White Paper: The Metaverse - An Overview

Written by: Simon Figures, SC Ventures San Francisco

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In Brief

  • The metaverse is best described as a future version of the Internet where people interact socially and professionally in persistent, shared, and immersive virtual worlds.
  • Numerous analysts are predicting a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity with far reaching implications for a broad range of industry segments.
  • Blockchains form the backbone of the metaverse and may enable digital assets - often Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) - to be used across different virtual worlds.

In Numbers

Introduction

"The next generation of consumer companies will have business models that resemble Fortnite more than they resemble Facebook."

Rex Woodbury, Index Ventures (07/20)

As a greater share of our lives are spent connected to others through technology it is increasingly difficult to make a meaningful distinction between our ‘real life’ and our ‘digital life’. 76% of consumers already report that their daily lives and activities depend on technology and a recent McKinsey study estimated that Covid had accelerated by as much as 7 years the development of digital products and services across work, education, commerce and social interaction.

Key elements of this digital wave are rapidly converging, and the contours of a unified, immersive digital future are starting to emerge. The concept of the “Metaverse”, a digital realm that enables people to interact and work in virtual spaces, is not new but has recently seen a surge of attention from consumers, corporates, and investors. In a message to its clients in January 2022, Goldman Sachs predicted the Metaverse would represent an $8 trillion opportunity[1]  while a month later, JP Morgan estimated the opportunity as $1 trillion in annual revenues, with virtual worlds “infiltrating every sector in some way in the coming years.”

Adding credence to these predictions have been the flurry of strategic moves by large tech companies; Facebook’s groupwide rebranding to “Meta”, Microsoft’s $75 billion acquisition of videogaming company Activision Blizzard and increasing evidence of an Apple AR/VR headset to name just a few. Altogether, multiple market signals point to a paradigm shift towards a more connected, immersive digital future.

In this report, we attempt to demystify competing visions of the metaverse, identify the potential impact on existing business models, and highlight strategic opportunities for Standard Chartered and as well as for our clients.

Brief History & Evolution of the Metaverse

What is the Metaverse?

 “Just as it was hard to envision in 1982 what the Internet of 2020 would be…we don’t really know yet how to describe the Metaverse.”

Matthew Ball, US Entrepreneur, and Investor

“I see the Metaverse as the gradual convergence of the digital world with the physical world. A world where we no longer notice a distinction between our digital avatars and our physical selves. This is the next iteration of the internet. And as dystopian it may sound, this is the next iteration of life.”

Ryan Gill Cofounder & CEO of Crucible

Innovation does not travel in straight lines and a common understanding of the terms used to describe a new category often lags what can be seen ‘in the wild’. This applies to language used to describe the Metaverse today and is driven in part by different companies using the same terms to stake a claim to their vision of the future.

While we can start to describe the metaverse in terms of things which are becoming more commonplace, for example virtual reality headsets, the graphic below lays out a broader set of attributes which commentators predict are required for a fully realized metaverse.

Figure 1. Key Characteristics of the Metaverse

While almost all visions of the metaverse assume some kind of immersive audio-visual experience, many of the other attributes highlighted above are at a very early stage or yet to be realized.

What are the competing visions of the metaverse?

One of the biggest questions is whether the metaverse will be “centralized” - powered by private platforms such as Facebook or Epic Games (the creators of the popular game Fortnite) or “Decentralized” - built and owned by public users on open protocols such as Decentraland or The Sandbox.

In a centralized metaverse, a single entity would govern the experience, define who has access and likely capture most of the value generated on a specific metaverse platform. This of course leaves open the possibility of there being multiple different competing metaverses.

In a decentralized metaverse, the platform is built on open-source software and governed by community members (users), who have the freedom to design the platform collaboratively and make decisions about the future direction it might take.

Community governance may seem fanciful but Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, known as DAOs, do exist at scale – most notably within Decentralized Finance (DeFi) - lending some credibility to this notion.

As corporate and consumer activity grows, the ranking of centralized vs. decentralized metaverse visions will likely change, although, it is too early to tell whether the trend towards decentralization, which ultimately fueled the growth of Web 1.0 after a centralized first inning, will prevail.

How close are we to a paradigm shift?

What needs to be true?

Many believe it will take years for the enabling technologies and conditions to develop for widespread adoption of a fully realized metaverse. Whether it takes three years or ten, however, sufficient momentum is building for many corporate strategy teams to be investigating what the impact might be.

There will be no clean ‘Before Metaverse’ and ‘After Metaverse’, instead, it will emerge over time as different products, services, and capabilities evolve. This journey is unlikely to be linear, with the last 12 months representing a notable period of rapid acceleration.

What are the likely growth vectors?

There are competing views on how the metaverse will most likely grow; Gaming, Enterprise adoption and Social networks are generally considered to be the most likely vectors.

Gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox are starting from a position of significant strength. Immersive games and their corresponding ecosystems (such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Diablo) are massive franchises that have fully established virtual worlds and communities.

To give a sense of scale, Fortnite is currently home to over 350 million registered users and frequently hosts 8 million concurrently; Roblox, another popular gaming platform which went public in 2021 reported over 55 million daily active users on its platform in February 2022.

The respective communities of Fortnite and Roblox can interact on their individual platforms, but they have limited ability to control, own or share in the revenue from the digital worlds they inhabit and are effectively separate technological silos.

On the enterprise software front, Microsoft aims to lead what it calls “the enterprise metaverse" through initiatives such as Microsoft Mesh[2]. CEO Satya Nadella is likely to use Microsoft’s $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard to lead in the content, talent, and community war. In a Microsoft-powered metaverse secular shifts around remote work and the evolution of immersive collaboration tools e.g., Microsoft Teams are front and centre.

Lastly, Meta (formerly Facebook’s) vision of “helping to bring the metaverse to life” appears to be gaining traction. Facebook, as the pre-eminent global social network, is obviously well-positioned particularly given their ownership of the VR hardware company Oculus. The Oculus Quest 2 headset costs around $300 and is estimated to have sold 10 million units in the last 12 months – notably outselling Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console. On the social networking giant’s shift towards a new metaverse-focused vision, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared the following sentiment: “We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet…We’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.

With continued innovation in metaverse-related hardware by multiple different companies, we will likely see new devices that accelerate user adoption. Rumors of an Apple VR headset have circulated within the tech community for several years. The device may be as light as an iPhone (about 150 grams) which, if true, will be less than a third of the Quest 2 and other competing brands and will expand the number of viable use cases.

How might consumer behavior shift in a metaverse-enabled world?

According to consumer investor Rex Woodbury of Index Ventures, "the next generation of consumer companies will have business models that resemble Fortnite more than they resemble Facebook” and there is growing evidence that consumers are positive about a move from digital experiences to immersive experiences with the tendency increasing after their first immersive experience.

For example, in a recent survey gauging the appeal of virtual events, respondents familiar with the metaverse were significantly more likely to favour virtual events compared with those who were unfamiliar with the concept.

Figure 2. Shifting consumer attitudes towards future digital experiences in the metaverse (Wunderman Thompson)

In one example, popular videogaming platform Fortnite demonstrated massive success in hosting virtual concerts. In December 2019, 3 million people watched a Star Wars event hosted by JJ Abrams and in April 2020 28 million people “attended” a concert by musician Travis Scott. In these events, players have the option to engage with the platform as their favorite characters. Woodbury notes that corporates have been eager to offer free virtual assets in exchange for brand affinity; For example, Disney partnered with Fortnite to introduce Marvel “skins” and the US National Football League (NFL) provided NFL jerseys. Both virtual assets were offered for free. Corporations and celebrities are also continuing to explore in-game presences as promotional tools, akin to appearances or performances on traditional talk shows.

The metaverse is a powerful tool for corporates to connect with users as these experiences offer something more than the passive consumption of media we are accustomed to today. According to Alexander Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Streamline Media Group, “[immersive experiences] take you to another world, bring a sense of wonder and require a suspension of disbelief. It’s psychologically more engaging.” Additionally, the immersive experience removes the distractions of the physical world and enables users to be transported to settings where they can be “fully engaged.”

Digital Goods

Consumers are shifting to view digital goods as comparable to physical goods and prefer digital, immersive shopping experiences

According to a survey by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, 75% of respondents believe that digital craftsmanship requires the same expertise as physical craftsmanship. This belief is shared by respondents across multiple geographies with China scoring the highest.

Figure 3. Shifting consumer attitudes towards digital craftsmanship (Wunderman Thompson)

This attitude is even more evident amongst younger cohorts who display preferences for digital shopping over in-store experiences. Neha Singh, CEO of Obsess (a virtual store platform that assists brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger to create virtual shopping destinations) states that “data indicates that the majority of younger consumers want to be able to shop their favorite brands anywhere they go online, including on metaverse platforms…These shoppers have grown up with online videogames, esports and social media and many of them see the emerging metaverse as a modern-day mall—a connected virtual world where they can hang out, shop and socialize. For retail brands, these survey findings highlight the importance of creating sound metaverse commerce strategies today that will resonate with consumers over the coming years.”

Consumers seem to be responding positively to immersive, social commerce models. These models, such as China’s Pinduoduo, enable new ways for consumers to shop with their friends and provide immersive, gamified experiences. In a recent example, the department store wing of South Korea's retail giant Lotte Group announced a partnership with software developer Vaiv to create a metaverse version of their store.

Many also believe there is massive potential for immersive shopping experiences in travel and hospitality. Virtual reality tools will enable consumers to feel and experience prospective destinations. For example advertising agency Whitespace’s award-winning AR portal for VisitScotland enabled potential tourists to experience the country using virtual reality.

What “Real World” examples of adoption are there?

Marketing and Brand building

In addition to the recent headlines from Meta and Microsoft we are also seeing examples of companies incorporating the metaverse in numerous subtle, yet strategic ways.

New Business Lines: In December 2021, sportswear brand Nike announced its acquisition of RTFKT (pronounced ‘artefact’), a digital design studio producing trainers and other collectibles that can be worn across different online environments. In this way, Nike intends to diversify its products into the metaverse, potentially ramping up its own production of virtual wearables.

Enhancing Corporate-Consumer Relations: As metaverse expert Cathy Hackl notes: “brands will need to continue adapting to relationship styles of play and interactions. Customers won’t just be able to talk to brands as they do today on social media, they’ll be able to interact with them in 3D form.” For example, in August 2021, French fashion house Louis Vuitton (LV) celebrated its founder’s 200th birth anniversary by launching a mobile game called LOUIS THE GAME. The brand created its own story and world to explore, mimicking a role-playing game (RPG). Furthermore, in January 2022, Ralph Lauren CEO Patrice Louvet stated that the company’s participation in the virtual world helps it connect with younger shoppers, and it subsequently participated in metaverse platform Zepeto and Roblox, where shoppers can dress their avatars in Ralph Lauren apparel.

Community Building: In September 2021, Vans partnered with Roblox to launch “Vans World”, a persistent 3D skate park that allows users to compete, connect with others, design virtual skateboards and Vans shoes. The virtual skate park has attracted over 50 million visitors and has allowed Vans to generate an additional source of revenue through the sale of virtual items.

Experiences: As mentioned above, through the corporate partnerships developed with Fortnite and musical artists, multi-million-dollar opportunities exist for corporates to connect with consumers through virtual events and experiences. Corporates are now exploring how different types of social gatherings, immersive education, travel, and other untapped experiences can complement existing business activities.

Brand Protection and Digital Asset Ownership:  Another indicator of companies embracing the metaverse is seen by the increased number of trademark registrations being filed with the US Patents and Trademarks Office, and their foreign equivalents.  These applications seek to extend trademark protection over use of the applicant’s brand in the virtual world and in the virtual goods and services that they intend to offer in the Metaverse.   The applicants span a wide number of industries and examples of companies who have registered, or are seeking to register, their trademarks, include Nike, Ralph Lauren, Walmart and McDonalds.  There is also heightened awareness in relation to other intellectual property considerations relating to the creation, sale and use of digital assets.  These include the need to watch out for licensing arrangements and ownership rights over the digital assets, particularly where the digital asset is created as part of a collaboration or where it may be commercialized or exploited.   While enforceability of rights over digital assets still remain uncertain, there are an increasing number of cases being brought involving unauthorised use of a brand’s trademarks (such as in the recent lawsuit filed by Hermes against Mason Rothschild involving Hermes’ popular “Birkin” bag).  These are currently being disputed with significant interest in what their outcomes are going to be.

Digital space: metaverse real estate

“Virtual worlds have been destigmatized as a result of COVID in a truly unique way. COVID has legitimized time in virtual worlds in a way that almost no other event could have.”

Matthew Ball, Metaverse VC & Essayist

There has been accelerated interest in the concept of digital real estate in recent years. Imagine a digital twin of the physical world, in which you can explore, engage, and interact with others using augmented & virtual reality devices.

While still in the earliest stages, investment into the metaverse real estate market has drawn the fascination of the public as early investors commit significant amounts of money to digital land. In 2021, CNBC reported $500 million was invested into metaverse real estate, an amount projected to double this year.

Most of this activity is concentrated into the “Big Four” platforms: Decentraland, Sandbox, Cryptovoxels and Somnium. These platforms have dominated the market, and together represent a total of 268,645 virtual land parcels, all of varying sizes.

Platform Founded Developer(s) Users  Virtual Land Parcels Coin
Decentraland 2015 (launched 2020) The Decentraland Foundation 8.5 million (Dec 2021) Fixed at 90,601 MANA
The Sandbox 2011 (re-launched in 2021) Animoca Brands (Hong Kong) 2 million (March 2022) Fixed at 166,464 SAND
Cryptovoxels 2018 Nolan Consulting (New Zealand) ~9,000 (Sept 2021) Unlimited (7,351 as of Feb 2022) ETH
Somnium 2017 (launched 2018) Artur Sychov (Czech Republic) ~4,600 (March 2022) Fixed at 5,025 CUBE

Figure 4. Comparing the four most popular virtual land platforms today

Decentraland, an open-source 3D virtual world platform founded in 2015, allows users to place 3D models in a digital space using a simple drag and drop builder tool. Professionals can generate interactive content and code advanced applications, games, and animations. With a fixed 90,600 parcels on the platform, users can invest in parcels that are expected to appreciate over time. In December 2021, Tokens.com spent a record-breaking $2.4 million for 116 parcels in Decentraland’s fashion district, where the company plans to host fashion events and retail shops. Decentraland is one of the oldest Metaverse platforms and has collaborated with Samsung and the Australian Open (AO) in the past.

Similarly, The Sandbox, a leading decentralized gaming virtual world, has gained much recent attention. In January 2022, the company announced it was working with multiple partners in the entertainment, finance, gaming, real estate, and Hong Kong film industry to create a virtual Mega City, which will be “will be a cultural hub based on or inspired by multiple Hong Kong talents”; Standard Chartered itself announced a partnership with the Sandbox and the purchase of land in Mega City in April 2022[3].

Remote work and the evolution of the office

The current virtual office environment has been the most popular office for many in recent years. As the global pandemic accelerated the development of fully remote or hybrid work settings, employers and employees have had ample amounts of time to rethink the nature and importance of the physical office. As workers look to more immersive work environments in the future, AR/VR solutions such as Spatial are paving the way to a true metaverse workforce.

As Ben Thompson writes, the metaverse can play a key role in enabling the Future of Work: “Think again over the last couple of years: most of those people working from home were hunched over a laptop screen; ideally one was able to connect an external monitor, but even that is relatively limited in size and resolution. A future VR headset, though, could contain as many monitors as you could possibly want — or your entire field of view could be one massive monitor. Moreover, the fact that a headset shifts your senses out of your physical environment is actually an advantage if said physical environment has nothing to do with your work.

Potential Impact

Figure 5. The Seven Layers of the Metaverse (Jon Radoff)

Jon Radoff, CEO of gaming startup Beamable provides a helpful framework that breaks down the metaverse down into 7 different layers in which we are seeing companies operate:

  1. Experience: This is the most obvious layer to consumers - users interact in digitally driven environments through content such as games, shopping, NFTs, e-sports and events.
  2. Discovery: This refers to the push and pull process of introducing new experiences to users. Generally, discovery can be classified as either inbound (app stores, search engines for reviews and ratings) or outbound (notifications and display advertising).
  3. Creator economy: The creator economy layer refers to the design tools, marketplaces, and workflow platforms used by creators to build and release metaverse worlds, experiences and assets.
  4. Spatial computing: Technologies such as AR, VR, extended reality (XR) and space mapping fall under this layer - which is central to blending the physical and virtual.
  5. Decentralisation: This covers both the hardware decentralization – required for high resolution experiences - and decentralization of ownership via blockchains.
  6. Human interface: The technology allowing our physical body to interact with the digital world.
  7. Infrastructure: The underlying technology, storage, compute and distribution that powers the metaverse.

Financial Service Impact

In the financial services industry there are an increasing number of ways in which the metaverse may impact existing business models and spur new ones.

Investment Products: As digital assets become central to metaverse presence and activity, asset managers are increasingly interested in enabling their customers to invest in this new category. Enabling technology such as MetaMask Institutional is making it easier for corporates, family offices, and financial institutions to integrate with the asset rails used within these worlds thereby driving access and growth. Standard Chartered’s Zodia, one of the first institutional-grade custody solutions for crypto currencies is already exploring how to support a broader range of digital assets. Additionally, metaverse ETFs (such as the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF) and the concept of metaverse real estate mortgages have made headlines.

Client Experience: The immersive nature of metaverse technologies allow financial firms to connect with clients in new ways. For example, South Korean KB Kookmin Bank launched, KB Financial Town, a virtual version of a traditional bank branch. Furthermore, results from a 2020 study conducted by University College Dublin testing the effectiveness of VR uses on communication in financial services (as opposed to video conferences) pointed to improved feelings of presence and closeness by the participants.

Metaverse Finance (“MetaFi”): Today’s nascent digital creator economy, which includes publishing, gaming (skin creation), digital art, streaming, music and more, is home to over 50 million content creators. These artists create digital goods and are often paid in digital tokens which are exchanged within an emerging digital asset economy. We have seen early examples of these markets through the growth of NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) representing land and assets as well as “in game currencies” such as Robux. This new economy heralds new kinds of financial services described as “MetaFi” and is a natural place for existing financial services companies to explore.

Strategic Opportunities

“When I think about the bank of the future, I often think about my sons and how they play Fortnite with their friends.”

- Derek White, BBVA's Global Head of Client Solutions (April 2020)

In addition to activities by banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, many other financial firms have signaled their interest in the metaverse.

In February 2022, JP Morgan announced its "Onyx Lounge" in Decentraland, and released a paper explaining the metaverse opportunities they are exploring.

Banco Santander and BBVA indirectly made their debut in the Decentraland metaverse in February 2022 as joint shareholders in the developer Metrovacesa. Metrovacesa and Datacasas Proptech, a Spanish startup specializing in the online sale of properties, plans to market digital real estate in the metaverse.

In November 2021, HSBC joined a $200M funding round for ConsenSys, a blockchain software engineering firm, that notably owns MetaMask Institutional, a solution which will allow corporates to integrate with digital assets more easily.

SCB (Siam Commercial Bank) through their innovation arm SCB10X opened the doors to their Sandbox property in March 2022 at the same time as announcing a $600m digital asset fund and metaverse creation studio.

Lastly, in January 2022, DBS held its H1 2022 Market Outlook entitled “Into the Metaverse”, where the firm explored top emerging investment trends. CIO of Consumer Banking & Wealth Management Hou Wey Fook examined the questions of whether the digital economy will be potentially larger than the physical one.

Conclusion

With any paradigm shift, it can be difficult to separate valid signal from speculative noise. Over the past two years we argue, the metaverse signal to noise ratio has improved with concrete investments, software maturity, hardware improvements and consumer awareness all increasing. Consequently, many corporates are now trying to work out “how” the metaverse will impact their business, not ‘If”.

Changing consumer behavior complemented by rapidly developing technology are strongly signaling that our future social and professional lives including how we earn, spend, and invest our money will become increasingly immersed in virtual worlds.

It was not so long ago that consumers were baffled by the investment in .com addresses in the same way many are today with purchases of digital land. With only a relatively short 40-year history, the internet looks set to evolve again in ways that will radically change how we live and work.

 

[1] These figures represent the midpoint of Analyst estimates of the rapidly growing digital economy as a proxy for the metaverse.

[2] Microsoft Mesh https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/mesh

[3] https://scventures.io/standard-chartered-partners-with-the-sandbox-to-create-metaverse-experience/

Appendix

Disclaimer

This document is prepared and issued by SC Ventures, a division of Standard Chartered Bank (“SC”) that invests in disruptive technology and explores alternative business models for SC.   SC (incorporated with limited liability in England by Royal Charter) is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (“PRA”) and regulated by the PRA and the Financial Conduct Authority.

It is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended, and should not be relied upon, as advice on the regulatory, accounting or other treatment of any topics presented herein. It is not intended to offer recommendations or advice (including but not limited to any recommendations or advice in relation to investing in or purchasing digital assets) nor to sell any product or provide any service. SC does not provide accounting or regulatory advice and recommends that you seek advice from your own lawyers, accountants, auditors and/or other professional advisers (“Advisors”).

While reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, SC, its affiliates and its and its affiliates’ directors, officers or employees (the “SC Group”) does not accept any responsibility or liability of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this document or for errors of fact or for any opinion expressed herein. Accounting laws, rules, regulations, standards and other guidelines may differ in different countries and/or may change at any time without notice. The SC Group is under no obligation to update the document or to inform you or anyone else about any change (whether or not known or apparent to the SCB Group) to the information in the document.

This document is provided to assist interested parties in making a preliminary analysis of the topics presented herein and does not purport to be all-inclusive or to contain all of the information that you may require to make a full analysis of the topics. It is for information and discussion purposes only and does not constitute either an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any digital asset, security or any financial instrument or enter into any transaction or recommendation to acquire or dispose of any investment.

Information (including summaries of regulations) appearing herein has been obtained from various public sources believed to be reliable. We do not represent or warrant that this information is accurate or complete. Accordingly, it should not be relied upon as such. The information contained herein does not purport to identify or suggest all the risks (direct or indirect) that may be associated with conducting business. SC may not have the necessary licenses to provide services or offer products in all countries or such provision of services or offering of products may be subject to the regulatory requirements of each jurisdiction and you should check with your Advisors before proceeding. You are expected to exercise your own independent judgment (with the advice of your Advisors) with respect to the risks and consequences of any matter contained herein. We expressly disclaim any liability and responsibility for any losses arising from any uses to which this document is put and for any errors or omissions in this document.

© Copyright 2022 Standard Chartered Bank. All rights reserved. All copyrights subsisting and arising out of these materials belong to Standard Chartered Bank and may not be reproduced, distributed, amended, modified, adapted, transmitted in any form, or translated in any way without the prior written consent of Standard Chartered Bank.

 


FinTech Bridge Live: Sustainability in PropTech

In our recent SC Ventures FinTech Bridge live session, Marion Bernardi and Harald Eltvedt spoke with Marie CheongVirginia Brumby Ferreira and Apurv Suri about trends, regulations and opportunities to drive sustainability and impact in the booming #proptech space. Here are some key takeaways:

💥 Tech advancements, hybrid work arrangements, increasing business focus on achieving #netzero and government regulations are key factors driving the innovation and transformation of property usage and management.

🏛️ Governments vs. Corporates - who is leading the change? While we're seeing more regulations in place to support green building, we don't need to wait for regulations to influence change. We need business models aligned to what stakeholders and customers will pay for, e.g. better use of space and workplace experience with focus on sustainability - that will drive change!

🏢 Hybrid work arrangements are changing expectations of work spaces. When people want to come into the office, we need to think about how we can make it the most collaborative, productive, attractive and sustainable experience it can be.

💪 Co-creating with clients and partners is key, enabling us to tap into various areas of expertise to drive innovation.

 

Connect with our speakers and other like-minded folks at our SC Ventures FinTech Bridge

Watch the full session


Mobilizing the potential of AI for sustainable trade finance

Around the world, 1.7 billion people still lack access to a formal bank account. As data grows exponentially, AI has the power to transform this data profusion into financial inclusion, with the right infrastructure and ethical framework. In a recent World Economic Forum article, SC Ventures' Amelia Ng and Laurent Le Moal, CEO of PayU, share the three key elements needed to sustainably and safely mobilize the potential of AI to develop sustainable trade finance for small businesses. Read more


Zodia mastering digital custody and gender balance

SC Ventures founded Zodia to manage digital assets for institutional clients while maintaining a robust compliance and control framework – a unique selling point. Find out how Zodia is pioneering institutional-grade digital custody solutions and how gender diversity plays in Zodia’s success story.

The need for a regulated digital custody solution

Zodia by SC Ventures unites deep and multi-market expertise as a trusted securities custodian of Standard Chartered and the agility of a fintech company. The approach provides secure and innovative custody services for digital assets. While it follows the same principles as traditional custody, the underlying technology is highly scalable, offers the option to quickly adapt to new market developments and evolving client needs. “Banking is changing and we empower banks to diversify business models”, explains Zodia CFO and Chief of Staff Preete Janda.

SC Ventures partnered with the financial services provider Northern Trust to launch Zodia in December 2020. “These institutions have a long history and legacy surrounding custody. Combined, SC Ventures and Northern Trust have more than 300 years of experience in banking”, explains Charlotte Parker, Communications and Brand Analyst at Zodia. “The digital assets market is an exciting space to be in and by leveraging SC Ventures and Northern Trust’s expertise, we can bring best market practices into the digital asset ecosystem”, Charlotte adds. The partnership combines the risk management, compliance, governance, and security approaches of a regulated financial institution with cutting-edge technological innovation. The aim of the collaboration is high operational efficiency and speed of transaction without compromising on security.

“The digital asset industry still lacks an established regulatory infrastructure and standards between trading venues, custodians, and participants”, states Anoosh Arevshatian, Chief Risk Officer at Zodia. The digital asset custodian co-founded a working group to shape regulations in the area of digital custody. “We strongly believe in setting industry-wide standards and this should be an industry-wide effort”, says Head of Product Jo Lee. Higher industry standards regarding financial crimes and cybersecurity are key to fully unlocking the institutional potential for the digital asset class. Through collaboration with industry participants and regulatory bodies, Zodia actively participates in the co-creation of market standards and regulations to support the growth of the entire ecosystem.

Diversity and inclusion allow Zodia to offer a revolutionary product

Zodia is one of the few fintech startups living gender diversity: almost half of the permanent staff are female and key positions are held by women. Studies show that diverse teams perform better than homogenous groups and more women in the workplace is associated with positive organizational outcomes for all employees. “Zodia is committed to being a force for good across all aspects of our business, the value of Zodia is our people and their diversity which is central to our success. By building a diverse and inclusive team Zodia has created a company culture centred around collaboration and unlocking potential”, Zodia CEO Maxime de Guillebon explains.

The team has witnessed how gender balance positively influences the company culture: “Zodia has a flexible and well-rounded approach to innovation, which deviates from the traditional finance space, fostering a culture of openness and support that makes everyone accessible. I have been pleasantly surprised by the approachable nature of my colleagues and everyone’s openness to being challenged”, says CFO and Chief of Staff Preete. Her colleagues share this opinion: “Since working for Zodia, I have noticed the difference that gender balance can make”, states Zodia Head of Product Jo. Anoosh who joined Zodia in 2021 highly appreciates the impact of diversity on her team. “Zodia has a fantastic company culture: everyone is highly motivated and able to be their true selves which means that we are eager to share different experiences from all over. This positions us to offer a product that has the potential to take digital custody to the next level”, she says.


A year of grit and growth

By: Alex Manson, SC Ventures

 

 

Well... we didn’t see that one coming!

Last year was painful for most people, to varying degrees – at times tragic with the loss of loved ones, emerging forms of mental illness, loss of jobs and means of living. The gap between rich and poor increased and humanity suffered a set-back on about every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Sometimes the impact was less tragic but uncomfortable – separated families and drastic changes to our ways of life (no travel, limited human contact).

The inspiring story all around though, is humans’ remarkable ability to adapt – to the “new normal”, “living with the virus”, “work during the pandemic”. This may bode well for the numerous and perhaps bigger challenges ahead, such as fighting climate change, financial and other forms of inclusion, and creating wealth and growth in parts of the world that need it the most.

Rewiring the DNA in banking

At SC Ventures and in every one of our ventures, I guess we had our fair share of difficult stories last year. Nevertheless, I found that the prevalent feeling was a sense of being privileged – having a job and one that could actually be done at a distance, and also a sense of responsibility for achieving our objectives, so that such privilege would not go to waste. Even perhaps, especially as Fintechs, portfolio companies and ventures had to survive so they could fight another day, “Rewiring the DNA in banking” was more relevant than ever for the communities around us. As a group, we continue to take it to heart.

Building and scaling up new business models

First, it is gratifying to see ventures and other projects “coming out” as we have been working on some of these for some time. One of the findings of the pandemic is that in lockdown or online conditions, it is actually easier and sometimes quite efficient to deliver things we have agreed on with people we already know, than to create new things with people we don’t know.

Accordingly, we delivered on a lot, with the intensity we are capable of – and it worked. Mox (our Hong Kong digital bank) and Solv (e-commerce platform serving SMEs in India) both launched commercially. Also, nexus (BaaS business plugging SCB into e-commerce platforms) announced their second partnership in Indonesia and is getting ready to launch in Q1. So is Zodia (institutional proposition for cryptocurrency custody) who also announced a partnership with Northern Trust. Assembly Payments (aggregation of merchants’ payments) is now an operational venture scaling quickly and CardsPal (credit card benefits optimization), which following its commercial launch topped the popularity charts in Singapore (way ahead of Tinder... triggering many jokes in the team). Meanwhile, Autumn (health, wealth and retirement planning platform) has been testing in Singapore in a restricted environment (beta launch expected shortly) and Bloom (safe and compliant cloud infrastructure for Fintechs and regulated financial institutions) is finalizing arrangements for testing their prototype with sophisticated clients.

A number of other ventures are coming right on the heels of these, so stay tuned. This year we will continue to execute and scale the ventures that are coming to market. But we will also turn our attention to creating new things with people we don’t necessarily know (because we can, and because we should).

 

 

Investing in fintech partnerships

On the investment front, the team experienced arguably its first crisis. Take a step back, reflect on the portfolio, prioritise resources for those who can justify their scarce allocation. Some of the companies we expected to struggle did not – others we did not expect did.

Perhaps the highlight of this year was SC Ventures stepping up and rescuing one of our partners, a sound business which had just overextended itself on the brink of the pandemic. This was a small deal for the Bank, but a successful one and perhaps a case study of how banking should be done – saving jobs and a company solving problems that are worth solving on the way.

Towards the end of the year we reflected on themes. As the world goes inexorably more digital, we focused more on infrastructure and security plays that are so critical to banking and deployed new capital accordingly.

 

 

Keeping the intrapreneurial spirit alive

Perhaps most importantly, the bank came with us – one intrapreneur at a time. Of course, we wouldn’t be here without senior management support and we are both cognizant and forever grateful of the opportunity their trust has enabled. But it is with individuals all around the bank, at any level of seniority and from every walk of life, that we have achieved the most “transformational impact”.

Intrapreneurs, the ones volunteering to come forward and realize one of their aspirations, have joined the programme. Irrespective of whether they were able to go all the way with their ideas, they will never be the same professionals again. They have already become leaders of the future. They are also an integral part of the SC Ventures family, kindred spirits driven to make the world a better place by making banking better. I am proud of them all and wanted to thank them first for being their authentic selves.

 

 

Transforming the way we work

We also experimented with ways of working. OKR discipline is now more a routine for us as we are maturing and executing with “self-administration”. This is done within a structure that we wish to be as flat and non-hierarchical as possible – no it is not perfect, in fact far from it, and yes it is sometimes a bit messy – where SC Ventures, the ventures, intrapreneurs and subject matter experts around the world share in the common purpose of “Rewiring the DNA in banking”.

This coming year, we will focus on taking the whole bank with us. On day 1, and paraphrasing a great leader, ‘nobody owes you a living’, so we had to execute our first assignments with a level of intensity which can be uncomfortable for some but necessary to survive. Today we need to scale and cannot do it alone – we need everyone to help somehow.

Going from a “start-up” to a “scale-up” also implies maturity in governance. At times we are almost “writing the book” on how ventures can be created in a regulated environment – safely, compliant, but also pioneering, agile, enlightened as business should be and always with purpose in mind (“Rewiring the DNA in banking”!).

Looking ahead to this year

I am proud and thankful for the past year. I’m also anxious about achieving what we promised, because it is my nature, but also unabashedly hopeful and relentless as I think of this year. “There's "so little done, so much to do.” Please support our effort, we will need all the help we can get.

And for 2020, again – thank you.

Alex


Corporates Supporting Startups: Does it all have to be about the money?

By: Hari Rajmohan, SC Ventures | 24 Oct 2019

I first spoke to Edward Neequaye on an teleconference line, along with a few other employees of Standard Chartered Bank. By then we had shortlisted Edward/ Built and another start up, from amongst over 100 contenders to be the recipient of a $50k cash award and a 1 year mentoring program, in partnership with One Young World. The theme was to support a start up with an idea or a product that would positively impact the world through the lens of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Edward and his company Built Accounting fit the bill as they were trying to address the youth unemployment in Ghana though financial services training, particularly targeting the large and underserved SME segment of the business community.

After that first call where we spoke about Edward’s vision for Built, what that means for the Ghanaian SME community, and what we as Standard Chartered Bank could assist with in getting there, the interview panel decided unanimously to move ahead with backing this young and zestful accountant-turned-entrepreneur from Ghana. Given the clear confluence of technology, finance and entrepreneurship on this project, some of us at SC Ventures (the innovation arm of the bank) decided to run point on the engagement.

Over the many engagements that our team has had with Edward in the past 6 months, we have discussed financial forecasting, brand & marketing strategy, technology team hiring strategy, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) structuring, to name a few. This was possible thanks to the support we received from the in-house team members at SC Ventures as well as the rest of the bank – be it technical advice from our CTO Thorsten Neumann, leadership and problem solving technique training from one of our innovation coaches, sessions with our local marketing team in Accra, and financial forecasting and capital structure tips from yours truly (!)

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In August of this year, Claudia Marcusson, an innovation coach at SC Ventures (Singapore) was in Ghana and during her time there, she ran Edward and his team through the best practices in ethnographic research. She accompanied Edward in visiting some of the existing and potential customers to help give context on how we think about understanding (and more importantly anticipate) customer needs. Over in Ghana, Edward was also introduced to the Chief Executive Officer of our country office, as well as senior members of the credit team, who have agreed to provide consultation to Built’s product management team on best practices of credit profiling, specifically on what data points, and trends do market leading lenders look for when they lend to SMEs.

The $50k would be used to support the growth of the technology team, as well building capabilities on marketing and infrastructure support.

I hope this serves as a reference point to corporates out there, who are trying to connect with early stage companies trying to have a positive impact in their respective communities. It is not easy, but it certainly is not hard.

The other day, I had coffee with Edward in the Basinghall office of SCB London. He said (and I paraphrase!) “I want cheap credit accessible to as many mom and pop stores in Ghana as possible“. I wish that happens (and that Built plays a role in that journey)….and more. We would be delighted to be part of that journey.


Finding the Silver Lining of Covid-19 for startups

By: Alex Toh, SC Ventures | 16 June 2020

(Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer)

Being in the startup scene, you tend to be (or after a while become) optimistic as you’re surrounded by passionate people building their dreams. On the VC side, you can do as much due diligence, research and scenario planning as possible, but every single investment is always still a leap of faith. Calculated, but still risky nonetheless.

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Fail, repeat. Keep trying, until successful enough to raise a 2nd fund and repeat again.

Too many unknown unknowns exist, and as we’ve seen in the past months, the emergence of a new coronavirus has effectively changed everything. We’ve seen how the pandemic has overturned the airlinetourismretailF&B and many other industries. However, there are also others that have ‘benefited’ from the situation; e-commerce, delivery, online payments, telecommuting, gaming, social media, heck, even toilet paper manufacturing. Multiple articles have already covered these sectors.

In trying to keep up with the mood of positivity and optimism, I’d like to focus on the underlying changes and positive knock-on effects that this situation has created and share some observations and thoughts.

Digitisation becomes a thing.

In 1955, John Hancock (now Manulife) digitized 600mb of life insurance policies. A 2018 survey findings revealed 70% of companies have a digital strategy (or are working on one). This buzzword in the early 2000s is being embraced by corporations and Covid-19 may just be the catalyst to make it the norm. 75% of Fortune 500 CEOs surveyed think so too.

The reality of being physically apart has forced corporations to accelerate digitization strategies for their customers, employees and business as usual practices. Using banking as an example, customer complaints of manual paper processes like account opening have to be at least digital if you cannot visit a physical branch. Wet signatures to approve the document have to move to a secured e-signature platform. Efficiency needs to keep up with customer expectations and repetitive but important processes like KYC need to be automated with some form of Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

What this likely means for B2B startups is;

  • Corporates would have more problem statements around digitization and relevant technologies
  • They will have bigger budgets to solve them
  • Perhaps more importantly, the buy in that you needed from the head of department is now coming from the group CTO. Once large structural changes are made to go digital, they are unlikely reverted to the old processes of before. This further ignites a cyclical change from the “legacy” organizations to embrace technology or be the only one left behind.

Startups I speak to have experienced cold conversations suddenly turn warm and those in pre-production seen their obstacles cleared to get their product out as quickly as possible during this period. My own portfolio company product has been rolled out months ahead of schedule and peers from other financial institutions tell me the same. This speed of adoption would mostly be unheard of in the banking world if not for this virus. And, I’m hoping this mindset will stay after the virus situation recovers.

Instead of coffee, it’s now zoom.

As CIOs struggle to cope with the 10–100x increase in remote working as governments move employees to work from home (WFH), teleconferencing becomes the new norm of meetings. Also, instead of networking drinks, VCs and startups now play fortnite together (seriously).

What this likely means for startups is:

  • Instead of expensive and inefficient travel trips for B2B sales, you can now do it online and close sales. This applies to pitching and closing investment rounds from VCs online too.
  • WFH also means remote access for B2B startups is now being granted (or at least working with client’s on premise staff via teleconferencing). Engineers do not need to be in client premises and this means arbitraging labour in cheaper countries; EVEN MORE.
  • Collaborative and communications software usage is increased. Corporate firewalls, especially found in banks, start to ease or formal work-arounds are developed. The actual ability to access and use these SaaS tools for corporates creates new opportunities and employees pro-actively explore more tools. The increased usage can create network effects within and between large organizations.
  • Traditional on-premise only customers are migrating to a hybrid or cloud solution. Those corporates that were in your long term pipeline could possibly be your customers by December 2020.
  • Network improvement and cybersecurity plays likes SD-WAN, Microsegmentation, Multi-factor Authentication, etc. all rise in importance for corporations and move ahead in the queue for getting into production. Especially for the legacy systems customers above. Procurement procedures and onboarding now move quicker for such key systems.

During Singapore’s ‘lock-down’ period, I’ve learnt of a ‘conservative’ local bank allowing a fintech remote access to key data to continue working on an important system. Some startups are now citing onboarding into large banks in weeks instead of months and I’ve seen startups close enterprise sales and VC peer closes deals via video. I have been doing due diligence with a few fintechs purely online and might be closing some deals entirely remotely.

As the world moves out of lockdown, physical human interaction will definitely continue. However, as we’ve seen pure online work in this period, I know deals can be closed with less physical meetings and more efficient video follow ups. I hope that the often nightmarish onboarding procedures will continue to be nimble and MNCs continue to allow more SaaS tools to be accessed via through corporate network firewalls.

Being real;

Now, I would like to think of myself as a realistic optimist. I know that there have been many cases when startups lost funding opportunities or large contracts because of the economic environment or they couldn’t meet in person. Overall VC funding has likely been reduced too. The situation is what it is, and we can only decide how we deal with it. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes;

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credits to Iron Mike and an amazing poster sold on Amazon

(and see Mike Tysons’ explanation on what he means here)

If you are a founder or working in a startup, nothing is going according to plan and you are now going through the extreme worst case scenario in your projections. How you deal with it will define you and your company. And remember, many great companies were created in bad times. I hope this post can help us try to look a little on the bright side and carry on the best we all can. 💪

If you haven’t, do read these great articles on what to expect, how to better pitch online, and inevitably dealing with layoffs.

Amid 2nd wave fears, and knowing that it may be many months or even years before a vaccine or cure is found, at least we know the world is working together to get there. Fingers crossed, I expect to meet friends from the ecosystem in person soon. An actual cup of cappuccino to catch up sure beats a virtual ☕ over zoom. Stay safe!


Digital CVP - the elusive segment of ‘one’

By Sachin Rajat Sharma, CPO, nexus | 24 August, 2020

 

Are financial institutions ready for hyper personalisation?

Sachin R Sharma with Vipul Gupta ,23 August 2020

You were talking about a holiday and lo and behold!, an advertisement for ‘weekend getaways’ appears on your social media wall. ‘This is spooky, are they listening to me?’ . Well as it turns out a sophisticated algorithm is curating advertisements customised to your very unique profile, timed to your recent activities and web searches.

Another day you wonder - ‘Are they really listening to me? As you struggle to explain your credit card transaction issue to your bank’s customer service agent who seems to be more interested in selling you a personal loan that you do not need.

Despite financial transaction data widely being accepted as the most valuable data set in customer profiling, traditional financial institutions struggle to make effective use of it.

Digital natives are used to relevant, specific and timely marketing interventions. Your social media wall is tailor made for ‘you’ no second user experiences the same feed, in effect you are a hyper customised ’segment of one’

For your bank credit card proposition on the other hand you must fit into more or less one of these categories

●     Cashback crazy

●     Miles Junkie

●     Rewards seeker

●     Foodie

●     Shopaholic

Too bad if you cut across these categories

The reality is that most of us are a little bit of all, and our preferences constantly change from time to time. As such we will end up having multiple cards with constantly shifting loyalties

This may have been good 10 years back with little digital penetration and most of us dependent on the ‘physical’ media for making our choices. But not anymore, big tech has completely changed the game and banks need to keep up.

So what will it take to bridge the gap, and can it ever be bridged ?

This article lays out a 5 point plan to get there

 I.        Get the data in one place

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The bank started operations in 1961, a time of paper ledgers, in the 80s they introduced the first computer systems and by early 90s they had a state of the art core banking system to manage deposits and payments

A few years later credit cards were introduced followed by an overhaul of lending systems in the late 1990s. The databases of all these systems were maintained independently and nothing has changed in the last 20 years. The only place you can see a ‘consolidated’ view of the customers holding is in the servicing system that has painfully sourced data from a large number of federated databases. No access to a consolidated data set and limited opportunity to drive customer engagement

The problem statement ‘how do you consolidate federated data into an all encompassing, accessible data store or data lake’

Financial Institutions face a three-pronged challenge in leveraging the real power behind the data that they hold across myriad systems - most of them legacy and sometimes running into the hundreds. The problem I see most often is that most of the institutions are solving for only a part of the problem!

Physical availability of data (Breadth and Frequency)

Hurdle: Traditionally the data availability has been primarily dictated by the institution’s ‘Reporting’ needs. This limits the number of data points readily available for consumption and also the frequency of refresh is also in most cases monthly. This fundamentally affects the capabilities of any analytics function because they then have to resort to ad hoc requests to secure required data and spend ~80-90% of the time preparing the data.

Solution: Technologies like Hadoop / HaaS etc provide almost unlimited storage at a fraction of the cost earlier. Financial institutions can leverage these solutions to create a Data lake where ALL the data from ALL the systems can be dumped at a frequency of choice. This would ensure ready and quick access to any data element for the user

Understanding of data:

Hurdle: But will physical availability alone solve the problem? While it might seem so, often due to multiple legacy systems, products and its features are booked in complex fashions across systems. There is limited knowledge of how to filter for the right data and also how to join data elements across systems. So you might have 100k data elements in your data lake, yet not know how to use most of it!

Solution:

-       Value your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)! They are the ones who can partner with business and unlock the true value of the hidden gems in data. Banks need to start treating their System and Data SMEs with respect. In today’s data-driven world they are worth their weight in gold. Banks on account of myriad cost pressures over the last decade (Post-Lehmann) have failed to realise the importance of this aspect and substantial such SMEs have been lost to ensuing expense line management actions. Hope they do not repeat the same mistake post-Covid.

-       Data dictionaries – While banks have started creating individual data element dictionaries with some basic descriptions, these are often not enough for actual usage. Banks need to create ‘Data Block’ dictionaries which store logical joins and filter conditions to arrive at a usable data attribute. For e.g. I might need to use 5 different tables in my cards system to arrive at ALL valid transactions by a customer and I also need to know the conditions for identifying only ‘valid’ transactions. This will ensure widespread and consistent usage of data across the organization

The Organisation's Data Culture

Hurdle: Banks have various units working in silos and often monopolistic ownership of data. This is a strong hurdle in building a data-driven decision-making culture. Any new initiative which cuts across functions seems a mammoth task to navigate in the highly matrixed organizational hierarchy, killing many data dreams even before they are born. Also with a traditional mind-set the focus for the failure of any new initiative is too often focused on blaming individual team members.

Solution: Traditional organisations need to be more open towards ‘test and learn’ or ‘fail fast’ experiments to break new ground. The culture needs to move away from punishing every failure which will be a key enabler for a cutting-edge analytics culture. Data Silos need to be broken and its usage should be democratised with the right controls. Many banks are starting to adopt Agile ways of project execution with teams organised as Tribes and Squads to overcome some of these legacy shortcomings.

II.        Make your data work harder

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 While banking transactions data is undoubtedly valuable, it is not enough for a ‘contextual engagement’

For that you need, search, location and off-us transaction data as well. Going back to the facebook example, not just every like and reaction on facebook is tracked but through a product called ‘Pixel’ facebook also gets access to your activity on partner websites.

In brief you need to make your own data work much harder and have a solid foothold in the data partnership ecosystem

Better usage of internal data

In many cases the bank’s own internal data hasn’t been utilised yet to its full potential. Banks have a wealth of information about the customer revealing Financial, Transactional, Behavioural and Demographical dimensions across time. With physical availability of data, knowledge of how to use the data and powerful processing tools that are now easily available, banks first need to unlock this potential. For e.g. 1) there is a plethora of customer loyalty gaining potential in acting on real time data of ‘failed touch points / transactions’ for a customer and helping the customer out of it at that very moment. 2) Spending pattern changes for a customer over the years might indicate its time to upgrade the customer to affluent banking although he might not have placed the money with us

Data as a currency

Consumers increasingly are willing to provide access to their personal data in exchange for rewards. We walk into a mall and they ask for your details in exchange for free Wi-Fi, we agree to go ahead without giving it a second thought, sounds very familiar isn’t it? Within the ambit of data privacy, banks can increasingly integrate a rewards / convenience approach into their marketing strategies to gain better and informed contextual access to relevant information. For e.g. turn on location services on the mobile app in exchange for location specific discount offers?

Data partnerships

Banks can augment their understanding of the customer through data partnerships and external data (Bureau, Social Media listening, Product & Brand Sentiment Analysis, Alternate data - Utilities etc) of course by doing so responsibly and within the relevant data privacy laws and spirit.

Ability to remarket and build a dynamic 360 view of the customer can only be achieved with data partnerships There is limited understanding of these data partnership eco-systems within the traditional banks and the marketing teams are mostly dependent on agencies to ‘buy’ the right media for campaigns. This gap needs to be actively bridged. Working with google and facebook is not really a question anymore. How to make it effective is the question to ask.

Some readers may argue that banking regulation makes it significantly more difficult to strike data partnerships. This is a fair point, however at the same time with more regulations such as GDPR coming into effect, the playing field between bank and non- bank entities is evening out. It is time to actively engage regulators in a data privacy discussions, where consumers data can be shared safely and transparently for better experiences

 

III.             Engage digitally and track performance

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For ‘segment of one’ to work you need your customers to be engaged digitally. While most banks are investing heavily into their digital banking apps, getting all customers to use them have been an uphill task. Read my article Preaching to the converted

 The incumbents who have a substantial user base using the mobile apps (at least 50% of active account logging in regularly) need to move from ‘view and transact’ to ‘active engagement’

Also after significant effort the best incumbent banks get 50~60% of their user base on the mobile banking app, while nearly 100% will be using google and facebook services. In many instances these may be the best channels to reach not just new but your existing portfolio customers as well.

The metric for digital engagement measurement also need to evolve - ‘monthly logins’ need to evolve to measuring monthly ‘#digital transaction’, ‘new product applications’ and ‘participation in portfolio campaign’

The metrics for digital engagement should cover the following high level categories at the least:

Customer engagement indicators

‘No of successful logins’, ‘No of transactions initiated’, ‘Trend of transactions – Stable / Increasing / Decreasing by customer’ etc. ‘Count of types of transactions by customer’ et al.

Customer experience

 ‘No of failed logins’, ‘ No of failed transactions’, ‘No of app crashes’, ‘Time taken for specific transactions’, ‘Time taken to complete applications’, ‘App up-time %age’ etc.

New Business potential

‘New product categories viewed’ and ‘%age conversion’. These can be triggers for the bank's digital remarketing efforts.

 

IV.           You have the data, run campaigns

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Most incumbent financial institutions have strong analytics teams. Large group of data analyst work on business insights for management decision making and find potential opportunities for marketing interventions

 

X no. clients had >$Y spend in the previous year now that has dropped to $Z - opportunity to ‘win back’

 

X no. of deposit clients have a high propensity of taking up a mortgage loan - opportunity to x-sell etc

 

Typically these campaigns cycle would be 2-3 months with high degree of ‘human interventions’

Automating a typical campaign cycle is a major challenge. The good news is there are a number of third party solutions now available for campaign automation (to some extent)

E.g. Adobe Campaign management

Automation is not a luxury anymore, especially if the bank has a mass market client portfolio. The challenge is to automate all components of the campaign life cycle. Not just identifying opportunities but also fulfilling them with the least amount of human intervention .

  

V.        Crank up the marketing

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 Having the data, partnerships, campaign automation and engagement platforms in place now it's time to ‘crank up the marketing’

This is perhaps the most challenging piece of the puzzle.

Consider this, Facebook has ten of thousands of advertisers generating content which when delivered to you in the right context feels completely customised to your needs.

How does a bank compete with that?

There are two problems to solve

  1. How does the bank prioritize between the multiple campaigns that the client may be eligible for at any point in time?
  2. How does the bank ‘customise’ the content to hyper personalise the message for that particular user?

The former is usually settled in order of ‘business value’.A prioritization ‘committee’ will probably choose an insurance campaign with a higher revenue opportunity over a low margin time deposit campaign.

In the short term target oriented scenario, this may be a reality. However to effect a long term change campaigns should be ‘algorithmically prioritised on ‘Customer lifetime value’.

For example -

The insurance campaign is prioritised, however a high value deposit into the customers account triggers an ‘event’ that brings the Term Deposit campaign upfront. The campaign message shows up in the bank mobile application with an easy process to set up the time deposit.

Recommendation engines – Platforms like Amazon, Netflix etc are heavy users of Recommendation engine algorithms to personalise customer offerings. These are based on customers past searches, purchase behaviour, what content they watch etc. It’s like creating an individualised marketing offer, pitch or nudge for the next action that the customer is most likely to take. Banks can similarly marry the plethora of information at their disposal and curate personalised offers on a ‘Offers for you’ wall for the customer. For e.g. 1) A customer starts buying from MotherCare or Kiddy Palace in Singapore (Indicating that there is a high probability of an addition to the customer’s family). There can be a personalised offer to the customer for discounts / offers for baby and post-natal merchants. 2) Customer starts paying university fees through his account; the bank correlates his income and fees and accordingly offers an educational loan.

Some resource on Recommendation engines:

Recommendation Engines | Recommendation System in Banks

A simple way to explain the Recommendation Engine in AI

This is easy to illustrate, difficult to execute. A lot of elements such as data engineering, AI programming and most importantly and mindset change towards long term engagement needs to come through to achieve this

The second part of the problem - ‘customised content’ is even more challenging. Any customer offer needs to have a business case behind it, $100 cashback for a spending $2000 over the next two months. 10% rebate from the first year premium if you invest more than $1000 per month. For asset products there can be further customisation such as risked based pricing. For every offer marketing content needs to get generated across multiple channels, in app, sms, email, digital banners etc. Not an easy task with limited marketing and business bandwidth

Again innovative third party solutions need to be considered. Content generators from the gig economy can be another source. In brief the marketing content bottleneck needs to be resolved for true hyper customisation

In conclusion, amongst the incumbent banks that we have in view, there are several who have taken great leaps towards achieving better use of data for customer engagement. However the foot can not be taken off the pedal just yet, there is a long way to go before retail banking customer can truly say ‘my bank is listening to me’

...

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are our own and not representative of our organisations in any way. Commercial or brands mentioned in the article are only for creative reference and should not be considered as the authors recommendations.


Does safe online banking compromise accessible online banking?

By Bill Winters, Group Chief Executive at Standard Chartered

21 Oct 2020

Here is a constant conundrum many of us in banking face. How do you make your online banking services as easy and accessible as possible while ensuring they are completely safe and secure? Making select investments in savvy fintechs that think laterally about the opportunities and issues facing online financial services is a core plank of our digital transformation.

We’ve made three recent investments, via our SC Ventures innovation unit, in companies that help protect all of us when we bank, and do business, online. Secret Double Octopus | Forget your Password not only one of the best named companies I’ve come across, but are at the cutting edge of online authentication. Like many of you, I struggle with too many passwords – Secret Double Octopus are at the forefront of developing a practical solution to remove the need for passwords, whilst enhancing protection against cybercrime.

Silent Eight impressed us with the ability of their AI-based platform to significantly enhance the speed and accuracy of our ability to spot financial crime risk across the transactions we undertake. We partnered with them in 2018, and made our first investment last year. The significant increase in online banking since the onset of COVID-19 has shown the importance of having these tools in your armoury. Silent Eight has doubled in scale since the start of the year, and I’m pleased that we've continued to support their research and development via further investment.

With the increasing complexity of cyber threats, our recent investment in vArmour allows businesses like ours to control operational and cyber risk across any digital platform in a single view, so security across the critical banking applications we use can be enhanced. Our investment will help vArmour expand its services globally.

I always find it fascinating to talk to start-ups and tech companies that think differently about improving safe access to financial services. Using our SC Ventures unit, I am proud that we can get directly support and partner with ‘the best of the best’ - some of the most promising fintechs shaping the future of safe online banking.


Be a lady, they said

By Fernn Lim, SC Ventures | 15 Sept 2020

 

I've had the privilege to be 1 of the 30 women selected for the Money 20/20 ASIA RISE UP Programme, class of 2020. If you are part of the Fintech industry, you would know the Money 20/20 folks are a force to be reckoned with!

The RISE UP programme is designed to groom the next generation of women leaders within the Fintech space. Here, we are talking about building networks, sharing experiences and learning new skills that women leaders can leverage, to supercharge their career to the next level.

Being proponents of technology, no global pandemic could stop us from the original meet up. In August 2020, we convened virtually over our laptops, shared our ambitions, struggles and the conflicting bind women often find themselves caught in.. Career vs Childcare, Speaking in a lower voice vs Being authentic, Filling bigger shoes vs the Imposter Syndrome..

As with life, there aren’t any straightforward answers, but it’s useful to pause, reflect and share. I’ve taken some time to pen some of my thoughts down on the back of attending the Money 20/20 RISE UP Programme, SCB’s Women Leader’s ASCEND programme and Google’s #iamremarkable workshop and thought it might be useful to share this with a wider group.

To the women leaders in all of us — fresh graduates, experienced hires, career mamas, ladies on a career break, ladies looking for a career pivot.. This is for you.

1.The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

One of many things we have to remember is this — Your career experiences add up to who you are today. Often, females feel they aren’t “good enough” and have to work doubly hard to prove their worth. Statistically, this HBR article reports that women will only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Rarely, do we look back at our past achievements and acknowledge that what we have amassed over the years is more than some bullet points written on a word document. It is who we are, our collective self, that is “more than good enough”.

2. Keep punching above your belt

This was a mantra that my ex boss once told me and I’ve kept it close to my heart since. Be hungry. Stay hungry. Keep showing value. Keep punching above your belt. Be known for the one that always gives 120%. We only have one life. Why be mediocre when you can be awesome? As I re-read what he told me, it still gives me the adrenaline and drives me to propel forward.

3. Girl, Stop apologising

“Sorry to bother”. “Apologies for the delay in response”.

Sounds familiar? The word, sorry, is something women say far too often, without acknowledging how detrimental it can be, both on your reputation and on yourself. I attended a Google #Iamremarkable workshop and it made me realise how often women apologise unknowingly, because we try to be empathetic.. myself included.

Women tend to over apologise, shy away from self-promotion and end any achievement with self-deprecating humour or attribute it to luck. Remove the word sorry as a filler word. We can be authentic, assertive without being apologetic.

4. The art of influencing and negotiating

Perhaps a skill applicable to both male and female individuals would be that of negotiating and influencing. As part of the ASCEND programme, I attended a session led by Arti Shirish and was blown away by the points she made. Be factual. Lay out the pros and cons but let your proponent decide with the consequences in mind. The importance of negotiating is not about winning at all costs but to enable both parties to win in the long term.

5. Be you

At some point, some of us would have been recipients of well meaning advice.. “Speak with a lower voice”, “You need to learn how to play the game”, “Ahh.. you need to learn how to negotiate and FLEX”. What happened to authenticity? We all have one life, why live it with a different persona? Own your authentic self. Be ok, being you.

To this point, women still face the conflicting demands of gender expectations, regardless if it’s at home or at work. I don’t suppose we have completely eradicated the standards that have been imposed on us, but the first step is to break the purported glass ceiling/box.

Be a lady, they said.

I say, be you.