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Carlsberg Bank – probably the best digital bank in the world – FinTech Futures

Having discussed what banks could learn from Amazon, Uber and Tesla in previous posts, I was tempted to write next about Apple. However instead I’m going to focus on Carlsberg.

Carlsberg: “we don’t run a bank, but if we did…”

The Danish beer company ran an interesting advert over a decade ago. The key punch line was “Carlsberg don’t run a bank, but if they did it would probably be the best bank in the world”.

If you watch the video, then you’ll notice that its very tongue in cheek – a young man goes into a bank, gets served beer, asks for £50,000 to start a business and gets told he can have £75,000 and pay it back when he can! This led me to think, what would the best digital bank in the world look like?

First and foremost, it must be that it meets an unfulfilled customer need and provides something that they are not getting from banks today, and before you think it, “providing great customer service at great value” is not a valid answer!

I believe there are very few examples of this currently, since we have most challengers offering “better banking”. Hence banking, better or not, is not really an unfilled need.

A better example would be a service that helps you to manage the finances for a contractor – their needs are: Pay suppliers, issue invoices, track expenses, file tax returns etc… Voila! Coconut does exactly this. How about people wanting a dream holiday? Their needs are to help them plan the trip, find great deals, and help save for it… Voila! Moneycado – a fintech that does exactly that.

What other examples could there be? A “bank” that helps you to run a club – collect subscriptions, chase late payers, track expenses, produce an end of year set of accounts, issue newsletters. Or how about one for landlords which tracks income, alerts on late payers, reminds you of key maintenance tasks/costs, produces tax return. I could go on, but hopefully you get the point – transactional banking is no longer the differentiator. Banks need to identify new segments and go beyond banking to meet an unfulfilled need.

End to end journeys and going beyond banking are two features that will help meet that unfulfilled need. As I highlighted previously, both Coconut and Moneycado go beyond banking and look at end to end journeys. By doing so, they are not only removing friction and building some loyalty/affinity with their customers, they’re also gathering valuable data they would not have otherwise have.

For example, by allowing customers to fully plan a trip, Moneycado will understand more about their customers lifestyle preferences and overall budget. With data from a few trips, they can get a better picture and move towards recommending destinations, predict other costs to reduce the planning effort, and start to provide third-party offers relevant to the customer.

Whilst this may seem to be a niche, research highlights that millennials are choosing life experiences over home ownership, which provides a healthy target segment. But why stop there, they could use the same platform to help corporate customers plan business trips by organising cabs or parking, flights, hotels and interesting places to see or eat at in the evenings.

We are all becoming increasingly time-starved, so having to juggle multiple suppliers to fulfil a single goal is time lost. Providing support for end to end journeys saves customers time and simplifies their life – who doesn’t want that?

What would the best digital bank in the world look like?

However, it’s going to be very difficult to do everything yourself, and impossible to provide every option a customer might want. Therefore, creating a rich ecosystem of third-party offerings seamlessly integrated into your journeys is another key feature of our imaginary best bank in the world.

Some banks, like Starling, have already created marketplaces of third-party financial solutions, but an ecosystem is broader than financial solutions. For example, it could include third-party services like accounting, legal advice, HR advice, stationary products – all of these and more could enhance Coconut’s offering to add greater value to their platform for contractors. An ecosystem also provides more data to better understand customers and therefore make better recommendations for future needs.

So the value of data, beyond transactional banking, is what drives greater value and a more personalised service for customers. A data driven approach has got to be a key feature of our bank.

With greater volume of data, our bank would use AI to predict customer needs/preferences before customers themselves realise it – a bit like Netflix predicting what programmes or movies you’d like to watch. With this in place, Moneycado could tell you your next destination and will have already costed and planned the trip for you. Or Coconut could tell you that you’ll need a short-term loan in  two months’ time to cover outgoings, and that you’d only need the loan for six weeks. Again, it could package that offer up from its ecosystem and have it ready to go at the click of a button.

Both Coconut and Moneycado were started by a vision and a team of developers, less than four people!

Cloud based services meant that no internal IT was required, and that costs of technology was based on usage rather than outright purchase and redundancy for future demand. Super-efficient and able to work from anywhere, they are great examples of the new levels of efficiency challengers can create with open banking. This efficiency would reduce costs and accelerate agility, which our new bank would mandate via utilising both cloud and open banking.

Last but not least, our bank would have a strong ethical reason that would resonate with our customers. Something simple yet meaningful like “making life easier and better for everyone”. Like Ant Financial’s forest app, which commits to planting trees based on transaction volumes. Our bank would provide a measure for how well the bank was doing, not based on profits, but on tangible differences it had made to improving life, like minutes saved, paper saved, wealth increased, unbanked customers onboarded etc…

To summarise, the key features of “the best digital bank in the world” would be:

    • Designed to meet an unfulfilled customer need
    • End to end integrated and seamless customer journeys
    • A vast ecosystem beyond banking
    • Data driven and with AI to predict customer needs
    • Cloud and open banking based
    • A strong ethical raison d’être

 Dharmesh Mistry has been in banking for 30 years and has been at the forefront of banking technology and innovation. From the very first internet and mobile banking apps to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).

He has been on both sides of the fence and he’s not afraid to share his opinions.

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