was.
Next up, we heard from Jordan Wimmer, CEO and Founder of Thrive Savings. Jordan spoke to us about the challenge of promoting financial wellness among millennials, and the success of micro-savings in helping young Canadians escape the debt cycle. While it was concerning to hear about the financial situations of many young Canadians, with 78% living paycheque-to-paycheque, the success of Thrive just highlights the role that digital can play in improving the lives and financial wellbeing of those who need it most.
We then had the pleasure of hearing from Todd Copeland, SVP, Head of Digital Channels at TD. As well as a true-blue Australian accent (he was the Head of Digital at one of Australia’s major’s, National Australia Bank for many years before his move to the Great White North), Todd delivered great insight into the ambition of TD to improve the lives of everyday Canadians through financial innovation. It was great to hear about some of the many fintech partnerships that TD is currently using to improve its digital platforms, and one that is on the horizon. One quote of Todd’s stuck with me - “Fintechs don’t create competition - they create competitive opportunity”. TD really exemplifies this point, and it will be interesting to see where they go next.
Following the first break of the day, we were treated to a session from Namir Anani, President & CEO of Information and Communications Technology Council. Namir shared with us the potential that Open Banking presented for Canada, and how different API business models would affect the types of services that could be delivered. According to Namir, the biggest challenge facing the entire financial services sector in the future will be talent (or the lack thereof) - Banks and Fintechs are now competing with the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon to attract and retain the best technology talent, and whoever can do the best of engaging with the software engineers and developers of the future will be best placed to reap the rewards that Open Banking offers.
Next up was Dan Eberhard, CEO of Koho. This isn’t the first time that Dan has spoken at an RFi Group event, and he is a hit every single time - this was no exception. We heard about the roles that banks have traditionally served in our communities, and how new technology companies and alternative providers are now stepping in to compete in those individual roles rather than competing against the bank as a whole. He raised a great point that I hadn’t thought of previously regarding the role of trust in networks - 10 years ago, could you imagine staying in the house of a stranger, or jumping into the car of a complete stranger? Well, clearly, AirBNB and Uber have now created trusted networks that make this a daily occurrence. We have already seen this happen in the financial space in China through platforms like WeChat, and there are definitely lessons that can be learned by Canadian FIs.
We then moved on to our first panel of the day, where Dan and Rafael were joined by Sue Britton, CEO and Founder of FinTech Growth Syndicate, as well as Allison Tse, Director - Digital Strategy at CIBC. The panel was expertly moderated by Wei Ke, Managing Partner for New York and Canada at Simon Kucher and Partners, and delved further into the opportunities and challenges presented by Open Banking. This session really drove home the role of data in the banking relationship, and how it can help overcome many of the pain points and challenges faced by consumers in Canada today. The consensus on the panel seemed to be that the future in Canada would be market driven, rather than driven by regulation similar to PSD2 in Europe.
Following lunch, our second panel was, in my completely unbiased opinion, easily the highlight of the day. Moderated by yours truly, with Dan Dickinson, Chief Digital Officer of EQ Bank, Shawn Rose, Chief Digital Officer of Scotiabank, and Peter Maoloni, AVP, Online Products and Platforms - eTransfer from Interac, we discussed who the winners are in digital banking. There was laughter, there were tears, and important lessons were learned by all. I particularly enjoyed hearing Dan and Shawn comment on the roles that the branch and ATM networks will play in a digital future, as well as all of the panellists sharing their thoughts on the threat of BigTech on the banking and payments landscape in Canada.
Our third panel offered a refreshingly different perspective, looking at how digital is being leveraged by Canadian Credit Unions, and some of the unique challenges faced in this sector. For some credit unions, the role of digital actually means becoming the internet provider for their remote communities - in many instances, the question becomes how do you leverage digital to improve the customer experience when customers may be without internet access altogether? This is a perspective that can sometimes be lacking from the conversations around banking and digital in Canada, and it was great to hear it on the day.
Following the panel, we heard from Jonathan Bant, VP Canada, Nomis Solutions. Jonathan led us through the in’s and out’s of client-centric pricing, and the key role it play in ensuring that the right combination of products is sold to the right customer at the right price. He posed the key question that customer-centric pricing really revolves around - How do you treat the customer holistically? Determining the right price and ensuring that bundles of products are matched to the unique needs of the customer, are some of the keys to ensuring a strong and profitable relationship.
The next session was led by our valued partner Yesh Subraniam, SVP, Mphasis Digital. Yesh spoke to us about the role of cognitive computing in facilitating a great digital experience for customers, but it was his demonstration that really stole the stage - a robot by the name of Edison, who greeted the audience. Edison was backed by some seriously impressive technology under the hood, and our attendees were able to view him as well as some AR applications at the emphasis booth just outside the conference hall. Robots aside, Yesh’s session was incredibly interesting, and painted a bright future for the future of digital customer interactions with the financial institutions.
Our final panel was led by Brad Carr, Senior Director at the Institute of International Finance based in Washington DC, and looked at how FIs can provide value instead of utility. Brad was joined by Jason Daly, VP Product and Strategy at Manulife, Michelle Joliat, Managing Director and Head, Wealth Digitization, Robotics and Process Transformation at BMO, as well as Todd Copeland who again graced the stage with his incredible Aussie accent (and wonderful insights!). This session really drilled down into the role that automation and analytics would play in delivering customer value, and how these tools could be leveraged to provide customers with an ultra-personalized experience. It was particularly interesting hearing about the challenges that these developments faced in larger FIs, whose DNA may not be entirely conducive to rapid innovation and implementation. As Todd noted, intelligence is important; but you need to be able to action it quickly, and at scale, in order to be truly successful.
Our final session was presented by Miro Pavletic, CEO of Stack. Miro shared with us some truly impressive statistics regarding the success of Stack, but it was his commentary on the wider state of digital and the challenges the industry will face in the not-too-distant future that truly stuck with me. In particular, the challenge of attracting and retaining talent when you’re competing with companies like Amazon and Google, as well as competitors in your own industry. In an industry so tightly regulated and with so many restrictions, banks are already at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting exciting tech talent, which is what will be required to build the successful apps and platforms of the future.
And with that, the day was over. I am truly thankful for all of our speakers for sharing their incredible insights and would like to also take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, as well as the whole RFi Group team for helping to make the day such a massive success. I have only been able to show you the tip of the iceberg in regards to the wealth of information that was shared, but I hope you have found it informative and have a feel for just how special this event was.
Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you all next year!