Ajwad Hashim joined Barclays back in 2014, just as the UK started to see digital upstarts like Monzo and Revolut rear their heads. To respond to the emerging competition, Hashim built and led an innovation team within the high street bank.
Starting with just him, the bank eventually put a small amount of funding behind the team’s research in 2016 and ran a proof-of-concept (POC) with Israeli start-up Wave.
The POC saw Barclays complete one of the world’s first ever trade finance transactions using blockchain technology, a whole year and a half before rival HSBC completed the same feat.
“That really was the spark to the flame, which off the back of that, everyone in the bank wanted to do more POC-type work and suddenly my team received massive amounts of funding to actually do some cool stuff,” Hashim, Barclays’s vice president and head of strategy, innovation and emerging technology, tells FinTech Futures.
One such POC saw the bank build a cryptocurrency in Manchester. Called the ‘Salford City Coin’, it was designed to reward residents for recycling, and inform the council of when bins were full. The council saved on waste management expenditure, local retailers benefited from the rewards which could be spent in their stores, and Barclays benefitted from the payments network it had created.
Another saw Barclaycard – Barclays’ brand for credit cards – sign a deal with American Airlines and launch a Pokemon Go app in JFK Airport. The app hid points around the airport lounge for passengers to find, boosting Barclaycard’s credit card sign-up rate.
The bank has spun out roughly 15-20 different products since 2016 with start-ups. Asked what he has learnt from being on the buy-side of fintech, Hashim says: “You see just how many start-ups there are operating in a very similar space. And I think a lot of these start-ups tend to focus on the long tail – so the large corporates – and focus on selling to the Barclays and the HSBCs, as opposed to the smaller banks.”
Hashim is taking a similar approach with his own venture, but just in a different sector. His start-up Hotel Manager is looking to create an ecosystem of local vendors, targeting the mid-market hotels which simply do not have the budget or technology teams to build their own apps.
Asking for a “low-cost” monthly licensing fee, Hashim says the start-up will help connect the dots between hotels and the vendors around them – be that restaurants, retailers, or site-seeing spots – as well as automate processes like check-in and personalise a guest’s trip by capturing data which can inform further stays.
“We’re hoping for revenge travel,” laughs Hashim, acknowledging the current stand-still with regards to travel in many areas of the globe. “Lots of rooms are available from July, so we’re planning towards September as our next hard launch.” Whilst the current crisis has put a pause on the venture, it has helped firm up the start-up’s proposition in a sector which will see now, more than ever before, the need for digital, automated services.
Thinking back to all the start-ups Hashim has been approached by, he says there is a common misconception that going straight to the big banks means “cash windfall”. “For us, despite the billions that we have, there’s actually a huge amount of pressure on cost, even for something as small as £10-£15 million.”
He also highlights the “double-edged sword” for start-ups approaching big banks like Barclays. “Some of the start-ups and fintechs have done very well out of offering their solution for free for a period, which allows banks to get past that investment barrier and start using the product,” says Hashim.
“But I think it’s also a risk because if a corporate hasn’t paid to do a POC or pilot, they’re less invested in its success. So, it’s kind of a trap. Yes, it gets you in the door faster, but the corporates can turn around and say we don’t really want to do it anymore – even if it’s been successful.”
So, start-ups must decide which route they want to take. Hashim advises that those firms whose solutions are “hugely beneficial” will likely progress from a free POC, but those which are only “marginally beneficial” are likely “not enough to inspire people to take it forward” off the back of a free POC. “In that case, it doesn’t work out in favour because you’ve spent money on a POC, and you’ve had no beneficial output in terms of sales,” he explains.
For big banks, the other persuader besides a free POC is the start-up’s customers. If a start-up comes to Barclays with a product that is already used by some of the bank’s customers, then it is more likely to say yes – because the fintech has already done the customer engagement step for the bank.
“It’s an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with that customer, because one of the challenges we have is knowing which of our customers are willing to try a solution that doesn’t perhaps work 100% of the time,” says Hashim.
The VP, who founded a teddy bear start-up at school and then later founded a London marketing firm which he has now sold his stake in, is ready to get back out into the start-up world and exercise the tricks of the trade he has learnt on the buy-side.
The Impact of BPM On the Banking And Finance Sector
There is an increasing demand for technology inclusion across every market share. This rising demand continues to revolutionize the global digital market, which has basically led to the naturalization of new business process management techniques. The new technology, also referred to as BPM, therefore, helps businesses to manage operations such as production, sales, marketing, customer support, communication, and many more easily.
Business Process Management (BPM) is the means by which a business creates, edits, analyzes, and organizes the processes that make up its key operations. Business process management is therefore more than just task management or project management as it represents a business discipline through which a company looks at all processes in total and individually. As software from Creatio, BPMS focuses more on repetitive processes and ongoing ones especially those that follow a particular process management criteria or pattern. BPMS is therefore more vigorous in helping companies to nurture their supply, improve efficiency, and upsurge customer satisfaction by positioning processes and goals for this kind of evolution.
Impacts Of BPM On The Banking And Finance Sector
By saving the company time, BPM makes it much possible for employees to focus their efforts and time more productively on other responsibilities which increases the overall output of every individual working in the company. This is a huge impact on the bank and business sector as it improves customer satisfaction too.
The risk of human error may cause massive losses to a bank or any finance sector business. However, by automating business processes such as money counting that have previously been carried out manually, BPM cuts on possible jeopardies of human error. In addition, the AI system and enhanced documentation buffers the bank compliance system and helps increase revenue. Creation provides unique synergy of BPMS and improves risk management across the finance sector.
Both traditional and analog processes have the tendency to slow down business processes as they require long winding procedures. They also make an organization too rigid for change. BPMS is however more optimizable as well as highly adaptable. It, therefore, makes every business more ready to face technological and business challenges that make them better placed to grow.
Learn from business leaders and industry experts about how they transformed their business processes with low-code powered BPM software solutions—down the ACCELERATE Global, free online event packed with insights, trends, real-world cases, networking, and practical workshops.
Impact on the costs of performing tasks
Business process management helps the banking sector by cutting a lot of costs. By cutting on the time spent on tasks, it causes a reduction in the costs of running business processes. The use of AI in ATM automation for instance reduces time and costs of banking. In essence, this increases ROI for the finance sector as the number of bank tellers can be considerably reduced and the ATM left to conduct the similar repetitive actions of the teller employees.
Real-time process and task monitoring
This business tool makes it much easier for every company to monitor business processes, detect flaws, and be in a position to improve where necessary. This also means that BPM software has the capability to identify problems with a business process and help the management to mend the cracks before they cost the company. By recognizing gaps and stitching them before they cause stagnation, it makes business growth a reality.
As already stated, BPM focuses more on customer outputs. Consequently, more customers get satisfied with the company’s business process. With a better experience, more referrals are earned, the return rate is increased, more leads are attracted to the business and sales go up. This chain effect leads to exponential business growth.
BPM supports various reporting levels. They also integrate with a number of third-party reporting tools that support business process performance analytics. These reports are usually attached to Key Performance Indicators of the business and are used to provide the needed data on processes, individual performance actions, process actors, and many more. By identifying process bottlenecks and offering opportunities for business process improvement, BMP impacts more positively the finance sector by improving process analytics.
All these will however be much more executed through dedicated software. Business Process Management Software or BPMS is a collection of business technologies also referred to as Business Process Management Suite. Companies use the software to improve business processes. This is achieved by defining, automating, and analyzing business processes. This is therefore one key reason why every business using BPM should adopt BPMS.
Important to note, therefore, BPMS is a combination of ideology and is a crystal-clear system that drives and delivers quantifiable outputs that all contribute to the growth of a business.
Source: Calvin Jordan is an expert in engagement marketing with a core belief that people transform business. Companies turn to Calvin for his keen understanding of how to get a key message to the market that motivates, engages, recognizes, or educates the intended audience. The results are strategic, innovative, creative, and results-driven.
Founder´s Packs now available for the first AAA blockchain game BLANKOS BLOCK PARTY
Mythical Games, a next-generation game technology studio driving mass adoption of blockchain, today announced the upcoming private beta for Blankos Block Party, an open-world multiplayer game with a heavy focus on player-designed levels and collectible assets, will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, with open beta to follow later this year. Players eager to start their collection of the digital vinyl toys come to life can now purchase a Founder’s Pack, starting at $24.99 (USD), to receive exclusive and limited in-game content, as well as guaranteed priority access to the game’s private beta and Founder’s status in both Discord and in-game.
Blankos Block Party is an online game world that integrates blockchain to facilitate the economy and allow players to buy and sell their in-game items in exchange for real-world currencies, using Mythical’s proprietary technology to track and verify all purchases across any platform, creating a safe transaction for all involved. With this model, Mythical is eliminating the need for grey markets and allowing the community to dictate the value of what is bought and sold in secondary marketplaces.
Limited quantities of the Founder’s Packs are available now for purchase via fiat or supported cryptocurrencies in four different package options, which provide limited-edition Blankos and themed accessories designed by some of the world’s top vinyl toy artists, priority access to the private beta, 100% in-game currency match and other items only available while these packs last. Each Founder’s Pack will be numbered in order of purchase and recorded on blockchain to enhance collectibility and future resale value for players.
Ice Pack: RSVP to the ultimate block party with the Ice Pack, and receive the exclusive Lolli Blanko and three themed Lolli accessories, Founder Status and Lolli emoticon and 2,500 Blankos Bucks. ($24.99)
Tako Pack: Start your collection with the exclusive Tako Blanko designed by multimedia artist Junko Mizuno, two themed Tako accessories, as well as one unique Tako-themed Build Mode asset and one Build Mode item wrap, Founder Status with Lolli and Tako emoticons and 5,000 Blankos Bucks. ($49.99)
Bite Me Pack: Be the life of the party with the Bite Me Pack, which delivers the exclusive ‘Bite Me’ Billy Bones Blanko, six Bite Me-themed accessories, rare gold and black Build Mode materials, plus Bite Me brand Build Mode basic set, Build Mode items and the Bite Me rocket launcher, as well as Founder Status with Lolli, Tako and Bite Me emoticons and 10,000 Blankos Bucks. ($99.99)
Boss Pack: Become a VIP with the Boss Pack and show off your status with the exclusive Boss Dino Blanko designed by legendary toy artist James Groman, two Boss Dino-themed accessories, two Build Mode Materials, three Build Mode items and two themed weapons for Build Mode, not to mention Founder Status with Boss Dino, Bite Me, Tako and Lolli emoticons and 15,000 Blankos Bucks. ($149.99)
Founder’s Pack items will only be available for a limited time, or until the limited quantities sell out; Mythical will not reissue these special-edition Blankos or their accessories in the future. These exclusive Founder’s Pack items will be available for purchasers to unbox and play immediately in the private beta, and can also be sold to other players when the Blankos secondary market launches.
For additional details on Founder’s Packs and their contents and benefits, or to purchase one of the limited edition packs, please visit Blankos.com. Packs can be purchased with fiat currency, or supported crypto payment options via BitPay (Binance USD/BUSD, Bitcoin/BTC, Bitcoin Cash/BCH, XRP, ETH, Gemini US Dollar/GUSD, Circle USD/USDC and Paxos Standard USD/PAX). In addition to purchasing a Founder’s Pack to receive priority access to the private beta, players can reserve their free accounts now on the Blankos website to get on the waiting list for the chance to be included in the private beta without purchase (subject to capacity).
How these fintech partnerships are shaking up finance
Anyone still doubting whether fintech is disrupting Chicago’s financial services industry only needs to look at a handful of recent partnerships to see that innovative technology is necessary for large enterprises to stay competitive in an ever-evolving market, lest they become obsolete.
Take the following inked deals, for example.
Amount — a digital credit solution provider — partnered with TD Bank and HSBC last year to help the two large institutions streamline their personal loan services, reflecting a marketplace that grew by $21 billion in 2018 to a record high of $138 billion, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion. Meanwhile, AI-powered financial compliance solution Ascent recently partnered with global information tech company IBM to help banks and other financial entities meet changing regulatory requirements.
These types of partnerships help banks and financial institutions react to market changes and prepare for the future of finance; namely, by giving consumers more of the seamless user experiences they’re used to and leveraging AI to streamline manual regulatory processes, saving valuable time and resources. More on the fintech startups making waves in Chicago tech, below.
Company background: Amount helps financial institutions transition their products and services to customizable, digital and mobile-friendly infrastructure. Founded in 2018, the company was originally a tech arm of parent company Avant, a digital consumer lending company. According to the Chicago Tribune, Amount focused on providing technology solutions to banks, powering their lending activity and running online fraud prevention, along with other services. Amount officially spun off of Avant in early 2020.
Amount’s partnerships in detail: In 2019, Amount partnered with TD Bank and HSBC — the 10th and 14th largest U.S. banks, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — to power their online personal loan infrastructure. With Amount’s functionality, these two banks were able to help users both inside and outside their customer network to digitally apply for personal loans between $30,000 and $35,000. After a soft credit pull, Amount’s technology quickly generates a credit decision, and funds are delivered as soon as the next day for approved users.
What this means for finance: Consumers are requesting more personal loans than ever, and the aforementioned partnerships mark two large banks investing in innovative technology to power a growing financial sector. A record of $138 billion in personal loans was taken out by over 19 million consumers as of Q4 2018, an increase of 2 million people from 2017.
“Fintechs have helped make personal loans a credit product that is recognized as both a convenient and simple way to obtain funding online,” Jason Laky, TransUnion’s executive vice president of financial services, said in a company press release. “Strong consumer interest in personal loans has prompted banks and credit unions to revisit their own offerings, leading to more innovation and choice for borrowers from all risk tiers.”
Consumers are accustomed to fast and convenient user experiences in every aspect of their digital lives, and many feel getting a personal loan should be no different. Leaders at TD Bank and HSBC are using their partnership with Amount to keep up with consumer demands and take a foothold in that marketplace. Wells Fargo and PNC bank — two of the top 10 largest U.S. banks — both have virtually identical personal loan infrastructure. As these loans grow in popularity, it’s likely that more banks will also broaden their personal loan efforts and partner with fintech startups.
Company background: Founded in 2015, Ascent uses AI to automate compliance programs for customers in financial services. According to the company, its algorithms scan a business’s regulatory documents for areas that require attention and action, saving its customers time and money, as well as ensuring greater accuracy and reduced risk. The company services international tier-one and tier-two banks and raised a $19.3 million Series B late last year.
Ascent’s partnership in detail: In July 2020, Ascent and IBM announced a joint effort to help banks and financial services companies stay compliant. IBM’s AI-enabled governance, risk and compliance solution, OpenPages with Watson, helps organizations stay compliant to changing regulations within their business sectors. Ascent is also integrating its automated register of regulation and rule changes with OpenPages to lower the financial risks associated with non-compliance.
The formal partnership was born from the success of a stress test. Ascent and IBM’s combined compliance algorithms analyzed over 1.5 million paragraphs of regulatory text for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The test successfully identified regulatory terms that required review and action, and saved the bank days of manual work.
What it means for finance: The banking regulatory environment is marked by profound change in 2020, with a focus on financial firms ability to navigate trends like technological innovation, as well as adapt to social and political concerns, according to Deloitte. Keeping up with frequent regulation amendments can require time and resources that aren’t readily available to all financial organizations.
“If you can make it cheaper to follow the rules, people will just follow the rules instead of trying to get around them,” Brian Clark, Ascent’s CEO, said in an interview with Crain’s Chicago.
Breaking compliance rules — whether intentionally or by accidental — can lead to costly outcomes and tarnished reputations; over the last decade, financial institutions have racked up $36 billion in fines for non-compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Know your Customer (KYC) and sanctions regulations.
To better serve consumers and operate more efficiently, financial institutions are placing a high value on regtech, especially as the regulatory landscape grows more complex. Partnerships like Ascent and IBM’s, as well as institutions’ other investments in improving regtech, can reduce the cost and effort associated with compliance and can help financial institutions thrive in an increasingly digital world.
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