The successful launch of FinTECHTalents Virtual Building Societies on 21st October 2020, united a driven and dedicated community of innovators. The day sparked new ideas and encouraged constructive debate on the power of digital transformation to boost the unique services building societies, credit unions and community banks provide.
Above all it was clear that no matter each institution’s size, structure or location, there exists a shared commitment for the mutual sector to build sustainable digital solutions which better serve evolving customer need. Of course there was no debating the fact that now, more than ever, digital has become an expected aspect of daily operations, but discussions focused on how to navigate where digital is appropriate and make technology work for good.
The day began with a keynote from Elliot Limb, Chief Customer Officer at Mambu, who recognised the unique role Building Societies play as “trust-tokens” within their communities. Elliot highlighted that evolving trends in the financial services industry, together with new pressures due to COVID mean that institutions such as Building Societies which were once built to last, now have to be built to change.
In practice, building for change means overcoming hurdles such as the restraints of legacy systems, monolithic architecture and vendor lock-in, and Elliot outlined the concept of Composable Banking as a possible way forward. Interestingly 53% of the audience felt that out of the principles Elliot outlined, the most important for their organisation to achieve is for all systems to connect via real-time APIs. Perhaps this is an interesting insight into how the sector could move towards a more agile approach to transformation in the future.
In the first panel of the day, leading representatives from Nationwide, Newcastle and Yorkshire Building Societies were joined by Bold360 by LogMeIn to discuss keeping the Customer at the Heart of Transformation. The panel quickly dispelled the myth that Building Societies have an ageing customer base who are not interested in technology, with firm agreement that many members from all generations (and not forgetting society employees) welcome digital solutions.
However, the panelists very clearly highlighted that certain interactions, in the case of a bereavement for example, demand a human response. There was agreement that an absence of shareholders, allows mutual organisations to look past the cost-cutting and increased efficiency that automation offers, and always prioritise what is right for their customers. As Celine Allain, Senior Financial Industry Lead at Bold 360, summarised, technology should not replace humans but should, “make sure they become more empowered” to provide better service.
The concept of technology empowering rather than replacing experienced financial advisers, carried through to the following fireside chat on the Changing Landscape of Mortgage Lending. In what was a very informative and topical conversation, Alex Beavis, Head of Mortgage Products at Skipton Building Society, explained that their strategy is to utilise the advantages of technology to free up more time for underwriters to prioritise complex cases. In Alex’s words, “If the computer does say no, we have people there to take a look at your case too.”
Alex, together with Matt Lowndes, Innovation Director at Mortgage Advice Bureau discussed the potential impact of a wealth of new technologies from Machine Learning to Digital Identity, to shake up the long unchanged process of mortgages. When put to the audience 43% of viewers felt APIs would have the greatest impact on transforming the mortgage market, closely followed by Open Banking, which 30% of viewers felt had the potential to create a better journey for customers, brokers and lenders.
The next panel looked a little further afield, bringing together voices from Hinckley & Rugby Building Society, Plane Saver Credit Union and Lead Bank, tuning in all the way from the United States. What was fascinating, was to see just how much this diverse group of financial organisations had in common, in terms of their goals, values and approaches to innovation. As Josh Rowland, CEO of Lead Bank poignantly noted what united all three panelists and the institutions they represent is that “our value is our values.”
The panel were also in agreement on some of the challenges they had experienced in succeeding with innovation. They spoke honestly about the restraints of legacy systems (a factor which 51% of the audience watching felt was their own largest barrier to innovation) and also discussed a lack of available capital, not being able source the right solutions from fintech providers and the difficulty of changing existing attitudes from colleagues who might not share an understanding of the potential of new technologies.
This appears to be an issue many are grappling with, as a poll confirmed that 44% of viewers during the next panel, Is Culture the Key to Digital Success?, felt that addressing existing attitudes and engaging all employees in digital values was the most important thing an organisation could do to create a digital culture. This was one of the factors covered in this fascinating and fast-moving discussion on how to build a mindset which supports and encourages innovation.
What really brought the discussion to light was the variety of perspectives this group of panelists brought to the table. John Hull, Head of Resourcing at Nationwide focused on finding and attracting the right digital talent into the organisation, while Steve Round, Chair at Ecology Building Society highlighted the problem of internal legacy attitudes stemming from long-established ways of doing things. George Winch, Senior Director of Partnerships at Zafin, spoke about how COVID has accelerated a shift in digital culture by increasing awareness of what is digitally possible. Finally it was fantastic to have Kelly Wagner-Grull, Director of Innovation at the Credit Union of Colorado on this panel and hear her focus on harnessing the ideas and the spirit of the people within your organisation noting, “your employees are your greatest asset.”
The penultimate panel of the day was not one to be missed, focusing on an aspect of key importance to building societies – Driving Financial Wellness and Resilience. Nationwide and Family Building Societies were joined by The Money and Pensions Service and The Financial Inclusion Centre, for what resulted in a vital debate on whether or not technology opens a door to greater financial inclusion. The panel brought to light some of the potential downsides of fintech and by the end of the session, panelists were largely in agreement that technology cannot be left to its own devices as there is no assurance that its benefits will be felt equally across society. There was a lively discussion in our online chat, but overall, 43% of viewers agreed that while digital has its downside, it can be made to work for good.
The day was brought to a close with a very practical discussion on Accelerating Innovation through Partnerships. It was clear from the points made that partnerships hold a great power for organisations such a Building Societies, looking to leverage the benefits of wider, external technological transformation. Interestingly, 61% of the viewing audience felt that the most important consideration when embarking on a partnership, was the strength of the relationship between both parties, which was echoed in comments made by Lois Ollerenshaw, Venture Principal at Nationwide – in a partnerships both sides will have different incentives but as long as they’re aligned and the process is transparent the partnership can work.
From the Main Stage to the interactive sessions that ran throughout the day we were blown away by the quality and value of the content shared. Our partners – Mambu, Zafin, Bold360 by LogMeIn and ClearBank were an integral part of the virtual programme and will be extending their offering through the focus virtual clinics that will be offered to attendees post-event.
If you were unable to join us or had to miss some of the sessions, then keep an eye on our website, where all content will be available to download shortly. We already have big plans for next year’s edition and look forward to continuing to build on the fantastic community we have brought together.