Aug 29, 2018

Innovation and the winners’ destination

The BAI Global Innovation Awards winners who were announced live on Tuesday during a special webinar honored variations on a time-tested theme: delivering value to customers, employees and society in new and creative ways.

Yet since 2011, the awards themselves have grown from two primary categories and two special awards to nine categories and three awards for outstanding achievement. And in the space of that time, the focus has shifted strongly from honoring the winners to, if you will, the winners honoring their achievements by sharing what they’ve learned about innovation in action—and how they got there.

In other words, it’s much less about speeches and far more about blueprints to forge your own success stories.

“We believe our members will find many of the innovations inspiring enough to do something similarly innovative within their own organization, even if it’s in a different country or market than the winner,” says BAI president and CEO Debbie Bianucci.  

The awards will be formally presented at BAI Beacon, which takes place Oct. 9-11 in Orlando, Florida. BAI Beacon will also be where the as-yet unannounced Outstanding Achievement Award winners are named, and the first-ever People’s Choice Award presented. (You can vote by clicking here.)

Global Innovation Awards nominations came from 30 countries and were evaluated by Innovation Circle judges from across the globe, who looked for originality and impact on consumers and the industry. Down to the last entry, the finalists were outstanding and “the debates were heated,” Bianucci acknowledges.

Picking the winners—who displayed unprecedented creativity in areas from artificial intelligence to maternity programs—served a dual purpose that positions BAI not just as an arbiter of innovation, but also a force to drive it across financial services.   

“We really see the awards as a catalyst for innovation so that we, all together in this community of global innovators, will move the industry forward to serve customers,” Bianucci says.

JP Nicols, managing director of FinTech Forge and presenter of this year’s top honors, reinforces that view.

“Innovation is happening all over the world and the awards provide a platform for global financial services organizations to showcase what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and how they drive real results,” Nicols says.

Here are the 2018 BAI Global Innovation Award winners:

Best Application of Data Analytics, AI or Machine Learning in a Product or Service

Shenzhen OneConnect Smart Technology Co., Ltd, AI verification using InsureTech

Security and convenience have long been two top concerns for China’s insurance industry. To attain a competitive advantage, insurers have typically sought to improve risk management while enhancing the user experience, both of which require strong identity verification. As in the United States, traditional paper-based verification can be costly, vulnerable to fraud and lead to poor customer experience, says Han Qiu, CIO at OneConnect.

OneConnect, a subsidiary of China’s largest insurance company, sells technology to smaller banks; in September 2017 it launched an AI-enabled online verification tool. OneConnect uses biometric markers such as voice recognition, face recognition and posture recognition to make the verification process more efficient. “We are a firm believer that the best technology is a result of constant innovations,” says Qiu. “In my personal view, innovation is the DNA of any successful fintech company.”

Innovative Touchpoints & Connected Experiences

CaixaBank S.A., CaixaBank Now app

As consumers around the world increasingly demand a mobile experience, banks are innovating to keep pace. In February, CaixaBank in Spain launched the CaixaBank Now app to offer a 100 percent user-oriented experience that puts everything at the customers' fingertips and in one glance. The app uses Neo, the first IBM artificial intelligence-enabled bank app in Spain, which serves as a virtual assistant to help customers improve their experience. Neo uses more than 1,000 frequently asked questions and thousands of learned insights to more efficiently serve app users.

“Our sources for innovation are very diverse, it is not just a mix of needs and demands,” says Benjami Puigdevall, managing director at CaixaBank Digital Business. “But a key aspect of our strategy is always keeping the customer experience in the center of all our work streams.”

“It will be exciting to meet the CaixaBank team that created the app at BAI Beacon,” says Conny Dorrestijn, founding partner, BankFi and an Innovation Circle judge representing Europe. “It’s great to see that the Now App is so highly competitive on a level of connected user experience.”

Internal Process Innovation

Live Oak Bank, Moving to the cloud

Wilmington, North Carolina-based Live Oak Bank undertook an ambitious initiative to transition its entire internal IT infrastructure to the cloud in less than two years. The goal was to enable its employees to serve customers from anywhere at any time. Attaining full mobility played a key role in attracting a young millennial market and was a better way to compete against mega banks without adding staff, says Live Oak Bank chief information officer Thomas Hill. “We wanted to make our employees a mobile branch. They can go anywhere at any time and can service our customers like they’re the only ones.”

Live Oak leveraged its smaller size and nimbleness to adopt cloud tech faster than bigger banks. Administrators took legacy applications and started converting them into a virtual environment that could run on any type of platform, 24/7. “It benefited by validating our environment in a very methodical way because it allowed us to change the culture of our company, as well as to be more accepting of a new way of processing as opposed to the old legacy way of doing things,” Hill says.

Innovation in Societal and Community Impact

USAA, Aerial Imagery Tool

RUKULA (PVT) Limited, Credit for small consumer durables for the financially excluded in Sri Lanka.

The first-ever tie in Global Innovation Awards history honors two breakthroughs on opposite sides of the globe.

USAA’s tool gives members the ability to remotely search and view damage to their homes after a disaster, regardless of whether they can return there. It’s a tool that’s not only about customer assistance, but peace of mind as well.

Rachel Biel, innovation director at USAA P&C Company says innovation start at the top. “Our board of directors, CEO and P&C president all expect us to be innovating constantly. Every single employee at USAA is considered to be an innovator.”  

Sri Lanka’s RUKULA constructed a credit vehicle that allows the financially excluded to utilize a non-financial, attribute-based algorithm that helps them obtain small consumer goods. “It’s not charity; they treat people as a business,” Dorrestijn says. “But they’re helping really driven people to gain their independence.”

Innovation in Customer Experience

NovoPayment, Embedding FinServ in the gig value chain

It can often help to have a partner in innovation. Banco Pichincha Colombia in South America collaborated with U.S.-based NovoPayment to extend services to gig economy businesses and embed them in their workflows through cloud applications, bank-grade middleware and application program interfaces (APIs).

Using NovoPayment’s white-label, bank-grade platform, Banco Pichincha enrolled and authenticated freelance workers, with Visa co-branded accounts electronically enabled for procurement and compensation purposes.

Human Capital Innovation

Fifth Third BankMaternity Concierge Program

Innovation isn’t always driven by technology. Sometimes it’s as simple as re-evaluating priorities and implementing creative policies to address a need. Recognizing the challenges that pregnant employees and moms faced and how it impacted retention, Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, Ohio, developed a Maternity Concierge program to better assist these employees.

While women need maternity leave, they also need help transitioning back to work, says Fifth Third chief administrative officer Teresa Tanner. Fifth Third Bank sought to boost retention of new mothers and to increase the number of female senior leaders. “If you want different results, you need to do something different. The conversation must move beyond maternity leave.”

In establishing the concierge, the bank interviewed more than 50 pregnant and new mother employees to better understand their needs. It then created an onboarding program for the concierge service to prioritize their concerns and offer the necessary services. In addition to more time off and free shipping of breast milk while on business travel, it helps in researching daycares or transitioning back to the workplace. The bank also created a financial planning component and updated the nursing mothers’ rooms. More than 300 employees have used the program since it was implemented in February 2017. (You can listen to a BAI podcast with Tanner about the award-winning program.)

Innovation in Marketing

DenizBank, Credit X

Turkey’s DenizBank brought a new hyper personalization initiative to market in the spring of 2018 with its Credit X product, which offers loans for the iPhoneX. DenizBank collaborated with a famous YouTuber and shot 18 different pre-roll videos for 18 different phone devices. More than 21,000 visitors viewed the ad, resulting in 6,500 loan applications and more than $2 million in loans in only two weeks.

As having the right message at the right time is essential, DenizBank used the growing public interest in the iPhoneX and rising trend of unboxing videos on social media. “We knew our target demo so we built our message and creative strategy in the Credit X Campaign to reach the people,” says İlkem Deniz Gultekin, a DenizBank innovation assistant.

In the future, DenizBank hopes to further reach its potential customers in different segments across multiple channels with hyper personal campaigns, Gultekin says.

Innovative Accelerator or Incubator

Arion Bank, Digital Future Accelerator

Since forming its Digital Future Accelerators in 2016, Arion Bank in Iceland has delivered 14 new innovative projects and has even more in the pipeline. The accelerator was founded to eliminate the disconnect between IT and business, says Rakel Óttarsdóttir, Arion chief information officer.

“I love the innovation winner in the incubator category because it’s so hard for financial institutions to make innovation work,” says Sue Britton, a Global Innovation Awards judge representing the Americas and CEO-founder of the Toronto-based FinTech Growth Syndicate.

To simplify and speed up the innovation process, the Digital Future Accelerator identifies and focuses on projects that take no more than 16 weeks. During that period, a cross-functional team of a dozen or more people temporarily leave their roles and work solely on the project, says Óttarsdóttir. “It really helps deliver and not have projects drag on forever. So, we do whatever we can do in the 16 weeks with whatever resources we have.”

BAI will present the Global Innovation Awards at BAI Beacon, taking place Oct. 9-11 in Orlando, Florida. For a complete list of finalists and winners, click here.


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Craig Guillot is a business writer who specializes in retail and finance.

Lou Carlozo is the managing editor of BAI.


Check out the webinar: The BAI Global Innovation Awards presents: Innovation Without Borders - The 2018 Winners

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