Tag Archives: online banking

Fait Accompli – Fundtech and S1 Merge ——— Next? One, Two, Core

Maggie Scarborough, Managing Director, FinServ Strategies
June 27, 2011
The Fundtech – S1 merger really isn’t a big surprise to me after covering the online cash management, online consumer and payments spaces for over 25 years. The two were bound to mash up with another entity. In a consolidating bank market, larger scale is needed by both to catch more “ big fish” by serving global and domestic markets with a full suite of information, payments, trade, supply chain and liquidity products. Another scale element of the deal is the ability to serve far more community institutions, more efficiently (they both have SaaS operations in Atlanta). The pair attains both goals by combining S1’s online consumer, small business and corporate banking  and trade platforms with Fundtech’s considerable back-end or core and middle office payments and liquidity capabilities. Wasn’t this ACI’s dream?
Who will dominate and how will it go from here?
Less Choice Creates Opportunities

With fewer online cash management, consumer banking and payments choices for institutions, there is now room for highly competent and global payments and treasury management player, Bottomline Technologies to further spread its wings and for neo-tech Online Banking Solutions (OBS) to further burn into the market. Bottomline Technologies, which serves both global institutions and corporates, will gain even more traction with large and mid-tier institutions that already have core payments capabilities.  The concentration of customers with one super-vendor Fundtech-S1, also leaves room for agile players like Online Banking Solutions (OBS) with their straight through processing architecture and secure browser to leapfrog the current competition with more efficient and scalable solutions built for integration.  Players like Intuit continue to keep their collective eyes on the vision of financial integration with consumers and small business.
One, Two, Core
What about the core banking titans? Fiserv, FIS, Jack Henry, et al. They have all of the banks on their systems, but haven’t done a very good job of integrating and deploying acquired online cash management and online consumer banking. In-house initiatives, while well-conceived, have lost traction. Plus, there is a trail of less than effective past acquisitions, because the vendors acquired simply didn’t have enough scale to compete with the core’s home-grown capabilities, which they typically give away. My instincts tell me that there will be further consolidation and, like so many past mergers in fintech, the merger of Fundtech and S1 may be simply one and two of a three-base play. Hmmm…will there be a part three? What do you think?  Maggie Scarborough, Managing Director, FinServ Strategies, maggie@finservstrategies.com, 301-535-4559.

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The $64 Thousand Interface

Justifying Payments Management Investment:
The $64 Thousand Interface
– Maggie Scarborough

In banking, significant investment in new centralized payments capability known as hubs or payments management has begun at the largest financial institutions. These new centralized payments systems can provide better competitive execution as well as cost reduction through the elimination of many redundant systems and processes across the siloed payments infrastructure.  The common wisdom is that only the big financial institutions have the scale to invest in sophisticated payments hub and management systems. This isn’t a true assumption. Consider the invisible costs of an existing custom application program interface, $64 thousand a year.

You have to see it to save it. To make the business case for investment, most bankers want to use a direct cost elimination model – it’s easier to sell to senior management than a “squishy” new product sales model. That’s why scale is important. But even mid-tier banks have more scale than they realize, especially in the custom interface department. The reason the business line doesn’t see or understand integration costs and maintenance? – IT maintains custom APIs and doesn’t usually bill the business unit except during the implementation of a new system, where it is expensed as implementation costs.  Poof! Costs gone? Not really, the costs continue as the custom API must be maintained and changed as the IT infrastructure changes. There are also continued (“squishy”) opportunity costs as it becomes too expensive and time consuming to change the interface in order to advance product and services capability to keep and attract customers.

The $64 thousand interface. For illustration purposes (not that you would really do this), if you amortized the costs of a custom API over 3 years, just like a software license fee, and spread upfront outlays and ongoing maintenance fees, IT development costs, vendor charges, and change control and testing costs, the cost of a simple wire interface would be $107 thousand/year over 3 years or $64 thousand/year over 5 years.  Therefore, reducing costs by eliminating the $64 thousand interface can be significant, especially for payments where there are anywhere from 40-100 custom interfaces to/from wire transfer, ACH, check processing, card.  To be conservative – let’s say we only eliminate half of the 40 interfaces $64 thousand X 20 = $1.28 million in savings for a mid-tier regional bank. That amount would make a significant contribution to investment in centralized payments capability.

How do you know which way you’re going, if you don’t know which way you’re facing? The opportunity to reduce cost and gain better market execution requires “visibility” of IT costs combined with business line costs and a team approach that includes the business line, IT, finance, and procurement and vendor partners, so that the right cost benefit picture can be derived. There are banks doing this, now. Encouraging cost visibility and allocation can be a scary situation, I know, I experienced it while working for an institution with a fully loaded cost accounting model. It worked because of leadership that encouraged collaboration. But if you can’t see your cost and revenue structure, it’s difficult to know which way you are going, or even if you have had any success.  It might be worthwhile to ask some questions. How are your IT costs allocated to your business line? E-mail Maggie@FinservStrategies.com

Mobile Payments on the Small Screen: NACHA Payments 2010 Followup

P2P transforms C2B and B2B on the Small Screen: NACHA Payments 2010 Follow Up

Byline: Maggie Scarborough, Managing Director
(c) 2010  FinServ Strategies. All rights reserved.

A curious thing happened at the recent NACHA’s Payments 2010 conference in Seattle – it was how quickly the person to person (P2P) payment conversation turned to mobile commerce, consumer to business (C2B) and business to business (B2B). Voila! Granted the remittance payment market is ultimately P2P, banks are becoming more comfortable with the use/risk cases and will finally move beyond A2A (account to account transfers) Mom paying Billy at State U to ecommerce, Mom paying the homeowners association and spa (you need a break), and may one day allow two Gen Y’ers to pay each other back for drinks with smart phones. If the bank doesn’t serve them, Twitter might.  The consumer is younger and more ready to pay businesses and each other from the small screen.  Slightly over 80% of the 18-29 age group use only wireless/mobile communications.  Bankers, these are your new consumer and business customers.

What will drive mobile ecommerce is the ubiquity of the small screen:  the mobile phone or device, an “app for that,” a dash of youth, some new tech-comfort, and a rising number of middle-aged people getting apps for everything. What will make mobile ecommerce work is collaboration, business intelligence, and risk management. Payments will soon be mobile on the laptops and the small screen. During the “Leap Into the Future of Transaction Banking” panel on Monday sponsored by Fundtech, Cindy Murray of Bank of America Merrill Lynch was talking about flexible, intelligent infrastructure – IMHO it’s the kernel to risk, profit and well…making transaction banking work.  Chris Ward of Capital One was driving at market aspects and focused on mobile, seriously spouting mobile statistics. Here’s why. In the US, according to Pew Research, 46% of adults own a laptop of them, 83% connect via WiFi and 28% via broadband. In addition, 55% of Americans connect to the Internet wirelessly of which surprisingly 83% have accessed the Internet via the phone.  When the iPhone first came out it took 74 days to sell 1 million, when the iPad came out, it took 28 days to sell 1 million.  Google, however, has taken a different approach and is letting anyone use its Android mobile operating system (phone operators, app developers, etc.) and is breaking through the Apple App Store stranglehold on mobile applications. This is synergy: infrastructure, end-user market, delivery, applications. Hello!

The idea that mobile ecommerce was a bigger fish than P2P was evident at Payments 2010. It began with Jan Estep, NACHA Executive Director, in a great opener about innovation, spoke of Javelin Strategy and Research’s 61% P2P growth projection. In another four sessions I attended, the discussion quickly moved from P2P to mobile commerce. The focus is on a business invoicing a consumer (or another business) and payment initiation on the spot at the point of presence even if it is your back yard. I heard the “pay the landscaper with your phone example” about five different times. User experience is a key to the vision.

Square did its pitch with Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder and CEO of Square, Inc., and Jim McKelvey, Artist (ahem… former IBMer) and Chairman and talked about invoicing and payment at the point of purchase, even a back yard,  Mobility, and user experience. Clearly Square, Inc. intends to socialize payments on the mobile laptop or tablet, mobile phone or things we haven’t yet ideated.   In another session, Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) spoke of their partnership with PayPal, which makes onboarding a merchant a breeze and can easily handle international payments. They spoke of a P2P portal into which they could drive invoices.  Aite, speaking of their small business survey results spoke about P2P and small businesses. Outside of the sessions and during briefings, it became very clear that there is a number of emerging mobile commerce solutions ranging on the bank friendly scale from threatening disintermediator to friendly partner (these don’t last long).

I’m an ex-banker yet I love PayPal because they helped my small business grow. They gave my fledgling company affordable and easy direct debit payments and merchant services, when my very large bank didn’t (despite a blue chip credit rating and considerable funds I offered to let them collar).  I like the wildcard mobile comer providers, too – that is more autonomous emerging mobile commerce solutions that let the bank benefit from the entire flow, not just a slice.  How many banks will be able to play? Or for that matter be willing to play early in the game.  The whole mobile commerce game didn’t work in 2000 because the user scale wasn’t right – a few banks got burnt. This time around, we’ll likely see bank-vendor-infrastructure partnerships until enough scale has been built for banks to take it back.  They will need help from their networks – where the ACH Network (among other) enters in. Another consideration will be the front end initiation capability so heavily relied on for the Web banking.  It will take real multichannel capability not many channeled capability to support, audit, and process this potential scale. Which all sounds swell, but we have never had this type of transaction volume before. There will be snags – it’s new ground.

P2P payments, now in the spotlight, will be quickly followed by mobile commerce. Bankers need to innovate with their networks and risk methodologies to serve all of the innovation outside of the industry and to insure that they are a part of it. Square will socialize its way into the payments business, PayPal is partnering with core banking infrastructure and other infrastructure and autonomous mobile commerce solutions are emerging. This will be interesting to watch and bigger than Web banking ever was.

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Maggie Scarborough, Managing Director
Maggie@FinServStrategies.com, +1 410.685.2324

www.FinServStrategies.com

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Drinking the Cool-Aid: What I Like About Intuit Financial Services

Byline: Maggie Scarborough, Managing Director
(c) 2010  FinServ Strategies. All rights reserved.

Digital Insight changed its name to Intuit Financial Services on March 16, 2010, a sign of things to come. Intuit has an excellent chance of actually doing what we have been talking about for years in banking – delivering integrated financial services – banking integrated with business processes. Integrated financial services have eluded most financial institutions, except for highly customized services developed for the largest customers of the largest banks. But there is movement to delivering integrated financial services to small businesses. A recent example is Wells Fargo, which announced its Business Online Banking (BoB) invoicing service. What of the community banking market, however, that lacks the customer scale to invest in such services?

Intuit Financial Services intends to deliver integrated financial services to the small business market through its thousands of community bank customers, which lack the scale of “gigantor bank.”  From new and old bits, Intuit Financial Services is building its new Business Financial Solutions software as a service (SaaS) platform using new development while leveraging existing corporate banking and business banking solutions including Web and mobile channels, payments, accounting, tax, invoicing, and bill payment. Smartly, Intuit Financial Services created an upward migration path from micro-business all the way up to services suitable for sizable middle market companies.

The Business Financial Solutions platform is in version one and development will continue through 2012.  Intuit, however, has the ingredients to succeed. Visible progress in usability (the largest complaint) can be seen in a just-announced dashboard that give users one click access to major features and functions, including portlets that provide quick access to the most important activities and most common reports. It has also created familiar bill payment usability to its payments, which will help banks sell the solution and provide businesses easy use.  A plus is that the company won’t have to build everything from scratch. Intuit owns the more complex high-end cash management intellectual property, has a major concentration of business users of Quicken, QuickBooks, and Turbo Tax for Small Business and the new Tax Caster service, and the newly minted (no pun intended) Small Business FinanceWorks. The company does, however, lack its own proprietary bill payment.

Intuit’s development approach is sound. Rather than listen entirely to what banks think businesses want (no offense intended), Intuit uses the “Design for Delight” process, which  builds in real end user input to process requirements straight from the business’s offices, desks, and autos. This capture of native process is essential to success in today’s process-driven business model. Plus bank adoption barriers are low as Intuit is smart enough not to charge to existing bank customers and arm and a leg to move upward to the new platform capability.  It is an investment in the success of its 7,000 financial institution customers and leverage of 7 million business uses of its software.

It was time for the Digital Insight name to submerge. It doesn’t really reflect the depth of what Intuit Financial Services can do on its journey to integrated financial services for consumers and businesses.  Completing the Business Financial Solutions vision depends on commitment we don’t see wavering.  Intuit is a seasoned SaaS provider that is making significant investment in its infrastructure including Web services and cloud computing. The company sits at the junction of businesses, processes, and banking. A recession is the perfect moment for community institutions to compete with big banks in the small business market, but most are very inexperienced with cash management and business processes. This is why Intuit, which is experienced in directly supporting businesses, may be an excellent partner, providing they sustain their investment. Am I drinking the cool-aid, maybe, but with a healthy dose of Intuit’s business process experience as the sweetener.

(c) 2010 FinServ Strategies

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http://www.FinServStrategies.com
Maggie Scarborough, Managing Director
Maggie@FinServStrategies.com, +1 410.685.2324