Jordi Nicolau, executive director of Global Customer Experience at CaixaBank, addresses fintech trends and open banking.
Global Finance: What drives innovation at CaixaBank?
Jordi Nicolau: Innovation, together with customer experience, is a fundamental pillar in CaixaBank. The two first points of our new strategic plan 2019-2021 are Customer Experience and Digital Experience, raising an ambitious acceleration of digital transformation to achieve a greater customer orientation and adapt to new behaviors. Our objective is to offer the best omnichannel experience. From our perspective, it is fundamental to adopt innovation as part of the organization’s DNA in order to respond to changes and adapt to all new challenges.
GF: Is it better to partner with fintechs or develop tech expertise in-house?
Nicolau: Collaborations in general have become a must for any organization striving to be successful and to remain competitive among key players. Nevertheless, organizations cannot solely rely on partnerships for innovation, since developing and fostering tech expertise in-house is a key element to remaining a digital and innovative business.
Regarding fintechs, there is no one-size-fits-all relationship strategy between incumbents and fintechs. Incumbents must establish a competitive or collaborative relationship depending on the added value provided and the complexity of each case.
GF: What’s the future for Europe’s banking sector?
Nicolau: Digital technologies are having a significant impact on banking services, however, the opportunities that arise from these new technologies include the possibility of offering new services, more knowledge of consumer preferences and needs, high product personalization and higher efficiency. Nevertheless, some threats arise. For instance, new global competitors targeting niche segments; new required cultural, organizational, and technological changes; and the lack of flexibility and reaction capacity of incumbent firms.
According to various studies, open banking is set to be one of the most disruptive technologies in the coming years due to the direct impact it has on banks’ business models. At CaixaBank we have identified Open Banking as an opportunity to create new businesses and digital ecosystems of APIs. However, different banks have chosen different strategies due to the technological complexity and the risks involved.
GF: Which of the new technologies do you consider to be the most transformative?
Nicolau: One major trend we are facing now is blockchain. In this area, CaixaBank is participating in we.trade, a leading trade services platform, to help our clients to manage all the tracking information and processes associated with supply chain, importing and exporting goods.
Another major trend is artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies. CaixaBank is implementing machine learning in many different areas, such as modeling risk, or in business intelligence to personalize the product and service offers to each customer, achieving high rates of acceptance.
However, beyond this, technology and people need to speak the same language. Our new remote and online personal assistance model, inTouch, with one million clients, is the best example of reaching state-of-the-art digital financial advisory without losing the human touch.
GF: What will CaixaBank be like in the future?
Nicolau: At CaixaBank we understand technological innovation as a fundamental element of the strategy to continuously improve customer journeys as well as the quality of services. For this reason, CaixaBank is betting on biometrics, one of the technologies that is evolving most rapidly and revolutionizing human interactions. In 2017, CaixaBank became the first bank in Spain to incorporate identification by Face ID into the iPhone X. Recently, CaixaBank has become the first financial institution in the world to offer its customers the possibility of making withdrawals at their ATMs through facial recognition and without the need to enter the PIN code. The CaixaBank of the future will continue to foster innovation and work towards improving our customers’ daily lives.