Banking Fintech

The most innovative banks of 2015

The most innovative banks of 2015, as featured at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.
Written by Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner reveals the winners and finalists of the Global Banking Innovation Awards at BAI Retail Delivery 2015, including the most innovative banks.

I just attended the Global Banking Innovation Awards at the BAI Retail Delivery Show, an annual event that has gained traction and represents banks from all regions of the world. Interestingly, Poland, Spain and Turkey regularly appear, which reflects my view that these are the most innovative European countries for finance, though France got a shout-out thanks to Hello Bank, as did Germany thanks to Fidor.

Asia would have more representation if more entered. I assume this is a language thing, as I was surprised there were no major players from South Korea, China, Japan or other innovative Asian markets in the finals.

Anyways, here are the nine categories’ finalists and winners, for those interested (and you should be, as some of these banks are really doing amazing things!).

Product and Service Innovation

Finalists: BEA (Hong Kong), CIBC (Canada), Desjardins (Canada), Fidor (Germany), Bank Smart (Poland).

Winner: Fidor Bank, Germany.

Fidor at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

The Fidor Smart Current Account.

A free bank account built around an Application Programming Interface (API), the Fidor Smart Current Account supplements classic account services with internet payments and innovative banking products. The integrated API platform allows customers and partners to directly connect their computer systems with those of Fidor Bank. The open financial ecosystem provides app partners the ability to continuously increase the range of products and service that enable customers to select products and services they want from either Fidor Bank or third party providers. The steadily growing range of products guarantees a modern banking experience that helps deepen existing customer relationships and attract new customers. Features include credit transfers via Twitter, social lending, social trading in virtual currencies and a wide range of cutting-edge products that go well beyond traditional banking services.

As of February 2015, Fidor Bank has achieved more than 75,000 fully legitimate banking customers, up from 25,000 three years prior and approximately 270,000 German users on its Fidor online community up from 160,000 at the beginning of 2013. It is extraordinary growth for a digital bank that focuses on social banking with no branch network or internal advisers.

Channel Innovation

Finalists: Millennium Bank (Poland), BEA (Hong Kong), Finansbank (Turkey), Hello Bank! (France) and Odeabank (Turkey).

Winner: BEA, the Bank of East Asia, Hong Kong.

Bank of East Asia at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

Digital branch: a new way to bank.

To appeal to young, tech-savvy consumers and to perfect its omni-channel offerings, The Bank of East Asia, Limited (BEA) launched a highly flexible and mobile digital branch that operates as a paperless, straight-through model. The digital branch has a footprint of just half the floor space of a traditional branch, and takes only 13 days to renovate and install. The branch contains a much smaller back-office area and requires reduced manpower, enabling BEA to open in high-footfall luxury shopping malls.

The digital branch is equipped with a suite of innovative, next-generation banking tools developed in-house at BEA, which use advanced technology to streamline services and improve efficiency. These devices include an interactive touchscreen (i-Counter) that converts to a video interface (i-Teller), providing direct communication with remote-site service staff and enabling transactions and applications seven days a week from 9am-8pm. Other devices include an all-in-one interactive aide for financial planning (i-Window), credit card self-application (i-Zone), automatic completion of forms using OCR and digital signatures (i-Kit), and a browser for downloading products and documents (i-Panel). The digital branches have yielded a 35% rise in deposit balance per customer, and a 65% increase in average mortgage drawdown compared to other branches.

Innovation in Internal Process Improvement

Finalists: BEA (Hong Kong), BECU (US), Caixabank (Spain) and DenizBank (Turkey).

Winner: DenizBank, Turkey.

DenizBank at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

Powerful Teller-Dashboard: enhancing customer experience at every contact point.

DenizBank developed Powerful Teller-Dashboard to place greater emphasis and importance on the customer experience at every contact point. The platform aligns customer relationship management (CRM) strategies, predictive analytics and data mining analytics with a user friendly, intelligent interface. By placing the customer as the focus point, Teller-Dashboard was designed according to detailed analysis of ‘What tellers need?’ and ‘What customers need?’, thus simplifying the customer interaction with tellers. The dashboard consolidated screens and workflows as well as streamlined operational processes enabling tellers to access the information they require promptly, while providing consistent customer service, regardless of the banking channel the customer is using.

Innovation in Societal and Community Impact

Finalists: Caixabank (Spain), DenizBank (Turkey), JSC TBC Bank (Georgia) and Nusenda Credit Union (US).

Winner: Nusenda Credit Union, US.

Nusenda Credit Union at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

Co-op Capital: widening access points to financial products.

Nusenda Credit Union created Co-op Capital, a collaborative financial product that combines micro-lending and community sponsors. Co-op Capital was developed to widen access to capital that’s usually out of reach for low-income entrepreneurs that either have bad credit, insufficient collateral or lack both. The traditional means of financing (banks, credit cards, investors) are simply not available to this group. The alternative means of financing (Community Development Financial Institutions, credit cards, friends and family) do not have the wherewithal or conditions to sustainably support the need. The Co-op Capital product is the ‘alternative to the alternative’. This is the only product on the market that allows the target population to access capital through a trusted community organization versus a financial institution. Uniquely, member organizations (co-ops, networks, unions, and so on) sponsor the loan application for their affiliates and provide the loan underwriting, while Nusenda Credit Union does the originating.

By focusing on niche entrepreneurs in member organizations, Co-op Capital combines the best of international micro-lending (character and community based) with the best of the American financial system, thereby increasing the growth and start of businesses in the community that will in turn increase job growth, employment opportunities and revenue in the community.

Innovation in Payments

Finalists: Caixabank (Spain), Fidor Bank (Germany) and Idea Bank (Poland).

Winner: Idea Bank, Poland.

‘The mobile ATM service for small/medium enterprises’.

Idea Bank SA launched a secure multi-functional mobile ATM and depository service housed in an electric BMW i3 car driven by trained bank employees that is offered free of charge for the banks’ small/medium enterprise (SME) customers.

Through a dedicated mobile app, customers can search for the nearest vehicle and designate a time and location for the vehicle to meet them or make an advanced booking. The built in real-time tracking system on the app allows customers to track the vehicle and meet it at the designated location. In the vehicle, they’re able to withdraw or deposit cash with all operations synced to their accounts within a few minutes. The mobile ATM service not only meets the increasing needs of customers for mobile solutions that are convenient and easily accessible, but also encourages entrepreneurs to keep their money in a bank, thus improving their future chances of getting a loan.

Most Innovative Non-Bank Financial Services Organization (providing financial solutions directly to consumers)

Finalists: AcceptEmail, Lending Club, moneythink, Moven, payitsimple and Travelex (all US).

Winner: Lending Club.

Lending Club at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

Transforming the banking system by making credit more affordable, and investing more rewarding.

Lending Club is transforming the banking system to make credit more affordable, and investing more rewarding. Lending Club is the world’s largest online credit marketplace and utilizes technology to match borrowers and investors. The service offers borrowers access to affordable credit with interest rates lower on average than the rates charged by traditional banks on credit cards or installment loans. The fast and easy-to-use online application process allows applicants to receive and evaluate loan options in just minutes without impacting their credit score. This has led to a superior customer experience, culminating in an average net promoter score of above 70% for Lending Club. Investors can quickly and easily build a portfolio that fits their investment objectives. Lending Club has also developed strategic partnerships with banks to bring affordable loans to consumers by allowing banks to purchase high-quality whole loans and offer new products to their customers.

Disruptive Innovation in Banking

Finalists: Caixabank (Spain), DenizBank (Turkey), Fidor Bank (Germany) and Odeabank (Turkey).

Winner: Fidor Bank, Germany.

Fido Bank at BAI Retail delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

Fidor Smart Current Account.

Fidor Bank AG launched Fidor Smart Current Account, which supplements classic account services with internet payments and innovative banking products. The true disruption of the Fidor Smart Current Account is based on the Fidor Operating System (fOS), a modular banking, payment and community software developed by FidorTecS AG, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fidor Bank AG. The fOS supports almost all digital lifestyle activities, including a mobile-first approach, real-time banking, peer-to-peer and crowd functionalities as well as the integration of third party offerings within the framework of an open application programming interface (API)-based infrastructure. Fidor Bank is one of the first banks worldwide to provide these interfaces that allow service providers and programmers to connect. With this approach, Fidor Bank not only provides financial services that primarily have only been available to large companies or other banks, but is opening up these financial services for the entire industry, a concept that wasn’t previously conceivable. The fOS used by Fidor Bank is also in strong demand from other companies as a white-label solution that can be configured to their individual specifications, thus providing Fidor Bank with an additional revenue stream.

Most Innovative Community-Based Banking Organization

Finalists: Millennium Bank (Poland), Bank Smart (Poland), JSC TBC Bank (Georgia) and Nusenda Credit Union (US).

Winner: Nusenda Credit Union, US.

Nusenda Credit Union at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

Nusenda Credit Union.

Nusenda Credit Union developed Co-op Capital, a collaborative financial product, to widen access to capital that’s usually out of reach for low-income entrepreneurs. While character-based, community circle micro-lending isn’t new to the field of financing, especially internationally, the foresight to offer these loans through member organizations versus the banking institution is largely untried in the US. The product flips the traditional model of a borrower applying for a loan through a financial institution. Instead a member organization, such as a co-op, union or association, sponsors a loan on behalf of one of their member affiliates.

Nusenda is firmly established as a progressive, nationally recognized cooperative organization energized by innovation, committed to its community, and determined to achieve greater impact. The largest credit union in the state of New Mexico by membership, it operates and supports various innovative programs in the community, including partnering in a micro-aid initiative that provides micro loans to underserved and high risk students in the same way that startup companies are financed.

Most Innovative Bank of the Year

Finalists: BEA (Hong Kong), DenizBank (Turkey), Fidor Bank (Germany) and Nusenda Credit Union (US).

Winner: BEA, Hong Kong.

The Bank of East Asia at BAI Retail Delivery 2015. Photo: Chris Skinner.

The Bank of East Asia, Limited.

The Bank of East Asia, Limited (BEA) has a long tradition of innovation. Dating as far back as 1969, BEA was one of the first Chinese banks in Hong Kong to introduce advanced technology to their operations with the installation of a state-of-the-art computer system. Always striving to provide best-in-class financial services, BEA upholds five core values: professionalism, customer-focus, integrity, progressiveness, and innovation. This ethos is the foundation stone on which the culture of innovation within BEA is built, and over the years has enabled BEA to hold a strong track record as a market leader and pioneer in online banking.

Taking a customer-centric approach, BEA continues to innovate to enhance the customer experience. This is evident from the revitalization of SupremeGold, which was a new direction for the bank and part of BEA’s ongoing commitment to constantly develop and search for advanced solutions to best suit their customers’ changing needs.

Through different channels, customers are invited to share opinions and suggestions. Additionally, BEA is also dedicated to originality and in-house development. To source the best ideas and encourage creative thinking, BEA welcomes suggestions from nearly 6,000 employees in Hong Kong. Ideas and suggestion can be submitted quarterly and a generous cash prize is awarded for the best entry.

My personal favourite

Most people know that I love Fidor, am friends with Caixabank, and adore everything that comes out of Poland and Turkey, but there was one standout moment: this video from Idea Bank, Poland. Their representatives were unable to attend, so they showed us a dubbed version for this video in English (apologies, it’s in Polish for those who cannot speak the lingo).

It’s an Uber for money (literally). You summon an ATM using an app on your phone, then a car (a rolling bank vault, really) pulls up. What makes this especially unique is that Idea Bank is using a fleet of BMW i3s – Munich’s cute, compact electrics – for the service. This may not be the obvious choice for a car that’s filled to the headliner with stacks of zlotys.

The service, Mobilny Wpłatomat, is geared primarily toward business owners who’ve got a wad of cash to deposit into the company’s accounts at the end of the business day, and presumably would rather not carry that amount of money into a branch or street ATM. It’s fee-free, commission-free, and can be set to automatically show up at an address of your choosing at a predetermined time. Because the service is currently limited to Warsaw, the i3 is a shrewd choice: it will likely never run beyond its electric range. No gasoline, no emissions. Fantastic, and really caught my attention.


The BAI-Infosys Finacle Global Banking Awards are judged by an international committee of experts, including:

  • Abonty Banerjee, head of digital channels, ICICI Bank
  • Adrian Li, deputy chief executive, The Bank of East Asia
  • Bill Hippensteel, chief content officer, BAI
  • David Passavant, SVP, banking innovation center director, PNC Bank
  • Ed Carrell, head of commercial transformation, Barclays
  • Gustavo Vinacua, innovation centers and open innovation director, BBVA
  • Dr Jan Hendrik Kraus, former general manager, group strategy, Emirates NBD
  • Matt Calman, managing director, Calman & Co LLC
  • Steve Monaghan, regional director – head of edge (innovation), AIA

READ NEXT: Banks must embrace open APIs to prosper

– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. You can read the original article here.

About the author

Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner is an independent commentator on the financial markets through the Finanser, and chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club, which he founded in 2004. He is an author of numerous books covering everything from European regulations in banking through to the credit crisis, to the future of banking.

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