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26 June 2015
James O'Neill
I'm just back from a very interesting week in London at the Marketforce-sponsored "The Future of Digital Banking" forum. I served as Chairman for Day 1 of the two-day conference and had a front-row view of the proceedings. The theme of the conference was that customer-centricity and innovation need to be the guideposts to a bank's transformation from a bricks-and-mortar operation into a digital enterprise. Perhaps my favorite presentation of Day 1 was offered by Dr. Nicola Millard, the Head of Customer Insight & Futures at British Telecom (You mean the phone company? Yes, that BT!). Nicola has a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction, a very hot area of IT these days as the focus is on UI organization and the impact on user experience. According to Nicola, when dealing with the increasing demands by clients for digital service provisioning, banks should are assume that clients are self-centered (it's all about me!), believe that all banking services should be extremely easy to use, and yet require quick access to alive person when all else fails (live chat is preferred). One stat that struck me was that 90% of BT's clients would like the ability to email the customer service agent that they had spoken with on the phone - not sure how this would work out in banking, where phishing is always a concern - but still great food for thought. On the heels of the conference came news that Atom Bank, a new challenger bank in the UK, had received its full license from the Bank of England. Sophie Haagensen, Head of Strategy and Planning for the Durham-based bank, had participated in a panel on Tuesday and had indicated that Atom Bank would seek to leverage its position as a legacy-free direct bank (no physical branches) to build a new model for customer engagement. As if to drive home the point, Atom Bank announced that it will initially be operating in "mobile only" mode, with online banking to be rolled out at a later date. It was also announced that FIS was selected as Atom Bank's IT outsourcing partner. The specific core banking platform selected was not disclosed, but it's likely to be Profile, the real-time system that FIS leads with in the international market. This is certainly good news for FIS, which had been looking to put some points on the board since global rival Fiserv announced in July of 2014 that it was launching a new outsourcing service called Agiliti (based on its well established Signature core banking platform), with Think Money Ltd. as its launch client. With more than two dozen firms having applied for banking licenses in the UK, it appears that the competitive heat of summer has finally arrived in London.

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