BAI Managing Editor Lou Carlozo
Lou Carlozo Mar 8, 2017

Leading innovators worldwide not only disrupt the industry, but also themselves

In an age of FinTech challengers and big data challenges, it's now a given that banks can no longer stand still. Yet how they can respond creatively remains a puzzle many financial services organizations have struggled to solve.

So when banks across the globe devise and implement practical solutions to perplexing problems, it results in templates that take the revolution from isolated examples to industry-wide benchmarks.

Cases in point: CBW Bank in Weir, Kansas, CaixaBank S.A. in Barcelona, and DenizBank in Istanbul. Respectively, these three won for Most Innovative Community-Based Banking Organization, Disruptive Innovation in Banking and Most Innovative Bank of the Year at the 2016 BAI Global Innovation Awards.

CBW Bank captured the community-based banking honors for its real-time payments solution that leverages debit networks from within a bank account and is API-enabled. They were also a finalist for the Innovation in Payments category.

"It’s exciting to see API-enabled transactions come to life after many years of debate and discussion," says Matt Calman, managing director, Innovation Outreach Program and a 2016 judge for the Awards.  "CBW Bank had a winning solution with real-time payments over debit networks—but they’ve created more than just another payment service. They’ve created an innovation enablement platform for their customers." 

Since unveiling the digital banking platform, "We have acquired nationwide business clientele, including insurance companies, a claims processer and other corporations that use the bank’s technology to eliminate the friction from payments," says CBW Bank’s chairman and chief technology officer, Suresh Ramamurthi

He adds that all of this "was accomplished once we began to understand the problems with the traditional bank account structure, so we completely redesigned the bank account and embraced compliance as a feature."

CaixaBank's disruptive innovation results from introducing the WATSON Engagement Advisor (WEA) to employees who interface with customers conducting foreign trade activities, which is a small percentage of daily bank business. The application builds a more intelligent, efficient financial terminal, with better and faster access to information for employees. The innovation was also recognized as finalist in the Innovation in Internal Process Improvement category.

"Since 2011, we were interested in Watson, but it was only available in English," says David Almendros, digital innovation manager at CaixaBank. "In 2014, IBM offered us an opportunity to work on the first Watson project in a language different to English. So in 2015, we translated Watson into Spanish and the use case was our Foreign Trade Assistant.”

WEA responds to questions from customers and employees related to all areas of foreign trade. Almendros notes: "The system now has an 80-percent accuracy rate when questioned, which is a major improvement from the under 50-percent accuracy rate we started out with."

That's crucial because in a banking milieu where chatbots have garnered considerable attention, WEA is poised to go a step beyond. "The big change [in the industry]is intelligent systems where answers are human-like,” he says. “Because when you test the chatbots, most of them are not that intelligent. They rely on rules.”

DenizBank broke new ground on a number of fronts: Fast Loans for small-to-medium enterprises; Quick Menu via Online Banking Artificial Intelligence; and integration of the E-Government Log-In Service into its Internet banking channel without any password from the government, boosting customer experience.

The strong presence of innovations from DenizBank across the Awards categories was unavoidable, and ultimately contributed to their recognition as the Most Innovative Bank of the Year for the 2016 Awards (they also received this honor from BAI in 2014).

All of this attracted Calman's attention. "I’m on the lookout for banks who are part of the 'invisible revolution,' integrating artificial intelligence and higher connectivity to their service delivery platforms," he says. "DenizBank’s winning submission hit on both notes, by giving its customers a tailored flow through their online experience, and offing single sign-on connectivity to e-government systems.  Both enhancements offer smoother customer interactions today and hint at future possibilities."

“Technology and digitization have been driving forces for the transformation of financial services since the inception of the Awards,” says Debbie Bianucci, BAI president and CEO. "We are now seeing the integration of advanced technologies to accelerate the rate that banks are able to innovate and deliver new products and features to consumers, globally. We look forward to a wide range of innovative entries for 2017.”

Lou Carlozo is the managing editor at BAI.

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