Kevin Day, CEO of HPD Software, a provider of technology that facilitates banks’ ability to provide asset-based finance, outlines the technologies banks should be considering to ensure that they are able to attract and retain the fastest growing SMEs as clients. They should embrace automation, offering integrated invoice finance platforms, upgrading mobile banking applications, introducing biometrics, and tapping into the vast potential of the blockchain.
In recent years, technology has fundamentally changed how the financial services industry operates. Fast-paced innovation in the FinTech sector has meant that SMEs should benefit from the cutting-edge technologies that are being developed when it comes to managing their everyday banking requirements. Yet many business customers are instead turning to more nimble digitally-driven platforms as traditional lenders have been slow to embrace such technology. This is beginning to change, however, as FinTech is starting to become integrated into the growth strategies of traditional lenders and other financial services providers that had previously taken a less tech-focused approach to the way they did business.
Mobile payments may be old news for retail customers, but, in business banking it is now starting to catch up. In November 2018, Barclays became the UK’s first high street bank to launch a mobile invoicing application for its SME clients, which aims to reduce overhead costs and speeds up the payment cycle.
A recent report found that 80 per cent of businesses surveyed wanted time-saving measures to improve efficiency, with 56 per cent stating that these resources have a significant impact on their business and positively affect their decision to use what’s on offer by a financial institution. Mainstream banks control 68 percent of the SME market share, so naturally technological innovation, like online and mobile banking, is playing a role in their continued dominance of the sector.
When it comes to business banking, online security is a concern that towers above the rest. Extending this functionality from a consumer platform into corporate banking has the potential to make payments and account management more seamless and secure. HSBC was the first to introduce biometric face, voice and fingerprint recognition for corporate clients in May 2018, and with its HSBCnet banking app, with single amounts of up to US$1 billion authorised on their platform, efficient, streamlined security is paramount. Biometrics has the potential to become significant for banks providing invoice factoring and other forms of asset finance, to authenticate the transfer of assets and to increase security around access to invoice finance platforms.
For such a tightly regulated industry, banks have historically been sceptical of whether blockchain technology is secure enough, but that attitude has shifted dramatically in very recent years. A recent Deloitte global survey finds that 43% of senior executives believe integrating and deploying blockchain to be one of their top-five strategic priorities. Recent developments suggest blockchain technology is very quickly making the jump from niche application to mass market appeal, with growing consensus it will fundamentally change the way we think about asset financing and how banks and financial institutions operate.
We can see the benefit of blockchain in smart contracts – self-executing contracts on the blockchain, and in security – where transactions are immutable due to the decentralised nature of the distributed ledger. Among the areas where blockchain could be most beneficial for banks, is in their services for their asset based finance clients, as it can improve trade financing by keeping all stages of the process, including letters of credit and import/export authorisation, on the blockchain, which helps optimise settlement times, adds transparency, and lowers transaction costs.
Assed based finance tech priorities – automation and integrated platforms
The technology options available for banks are vast, and there are some which top the list, with digital, integrated, intelligent platforms being one of them. One of the areas poised to adopt technological innovation, where they can provide benefits for both banks and their business customers, is in facilitating asset-based finance.
ABF management software functionality and transaction streamlining have been transformed in recent years – the technology is now able to update collateral values as clients generate invoices in their day to day business, thus reducing the lead-time between raising an invoice and receiving funding. Banks should consider such platforms to automate and streamline data capture requirements and more efficiently deliver a seamless financing product to their business customers. Platforms such as our own HPD LendScape automates and streamlines data capture, offers real-time risk management, and provides insights and analytics into reporting.
As blockchain gains traction to support the business and trade transaction flows, there is an opportunity to connect ABF into the process; greater granularity and enhanced data quality can only help banks to provide enhanced funding into supply chains.
Though mainstream banks initially appeared slow to react to the rapid changes, and adopt innovation with less agility then many alternative FinTech providers, they will likely remain their corporate clients’ main source of finance. However, clients will expect easy to use, fast and secure digitalised services as an integral part of the package or they will look elsewhere. Many major banks are acquiring FinTechs to take advantage of technical innovation and bring it to the mass market; we are starting to see the banking world rollout these technologies for the benefit of their business clients. If major banks want to stay ahead of the more nimble digital challengers, and retain and gain some of the fasted growing SMEs, they need to stay on top of the technology innovation game.