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Interviews

Jordi Guaus, ImaginBank: Everything starts and finishes with your mobile

Friday 7 October 2016 | 09:15 AM CET

Host of Mobey Forum’s Mobey Day Meeting Interview with Mr. Jordi Guaus, CaixaBank, ImaginBank: Mobile channel will keep on growing and becoming the most important channel for retail banking 

Could you please tell us more about Imaginbank? What is its role within Caixabank, what does it do, what is the main focus and what does it bring new to the retail banking sector?

We like to say that imaginBank is a bank where everything starts and finishes with your mobile. It’s a mobile banking service that lets you control your money simply and transparently from your smartphone. In fact, these are the two main principle of imaginBank: mobile and simple. Joining imaginBank means signing up for an account and a card with no fees and doing all your banking transactions from a cell phone app.

We’re also able to give customers more control over their finances with tools delivered via the imaginBank app. They can view their account securely from within Facebook, for example, draw money from an ATM without a card and send money to friends using only a mobile number. And we are very satisfied with the results: we have gained more than 70,000 operative customers in the first six months of imaginBank.

Did you find anything surprising while working on launching ImaginBank that is specific to the Spanish retail banking market?

Of course we adapt the service to the specific particularities of our domestic market but I wouldn’t say we found something surprising that is specific to the Spanish market. We did find that all the teams involved very quickly understood the value proposition of imaginBank and were enthusiastic about launching a new banking brand with such a focus on simplicity and mobility.

What are the benefits, but also the challenges for ImaginBank for enabling payments via social media channels? What’s your view on enabling payments via social media in general, or more specific to the Spanish market? 

Regarding payments via social media channels the main challenges are standardization and interoperability. Any new type of payment should be better that current payments methods. A key point is how many people you can reach. If you launch a service that requires that the beneficiary is registered in a concrete service or customer of a determinate bank, then it is difficult to achieve mass market adoption. This is the reason that we like to define a collaborative space with other banks to agree on common rules to enable payments regardless of the bank you use as a customer. In this sense CaixaBank and imaginBank have join Bizum, the P2P (person to person) initiative in Spain supported by main banks in Spain.

Achieving the required level of responsiveness and innovation requires a fundamental shift in culture and leadership approach, could this pose a problem for traditional banks?

We prefer to think in opportunities. There’s no doubt that new challenges are coming and all institutions must evolve. To adapt to the new scenario will imply changes and some of them will be on how we work. We should probably look for more flexibility and agility. To have a more project oriented vision and to do that in a more transversal way in terms of departments inside the company. Even though some big and long projects will remain, we must also push for short term projects. It’s time to test new things but we can’t spend a lot of time developing them. Time to market is becoming more and more important. All of that means we need to evolve the culture of the company, but this can be done with the same values.

How can banks make regulation their strength (and not their weakness) in order to best serve clients with a seamless and consistent customer experience?

From my perspective we are living in a really exciting moment in terms of financial industry. From one side regulation has been increased but at the same time regulators are working to push competence. Regulation is defining new types of licenses and players that enable new entrants to offer financial or payment services without having a banking license. For example, in near future banks will need to share customer information if the customer gives their permission to other regulated service providers. This is a new paradigm offering opportunities and risks for banking industry.

If you mix this with the fact that technology is evolving very quick and right now it’s possible to develop services without the need of huge investment, then you have the perfect scenario for fintech.

However, trust is the main asset of banks. Banks should keep on being relevant to their customers. This means offering them convenient and tailor made services that covers all financial needs they have. From my perspective this is the key point: a complete set of services with a fantastic and consistent user experience and additionally, with the confidence of a traditional bank with a full banking license.

And finally, could you portray the future of retail banking by providing the main trends that might reshape the industry by 2020?

Technology will continue being a key factor in banking evolution improving services. Not just in online banking, but in traditional branches as well. The branch network will change. Branches will remain but we will see new branch formats emerging, from flagship branches to branches that focus on a determinate target or market segment. As transactions will continue shifting to digital channels, branches should evolve their focus on advice and sales to create more value for those customers that look for a face-to-face interaction. For example, at CaixaBank, we are updating our branch network creating a complete new format of branches, in fact now we call them Stores, where all employees use tablets to share commercial information with customers using the tablet to sign the contracts as well.

Mobile channel will keep on growing and becoming the most important channel for retail banking. Mobile payments will achieve an interesting market share in contactless payments but also in online and P2P payments.

Technology will also play an important role in terms of managing information. Every day we generate more and more information. Banks should be ready to manage a high volume of information and from different sources, some traditional some new, like the information coming from social media channels. All when well processed, this information will play an important role in managing future relationships with customers.

Demographic and social changes will start impacting how banks operate and define services. In Europe, and especially in Spain, we can forecast increase in the self-employed and senior population. These changes will have impact in the portfolio of products and services that banks offer to their customers.

Banks with strong skills in innovation and flexibility will be well positioned to manage these trends.

About Jordi Guaus

Mr. Guaus currently serves as Head of Digital Marketing at CaixaBank and is Chair of Mobey Forum. In his current role he is responsible for developing mobile payment services and also works closely with the Cards Unit of La Caixa to advance mobile internet banking services. At La Caixa Mr. Guaus is also Project Manager of Mobile Shopping Sitges 2010, which is the first near field communication (NFC) trial in Spain. Mr. Guaus has participated in Mobey Forum since 2005 and has been a member of the Board since 2009. He is also the Chair of the Business Work Group.

About Mobey Forum

Mobey Forum is a global industry association empowering banks and other financial institutions to lead in the future of mobile financial services.
 

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