Innovation that Makes a Difference

Innovation is hard to do and financial institutions can always come up with a long list of reasons why they hold back from major changes in the way they do business, including increasing regulatory constraints, earnings pressures and overburdened technology departments. However, as the annual BAI-Finacle Global Banking Innovation Awards demonstrates, some financial institutions have the vision and are able to summon the discipline and resources to develop and bring to market remarkable innovations that make a difference for customers. And some do it year after year.

Such examples can inspire the rest of us. Surveying the current state of financial services, both domestically and globally, there are always challenges as the banking industry continues to deal with some of the overhang of the recent financial crisis and faces weakening economies in a number of regions around the world. Even so, this year’s finalists were still able to design innovative products and services that address banking’s core mission of improving the financial lives of retail customers.

For example, one entry included a cell phone app that enables customers to better comprehend and manage their bills. Another offered a hands-free payment system utilizing Bluetooth. A third provided access to a personal finance manager that automatically tracks all transactions, spending and cash flow across customer accounts. One entry even featured a voice biometrics system that enables faster and more secure access to a bank’s call center.

The winners of this year’s global innovation awards will be announced at BAI Retail Delivery 2014, scheduled for November 12-14 in Chicago. Our impressive panel of distinguished financial industry executives from around the world has reviewed more than 250 submissions from 170 institutions representing 30 countries in the following categories:

Product and Service Innovation, which recognizes retail financial institutions that have substantially improved an existing product or service or developed and introduced a new product or service that has engaged customers, unleashed new revenue opportunities and/or improved the bank’s competitiveness;

Channel Innovation, recognizing retail financial institutions that have made marked changes or improvements within the distribution network to either existing channels (such as, branch, ATM or mobile) or have introduced a new channel or distribution strategy that has benefited customers and/or the organization;

Innovation in Internal Process Improvement, which recognizes retail financial institutions that have made a significant investment in internal processes to improve the overall customer experience. Examples include technology investments that create more customer-friendly products, services and delivery, cultural transformations or other types of significant enhancements to the customer experience;

Innovation in Societal and Community Impact, recognizing retail financial institutions that have designed and/or enhanced products and services or channel accessibility to meet the needs of customers with special circumstances. This includes ensuring access to physical locations to disabled customers or providing banking services and financial education to underserved populations;

And, finally, there’s the Disruptive Innovation in Banking Award, which recognizes a program or service completed or launched no earlier than July 2012 that is radical in nature and has made a global impact in terms of redefining business-as-usual in retail banking.

For the fourth consecutive year, the BAI team looks forward to providing a platform for the industry to showcase the best global innovations and we hope that you will join us at the awards ceremony in Chicago to celebrate the banking institutions that have achieved so much to drive the industry forward into the future. Ultimately, these are the innovations that will help move all of us forward.

Ms. Bianucci is president and CEO of BAI and publisher of BAI Banking Strategies and BAI Banking Strategies Daily.