Postcard From The Digital Banking Summit

Small Data and the Digital Lag in the US


This year's Digital Banking Summit (DBS) was held in New Orleans. Anyone who visits New Orleans regularly knows that one NEVER comes to the city after April or before October. During DBS temperatures hit 90+ degrees with roughly the same number for the relative humidity giving us a heat index of 105. The fact that SourceOne held this conference in these conditions might actually be a cagey strategy to insure attendance because no one in their right mind would actually go outside.

The conference was well attended with many US financial institutions represented. Content was very good. Two items on the agenda were particularly excellent.   Dan Latimore of Celent hosted a panel discussion on customer experience. Three bankers made up the panel with Andrew Hovet of IBERIABANK providing the keenest insights concerning consistency in the UX over multiple digital access points. IBERIABANK recently replaced its incumbent product with a new vendor specifically to achieve this goal.

Jim Marous of The Financial Brand and Michal Panowicz, who is the head of digital at Nordea, participated in a "fireside chat" (REALLY?) concerning what it takes to be a FinTech start up. Having seen some unicorns become donkeys overnight, Jim and Michal offered a sober view of the headwinds a start up faces. However, they insisted that true innovation would find a way to win out with a little (in my experience  A LOT) of luck.

The standout event at DBS 2016 was an "innovation luncheon" on the value of data to financial institutions. Jim and Michal played "dualing banjos" with Michal providing tales from the real world that supported Jim's insights. As anyone in the industry knows, banks and credit unions do not do a good job of monetizing all the data they have on their customers and members. Jim insisted this was because they are effectively trying to boil the ocean under the Big Data banner. Jim and Michal provided multiple examples of how institutions use "small data" to wow their customers.

The night before the innovation luncheon, Jim, Michal, a few others and I shared a meal at the Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street. The food was delicious (if you go, have the bread pudding if nothing else) and, of course, the conversation was all about industry developments (or lack of thereof). Jim, being from Cleveland, did occasionally lapse into stretches of commentary on the Cavaliers but those passed quickly allowing the geek fest on FinTech to continue.

During the dinner, Michal said he was most surprised about how far behind the US is in terms of what FIs offered to their digital customers. To be precise, Michal said the US was "eight to ten years" behind in this regard. This coincided with what a solutions architect from a large Dutch bank shared with me at the innovation luncheon featuring Jim and Michal. She found the DBS content as "old news...subjects we talked about ten years ago in Europe." To give credit where credit is due, she did say the information she got from Jim and Michal during the luncheon was the best of any she had gained thus far during the conference.

I get the feeling that not many bankers would necessarily agree with the assessment made by Michal or my new friend from Holland. However, if they take an honest look at their IT infrastructure and solutions that support their digital banking channels, surely they would need to admit that what they have is dated, complex and costly. This is particularly true of the regional and midsized institutions who are losing ground to the largest banks when it comes to the satisfaction levels among their digital customers.

Some institutions are making the move to modernize, consolidate and enhance the technology underpinning their digital channels. Most are looking for a single code base or platform that supports any digital device including those yet to be born. The solutions architect from that big bank in the Netherlands said that few banks in Europe would accept ANY solutions that did not provide this foundation.

With the conference winding down today, and the UV index at 11 (I thought it only went to 10!), oysters and beer are in the forecast. While enjoying these basic pleasures, the PoV provided by Jim, Michal and the representative from Holland will be on my mind.

Are we really a decade behind Euroland when it comes to digital banking? Possibly.