The second edition of FTT Building Societies on 6th October was a unique virtual gathering of building societies, credit unions, fintech and tech providers. Our community shared personal experiences of adopting technologies within their organisations and dived deeper into specific technologies to discover the most beneficial solutions and the practicalities of implementation.
We opened the day with a fireside chat from our headline sponsor, MUTUAL VISION. The community-owned digital platform provider’s CEO, Richard Wainwright spoke with Paul Ellis, CEO of Ecology Building Society.
Paul spoke about the importance of having a stable platform on which to operate and how technology is increasingly an essential element of the operating platform. Ecology utilises the online banking system that MUTUAL VISION provides to maintain interaction with members. The chat brought to the foreground the need for mutual organisations to adopt digital technologies to remain relevant and provide the very best services to members. The conversation perfectly set the scene for the rest of the day.
A highlight of the day was the first stand-alone presentation from David Marlow, CEO of Nottingham Building Society. He provided a detailed case study about the launch of the Beehive Money App and how digital can enable mutual organisations to build relevance amongst younger savers.
The first credit union-focused session from Marlene Shiels OBE, CEO of Capital Credit Union, provided a realistic picture of why credit unions need to digitise in order to meet more of their members’ needs and how Capital Credit Union is tackling digital innovation with their five-year transformation programme.
In our first panel of the day – the rise of green banking: putting your money where your values are, Natasha Jones of Octopus Ventures spoke with Luca Bertalot, Secretary General of EMF-ECBC, Steve Round, Chair at Ecology Building Society and Emma Harvey, Programme Director at Green Finance Institute. The panel explored how the role of the regulator has evolved, the development of greener financial products and services and the use of digital tools for progress.
There is certainly an opportunity, post-covid, for new and greener financial products. Building societies, with their mutual model and core infrastructures may be in a better position to provide these products than non-mutual financial institutions. This could be an advantage when attracting younger savers, many of whom regard the social and environmental impacts of saving as important.
Next up, we had a brilliant panel moderated by Rudolf Falat, Founder and Host of Voice of Fintech. The panel titled, exploiting speed whilst breaking silos, was joined by panellists Rebecca Fitzgerald, Senior Manager, Technology Delivery at Yorkshire Building Society and Chris McEvoy, Senior Solution Architect at Nationwide.
The focus was on reacting to change and acknowledging that this change is constant. The panellists considered that organisations should move away from big, disruptive reorganisation and instead make reorganisation a more consistent process. Though taking advantage of digital innovation is important in order to meet more customers’ needs, it’s crucial to balance speed with safety through regulatory support and long-term planning.
Jeremy Wood, CEO of Dudley Building Society provided a refreshing case study of the Society’s response to a market-changing event. The pandemic brought the society closer to its local community through increased member engagement. Jeremy highlighted the importance of the human touch and his team handled each of the 567 payment deferral requests personally. He also showed how the human touch can be enhanced through digital – their social media presence and engagement increased between 3 – 4 times and Dudley Building Society launched their first online service in January 2021.
In the next panel we looked to the future of the branch. Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy & Co-Founder of VC Innovations moderated and was joined by Jon Hull, Independent Consultant – Talent & Resourcing at Principality Building Society, David Marlow, CEO of Nottingham Building Society, Stuart Fearn MBE, Head of Customer Contact at Newcastle Building Society and Jo Howes, Sales Director at FintechOS. The concluding thoughts from the panel were that the branch does have a future but will play a different role to that of the past. It’s no longer a universal access point and in the future it will be more of a relationship and advice hub, rather than a transaction hub. The panel also considered how the branch teams would need to be retrained for the future role that the branch will play. Physical and digital are not incompatible and the future of the branch has a place for both.
We shifted the focus onto a different form of mutual with our next session from Tony Greenham, Director at the Mutual Banks Association. He introduced us to the mutual regional bank. Tony provided examples of community banks from across the world and a contextual graph to show how the UK financial services sector is one-dimensional. The regional mutual bank can offer a local service to improve financial inclusion, reduce regional inequalities and build regional economic resilience.
Then we heard from Luca Bertalot, Secretary General at the European Mortgage Federation about energy efficient mortgages and unlocking the potential of the green economy. The session provided food for thought on how organisations can begin to make headway in the new ESG business environment.
Our next panel focused on credit unions and the core areas targeted for digital transformation. John Haslam, Head of Member Engagement at ABCUL moderated this panel and was joined by Paul Norgrove, CEO, Serve and Protect, Ciara Davies, CEO at Metro Moneywise, Phil Cole, CEO at Advance and Ben West, Head of Business Development at London Mutual Credit Union. The panel provided some advice on how to tackle digital transformation, which included the importance of mobilising agile working and focusing efforts on onboarding and lending. As a credit union, the fintech supplier market does not have to be daunting and it’s important to focus on what your services are, then match with the technologies that work best for your credit union.
Metro moneywise utilised a digital app when conducting a recent member survey. The survey found that word of mouth attracted members into the credit union more than any other form of marketing and a lot of the younger members were hungry for financial education. Ciara highlighted the importance of using people’s data to improve their financial circumstances. 40% of members surveyed said they don’t mind speaking to people on the phone however, they prefer digital. This reflects one of the key themes of the day; the need to balance human touch and digital to provide the best and most accessible products and services.
Manila McLean, CIO of Newcastle Building Society gave a case study focusing on how to optimise digital solutions to protect the building society legacy. In line with one of the key themes in the credit union panel, combining face to face and digital interactions is crucial in creating exceptional personal experiences and enhancing human connections.
Word of mouth is crucial in determining where members bank. This was reinforced again through Karen Mulligan, CEO of Life Credit Union’s session. Credit unions and building societies need to be mindful that in today’s marketplace, certain product characteristics are now considered by consumers to be prerequisites for any digital service offering – they need to be simple, transparent, personalised and most importantly, frictionless and omni channel.
We ended the day with the panel – dreaming of the future: exploring financial services opportunities post-covid. As moderator, I was joined by two brilliant panellists, Robert Thickett, Digital Policy Manager at the Building Societies Association and Jonathan Moore, CEO, Stockport Credit Union. We discussed how customers will expect and demand more digital interactions and a key challenge will be replicating the community aspect in digital. To keep building societies and credit unions relevant in the future, organisations will need to emphasise the benefits of being member-centric to customers so they don’t go to other non-mutual institutions.
Over on the Implementation stage, we kicked off with a fireside chat between Maria Harris, Director, Digital Cat Consultancy and John Penberthy-Smith, Chief Commercial Officer, Saffron Building Society. John highlighted two key reasons as to why Saffron had it’s best year of mortgage lending in 2020. The Society enforced their strategy and focused on the beginning part of the mortgage process. They made sure to communicate answers to their customers and brokers quickly rather than giving a “slow yes or no”. Another big focus was on creating more agile working between the intermediary sales, mortgage operations and processing and the underwriting teams.
Brendan Gilmore, Managing Director at BPG Strategy moderated MUTUAL VISION’s panel – community-owned digital platforms, the benefits and challenges for smaller building societies. He was joined by Richard Wainwright, CEO, MUTUAL VISION, Tim Bowen, CEO of Penrith Building Society, Will Carroll, CEO at Monmouthshire Building Society and Rob Pheasey, CEO at Marsden Building Society.
The panel concluded that there absolutely is a place for smaller mutuals who remain agile and aware. Embracing digital, leveraging business models and purpose will allow smaller building societies to differentiate themselves as organisations, which will help to ensure continued sustainability into the future. It is important not to ignore member’s needs and not to be complacent because the market is always evolving.
Next on the Implementation stage, Andy Giles, Head of Security & Resilience Centre of Excellence at Nationwide spoke to us about modernising cyber security for new ways of working. He emphasised the importance of framework implementation, which can generate a huge amount of data linking to risk outcomes. Building a high-level data model is crucial and it’s impossible to run this data accurately, reliably and efficiently through spreadsheets.
Our next panel – driving financial inclusion with digital tools, was moderated by Faisel Rahman OBE, Founder and CEO, Fair Finance. The line-up included Emma Norledge, CEO, East Sussex Credit Union, Mick McAteer, Co-Director, Financial Inclusion Centre and Shân Millie, Founder, Bright Blue Hare. One of the key takeaways was that technologies, digital engagement and automation has improved access to services and products. However, some people are being left behind and we need to focus on which technologies will improve financial services for all.
We heard from Anand Subbaraman, SVP and General Manager, Enterprise Retail – Product, Platform and Technology, Finastra and Simon Beresford, CEO, Teachers Building Society during the fireside chat – building the building society of the future. Both Anand and Simon highlighted that customer experience is the most important facet when considering which technologies to adopt and this is what has got to drive the whole digitisation process.
Samantha Seaton, CEO, Moneyhub Enterprise moderated our next panel – beyond open banking: open finance meets financial wellbeing for mutuals. Samantha was joined by panellists, Jonathan Hughes, Executive Chairman, OneBanks, Matt Cox, Head of Open Finance, Nationwide and Paul Goodwin, Key Account Director, Moneyhub Enterprise. The panel concluded that open finance can be a very viable solution to many problems for organisations. If it can help to resolve the problem in a cost-effective way, then organisations should try open finance to benefit from the long-term results.
Closing the Implementation Stage, we had the panel – navigating the fintech supplier market – where to begin? The panel was moderated by Will Hackett, Head of Fintech Practice, Pangea and joined by our panellists, Helene Panzarino, Associate Director, The London Institute of Banking & Finance, Richard Albery, Senior Procurement Manager, Nationwide Building Society and Callum Hay, Senior Sales Executive, FORM3.
The panel highlighted some top tips for fintechs, including the importance of owning a marketplace and doing this with an authentic voice and constant interaction. Be clear on your proposition and own a space. For building societies and credit unions, important considerations when selecting your partner involve thinking about what is important to you and building up an entire picture before making a decision, rather than just looking at the product the provider offers.
If you missed anything on the day, don’t worry! All content will be made available on our website very soon. If you want to keep up to date on fintech and innovation, our Fintech Talents Festival will take place on 15th – 16th November at The Brewery in London.