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 APIs allow us to make payments seamlessly, reaching the global marketplace at our fingertips, by transmitting information from one piece of software to another.

But as APIs become increasingly part of our day-to-day transactions, how can we make sure they are the best fit for the service users and that they do not fall into the trap of prioritising style over substance? Finance Monthly hears from Henry McKeon, Innovation Architect at moneycorp.

Banks, fintechs and APIs

For incumbent banks, APIs give the opportunity to expand their customer reach, by offering a more accessible range of services, along with potential partnership opportunities with fintechs. However, due to the business model of the bigger banking institution, they are inherently less agile than their fintech counterparts, meaning they often come up against barriers in the development of their API offerings.

On the other hand, we see a number of fintechs who rush to get their API service to market in order to serve their customer base – who are more likely to be tech-savvy. And while they have an agile business model that allows then to be flexible in adapting customer solutions, they don’t have the heritage and pre-built trust with the general public, along with the years of customer feedback to implement into their systems.

The customer at the core

Fundamentally, a successful API has the customer at the very core. In the first instance, it’s vital that the provider looks at the specific customer requirements and relates those needs directly to the API services.  Working closely with end customers helps to provide a better understanding of customer requirements and helps to structure the API offering. In building an API offering, developers should look to engage a number of existing customers to understand their requirements and to offer the functionality that would service clients across a wide variety of industries and needs.

Fundamentally, a successful API has the customer at the very core.

Some customers need efficiency in order to operate at scale; keying payment transactions manually via a web portal doesn’t scale and is error prone. Mass payment file processing provides efficiency and reduces errors but is not always what our high-tech customers are looking for. They want open API services so that they can link their platform directly to payment and foreign exchange services, they want to drive transactions from their own platforms directly. Having the ability to access services via API instead of via files provides the ultimate flexibility.

Building a central set of API endpoints, which provide the core banking on a multi-currency wallet, global and local beneficiary validation, international payment capabilities, peer-to-peer facilities for instant transfers, and 24/7 multi bank dealing and transactional and statement capabilities is part of the core requirement which help service customer needs.

Different industries have different requirements

The diverse needs of the customer journey are put into perspective when looking at invoice factoring customers who service short term debt. They need strong banking facilities for receiving and auto-allocating incoming money. Receiving is a key part of the banking offering, so doing that quickly and across a multi-currency account is a core part of our offering. Having account tiering (Parent-Child segregation) also helps with segregating money and reconciliation.

Invoice factoring companies need efficient pay out capabilities, for paying suppliers (early) and paying back to investors at the end of the agreed term. As a result, the ability for an API to provide speed, global coverage and multi-channel capabilities are crucial. Building receiving information into the API, providing instant access to balancing and received funds, along with the referencing on incoming money therefore becomes a fundamental requirement. This allows customers to understand the source of the money, so they can do checking an allocation on their own platform.

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Freelancing companies are another good use case for APIs. By their very nature, they are collecting and paying consultant salaries and need to be able to capture consultant bank details accurately and securely. In addition, they want to be able to validate these bank details at the point of capture, instead of at the point of payment, in order to avoid any errors or delays. Having the ability to validate local and global bank routing information at the point of entry using an API is a big advantage. Having a validation rules engine enables clients to dynamically configure the capture screens on the source freelancing system. In showing the mandatory banking fields required for each country and currency, it provides clarity on the required fields and validation of the banking details captured as part of the API offering. This functionality fundamentally helps eliminate payment failures, reduce rework and costs in the payment process.

When working with clients running freelancing sites, you’ll often find that they also require FX conversion and payment facilities which need to be embedded into the API to facilitate global pay out requirements. Local payout facilities also help reduce costs of transmission and receipt, as sending through expensive international channels is not always suitable.

This is also echoed in the requirement for shipping companies, that need to be able to pay efficiently for port calls globally. Having access to a wide range of international payments routes and currencies is essential to provide a full service. For example, at moneycorp we have partnered with Inchcape Shipping to provide Smartpay which services the world's maritime industry. Smartpay simplifies the payment process, providing efficiency and transparency and helping to centralize treasury and FX and payment services for the group.

FX providers give substance and style

In the fast-evolving world of API solutions, style is impossible to achieve without substantive attention to detail. This is even more apt in the space of foreign exchange, where achieving speed, efficiency and security can be more of a challenge due to the nature of banking across borders. In this space, to be successful, an API needs the agility of a fintech to evolve to rapidly changing consumer needs but be backed by substantive banking networks and expertise to execute payments securely and quickly across currencies, markets and time zones.

In the past it was only banks and legacy money transfer agencies that undertook the international transfer of money. The advent of the digital age has, however, enabled a slew of new age international money transfer companies to offer these services at excellent terms.

Quite a few of these international money transfer companies have earned a reputation formidable enough to place them among the top, as MoneyTransfers.com reveals. Let’s look at some of them and examine what makes them the very best among international money transfer companies.

1.  Remitly

This service works out great for those who are sending money abroad for the first time, what with their convenient way of enabling the money transfer, as well as the attractive rates offered to new customers. They offer an express service that enables an international money transfer in four hours’ time as well as an economy version that takes 3 to 5 business days for a transaction to be complete. The fee charged for each service is, of course, commensurate with the delivery timeline.

2.  TransferWise

TransferWise has earned a creditable reputation for itself as both an economical and efficient enabler of international money transfers. Both their exchange rate and upfront fee are quite attractive, making them a very popular choice for people seeking to transfer money abroad cheaply. Besides, there are no upper or lower limits on the amount of money one can transfer. Their user friendly app and website make an international money transfer a breeze.

3.  OFX

They have been around for two decades and are known to not charge anything for transferring money abroad. Their ability to transfer money within 24 hours in the case of 80% of the world’s currencies. They are quite a popular service in the UK, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the US.

4.  XE Money Transfer

They are an extremely popular international money transfer company on account of the excellent terms they offer, as well as their customer service, which is out of the top drawer. Their rates too are quite good, especially when compared to banks.

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5.  TORFX

This is another very popular international money transfer agency known as much for their better-than-bank rates, as they are for the many accolades they have gathered over the years for their stellar services. It’s not for nothing that they have been designated UK’s International Money Transfer Provider for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018. You can even transfer amounts greater than $2500 via phone instructions to the personal account manager, as also online.

6.  Currencies Direct

Again,this international money transfer agency is a much awarded one, having been nominated as the Money Age award winners for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018. They don’t charge a transfer fee and enable international money transfers quite conveniently via online, phone and app. Their popularity can be gauged by the fact that they have as many as 325,000 customers.

7.  Moneycorp

This is quite a popular international money transfer service on account of the fact that they are known to be very user friendly, safe and secure. You pay nothing for opening an account with them and they charge nothing for enabling an international money transfer either. What’s more their exchange rates are very competitive, which you can avail of through your personal account manager or via a 24x7 online account. It’s not for nothing that they are the recipients of the Feefo Gold Trusted Award.

Conclusion

The international money transfer service market is truly a buyer’s market where one gets to choose a service provider based on how best they can serve your interest. All you need to do is to take the trouble of finding out which one of the many offers you receive is the right one for you.

This industry has never been noted for leading technological progress. Its reliance on paper-based processes, even among the larger, better-resourced firms, is well known. Unfortunately, these technological shortcomings have been exposed in stark fashion as the COVID-19 pandemic forces most companies to rely on remote working and communications. This extreme stress test has made even some of the larger real estate companies realise their digital capabilities are woefully inadequate.

In particular, the crisis has revealed the poor quality of networks at many real estate companies and the low priority often given to data security and protection. This lack of security has even led in some cases to the ‘free’ software they use tapping into the data of users for advertising purposes. ‘Cookies’ and spyware can automatically collect individuals’ shopping and viewing habits via search engines to better direct adverts that provide revenue, raising concerns about organisations’ own levels of privacy and security, too.

Essential steps to digitalisation

If real estate companies are to take on board the lessons of this crisis and successfully modernise their digital systems, then they must:

Recognition of these challenges and appetite for change is certainly prevalent in the industry. New research commissioned by Drooms1 found that two thirds (67%) of real estate professionals say their organisations’ efficiency would increase if their systems were to have seamless integration with third-party platforms that give them access to a variety of functionalities. Nearly a third (32%) believe this improvement would be ‘dramatic’.

API offers a seamless integration solution

A leading-edge solution for achieving seamless integration is an Application Programming Interface (API), which enables the interconnection of software systems and data between businesses and third-party providers, representing a major step forward in streamlining workflows. Nearly two in three (65%) respondents in our survey nominated APIs as the IT feature they would most like to see incorporated into the tech they use, versus 29% who cited ‘security’ and 15% ‘blockchain’. More than half (59%) of real estate professionals would like to see APIs improved, ahead of other tech features, such as security (41%).

Drooms has opened up its API to its clients, meaning they can seamlessly integrate their VDRs with a range of software systems. These systems include real estate market analysis software that enable clients to consolidate fragmented data and make immediate comparisons of their portfolios against the wider market. This means data-driven decisions can be made quickly without having to log in and out of several systems, draw on various information siloes or work between applications.

With so many staff having to work from home across Europe, the fragility of companies’ IT networks has been exposed. It is now clear that for teleworking to work successfully then companies must implement adequate software tools. They must invest in high-functioning and secure technology that is going to optimise current workflows rather than demoralise their staff.

These tools must reduce pressure on servers, include appropriate data file sharing and storage systems, solve any issues with document formats and make data easily accessible to authorised people and teams, enabling access via a range of devices e.g. browser, app, mobile, etc. This latter function can be problematic given that the security in place inside company firewalls is completely different from that in homes, presenting a tough challenge for many companies.

COVID-19 crisis is likely to change attitudes

Many real estate companies have yet to fully address these issues. While some generic file sharing and storage systems can help companies, these can only provide make-shift solutions. For a complete and secure set-up, companies should look to specialised services, and ensure they take great care in vetting their providers.

The COVID-19 crisis is highly likely to change attitudes and focus company leaders’ minds on bringing about such changes - especially when they realise that a lockdown could be re-instated at short notice for some time, possibly even into next year.

(1) Source: Survey conducted between 28 January and 21 February 2020 by PollRight. The panel of 34 real estate investors covers both fund managers and investors across Europe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not just had a devastating impact on health and society, it has dominated economic and business matters unlike anything we’ve seen in peacetime history, and, across the globe, schools, companies, charities and self-employed professionals are still adjusting to a brand new remote working contingency plan.

Fortunately, as a society, we are extremely well-equipped to adapt to remote working with a turnaround time of just a few days. This was proven by the sheer quantity of businesses, many of whom care for thousands of employees, who just a few weeks ago managed to transform their entire internal structure to a digital environment. Not only is this an inspiring example of human  collaboration at a time of crisis but also a true testament to the power of the technology at our disposal.

In fact, remote working has proven itself so effective for some organisations, that it has gone beyond a short term contingency plan; it’s starting to look like remote, or at least flexible working, will be incorporated in the long term for thousands of office-based workers. Clement Desportes De La Fosse, Co-founder and Chief Operating and Financial Officer at Spearvest, shares his thoughts on how the finance sector will be forever changed by the pandemic.

Although it may sound premature to think about a post COVID-19 world, a majority of industry operations are sure to change forever, and, none more so than in the financial sector. For many years, traditional banks and financial institutions have been associated with outdated infrastructure and slow legacy IT systems, which are a burden for financial professionals and consumers alike. In fact, a recent study in 2019 revealed that UK banks were hit by ‘at least one’ online banking outage every day across a nine month period.

Today, the demand for banking and financial services has never been higher: emergency loans, government payment schemes and personal finance management are required for people to survive. What’s more, visiting a branch in person is no longer an option, and therefore financial institutions are forced to invest in capable IT infrastructure and relevant automation, regulation, and finance technology to deal with influx of demand.

For many years, traditional banks and financial institutions have been associated with outdated infrastructure and slow legacy IT systems, which are a burden for financial professionals and consumers alike.

Whilst it could be argued that this much-need update was inevitable, the pandemic has certainly forced many banks’ hands in enforcing this change, and means our financial institutions will emerge from the crisis with a much more capable IT infrastructure. The following areas are where banks are, or should be investing, in the coming weeks, months and years, with insight into how exactly these cutting-edge technologies are impacting the financial services sector for the better.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a growing trend in finance in the past decade, primarily being used to address key pressure points, reduce costs and mitigate risks. However, the demand for digital banking services as a result of COVID-19 will likely push the sector in the direction of developing and incorporating sophisticated automation and customer service AI.

We’re a few years off the mass adoption of robotics technology of this nature, but it’s safe to say the COVID-19 threat has highlighted the pressing need for more automation and better service technology.

Public Cloud

The shift toward cloud-based computing has already been significant, with most financial institution operating cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications for business processes, such as HR, accounting, admin solutions and even security analytics and know-your-customer verification.

However, advancements being made in cloud technologies and increasing demand for SaaS applications for remote workers means that soon we could see core services in the financial sector, such as consumer payments, credit scoring and billing, to become stored and managed in cloud-based SaaS solutions.

RegTech

Much like the increasing demand for AI and Cloud-based SaaS applications, regulatory technology (RegTech), can do important work in ensuring financial work remains regulated and legal. The right RegTech, such as automated customer onboarding technology, can also save a firm a lot of time, freeing-up much-needed time to focus on the work that can not be completed by software or a robot.

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Big Data

Customer intelligence facilitated by big data and consumer behaviour is an incredibly important tool which can be used for extremely accurate decision making, risk-assessments and revenue and profitability forecasts, to name just a few use-case example.

Some modern financial institutions and start-ups have been using big data and analytics technology for a number of years, and those more ‘traditional’ which may have neglected this cutting-edge technology are depriving their customers of top tier financial advice and insight at a time when they are in need of it most.

Security

Cyber attacks, money laundering and hackers have always threatened the financial services to a large extent. However, with entire workforces online, operating in a remote, sometime unsecure environment, the cyber-threat facing consumers has never been larger.

Thus, cyber-security has, and should, be invested in heavily by financial institutions looking to protect their own client, employee and company sensitive information. At the same time, safe internet and banking practice should be implemented and taught to all members of the general public to ensure they do not give away sensitive information such as payment details.

Fast forward, five years from now, we will look at the pandemic as a trigger that enabled us to spend our time more efficiently, and digital technology and the cloud will be key in facilitating this positive change.

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread there has been a worrying rise in harassment, bullying, and discrimination in the workplace. Initially, this was seen to be race-related - targeting people of Asian origin - but has since spread to include people who expressed symptoms of the virus. Now as large swathes of the global workforce move to a working from home model, employers are faced with a new challenge - that the vector for workplace discrimination will shift in parallel with the main mode of communication. Neta Meidav, co-founder & CEO of Vault Platform, explores this phenomenon below.

Tasked not only with rapidly implementing a company-wide working from home strategy to keep businesses that are still operational up and running, many HR functions are also operationally responsible for mass layoffs all while building a crisis information and communication plan out. Bluntly, HR teams are maxed out and will struggle to field a rising number of queries about the new workplace etiquette.

Law firm Lewis Silkin LLP estimates that around 59% of large multinational enterprises have already put into place a plan to respond to pandemic diseases such as Coronavirus. Typical measures include social distancing and remote working arrangements. The majority (88%) of are managing self-isolation by asking employees to work from home.

It’s difficult to actually get a handle on the number of people whose jobs allow them to work fully remotely, especially with such an unprecedented situation. But cloud security services firm Netskope, which routes corporate traffic for hundreds of thousands of office workers said it estimates that the number of American knowledge workers (white collar desk workers) logging in from home hit a high of 58% on March 19. This is up from an average of 27% over the last six months.

While there may be some anecdotal evidence that the untested shift to an emergency working form model is in fact working, it is early days and there is plenty of research that points to warnings we should all be heeding.

Bluntly, HR teams are maxed out and will struggle to field a rising number of queries about the new workplace etiquette.

A 2017 study by David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny for leadership training consultancy VitalSmarts found that just over half of people who work mostly remotely feel they don’t get treated equally by their colleagues. Now the obvious retort is that ‘we’re all remote workers now,’ so the playing field is levelled. But research suggests the problem is more with the medium than whether workers fall into the ‘in office’ or ‘WFH’ camps.

Some 30% of UK respondents to a survey by Totaljobs in 2018 said they had been victims of workplace discrimination on official corporate messaging platforms, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Chat. In the US, a 2019 survey by Monster.com revealed that 39% of respondents had received aggressive messages from colleagues on similar tools.

Cyber-bullying has been well documented for some time and remains as persistent in the corporate workplace as it does in schools and colleges. A recent high-profile case focuses on the departure of the CEO of leading consumer brand Away after an exposé of bullying culture over Slack.

The revelations of Away are an anomaly - most incidents go unreported. The same studies show that 30% of workers in the UK (according to Totaljobs) and 34% in the US (according to Monster.com) who do experience cyberbullying suffer in silence because they are not confident they will be supported by their employer. Lloyds of London was exposed in December last year after their complaint hotlines were proved to be inoperative for 16 months due to unpaid phone bills, and in 2018 the Financial Conduct Authority put senior managers on notice that their futures in the City were at risk if they did not take diversity seriously, while companies faced fines after a 220% increase in interpersonal whistleblowing complaints over the previous 12 months. According to Totaljobs, around 8% find it easier to leave their jobs than to complain and request an investigation into the situation.

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Digital workers are disincentivised from reporting workplace misconduct in the same way as employees that spend all their time in the physical presence of their colleagues. Firstly, the available channels for reporting misconduct are intimidating; and secondly, they don’t feel confident their employer will act on the report.

But the fact remains that employers are legally obliged to protect their workers and that responsibility doesn’t change because they are now out of sight. While ethically, employers should take more care during these uncertain times.

This week Revolut launched what it’s calling an ‘Open Banking’ feature in the UK; an additional function within its mobile application that allows users to see their bank accounts form other providers.

Revolut partnered with TrueLayer to deliver the new feature, which has already had plenty of encouraging press. The challenger bank has made full use of the open banking environment that exists in today’s banking sphere to offer its customers something beyond the usual.

The new Open Banking feature means Revolut’s mobile banking customers can see other accounts they have, see balances and transactions and set budgeting controls that include their other accounts as well as their Revolut account.

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Joshua Fernandes, product owner at Revolut, said: “With the launch of our new Open Banking feature, UK customers can now view and manage multiple external bank accounts, enabling them to interpret their day to day spending across all of their accounts, with the added benefit of making our offering even more relevant, user-friendly, faster and more cost-efficient for our customers,” according to Finextra.

Visit the Revolut site for more information on how it works and what an API is.

Research by Triodos bank just a few years ago in 2016 indicated that over three quarters (77%) of UK adults supported greater competition from challenger banks.

According to Jamie Johnson, CEO at FJP Investment, such a confronting statistic suggests that alternative banks could offer certain opportunities that traditional banks lack. Below he shares more about the new and re-invested world of consumer finance.

Fast-forward three years, and today we are seeing floods of people opening accounts with newcomers like Monzo and Revolut. In fact, FJP Investment recently polled a nationally-representative sample of over 2,000 UK consumers and found that almost one in five (18%) have already made the transition from a traditional high street bank to a challenger bank. As one might expect, this number was significantly higher amongst millennials, with over a third (33%) claiming to have already made the switch.

The question beckons: why are UK consumers looking to challenger banks? And does this reflect a broader change within financial landscape?

Taking a wider view

Reflecting on the recent performance of the UK savings market more generally can offer valuable insight into why we’ve seen a notable rise in challenger banks. The market has undergone a fundamental shift in the last decade, particularly in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and, more recently, Brexit.

This climate of uncertainty has caused The Bank of England to be far more cautious in their decision making. Consequently, the interest rate below 1% for the past ten years, offering consumers little hope that their savings pots might grow. Meanwhile, the rate of inflation has been outstripping interest rates offered by most banks. Unfortunately, consumers are taking a financial hit, and seeing their hard-earned savings declining in value.

Indeed, the aforementioned FJP Investment research revealed that in the last 12 months alone, two fifths (38%) of UK consumers have seen the value of their savings decline.

Yet, the UK remains a proud nation of savers. Traditional savings accounts continue to be the bedrock of most people’s financial strategies, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future: currently, over three quarters of UK adults (79%) hold some money in savings accounts. However, we cannot ignore the changing attitudes that have taken the market by storm – consumers are increasingly shopping around for alternatives that can better match their needs. Many are turning in the direction of challenger banks.

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Do challenger banks plug these gaps?

Startups like Monzo and Revolut are undoubtedly revolutionising the banking experience, with forward-thinking features and sleek app design proving to be increasingly popular among younger generations of savers. But apart from the attraction of a well-designed app, what else do challenger banks bring to the table?

For one, challenger banks typically offer better rates – of Britons who have joined digital-only banks, or intend to in the next five years, almost a third (31%) say this is why they made the decision. Other advantages, which influenced consumers to make the switch, include the ability to transfer money more easily (28%), free transactions abroad (22%) and the benefit of receiving real-time notifications about spending (22%).

For consumers who are keen to make their money go further, these digital banks offer convenient methods of financial management.

This last point is key: for consumers who are keen to make their money go further, these digital banks offer convenient methods of financial management. Many challenger banks offer individuals greater oversight over their finances and enable a better understanding their spending habits – and perhaps more importantly, digital banks also highlight ways in which they can improve their financial behaviour. For example, many of these apps come with real-time tracking of spending.

Beyond this, they also commonly include features which encourage saving. For instance, a consumer might utilise functions which round up expenses to the nearest pound, before depositing the remainder in a designated savings pot. For those with more long-term financial goals in mind, other functions might help users set monthly budgets and receive notifications if they are overspending.

The general point to note is that consumers are becoming savvier when it comes to saving, in turn making them less reliant on traditional savings methods that can fail to satisfy their needs. It’s encouraging to see more people seizing the opportunity to make the most of their money, and challenger banks are certainly helping.

We saw the digital transformation of eCommerce with what 10 years ago was a complex process to open an online store that can now be accomplished in minutes. Gone are the expensive payment provider integrations with the rise of Shopify opening an online store is a streamlined and automatic process.

With the automation through machine learning and artificial intelligence of once complex lending processes, the same can now be said for how eLending is completely changing the banking and financial worlds.

Unified Lending Management - What It Is & How It Automates Lending

Unified Lending Management (ULM) is the concept that describes the complete complex of measures business undertakes to digitalize their crediting processes.

A solution that can automate all steps in the lending process from the loan origination approval through to the collections and reporting process is the way that lending processes can be automated to be as easy as the opening of a Shopify store.

One company leading the Unified Lending Management (ULM) industry in terms of innovation and reliability is TurnKey Lender. TurnKey Lender designs and develops end-to-end intelligent software products that automate the entire lending process.

TurnKey Lender offers software solutions that automate every part of the lending process for different types of creditors: money lenders, SME financing companies, grant management institutions, leasing, trade finance, in-house financing, and bank-grade lenders. Currently, TurnKey Lender serves customers in over 50 countries as the trend is developing. The functional modules, that come either fully integrated or as separate tools, cover application processing, loan origination, risk evaluation, underwriting and credit decisioning, loan servicing, collection, and reporting.

How Artificial Intelligence Drives Lending Automation

Led by Dmitry Voronenko, who holds a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence and has been creating banking solutions for decades, TurnKey Lender heavily invests in the idea of applying machine learning, deep neural networks, and other AI approaches to make the lending process more streamlined, intelligent, and secure.

This is an example of how technology and science can often take complex matters and make them simple and automated. Below is an overview of the thinking process that TurnKey Lender’s credit decisioning engine does. Additionally, it conducts the complete risk evaluation and credit decisioning process within a 30-second time frame. It would work even faster if requests for risk profiles came back from credit bureaus faster.

To deliver the most accurate and secure system for credit decisioning possible, TurnKey Lender developed sophisticated models powered by both deep neural networks and proven statistical techniques. The solution combines numerous evaluation approaches in the assessment of each borrower.

In order to build the process to be more potent than traditional scoring, the contributing parameters can include financials scoring, firmographics, credit bureau evaluations, loan application scoring, and bank account statement scoring with rules, decision trees, cross-checks, and calculations.

In the new digital reality, AI-powered credit decisioning allows lenders to:

Conclusion

Dmitry Voronenko, CEO and co-founder of TurnKey Lender

AI-powered credit scoring system is a part of TurnKey Lender’s Unified Lending Management solution and it can be delivered in tandem with many other pre-integrated systems or as a stand-alone tool. The system provides a choice between a fully automated borrower`s digital journey and a semi-automated creditworthiness analysis. This helps lenders combine the power of predictive models with the knowledge of in-house experts.

For more info about the company’s lending automation solutions or for a free personalized demo, contact the TurnKey Lender team at sales@turnkey-lender.com.

And to wrap up, here is a quote from Dmitry Voronenko, CEO and co-founder of TurnKey Lender: “The importance of this kind of proprietary technology is hard to put into words. This scoring has the potential to make business crediting across borders and industries safer, faster, and more lucrative for everyone involved.”

Mobile payment solution M-Pesa is widely adopted in Kenya and across the wider continent, with over 30 million people using the service to send and receive money. TymeBank is also hoping to become a household name in South Africa. It claims to be South Africa’s “first fully digital bank”, and recently launched its EveryDay account.

However, the big traditional branches are also getting in on the digital action and Standard Chartered is making a big play. A multitude of digital banks have been launched, and there are more to come. Jaydeep Gupta, region head of retail banking, Africa and Middle East at Standard Chartered, tells Global Data’s Retail Banker International that this is just the beginning.

“We have now launched digital banks in eight markets within 15 months as we have seen a growing demand for convenient banking in Africa. In line with this, we will be launching our digital bank in Nigeria which follows the eight digital banks which we have already launched so far. We are also working on the roll-out of the SC Keyboard to additional markets in Africa. This includes launches in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria throughout the rest of the year.

“The SC Keyboard platform allows customers to access a variety of financial services from within any social or messaging platform without having to open the banking app. It can be configured as the default keyboard on any smartphone, making banking quick and seamless for customers who no longer need to log into their SC Mobile app for basic banking services.”

Africa is generally perceived as a cash focused continent, and while cash is still popular mobile money is catching up fast.

Gupta says: “There is still quite a high prevalence of cash usage on the continent, but you just need to look at how well mobile money has taken off over the past decade to know that Africa is moving away from cash. Mobile money is now active in 31 countries in Africa, with 84 million active mobile money accounts.”

This massive expansion in digital begs the question of whether there is still a need for the old brick and mortar establishments?

Gupta concludes: “Retaining the ‘human’ element in banking remains crucial. While digital channels are undoubtedly more efficient, hold lower error rates and have decreased cost-to-serve ratios, finding the balance between traditional and digital banking services is the key to providing exceptional customer service. Customers will always require an element of human interaction and, at Standard Chartered, we are focusing on fusing these offerings in order to provide a seamless customer experience.”

Whilst UK banks are already trialling the biometric credit card, consumers must be made aware of the wide range of benefits biometric payment cards have to offer for biometrics to be embraced as the next generation of payment technology.

Below David Orme, Senior Vice President at IDEX Biometrics ASA explains how biometric fingerprint authenticated payment cards will bring new levels of security and convenience to the payment market, taking the bank card into the 21st century.

Biometric technology continues to gain momentum in many areas of our lives. Earlier this month, NatWest became the first UK bank to trial a biometric credit card, which will see consumers carrying out contactless payments using their fingerprint, instead of a PIN, for authentication.

As similar trials take place around the world, we can expect this new payment technology to become an everyday necessity within the next year. But as biometric smart cards start to roll out, consumers may wonder, “why do I need another form of payment technology?”

The reality is, biometric fingerprint authentication cards bring many strengths that will make our payments, and therefore our everyday lives, more secure. With fingerprint authentication cards starting to land in people’s wallets, payments will soon become the area where consumers interact most strongly with biometric technology on a daily basis. Consequently, it is vital to make it clear to consumers just how much they stand to benefit from biometric-enabled payment cards, to encourage rapid adoption and ensure their successful roll-out.

Advanced levels of security

The biometric payment card has been developed to bring new levels of security to payment transactions. Fingerprint authorisation links a particular person to their payment card — as, for transactions to be processed, the owner’s fingerprint has to be matched on-card. This connection to the owner’s physical identity reduces the potential for payment fraud and improves authentication security, for both card-present and card-not-present fraud.

Biometric fingerprint payment cards also provide end-to-end encryption, securing the user’s card and their biometric data, which never leaves the card. This ensures hacking and breaches of fingerprints aren’t scalable.

Biometric payment card technology will also integrate with the expectations of Strong Consumer Authentication (SCA), part of the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2), a new European regulatory requirement to tackle online and payment fraud. For consumers, this currently means providing at least two factors of authentication such as a PIN, or a one-time passcode, are combined with the possession of a payment card, even for contactless payments.

But with biometric payment cards, the card owner can authenticate with the non-intrusive method of placing their fingerprint on the sensor while tapping their contactless card on the PoS system. This will allow users to benefit from the flexible, convenient factors of secure authentication, rather than having to remember PINs.

Making payments more convenient

While consumers value the extra security biometric smart cards bring, it’s important for this new payment technology to be as convenient as possible to ensure wide-spread adoption. Therefore, biometric-enabled payment cards need to deliver significant security improvements with very little impact on the current contactless experience, or changes to user behaviour.

Of course, consumers have been shopping with payment cards for decades and understand how to use them. Likewise, the majority will already be familiar with fingerprint authentication, thanks to its near ubiqui­tous use on smartphones, to unlock devices or to authenticate mobile payment app transactions. This familiarity and comfort with the technology reduces the barrier to adoption of biometric payment cards.

With this new payment method, a user will replace PIN entry with fingerprint authentication for all transactions. The fingerprint sensor is conveniently positioned on the card, taking into account the typical way a consumer will hold it when completing a transaction to minimise any change to the payment process.

With this new payment method, a user will replace PIN entry with fingerprint authentication for all transactions.

Importantly, existing PoS retail infrastructure must still be used to ensure smooth roll out of biometric authentication cards. This is because consumers are already used to the technology, as well as to minimise the need for additional investment from retailers.

On top of this familiarity, the shopping experience will likely become even more convenient with the adoption of biometric payment cards. By adding secure fingerprint verification to the payment authentication process, contactless transaction limits could actually be increased or even eradicated en­tirely, meaning users can benefit from not having to remember PINs, and can pay via secure contactless for all transaction values.

One card to rule them all

Nowadays, the average consumer has multiple cards weighing down their wallets, from debit and credit cards, loyalty schemes, contactless public transport tickets, IDs, healthcare cards and more. This seems out-dated in an age where we expect to do so many things all from one smartphone.

In smart phones, biometric technology is already used to securely access many different applications, including banking and payment apps. In much the same way, this multi-application authentication process can be incorporated in a physical payment card with a built-in biometric fingerprint scanner. This will reduce the number of cards in a person’s wallet, making it faster to tap-and-go securely for many different transactions, all from one card.

Achieving top-of-the-wallet status

Today, consumers expect more speed and convenience from their services, and the same applies to the payment process. They’re looking for a transaction procedure that is fast, secure and free from hold ups. Adopting biometric fingerprint authentication will help achieve this, making payments more beneficial. This will also allow banks and financial institutions who introduce this technology to achieve top-of-wallet status with their cards.

Overall, biometric fingerprint authenticated payment cards will bring new levels of security to the payment market, taking the bank card into the 21st century. Through biometric fingerprint-authentication cards, consumers can access the best in terms of payment security, convenience and usability. As a result, now is the time to embrace this new form of payment technology.

According to recent figures from the British Retail Consortium, cash has gone from the most common way to pay for shopping in the UK to third ­– in only a few shorts years. It now accounts for just £1 of every £5 spent in shops, with contactless, phone and watch payments all increasingly growing in popularity.

You may therefore find yourself asking: why do we still need cash if we don’t use it anymore? Shouldn’t we be adopting these new and improved methods of paying for goods instead?

Well, no not quite yet – cash still has a major role to play in our society. Listed below are five key reasons why.

  1. Not everywhere accepts cards

Nothing beats a greasy kebab from a food truck after a night on the town, or a cheeky purchase from a handicraft stall while out shopping. However, these sorts of places often require you to pay with cash, mainly because the vendors can’t afford to offer card payment alternatives.

Just because you have a fancy phone or watch that can pay for things with a simple tap, that doesn’t necessarily mean everywhere else is up to your level of digital savviness. Roadside stands, super hole-in-the-wall restaurants and food vans often only ever take cash so, unless you want to trade your fancy phone for a burger, you’re going to need some cash.

  1. It’s great in an emergency

Let’s set the scene: you’re on a night out enjoying yourself when you realise you’ve run out of drink. You head to the bar, order another one, and get your wallet out ready to pay. Suddenly, you realise that your card is missing – you must have lost it dancing earlier on.

In these types of situations, having cash available can make a huge difference. Not only can it allow you to buy that drink you were after, but it also enables you to carry on enjoying your night, and get home safely in a taxi when you’re ready to head back home.

  1. It makes tipping easier

When you visit a restaurant, it’s usually courteous to leave a tip. While some restaurants include this on the bill beforehand, or make a point to ask for it on the card reader itself, many people prefer leaving a handful of cash behind instead – depending on the quality of service provided.

Similarly, if you use a card to pay for purchases at a smaller restaurant, service provider or store, they won’t actually receive the full amount of money you pay. This is because using a card machine actually costs the company money themselves; somewhere between 0.6 – 3.5% of the purchase price, plus an additional fee on top.

  1. Cash prevents overspending

If you are looking to stay in control of your finances, many studies have shown that people spend a lot more when paying with a credit card, compared to cash. This is because the tangibility of actually having to part with cash makes the ‘pain’ of the payment process feel much more real. By using a credit card, you don’t see the money leave your account, so the whole process of paying feels like it hasn’t even happened.

The pain of paying with a card only sets in once you make the brave decision to actually look at your bank balance.

  1. Cash protects your privacy

Spending money on a credit card creates loads of data. This data, in turn, can be easily accessed by prying eyes, such as the government, hackers, or corporate financial institutions.

Cash, on the other hand, is relatively untraceable, as it leaves no track record of who handled it, when, and at what time. Therefore, if you’d rather keep your data and purchase records to yourself, cash is the only means of doing this.

This doesn’t have to be for any criminal motive either: say you have a joint bank account with your partner and are on the lookout for a birthday present for them, they could easily see what you bought them if you paid for it using the joint credit or debit card. Surprise ruined.

Just look at how much the banking industry has changed over the past 50+ years. From the arrival in London of the first automatic teller machine in 1967, to the launch of the first banking websites in the mid-nineties, to the emergence of digital-only banks — also known as neo-banks - the banking industry has significantly transformed and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

I can even remember a time that I carried around a bank book and waited in line after work, or on my lunch break, to withdraw or deposit money, ask a question or solve a problem. Those kinds of interactions were personal, but in 2019, it's become difficult to imagine leaving my office or home to speak with a customer service agent in person when I can easily connect with a representative online.

It's no wonder digital transformation is top of mind for today's financial companies as they work to upgrade their business models, products and services with next-gen technologies. Today's young consumers gravitate toward mobile utility, with Millennials and Gen Zers preferring to handle their banking via digital means first, then in branch if necessary. To drive this point home - by the end of July of this year, neo-banks, such as Chime, Empower and Aspiration, had secured $2.5 billion in venture capital funding, according to CB insights.

Modern consumers don't just expect a seamless customer experience, they also demand personalisation and transparency. A growing familiarity with mobile technologies and social media makes them more likely to interact with banks through digital platforms. It stands to reason that traditional banks should be reinventing their customer experience to satisfy consumers' wants and needs.

And they are taking note. According to recent research conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC), businesses the world over are expected to spend $1.18 trillion on digital transformation by the end of the year. That's an increase of close to 18% over 2018.

Today's highly competitive business landscape requires that financial services brands integrate digital enablement into their existing infrastructure and leverage next-gen technology to derive actionable insights and intelligence from the data they capture via customer interactions. DX (digital experience) and CX (customer experience) are closely linked, and financial brands of all kinds will benefit from successfully making this connection.

Traditional Banks Play Catch Up

Most traditional banks will tell you they have an airtight strategy for DX. Most will also tell you that supercharging their operations is a big challenge. In fact, IDG’s The State of Digital Business Transformation 2019 study reports that while 91% of companies plan to implement a digital-first approach to business processes, just 48% have done so to date.

The rapid evolution of coveted technologies, and the speed with which competitors are adopting them put pressure on businesses to address digital transformation. But with the urgency to evolve comes trepidation, and that can lead to stumbling blocks. Many traditional banks are left wondering about the best approach.

FinTechs Face Challenges of Their Own

It's clear that traditional banks must work to transform themselves. But what about the neo-banks and FinTechs? Unlike traditional financial institutions, these organisations have been built on a foundation of digital technology. FinTechs have an advantage in that they can set up their digital infrastructure in a tech-forward manner.

Today's young consumers gravitate toward mobile utility, with Millennials and Gen Zers preferring to handle their banking via digital means first, then in branch if necessary.

And yet, FinTechs must navigate hurdles of their own. While they have a leg up on traditional banks when it comes to technology, they may find themselves lacking in another area: human capital.

Having skilled human agents on hand to handle more complex customer queries is something traditional banks tend to have in spades because they understand the value of high-touch service. Personal attention, empathy and the ability to address even the most complicated of customer issues makes human agents a critical component of customer service, regardless of how much technology you have on hand.

As noted by the Harvard Business Review, "Service can be emotional; technology cannot." Because humans are inherently social creatures, "taking away the opportunity for this kind of connection can undermine service performance." And that, in turn, can undermine your brand.

DX + CX = Comprehensive Customer Care

All of this is to say that both traditional banks and FnTechs have unique advantages, and it behooves them to take a cue from each other's approaches. As they continue to evolve and transform to meet the needs of today's customers, they must ensure they're providing both technology and a human touch.

This will require a road map that's customised for their business. Traditional banks are likely to find themselves focusing on digital customer service channels and using artificial intelligence to better gauge consumers' needs.

Based on the results of its retail banking study — which shows that Millennials are switching banks at a rate 2.5 times higher than Baby Boomers and 1.5 times greater than Gen Xers — Gallup recommends that banks invest in technology that can predict their customers' problems, ease communication across channels, and take a more data-based approach to shaping the customer journey.

For FinTechs and neo-banks, the emphasis should be on making CX more human. Using data to tailor solutions to customers' needs is useful, but be sure to have a skilled customer care team in place to answer the questions that will inevitably arise.

Personal attention, empathy and the ability to address even the most complicated of customer issues makes human agents a critical component of customer service, regardless of how much technology you have on hand.

At TELUS International, we address these different yet congruent needs by helping financial companies embrace digital transformation through learning solutions and process consulting. By way of our financial services priority vertical, we help clients establish a game plan to dramatically improve the overall customer experience.

Providing customers with effortless interactions wherever they go, and however they choose to engage with your brand is the key to creating a positive customer experience and building loyalty and trust. Going beyond this would be through offering personalised and anticipatory interactions for customers, along with human agents ready to step in whenever needed.

Whether a financial brand is starting from digital or transforming to digital, a simultaneous focus on customer-centricity and the incorporation of emerging technologies will be what drives sustainable success.

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