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Interview with Rebekka Keough of Bankinter on Banking Innovation Trends

By Martin Schuppelius

Rebekka Keough, Innovation Manager at Bankinter

Earlier this week, at the Finance Future Forum networking platform, we saw a very inspiring talk from Rebekka Keough of Bankinter. We had the chance to ask her a few question on Bankinter and banking innovation trends.

As Innovation Manager, Rebekka is responsible for the development of new digital channels and identifying innovation trends the financial services sector. Previously, Rebekka worked as a strategy consultant at McKinsey.

Payment Observer: Can you give us some background information on Bankinter?

Rebekka Keough: Bankinter is a medium-sized Spanish retail bank with a domestic focus. As a niche player focusing on affluent and mass affluent customers, Bankinter considers innovation and technology to be the main foundation for the creation of new products, services, and channels. Of our four strategic pillars- People, Technology, Innovation and Quality, the focus on Innovation in particular has allowed Bankinter, while not the biggest, to have a significant relevance in the domestic and international market. We are pioneers in Internet and Mobile banking (the first in Spain and in many cases in Europe to launch these multi-channel offers). Bankinter is different and our customers value this.

Payment Observer: How can banks benefit from technical innovations?

Rebekka Keough: Technical innovation is absolutely crucial in the banking industry and today is both a requirement and a significant point of differentiation. To be clear, technical innovation does not necessarily mean inventing the so-called wheel or taking out patents, but rather speedily identifying and implementing the latest developments emerging across sectors and geographies. The true innovation comes from adapting and implementing technology in such a way that both the bank and clients perceive value.

Technical innovations are allowing banks to better meet customer demands through a multi-channel offer that allows the bank to be when, where and how it is needed by its clients. Thanks to recent developments, entirely new offers and services are available- think of the rise of PFM (Personal Financial Management) tools, contextual mobile banking and new payment methods to name a few. Scale and efficiency that simultaneously improve quality are also positive outcomes of technological innovations.

Payment Observer: Can you provide more details on Bankinter’s mobile banking solution?

Rebekka Keough:Bankinter is a leader in mobile banking having begun our offer in 2001 with our proprietary multi-conversational SMS platform. Still an important channel, our clients can respond via SMS to cross sell offers, conduct operations such as contracting new products and blocking credit cards and also receive notifications and alerts. We have subsequently developed java brokerage applications and offered mobile internet banking to both our retail and corporate clients. Today the focus is on Smartphones: with the enhanced capabilities and flat data plans associated with Smartphones we are offering more multi-media content, contextual services, and innovative new functionalities such as augmented reality applications and biometric recognition.

Baninter's Mobile Banking Services

Bankinter, through our MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), also sells mobile telephone services to clients and non clients. We are also active in new mobile developments such as NFC mobile payments.

Payment Observer: What are the key factors which make a successful mobile banking services?

Rebekka Keough: Some of the key success factors for Bankinter, or any company thinking about how to develop their mobile offer, are first to develop a native design for mobile. That is, do not merely compress your online offer, but rather think about the particular limitations and advantages that a mobile offers, and build specifically for it. It is important to keep the client at the center of the design and experience. There is a tendency for a bank to want to offer every product and functionality in the catalogue to their mobile customer, but this will hinder more than help. It is better to work with the clients to determine which are the most frequent transactions, what do customers really want and need from their mobile and what type of experience are they accustomed to from their other (non-banking) applications.

At Bankinter we believe that any initiative should have a business plan- even in the case of the most innovative programs where it is hard to predict exact numbers, it is important to know what levers will be impacted and what success will look like. Finally, to develop a truly leading mobile offer, don’t think like a bank: that is, be open to functionalities and experiences derived from completely different industries and companies. Today the most exciting mobile innovations may come from a startup in Silicon Valley, South Africa or India.

Payment Observer: Several companies have launched services that compete with traditional bank services such as digital wallets and NFC-based payment services recently. What will be the role of a bank in the future?

Rebekka Keough: There is no doubt that there are a whole host of new players already competing or with the potential to encroach on the traditional banking model. As in any transforming industry, the incumbents need to evolve to compete. Banks have some distinct advantages such as experience in security and extensive relationships with their clients, but even the most confident bank today needs to be looking around at trends and tendencies- implementing innovations into their current model, partnering with new entrants and even striking out into completely new territory by defining new business models.

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