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Kodak moment for banks?

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People and businesses will always need banking, but, asks PETER ALKEMA, FNB Business CIO, will they always need banks?

People and businesses will always need banking, but will they always need banks? This question is driving a wave of disruption and new thinking in the industry. Discovery has recently announced plans to enter the local retail banking market; telco and tech companies are making similar moves. Fintech is offering completely new ways of doing business and customers are embracing exponential start-ups who offer frictionless, mobile services. Banks are responding with increased digitisation, new lines of business and highly innovative channels. What’s really happening, how will the banking landscape change and when will it take place?

The reason that non-traditional players are getting into main account banking is because of the customer intimacy and insight that comes with a transactional bank account. It’s the one place that all the money goes into and comes out of; businesses put their main account on all their invoices and many married couples don’t even share one! A home loan or insurance policy is important but still just a monthly debit order that doesn’t generate any behavioural insight about a customer. The relationship is also typically low key; you will only hear from your insurance broker on your birthday and only home loans collections department if you miss a payment.

Some banks have taken advantage of this and created additional stickiness through rewards programmes, improved channels and ecosystems of value-adds. Core transactional platforms are at the heart of a bank’s operations. Regulation and banking license approval ensures that banking platforms are robust and well managed. In addition, financial aspects such as capital adequacy and risk controls such as anti money-laundering mean the requirements for running a bank are significant barriers to entry.

The local banking industry is consistently rated very highly and its world class resilience and regulatory oversight provided a shock absorber for South Africa during the global financial crisis of 2008. Internationally, large banks have relied on these barriers to entry to block new entrants but the rise of fintech and trust-disintermediating technologies such as Blockchain is changing this mindset. Looser regulation in the UK is seeing a wave of banking license applications from start-ups and in the US, firms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are actively launching financial services products.

Arguably much of this activity is still peripheral and the core business of running a large scale bank relies on well established processes. This was true for Kodak in the mid nineties when it employed 140,000 people, sold 85% of the world’s photo paper and was the fourth most valuable brand in the United States. In 2012 it filed for bankruptcy; it got left behind in an industry that was turned upside down by technology and its impact on their customers’ lives and the market. Kodak invented digital photography but they failed to embrace the disruption to their own business model that it caused to the industry. Similarly, the Walkman was the first portable device for listening to recorded music; Sony could have digitised it but Apple’s iPod eventually obliterated it.

In 2000, Blockbuster was the biggest video rental chain in America, and at the time internet startup Netflix offered to run its fledgling online business. Blockbuster turned this down and went bankrupt 10 years later, having failed to move its business from bricks to clicks while Netflix has become a global leader in streaming movies.

South African banks have been very successful at moving processes off of paper, out of physical locations and onto digital channels. FirstRand’s 2016 results indicate that overall electronic volumes increased 13%, while manual volumes grew only 2%. New ways of working are also extending beyond channels to back office operations.

The next decade is likely to be pivotal for the banking industry and it will be driven by the race for the customer and not by the fintech on its own. Digital is just the enabler of new business models built around improved customer centricity that according to Dimension Data’s Digital Advisory is something that banks should avoid just doing, they have to become digital in their thinking, operating models and execution.

Customers expect frictionless processes that are available where they are and not only where the bank is, the transport and accommodation industries have already delivered this with Uber and Airbnb. According to Google, the tipping point to mobile in South Africa happened in 2014 when internet searches from mobile devices exceeded desktops. Millennials don’t stand in queues or fill in forms, they build trust through convenience and they reward customer delight with loyalty and peer group recognition. By 2020 there will be 500 million people in Sub Saharan Africa with connected smartphones; these people will still need banking but it will probably look very different from today.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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