Four of my Fintech posts connected to books

Traditionally we intend to read more in the summer. Environmental Sustainability and Finance: Poker or Chess? Inspired from the book `The Sustainable Organization` by  Miguel R. Brandao, already in its second edition co-creator of the #SORG index and the concept of Dolphin Organization.   Don`t confuse People-centric Banking with Customer-centric Banking. Linked to `Emotional Banking : […]

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Fintech has not created a level-playing field for small to mid-size banks

Temenos released in April its annual report[1] on the State of digital sales in banking. As I was reading some of the key findings reported by Jim Marous[2], I was struck by these observations:

More concerning is the reality that most of the high marks for digital sales continue to be garnered by only the largest organizations.

 Larger banks ($150B – $2,500B) not only have a financial and technological advantage, they benefit from a head start in the deployment of all digital account opening capabilities, allowing them to gain a share of mind advantage through media and word of mouth. 

 #AndTheIronyIs that technology was supposed to democratize banking not only for the end-customer but also for the smaller, less national, less international financial services provider. After all, fintech is by now overweight B2B providers. Remember it all started as a disruption, replacement to banking. Then it shifted to collaboration and partnerships with incumbents and as Jessica pointed out ‘Something’-as-a-service, the new fintech paradigm.

#AndTheIronyIs that despite the plethora of B2B unbundled fintech services out there, anything you can imagine as a service; the mid and smaller size banks remain overall behind. Of course, there is a variety of metrics and KPIs that one can use to measure their digital readiness. From mobile account opening, save and resume functionality, small business account opening, etc.

Digital transformation these days requires internal cultural and technological changes whose impact will be seen 3yrs down the road. That means that mid to small size incumbents remain at a disadvantage.

level playing field

When I look at 11Pulse, the digital benchmarking offering of 11FS that allows clients to benchmark themselves against peers on onboarding, security, PFM, …; I wonder whether mid to small size banks are flocking to take advantage of this service and to find ways to catch up.

I guess the simplistic answer is that small to mid-size banks don’t have the guts and the budget to stick to such a 3yr plan.

For sure they don’t have any internal strategic funding mechanisms like Goldman Sachs has. Goldman’s Principal Strategic Investments group has made key investments in Kensho and Tradeweb and helped create Wall Street chat platform Symphony, and much more.

Neither do VCs fund the transformation of existing banks because they are only interested in high growth stories, which means investing in those that are building the picks and shovels.

The only such example I have found is Cross River Bank that Battery Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Ribbit Capital invested $28million in 3yrs ago[3] and recently another $100mil was announced by KKR. Cross River bank started by supporting fintech startups with loans – $2.4 billion in loans for companies like Affirm and Upstart in 2015 alone. Today it is more than a leading marketplace lender for fintech. It is one of the top go-to bank-fintech cooperation providers. Its customers include Circle, Best Egg, Coinbase, Rocket Loans, Stripe, Upstart, Affirm, and Transferwise. Just 2 weeks ago it Cross River bank acquired Seed, a small business banking company.  Seed is a 5yr old online banking company for small business  owners and freelancers.

`If a payments company wants to become a lender or a lending company wants to do payments, then they have the ability to do that on our rails,` says founder Gilles Gade to Techcrunch.

The question to VCs, CrossRiver bank, 11Pulse, and other remains:

It is either the large incumbents (my Sharks) or the aggressively VC funded Fintechs (my piranhas) that are benefiting from the variety of  `anything Fintech as a service`. What about the bulk in between?

 

[1] The report includes the Temenos proprietary ‘Digital Sales Readiness Matrix’.

[2] Banks Not Meeting Digital Sales Expectations

[3] Who`s building the Banking Smart pipes

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer.

 I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

 Subscribe by email to join Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

The local insurance agent- insurance ecosystem re-defined

Source

You don’t have to look very far to find an active insurance ecosystem- just visit the neighborhood insurance agent or contact a commercial broker.  They have been fostering the ecosystem method of serving customers since before the term was moved into the front row at the innovation and InsurTech get-together.

TLDR.  Read any of the volume of current discussion regarding insurance ecosystems and you’ll find references to smart device apps, on-demand, shopping or ride sharing companies that are adding insurance options (Paytm and LIC, Amazon and Acko, Flipkart and Digit) but these are not surprisingly in insurance markets that are developing through a ‘digital native’ business culture.  Ecosystems per se have been a difficult ground up start in more developed insurance markets, e.g., U.S., Canada, and Europe.  But what of the US and Europe- forget being part of an ecosystem?

A quick look at defining an insurance ecosystem finds:

Ecosystem- “An ecosystem is a new business paradigm in which firms use digital tools to leap over traditional industry boundaries or forge partnerships.”  (WHY ECOSYSTEMS ARE THE FUTURE OF INSURANCE, Accenture).

Huh.  Leap over traditional industry boundaries or forge partnerships.

Or this-

“we suggest that middle-market insurers may want to consider expanding their horizon well beyond the standard product and service options they typically offer policyholders (see figure 2). This would involve creating or joining a much broader ecosystem offering a wider range of business support solutions, as well as facilitating educational and networking opportunities for customers.”  (Building new ecosystems in middle-market insurance, Deloitte)

Hmmm.  Offering a wider range of business support solutions, as well as facilitating educational and networking opportunities for customers.

I suggest if we look past the urge to see ecosystems as a new paradigm in developed insurance markets you will find- the agency model.  Not just the independent or captive agents who are churn and burn lead chasers, but the agents who have a holistic approach to building relationships (old school suggestion of recognizing inter-connectivity of business- nascent ecosystems.)

Digital ecosystems such as are noted above typically didn’t begin as systems; they were applications.  WeChat was launched in 2011 as a mobile chat app by China digital giant, Tencent.  Within four years it had developed by the popular demand of users and affiliate companies into being a 200 million users per month- wait for it- ecosystem of users and providers.  The application was adding value to what was originally a form of communication.  It was accessible, easy to use, had features that were meaningful in daily life.  It’s said that WeChat was the impetus behind the explosive growth in use of QR codes in China.

How does that tie into insurance, or insurance ecosystems?

There are tens of thousands of insurance agents in the U.S. alone, each of whom is working to build business, retain customers, increase the actual or perceived value customers find in the agent’s service, in other words- working to sell a reason for the customers to interact with the agency more often than once per year.

Smart agents have figured ways to do this for years before digitization- sponsor little league, be active in the chamber of commerce, bring a dish to pass at the service organization luncheon, donate bicycles to good readers at school (Chris Paradiso !), names on bowling shirts, filling sandbags, holding a customer’s hand when a claim occurs, referring the accountant next door, keeping a bank account in the local 1st National, keeping abreast of business and tech changes, and so on.  Building the value he/she could bring to customers, being a resource.

How is it that agents can be the insurance ecosystems of today?  If in China- have your QR code on WeChat, of course.  Piggyback on the platform Tencent has constructed.  But in mature markets where the insurance industry has tenure, the model has it’s own reference- ‘legacy’- and the availability of carriers is a fractured confusion to customers?

Active agents have the basis- relationships with collaborative businesses/organizations, and a pool of mostly content customers.  How might the agent leverage these resources?

  • What does an agent’s website say when it’s opened? Chances are it says, “I want to sell you something.”  So, people visit the site when they need to buy insurance.  Why not have a splash page that showcases the value/connections/resources that the agent has built over time?  A site that is a resource pool for clients that also serves as a selling tool when needed. (not like that of the Life Insurance Corporation of India– love their resources but the splash page is crazy busy).
  • Collaborate with business partners- what’s wrong with having synchronization of messages within the respective websites? If the agent resides in a smaller community then resources are common, success of one results in success of another, and there’s that synergy thing to take benefit from.
  • Be an active part of social media that makes sense for business. Not just a ‘like’ clicker, but a question asker, expertise sharer (Billy Van Jura )
  • Don’t try to re-create the wheel- link to existing resources customers are familiar with. Have an FAQ link on your site?  Did you know that Pinterest has an insurance info page? The details aren’t too tough to get a link onto your page, and cross-clicks builds your digital presence.
  • Be an easy source of information/links for emergency, weather, and government contacts. Be the source customers want to keep as a favorite.
  • Build a smart device application that makes sense- not a selling tool but a resource for the user that can also serve as a selling tool.
  • Leverage the digital resources your stable of carriers has- they know that being a digital resource is important; some are better at it than others.
  • There’s a lot more that the reader can think of- convert your analog ecosystem into a digital version.

There are agents who are working to perfect targeted ecosystem plays, e.g., cyber insurance (Brett Fulmer, Joe Hollier, Ben Guttman in the US), or in unique SME plans (Michael Porpora ), or in facilitating service tools for high net worth customers (Kurt Thoennessen).  A very good example of building an ecosystem/resource platform is Pat West whose firm, Hedgequote’s primary function is to be a resource for those needing information on insurance and potential firms from which to purchase.

I regret I do not know many agents working outside of the US, but some good examples who are building services beyond the basic sales model include Muhammad Ayodeji working in Lagos, Nigeria, (who in addition to representing insurance well posts traffic and accident updates through Twitter), or Mark Callanan in Sydney, Aus, who investigates crop and parametric options for the farmers and farm landowners in the country.  And one never knows- the transition that German insurer DFV-AG   has forged from being a more traditional carrier to digital expert may lead the firm into digital ecosystem land.

The point is that ecosystems can be insurance businesses that truly offer a wider range of business support solutions, as well as facilitating educational and networking opportunities for customers.  Perhaps a clever player will build an ecosystem of business connections that is a digital repository of business links.  Ecosystem is still be defined- agents can evolve beyond the world of sales quotas and discussions about premiums.

“Alexa, who does my insurance agent recommend for plumbing repairs?”

 

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

 

7 Participatory Budgeting use cases: CivicTech is global

 

DemocracyIt was only last week that I took my first deep dive into CivicTech, thanks to the Costa Vayenas, the director of the Procivis Think Tank and author of the book Democracy in the Digital Age.

As usual, there is no clear definition of what CivicTech is and there is a lot of debate which actually gets very political. We can start thinking of CivicTech as any technology that upgrades governments and community governance. So, you are allowed to think of it also as including technologies that reshape democracy. People even include any technology use case that is for common good.

I am only here to share a primer on CivicTech. It became very clear to me (through this first dive into CivitTech) that Social media, Smart Cities in platform economies with ever increasing Digital participation is the era that we live in.

In such a world, CivicTech will increasingly become important. Like it or not, Social media, Smart Cities in platform economies are shaping our identities and values whether we realize it or not. We – the end customers sort of speak – the individuals are demanding more and more rights and the lines of who does what and who is responsible for what, are blurring.

20190520_115650.jpg

Excerpt from the presentation of Prof. Sofia H. Ranchordás, Chair of European and Comparative Public Law & Rosalind Franklin Fellow, University of Groning

“This is Water” is a metaphor for the conscious awareness of others by David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College.

`This is Digital` and we better become conscious of the ocean that we are swimming in:

Social media, Smart Cities in platform economies with ever increasing Digital participation.

digital human.jpgI focus mostly on Fintech, WealthTech, Regtech,….

CivicTech ties into all of these and much more. Chris Skinner presents to us the `Digital Human` in his recent book with the homonymous title. His subtitle `The fourth revolution of humanity includes everyone` ties into CivicTech that has clearly a role to bringing us all together.

Just a few specifics on how CivicTech is being piloted and used globally right now. Digital humans in participatory budgeting are being included in 3,000 municipalities around the world, according to Dr. Tiago Carneiro Peixoto, Senior Public Sector Specialist, World Bank’s Governance Global Practice.

Examples are live all around the globe. The father of Civictech is the UK project FixMyStreet and in the US, Change.org. These are using crowdsourcing community feedback, ideas and project requests to improve budgeting decisions.

Various technologies are being used in CivicTech, from text messages, to app like dashboards and online voting systems of all sorts. These are powered by chatbots, AI and even blockchain technology.

In Brazil in Porto Alegre, one of the most populated cities in South Brazil, the World Bank introduced participatory budgeting as early as 1989. Citizens present their demands and priorities for civic improvement. This use case is one of the longest standing CivicTech implementations. Because of the increased investment in sanitation and health, the processes have reduced infant mortality. In addition, the tax collection rate has improved by more than 30%. One of the learnings of CivicTech implementation in underdeveloped areas (where it is most needed) is that quantifiable results become evident typically after a 5yr period. So, these are not quick wins.

In Argentina the city of Rosario, has been the test ground for a gender-mixed participatory budgeting approach, aiming to involve more women in the participatory budgeting process, and to raise awareness around gender issues and the positive impact of female participation.

New York City has an interactive map – the Idea Collection Map – that any community member can submit an idea. Community volunteers, called Budget Delegates review the ideas and turn them into real proposals for a ballot, with input from city agencies. These proposals will be up for a community-wide vote. This Participatory Budgeting process is being used to directly decide how to spend at least $1,000,000 of the public budget in participating Council Districts.

In Belgium mini-publics are already being used to improve democratic processes and make them more transparent. Mini-publics are an assembly of citizens who are demographically representative of the community. The topics handled by mini-publics range from controversial science and technology issues to social issues like health and justice. Mini publics are now institutionalized in Madrid and in the German-speaking part of Belgium.

Paris has decided to allocate 5% of its investment budget to be handled through participatory budgeting. This started in 2014 and is planned for a 6yr period (until 2020) and encompasses a total of 0.5billion euros. The issues that have brought up by the community are urban agriculture, greening the city, and caring for refugees and homeless people.

In China, a unique participatory budgeting project started in Chengdu in 2011. This is a city of close to 15million people. Since the start of this process, there have been 50,000 small projects approved. Most them are for basic local services in infrastructure, such as village roads and water supply. The unique design of the implementation is that the citizens have the choice to either spend the participatory budgeting resources on immediate actions, or to use them as a down payment on a collective loan for much larger projects. If the latter is chosen, then the loan is repaid by a part of the participatory budget in the following years.

In the US, Vallejo a city in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, has been using technology for participatory budgeting courtesy of the Stanford Crowdsourced Democracy Team since 2012. There have been 5 voting cycles to allocate over $8million to fund 27 projects. Vallejo reports that 20,000 residents of Vallejo have participated. Unfortunately, during a recent vote (Cycle 6) there was a loss of all votes due to human errors and people are asked to revote.

Conclusion

`This is Digital` and we better become conscious of the ocean that we are swimming in: Social media, Smart Cities in platform economies with ever increasing Digital participation.

This is a #TwitterDemocracy[1] kind of world. Social media alone, are a digital participation form 24/7. We are shifting from one-off events like voting to a very interconnected world. With smart cities, we will provide real-time feedback which swiftly makes the loop into all platforms and into our life. Technology can help us become more efficient and arrive at a consensus at local levels much faster and better than we are able today.

For this however to happen, we need to improve literacy at all levels. Digital literacy is paramount to include everyone in this new future world.

[1] I am using #TwitterDemocracy as a generic term.

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer.

 I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).