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Interview with FinTech Insights & Banco del Sol

How does the designer of a new banking service assess the market around them, understand the competition and deliver a class-leading new product?

Short of signing up for a bank account with every provider they’re interested in, there hasn’t, until now, been a very easy way to do this.

This week, I’m delighted to welcome two firms focussed on solving just this challenge; FinTech Insights and Banco del Sol.

Joining me from FinTech insights is Erenia Kontolatou, Alexandros Argyriou, Sotirios Fousekas and Panagiotis Koutroumpis. Together they form a significant portion of the FinTech Insights product team – a firm that aims to monitor and uncover the inner workings of banking apps around the world.

Also joining, all the way from Argentina, is Joaquin Van Peborgh, Product Manager at Banco del Sol, a digital bank.

Supercharging digital banking teams

“FinTech Insights is a very powerful tool that can supercharge digital banking teams,” explains Erenia, VP of Business Development at the firm.

“To put it in very simple terms, what we do is analyse digital banking using real bank accounts.

“We acquire real bank accounts across banks worldwide…and then our team of analysts literally log into these digital banks across all channels.”

The process sees FinTech Insight’s analysts using digital banking apps across various devices, meticulously testing what they see. This includes logging every feature they come across.

“FinTech Insights is not just documentation of what a bank offers and what they don’t, we actually go in and analyse the UX.

“We approximately evaluate and score 300 user journeys per bank and of course we scale that up per channel that they offer.”

How did FinTech Insights come to be?

CEO, Alexandros Argyriou explains how the product was developed; “At Scientia (the company behind the product) we help banks create financial products.”

From its experience of helping firms to deliver products, Alexandros and his team noticed common questions cropping up, “how do my competitors meet the same user needs? How do others tackle the same challenges that I’m facing during product development?”

It was with these questions in mind that Scientia was able to develop a product designed to answer them and many more.

Continuing, Alexandros establishes the main challenge that FinTech Insights solves; “before you could access FinTech Insights, you had to have accounts in banks in the UK, USA and worldwide which is actually impossible for the majority of us.”

Using FinTech Insights at Banco del Sol

It’s at this point that Joaquin, Product Manager at Banco del Sol explains a little about the firm he works at; “Banco del Sol is a challenger bank that’s incubated by the largest insurance provider in Argentina.

“The idea is to tackle the segment that the insurer has, which is mostly rural people with a large income. The idea is not so much to go to the unbanked but it’s the ‘underbanked’…people who have a bank account but they’re not having the best experience because the bank is not digital, user-friendly or as sophisticated as it could be.”

It’s in this context that FinTech Insights becomes such a key part of the process for Banco del Sol.

“In Argentina, challenger banks are mostly for millennials, so FinTech Insights is really useful for us to understand how other banks are targeting different segments…so it gives a global view that we can compare our benchmark to.”

Uniformity of data

The process of capturing data on user journeys in place from banks from all around the world inevitably results in large sums of data. I asked the FinTech Insights team how they go about managing this data.

“One of the most [important] aspects [of our product] is the uniformity of all of the data,” explains Sotirios, the person in charge of the product.

“When we started developing [the product], we had to find a way in order to be able to compare all banks and fintechs…It’s like comparing apples and oranges, so that’s why the uniformity of data is a critical factor.”

UX is the way to win

I asked Joaquin whether he and his team use the data from FinTech Insights to help them to plan the product they should create at Banco del Sol. “The clients we’re after mostly have bank accounts…[these banks] usually have a very undeveloped UX and we believe UX is the way to win these clients over.”

Joaquin goes on to explain that Banco del Sol’s product team uses competitor data in three ways; “the first is when we have already identified a feature we want to build…we’re trying to see how other banks around the world are doing things.

“[Secondly] when we have a feature that we’ve already built…and the third thing is sometimes we’re just brainstorming…maybe we don’t have a feature in mind, but we want to have a feel for the features we could have.”

How do you keep the data up to date?

I asked the FinTech Insights team how they go about making sure that all of the data within their platform remains up to date and valid.

Lead Analyst, Panagiotis explains, “behind the scenes [here], there is a team of people who are continuously logging into digital banking apps making sure that no update has been released. We examine not only major updates…but small ones too, such as the input of a button.”

It’s painstaking work!

Innovative trends in banking

With access to information on dozens of banks, I asked the team whether there was anything that stood out in the process of discovering how bankings applications are designed.

“One [feature] I’d like to point out is the entire KYC (know your customer) process,” says Erenia. “Because of Covid, you had the shutting down of branches and a lot of customers could not access the banks like they used to,”

“…[as a result] there was this high urgency of ‘we need to roll out a digital KYC process’.

“Something that we saw that really stood out was this bypassing of endless information that someone had to input in order to become a customer…you should be able to prompt [the customer] to take a photo of a tax document and parse it and have all of the information accessible.”

Erenia also highlighted an interesting feature from a fintech based in Europe that has “allowed their users to tap their passport at the back of their phone…and via NFC that is able to parse all of the information that you need.”

Sortiris was also keen to fly the flag for the growing crop of junior and kids accounts, “they introduce the idea of money and value to children in order for them to make purchases.

“There’s also the very interesting functionality of chores; in order to give money to children they have to make their bed or do their homework…when it comes to junior accounts, I think we are at the very start of it.”

AI in banking

The conversation turns to the very trendy realm of AI (artificial intelligence), something that Alexandros is a big fan of. “It’s how the bank can help you solve problems such as any gap that you might have in your cash flow during the month.

“Your bank understands your payday, your subscriptions, your outgoing payments and will be able to inform you of a [potential] gap in your cash flow.”

2021 – the year of easy investments

Finally, the conversation turns to another favourite feature of the team, investments. As Erenia points out, “with Revolut we’ve seen if you want to buy a stock…you can do it in two clicks.

“Then you have scaling; for example Allied Bank in the USA, they have the most professional and profound investment service and feature set that we’ve seen so far…but they scale it out. If you’re just beginning to understand investments they will guide you step-by-step when you want to invest in a specific stock…

“If you’re more advanced, you have access to more advanced features…we’ve seen this trend and I believe 2021 is really going to be the year of easy investments.”

The world of digital banking continues to be one of the most exciting areas of financial services, and that looks set to continue throughout the next 12 months.