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Atos and FINDER to host online event week on digital innovation in financial services (15th until 18th of March)

Atos and the FINDER team are hosting an online event week on Inclusive Digital Innovation in Financial Services & Insurance from the 15th until the 18th of March, everyday at 16:00 CET (Thursday already at 15:00 CET). To see the agenda and register for the event go to https://digitalevents.atos.net/Digital-Innovation-in-FSI/home

The event consists of five sessions with presentations by world-leading speakers:

  • GAIA-X: The future of the European datacloud (Hubert Tardieu, Chairman of the Board of GAIX-X)
  • How to de-risk corporate-startup innovations, while improving speed and cost? (Josemaria Siota, Executive Director of IESE Business School’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center)
  • Ecoystem dominance (Ivo Luijendijk, Group Industry Director at Atos and S. James Ellis, FINDER PhD candidate)
  • Retail Banking transforms into Life-fulfilment services (Eddy Claessens, Group Industry Director at Atos and Jonas Röttger, FINDER PhD candidate)
  • Enabling next generation customer insights & interactions in insurance through explainable AI (Jérémie Abiteboul, Chief Technology Advisor at DreamQuark)

About the event

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for digital adoption across various aspects of our private and professional life. In the financial services and insurance industry, processes are increasingly tackled by leveraging data, machine-learning, and Fintechs/InsurTechs. Atos has joined forces with practitioners, academics, and policy-makers to discuss how to yield benefits from these developments by re-positioning banks in the ecosystem, using Artificial Intelligence in insurance, mitigating risks in new venture collaborations and exploring the opportunities of the European GAIA-X project. This event week is part of Atos and Radboud University’s joint initiative FINDER (https://thefinderproject.eu/), funded by the European Commission. Five independent sessions will allow you to listen to expert presentations and discuss with the presenters and your peers your thoughts, ideas and questions. Please see below for our world-leading speakers.

M&A announcements: How much confidence to convey if you are considered overconfident?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

CEOs helming the next acquisition are commonly expected to convey confidence in the outcome of their recent strategic decision to pair up with others for the future. However, too much confidence by the CEO, also known as CEO overconfidence, can jeopardize the value-creation of deals due to a higher likelihood of overpayment: CEOs who are overconfident believe to possess superior capabilities in deriving synergy from acquisitions leading them to make higher bids than more rational CEOs.

Overconfidence is a widely spread human phenomenon. It affects humans’ belief in their capabilities and the precision of their judgment. For instance, people often believe to be better-than-average car drivers, which violates a rational conception of an average. People in powerful positions are even more prone to fall victim to overconfidence since their assignment indicates superiority by nature. Hence, it is not surprising to find overconfidence among CEOs.

In the context of mergers and acquisitions, overconfident CEOs represent a risk to shareholders. While it is common to observe the acquirer stock plummed upon acquisition announcement, this reaction is especially true for acquisitions that will be helmed by overconfident acquirer CEOs. So how do firms helmed by more overconfident CEOs communicate acquisition announcements so that investors do not start selling their shares?

We conducted a study on acquisitions by S&P500 constituents between 2014 and 2020. Using an automated linguistic analysis on acquirer press statements, we found that investors react more positively to acquisitions by overconfident CEOs if the firm’s announcement press release conveys less confidence in the deal. That represents an exciting finding since usually conveying confidence in a strategic decision represents a positive signal for investors to draw on. However, it seems that the effect depends on who is signaling the confidence. In the case of an overconfident CEO, it appears investors prefer a bit less confidence, maybe because that shows a more realistic view of a given deal, which evokes confidence in investors that the acquirer is on the right track.

While the linguistic analysis of firm communication does not represent a novelty for business analysts or researchers, the interaction of CEO characteristics (i.e., CEO overconfidence) and firm communication is currently not undergoing scrutiny. Hence, also something to be considered by marketing and public relation departments when announcing deals to the public. Considering the past performance and press portrayal of the CEO might be valuable when writing press releases.

– Jonas Röttger, ESR

Collaboration FINDER and TechQuartier for the project ’Financial Big Data Cluster’

On the 1st January 2021 the initiative Financial Big Data Cluster was launched with the research project “safeFBDC” as a solution for a technological driven development of the European Financial Sector. To do so the safeFBDC congregates a consortium of public and private collaborating partners managed by TechQuartier – to leverage knowledge in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning and business model development.

Therefore, the initiative is a response to increasingly structural change, fuelled by technological innovation. Participants are reacting to the challenge of adaptation with increasing speed.[1] As “banking is unbreakably connected with the use of information technology”[2] the financial sector is a prime representative of the importance of technological innovation. While US and Chinese actors have been predominant in the adaptation of technological innovation in the financial sector, European actors have to step up their game. Their engagement is of importance to secure data sovereignty and thus obtain a competitive position when it comes to data-driven financial services. To achieve this collaboration of the private and public sector is of utmost necessity. For this applicable, european-centristic research is needed to understand and thus enable innovations and their necessary environment. Providing such research will in turn enable the proactive engagement of practitioners.

Thus the safeFBDC project is set up to deliver on these necessities by aligning three major goals:

  1. Increasing research output through the development of new AI systems and analysis of new, information-rich data sets.
  2. Enhancing financial stability by facilitating the exercise of oversight and supervisory functions by public authorities.
  3. Promoting the development of new data-based products, services and business models, and to increase the transfer of knowledge from research to business.

Collaboration on the research of new business models driven by technology

To facilitate applicable, european-centristic research of the financial sector TechQuartier and FINDER, have decided to join forces. Together we want to utilize the opportunity the safeFBDC is providing to study the collaboration driven by technological change. To do so Luisa Kruse from TechQuartier and me will work together on this project. Aim of our collaboration is to study the underlying organizational mechanisms driving this flagship project. By doing so we generate value in three important ways. First, we facilitate applicable research to enable practitioners. Second, we gain a better understanding of how technology affects opportunities of innovation. Third, we establish a new venture of research of the European financial sector. The progress of our collaboration will subsequentially covered within my blogposts culminating in a collaborative whitepaper.

Jonas Geisen, ESR


[1] Schwab, K. (2017). The fourth industrial revolution. Currency.

[2] Thalassinos, E. (2008). Trends and Developments in the European Financial Sector. European Financial and Accounting Journal, 3(3), p. 58

How banks should harvest their internal data

Data fuels decision-making. Banks are well-equipped with the financial data of their customers. Experts often point out that consolidating internal financial data with other data sources (e.g. behavioral data, macro-economic data, etc.) will unfold data’s full potential. Yet, banks’ rich internal data is regularly overlooked as an opportunity that can be used to fuel decision-making. Banks need a solid data-gathering strategy and advanced data analytic skills to leverage their internal data.

How should banks approach internal data?

Data needs to be gathered with a clear purpose. Hence, the journey towards a data-fueled operating model starts with defining clear use cases. Subsequently, the use cases have to be checked against reality. Therefore, banks’ internal data should first be inventoried and categorized. It is crucial to define a timeframe for which data collection is performed (depending on the use case, data collection for the last three to ten years could be most suitable). Subsequently, the data can be put to work through e.g. model-building. While harvesting data with the goal to implement use cases is crucial, the strategy should also entail how to manage data in the future. Harvesting data from legacy architectures demonstrates the potential of data in general but is very inefficient for future endeavors. Here, breaking down data silos and building data lakes represents a robust solution. Currently, banks are still struggling with small projects that only reach the proof of concept stage and large projects that are abandoned due to overwhelming complexity. Incremental progress on mid-complex level projects represents the largest potential to strive.

Too much of a good thing: why data frugality is important

Occam’s razor is the idea that in problem-solving, the simplest solution is usually the right one. This approach is well-adapted in data science for several reasons. Firstly, a model’s appetite for data increases the risk of having unobserved data points which negatively affect the predictive power of a model. Secondly, more data increases the training time for models. More training time means more energy and consequently higher costs. Thirdly, more data can lead to impaired explicability of a model as a complex model’s results are harder to interpret. This is especially the case if deep learning methods are applied (which remain to a large extent black boxes). The low explicability of models prevents their application as part of automated decision-making due to GDPR regulations. Moreover, low explicability could make the model unstable in times of new hitherto unseen data. Users will have difficulties to explain why and with what accuracy the model is adapting to the new circumstances. In general, striving for parsimony is an important criterion for which banks have to optimize when using their data.

Keeping data in the loop

Oftentimes, it is argued that data evolves from simple data to information to knowledge. While that is true for many use cases, it should be pointed out that data-fueled decision-making does not always require intense computation to become knowledge. Depending on the level of human-in-the-loop or the affordances of a decision, very simple data points can be highly informative. However, if data is processed in a time-consuming and complicated manner to derive knowledge (e.g. in form of a report), this knowledge should be kept in the loop. Hence, the results of data processing should become part of the data storage.

– Jonas Röttger, ESR

Volatility Precedes Standardization

The financial services ecosystem is experiencing innovation at breakneck speed, as can be seen within the walls of fintech-heavy startup incubators such as TechQuartier. Regulations – PSD2 and MiFID II for instance – from the topside constrain the direction of innovation, usually with consumer protection as the driving force. However, a third force is equally in play: standards. Standards are independent from regulations, in that “regulations stem primarily from a top-down approach, while formal standards are typically the result of a market-driven process (Büthe and Mattli, 2011)”1.

Ecosystems are groups of interacting firms, where interaction is largely of collaborative and/or interdependent natures2. The standards of interaction especially in digital ecosystems are critical: APIs must be able to interact, programming languages must be mutually intelligible, the data that certain services rely on to provide value must be created and packaged in workable ways, and so forth. A lack of adherence to these standards would mean, for instance, that the smartphone in your pocket that you use for mobile banking, equities trading, and payment processing would figuratively fall apart.

However, standards, especially in uncertain environments, take time to formulate. During this process, multiple parties might attempt to control the outcome of standardization, likely in their and their stakeholders’ interests. As Dr. Philipp Tuertscher commented in a recent FINDER meeting, standards are fairly mundane once enacted, but their formation is highly political and an interesting phenomenon to observe.

An easy opportunity to watch this process is in the standardization of corporate ESG data reporting for investors. In the financial services ecosystem, this is a huge step ahead of MiFID II’s full implementation. In this essay, we’ll briefly cover these terms and discuss what’s happened thus far, which will set a baseline for a future series of essays covering key events, lessons learned, and theoretical takeaways from data collection during the ESG data standards-setting process.

ESG Data

ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance. This category of data has experienced a proliferation of importance alongside corporate social responsibility, or CSR, initiatives. The three subcategories of data, when considering a company, cover aspects such as gender wage gaps, environmental waste protocols, and anti-corruption protections.

Until recently, the disclosure of ESG data has been generally voluntary, with some exceptions. As such, industrialized ESG data production itself has not been a heavily regimented practice, so it’s largely been the efforts of NGOs, watchdog groups, investor discretion, and so forth that have pushed companies to publish ESG data. Since ESG data has not been directly monetizable (a familiar trait of all so-called “alternative data,” a category to which ESG has historically been ascribed),

However, self-generated reports of CSR performance are riddled with inconsistencies and gaps for obvious reasons. To address this, agencies and companies such as MSCI and Sustainalytics began publishing independent ESG ratings on mostly publicly listed companies, and over time, this practice has gained enough importance with institutional investors and asset managers such that there are even ecosystems of sustainability ratings agencies, most of which having their own unique methodologies and outputs.

While the proliferation of ESG reporting is generally good, there are obvious problems. Asset managers on the hunt for comprehensive data regarding a given publicly listed firm’s CSR performance are confronted with a blurry landscape of reporting and rating methodologies. Even as the agencies consolidate over time, the lack of industry-wide standards in ESG data reporting has asset managers significantly concerned over the loss of reporting and rating quality.3

Regulations & Standards

No classification system currently exists at EU level which clarifies what constitutes an environmentally-sustainable economic activity. Market-led initiatives that have emerged in recent years are not comprehensive enough and do not sufficiently reflect all EU environmental sustainability priorities.” – European Commission

The European Commission has introduced MiFID II, a sustainability-incorporating revision of the original Markets in Financial Instruments Directive from earlier this century, and a battery of sustainable finance directives installing, among other things, a taxonomy of sustainable economic activity. This combination pushes asset managers and institutional investors to bring ESG data closer to the core of their and their clients’ financial decision-making and affairs.

The benefits of a clear and concise data reporting methodology, which is only one of the foci of this push, are clear. It takes the burden of figuring out what important metrics are off of asset managers and institutional investors, it allows companies all along a value chain to assess each other and exclude any proverbial bad apples, which in turn gives the end consumer the ability to knowledgeably avoid below-threshold products and services.

However, as these initiatives come from a regulating body, they’re a bit top-down, and therefore the problem of standardization remains: who is in control? Who gains from the way this will eventually pan out? Who loses? These are just a few of the vivid questions that we ask as this process wears on.

Through interviews, participant observation, and content analysis, interesting angles of the standardization process will become apparent. We hope that these will have theoretical implications that go beyond sustainable finance, so please follow the FINDER blog and feel free to weigh in with your own insights – all perspectives are welcome. I can be reached for questions and comments at s.ellis@fm.ru.nl.

S. James Ellis, ESR


  1. Blind, K., Petersen, S. S., & Riillo, C. A. F. (2017). The impact of standards and regulation on innovation in uncertain markets. Research Policy, 46(1), 249–264. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2016.11.003
  2. Jacobides, M. G., Cennamo, C., & Gawer, A. (2018). Towards a theory of ecosystems. Strategic Management Journal, 39(8), 2255–2276. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.2904
  3. Avetisyan, E., & Hockerts, K. (2017). The Consolidation of the ESG Rating Industry as an Enactment of Institutional Retrogression. Business Strategy and the Environment, 26(3), 316–330. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.1919

Open Banking – an opportunity within grasp

Disclaimer:
The content of the FINDER blog is not an expression of Commerzbank AG, nor created on behalf of Commerzbank AG. The content is created and contributed by private persons.

On 05.11.2020 we tuned in into the Open Banking Summit held by the Commerzbank in cooperation with the Business Engineering Institute St. Gallen. We will have a look into the Summits key notes to see how the realisation of Open Banking is progressing based on this use case  –  which opportunities may arise and which challenges are still to face.

Open Banking became more prominent in 2016 when the United Kingdom announced its Open Banking Standard and the European Union published its Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2). However, it only gained momentum in 2018 when these drafted legislations came into effect. Simplified these laws require banks to open up their IT infrastructure. Technological this is done through application programming interfaces (APIs) which allow different IT infrastructures to communicate with each other. In the case of Open Banking, APIs enable third parties to connect to banks existing IT infrastructure and thereby access and usage of the data gathered– say bye to data silos guarded by banks.

The backbone of the Summit was a whitepaper The Future of Collaboration in Corporate Banking in which Joerg Hessenmueller (Commerzbank AG) defined

API [as] a crucial technology that enables communication between IT-systems with enough flexibility to address the complexity of today’s world [based on] closer collaboration among different parties leveraging on their different capabilities to create value for the customer”.

Resulting from that one can draw the conclusion of David Kauer (PostFiannce AG) that

“Open Banking is a fundamental strategic and architectural question. Banks do not just do Open Banking – Open Banking is a framework that requires a 360-degree view of business and corporate clients and their needs. Banks, thus, have to decide wisely about the order of actions they take to follow such an approach.”

So what is achieved so far?

As the use case of Commerzbank depicts cooperation is key to identify and leverage the options available. Slowly, new networks are emerging. First attempts of opening up are made. So far these are still in their infancy. An example is the developer portal. This sandbox provides developers the documentation and option to play around and get used to the APIs provided by the Commerzbank. When having a look at the opportunities and challenges it is, however, clear that this is only a small first step in the right direction.

What are the outstanding opportunities?

The approach envisioned by the PSD2 is to fundamentally change banking in the European Union. Its implementation is aimed to enhance the value proposition of financial organisations. The basic framework is set to achieve a higher degree of cooperation and co-innovation between banks and third parties for example FinTechs. This is highly dependent on the abilities of banks to think beyond their organisational borders. If this outward-opening is happening the most valuable opportunity can be realised:

Building a new digital ecosystem marked by new business models and driven by customer expectations.

Technological enabled would such an ecosystem be through the opening of banks APIs. Cooperation, innovative ideas could facilitate user value by enhancing consumer protection and security of internet payments as well as account access within the EU and EEA. Accordingly, the opportunity for customers is access to enhanced services within one digital ecosystem. Such services would greatly enhance banks attractiveness by increasing their value proposition. At the same time, FinTechs have the opportunity to grow by getting access to a greater market reach or even provide the B2C of banking. Another actor in such an ecosystem would be BigTechs which, according to David Kauer, could take a role as technological orchestrators. In that case banks would probably occupy the B2B in such an B2B2C banking ecosystem. To not be pressured into the role of an anonymous backoffice service provider banks have to seek an pro-active role. So in general Open Banking should not be understood as a threat or zero sum game by banks but instead as an opportunity. In that sense all actors would profit in the banking B2B2C ecosystem.

Which challenges is the industry still facing?

However, the transformation is still facing challenges that need to be tackled for a digital ecosystem to emerge. As the banking sector will open up for everyone offering financial services a mind-set of collaboration is of importance. Customer centricity should be the focus flanked by provisioning of the necessary infrastructure –for example in innovation labs. An optimal setup is completed by a bank’s readiness to identify partnerships and then leverage resources to seize the presented opportunities.

Technological there are still some hurdles that hinder the facilitation of a collaborative approach to adapt to structural change. Technological readiness is one challenge to face. The adaptation of key technologies across the industry differs strongly and may, in the current state, make collaboration more difficult. Tightly connected to this is the missing standardization of APIs. Heterogeneous architectures for the same services are making a fast and approachable cooperation across organisations fairly difficult.

Future will show of all potential actors can overcome these challenges and thus provide the necessary prerequisites to foster an ecosystem marked by innovative ideas combined with industry-specific know-how

–  Jonas Geisen, ESR

FINDER hosts the SMS Berkeley digital phd workshop on Reshaping Firms in Digital Ecosystems: Designing the Future

Thursday, November 5, 2020 
18:00 CET (UTC + 1) / 09:00 PST (UTC –  7) 
Virtual Workshop on Zoom

This workshop was originally intended to take place during the SMS Special Conference in Berkeley “Designing the Future: Strategy, Technology, and Society in the 4th Industrial Revolution”, which was canceled due to COVID-19. However, as we all learn to adapt to the challenges presented by this health crisis, we are proud to offer you this workshop in a different and virtual format.

We relabeled the title to “Reshaping Firms in Digital Ecosystems: Designing the Future”.

With the rise of digital technologies, new demands and challenges have emerged that require the attention of practitioners and scholars alike. While the world has grown familiar with digital ecosystems as a platform for future growth, little is known still about the ways firms restructure, reshape, and adapt – proactively or reactively – in response to sudden disruption of the emergent digital ecosystems they are part of. The doctoral workshop will have an interactive intent and will also reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on strategy and innovation; how resilient are we when facing a crisis?  

The main objective of the Doctoral Workshop is to foster interaction among leading faculty scholars and doctoral students on various aspects of research and preparing for a professional career in academia. The doctoral student participants will be offered the opportunity to broaden their academic network with senior faculty from around the world and develop a better understanding of the particularities of the academic career. 

Leading researchers in the field brought their experience into the discussion to further develop participants’ insight into the key themes of this conference.

Participants will be able to pitch theirresearch, practicing to anticipate, critically reflect and nuance your contribution as part of the academic debate. The intent is to strengthen and effectively position your research (e.g. the research question, the importance of the research gap, theoretical reasoning, and selection of target journals). Throughout the workshop, they get a chance to present your work and engage in a constructive dialogue with senior faculty and peers.

What is preventing incumbent banks from monetizing their data?

Banks are often described as possessing a huge pile of customer data but being unable or unwilling to leverage it. We confronted five industry experts with this statement asking what is hindering banks to monetize their rich data reservoirs? Here are their answers and recommendations on how banks could overcome them. 

 IT legacy – banks’ IT systems are not in shape to allow state-of-the-art data analytics

An often described hurdle to leverage data is the IT legacy system of incumbent banks. While the mere size of the data banks own could be a rich resource, the IT systems are not (yet) consolidated data pools that can provide information. Even in collaboration with fintech companies that developed efficient algorithms to perform smart data inquiry, implementation often fails after a successful proof-of-concept stage. The data is not structured and stored in ways that allow for relevant and timely data consultation. So, where to start?

The unique data of banks are spending data. An expert recommendation is to stratify spending data according to customer demographics for a time horizon of the past five years. Some experts recommended that effective and efficient usage of data would only be possible if banks were building new systems from scratch and migrate carefully selected data (e.g. the last five years) subsequently.

Talent turnover – culture and demands are not attractive for young high potential IT workforce

Banks’ IT systems display opportunities for young and ambitious IT workers: they are embedded in huge and well-paying organizations and require plenty of work. While banks communicate externally that they are particularly looking for IT employees with a disruptive mindset the reality is often very different: a highly regulated and risk-aversive culture is skeptical of incrementally built and improved IT solutions. No IT system is released flawlessly today. Systems are optimized, catered towards customer needs, or improved in terms of security standards while they are already in the market. Banks expect a bullet-proof solution from the get-go. In addition, banks are not particularly interested in functionality that does not yet have a clear use case.  Industry expertise is needed in combination with data analytics skills to develop promising use cases that appeal to strategy-setting executives. This represents a key to stretch banks’ risk-averse culture and provide young IT employees with interesting challenges.

Value chain positioning – highly-regulated back-end vaults vs. life-fulfillment platforms

Big tech companies are entering the financial services market. While companies like Apple and Google are partially interested in gathering access to spending data via financial products, their main interest is to extend their portfolio by yet another revenue stream. However, because of their data analytics skills and their business model, tech companies can offer a level of convenience and pricing (e.g. freemium) banks are unable to provide. The question is whether banks are willing to play the role of highly regulated institutions that manage the back-end of financial services while tech companies will own the customer relationships?

Tech companies are increasingly becoming targets of supervising and regulatory bodies (especially in Europe) and it is at least unclear whether they are motivated to become as regulated as banks. This represents a competitive advantage for banks that are very familiar to strive in the regulated environment.

Moreover, if banks do want to act proactively defending their customer relationships, data analytics are necessary to design platforms that offer financial services that go beyond today’s banking products. A banking platform should provide internal, external, and integrated financial services that facilitate everyday life (e.g. buying public transportation tickets) or rare life-changing financial decisions (e.g. buying own property). The challenge is that not every bank can turn into a platform, given that platform economics usually represent natural oligopolies.

Data monetization can be direct or indirect – which path to chose?

Direct data monetization refers to trade data in exchange for value, whereas indirect data monetization refers to using data to enable, improve, or maintain revenue streams (without trading data itself). While trading data could be lucrative for banks on a short- to midterm scale, it could also jeopardize their reputation as highly entrusted institutions. Hence, pursuing indirect data monetization by using customer data to design tailor-made solutions seems to be the golden route. However, for services and solutions to be highly relevant in content and timing, banks still have a long way to go.

by Jonas Röttger, FINDER ESR

Call for PhD students SMS Berkeley PhD workshop

Reshaping Firms in Digital Ecosystems: Designing the future

We’re organizing the following upcoming SMS Berkeley workshop this fall, titled: Reshaping Firms in Digital Ecosystems: Designing the future

Call for interested doctoral students:

The main objectives of this – now virtual – Doctoral Workshop, focusing on strategy and innovation in a digital era, are to foster interaction among leading faculty scholars and doctoral students on various aspects of research and on preparing for a professional career in academia. Theme: Reshaping Firms in Digital Ecosystems: Designing the future.

Date: November 5th, 2020. registration open now: click here!

Under Pressure – 5 Developments That Influence Business Modelling in the Financial Sector

Mike Schavemaker, Innovation Transformation Lead and senior innovation consultant at Royal Philips, and member of the FINDER Advisory Board, and Barbara Voelkl, FINDER PhD, share their thoughts on the current pressures incumbent banks are subject to in the context of business model innovation.

Disclaimer:
The content of the FINDER blog is not an expression of Royal Philips, nor created on behalf of Royal Philips. The content is created and contributed by private persons.

As a Russian proverb goes: “Still water undermines the bank”. Now put in a drastically new – and current – context and perspective, banks find themselves more urged to actively take position what financial services they want to explore, own or divest. Based upon our interviews with Investment Capital players, Tech players and Brick-and-Mortar banks we present 5 commonly found problems that pressure banks to recalibrate their purpose and venture inroads to Fintech and Tech in general.

Incumbent banks are currently pressured with 5 developments:

1. Negative Interest Rates

With negative to close-to-zero interest rates particularly in Europe and in the United States, the traditional revenue model is heavily challenged. If interest does not provide any income any more, outcome-based revenue models are on their forefront. Collaborations with Tech and FinTech companies find their chance here: They provide back-end solutions and fee-based opportunities to gain revenue, provide the infrastructure to lock in customers and achieve a high wallet share and automate processes for a higher customer loyalty and satisfaction.

2. Covid-19

With the banking ecosystem was in a cautious transition towards more digital servicing, it is still heavily focused on brick-and-mortar business. With Covid-19 resulting in lockdowns and social distancing while financial services from lending to savings become immensely important in financially instable times, the banking business is pressured to accelerate their digital and online services while adhering security and privacy standards.

3. Changing Customer Behavior

While naturally the digital native generation is applying a comprehensive digital orientation also into the financial service ecosystem, it is necessary to take a differentiated view rather than assuming a general “demand for digital” from a consumer perspective. For (i) small repetitive interactions – getting some cash, checking your balances – a strong appreciation for digital applications is seen. For (ii) once-in-a-lifetime events such as a housing mortgage, even digital natives seem to appreciate a trust-based relation with an actual human interaction. Taking a differentiated approach is thus necessary to gain wallet share.

4. Changing Employee Expectations

While young and experienced innovators are working at big tech players or founding their own FinTech, the organizational culture at incumbent bank is not per se attractive for the workforce needed to disrupt the business. With internal start-up spaces, separate task forces and a modernization of organizational behavior, banks need to start inspiring their workforce to stay relevant and attract human capital.

5. Legacy Technology

For a huge part, and interconnected to the aforementioned lack of skills, banks are sitting on legacy technology. Often built on monolithic architecture, banking technologies and infrastructure needs to be carefully but greatly revised – under honest consideration of in-house skills and cooperation with Tech and FinTech.

Having laid out the pressures on banks, we need to be cognizant that not all banks are alike. At the least, we need to distinguish Retail banks offering financial services to the general public from Commercial Banks supporting businesses with financial issues. But as another Russian proverb goes: “Who owns the bank owns the fish”.

In this proverbial perspective we have had several acknowledgements by our interviewed peers that Retail banking would likely be first to be impacted by the tech player’s ambition to ‘own the wallet share of the customer’ and have conversely the most prominent intrinsic motivation for overcoming the mentioned pressures. However, there is a tension here between their most precious strategic assets, i.e. trust and brand equity and the ability to create big-bang approach digital branches. Despite the reality of the pressures you see few digital branches being opened by the brick-and-mortar retail banks to channel the pressures to learning environments, like the traditional Sparkassenverband had done, creating its digital daughter Deutsche Kreditbank AG. On contrary, brick-and-mortar banks are exploring in reality very diligently their role and roadmaps evolving towards full digital players, in effect because they want to understand – beyond trust and brand equity – what other strategic assets they can develop to capture the value, churning into additional retention or sustained relevancy. Our observation is that this very dilemma similarly faced by product-based companies who want to provide digital services on-top of their product offering: you don’t know what services add value up-front, which will potentially alienate your existing customer base and what services do matter; let alone for which services you can additionally charge for.

Commercial banks in their turn are more opting for hybrid collaboration models with tech players, particularly in the B2B-domain. In this context, the tech players leverage their manufactured products like assets for their client-base, offering a suite of managed services beyond the standards of a typical financial lease. Often bundling the product-sell with extended services, leveraging the commercial bank’s bespoke infrastructure and capabilities beyond a typical operational lease. There they are tapping primarily into the changing customer behavior, being able to offer adjacent offerings, leveraged by fintech and exploited with tech. Of course, we can make additional cross-sections throughout the Commercial Banking domain, however we believe that Commercial Banks and Tech players have much more natural power leverage to create sustainable alliances, channeling the pressures upon them; simply because if they get the partnership right, they both profit from the increased wallet-share.

We will not ‘boil the ocean’ by discussing more types of Banks, simply as in these blogs we would like to provoke thoughts and trigger insights. We welcome you to provide your views in directly contacting us or leave your views in the LinkedIn message boxes. For now, I would like to thank Barbara Völkl for co-creating these blogs. I will surely miss her editing skills, our weekly synchronizations and the interviews we held with interesting peers thus far: all best with next (ad)ventures, keep on Innovating and always stay open for new perspectives from where ever they may come!