Our first Technology Projects of the Year awards focus on the teamwork and collaboration needed to get a technology project off the ground.
The winners show that from the smallest of start-ups to the largest of lenders, the innovative spirit is strong in the global financial markets.

Global winner
Retail payments

Winner: BKM Express Mobile

Parties involved: Bankalararası Kart Merkezi (BKM), Monitise MEA, Akbank, Bank Asya, Denizbank, Finansbank,
Garanti Bankasi, HSBC, ING Bank, Kuveyt Türk, Sekerbank, TEB, Türkiye Finans, Türkiye Is Bankasi, Vakifbank, Yapi Kredi, Ziraat Bankasi

Turkey’s national digital wallet has gone mobile and now most of the country’s cards can be used on a platform that supports m-commerce and mobile peer-to-peer transactions. BKM Express was first launched as a web platform and now BKM Express Mobile is available on mobile devices. 

The digital wallet removes the need for cardholders to share their card details when they shop online or via their mobile. This reluctance to share card details was one of the main hurdles to the wider adoption of e-commerce and m-commerce, a problem that BKM Express overcomes. 

The payment platform, launched by Bankalararası Kart Merkezi (BKM) – Turkey’s interbank card centre – has the participation of the country’s major banks and covers approximately 90% of the cards in Turkey. 

“The solution offers a single infrastructure platform to all banks where each takes the benefit of minimum technology development cost to integrate the system,” says Soner Canko, CEO of BKM. 

This project, notes Mr Canko, is a unique example of market collaboration. “In Turkey even though almost every bank has their own mobile app, they are part of the BKM Express digital wallet as well.” 

And an additional security feature of the solution is that it only stores partial credit card information. When registering, users only enter the first six and the last four numbers of their payment cards, and this information is never shared with other parties. 

Cardholders add their cards into the digital wallet and when shopping from their mobile device, they browse for the goods, fill their shopping cart, and at the checkout stage they select the BKM Express payment option. They select one of their payment cards – stored in the digital wallet – to complete the transaction. 

The service also enables peer-to-peer payments. “It enables money transfer from anywhere to anyone at anytime,” says Mr Canko. “The sender needs to know only the recipient’s mobile phone or card number to send money.” The receiver gets the funds immediately and if the recipient is a BKM Express member with a registered card, the money is loaded onto the card. If they are not a member, the recipient receives a text and can withdraw the money from an ATM.

Back office

Winner: Current Account Switch Service

Parties involved: Payments Council, VocaLink, AIB Group (UK), Bank of Ireland, Barclays, C Hoare & Co, Clydesdale Bank, Cumberland Building Society, Danske Bank Group, Handelsbanken, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Metro Bank, Nationwide Building Society, RBS Group, Reliance Bank, Santander UK, the Co-operative Bank, Virgin Money

Customer inertia was one of the reasons that banks in the UK were unable to win new customers. Closing an account and changing the details of each transaction to go from the new account was generally too much to bear. Often, customers would opt to stay with their existing bank, even if they were not happy with its service. 

An investigation by the Independent Commission on Banking found that this inertia was hindering competition in the UK’s retail banking market and so the government instigated the current account switch service. 

“As our new service has addressed customers’ concerns about switching, we are starting to see more competition. Now customers have nothing holding them back from switching and banks have to work harder to retain customers or attract new ones. There are more providers and more products than ever – all of which means more choice for customers,” says Adrian Kamellard, chief executive of the UK’s Payments Council. 

VocaLink, which designed, built and implemented the technology for the switching service, had to design the project to meet the needs of the range of banks in the UK, including the large high street banks and smaller, niche providers. The service covers almost all of the current accounts in the UK. 

When asked why VocaLink was chosen as the technology provider, Mr Kamellard says: “Having gone through the relevant selection process it was clear that VocaLink possessed the capability to design and deliver a technologically advanced solution that could be seamlessly integrated into existing bank and scheme payment platforms and would provide customers with a world-leading switching service – which is what we now have.”

No longer viewed as a hassle or risky, bank customers in the UK can switch all their payments across to their new bank in a process that is now much shorter. 

David Yates, CEO of VocaLink, says: “The Current Account Switch Service heralds a new epoch in banking customer service. The service allows customers to switch banks free of charge and within seven days. By developing the technical infrastructure for the new service, VocaLink has delivered a world first, for there is no comparable service available anywhere.”


Winner: BATS Chi-X Europe Trading Reporting

Parties involved: BATS Chi-X Europe, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Instinet, JPMorgan, KCG, Liquidnet, Morgan Stanley, UBS

BATS Chi-X Europe Trading Reporting (BXTR) is a solution that addresses the need for greater transparency in post-trade reporting. Increased requirements of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive seek to standardise reporting of over-the-counter (OTC) trading. With BXTR, members of BATS Chi-X Europe can fulfil their post-trade transparency obligations in real time, with a solution that provides clean and consistent post-trade data. 

The thinking behind the project was simple, explains Mark Hemsley, chief executive of BATS Chi-X Europe. “The market and the regulators wanted greater transparency around off-exchange trading. We knew we had the expertise to build a service that would enable our customers to fulfil those regulatory obligations, and the relationships to ensure the final product fit to banks’ and brokers’ existing business processes in an intuitive, additive way,” he says.

One reason BXTR is so intuitive to use is because it was created in collaboration with its users, resulting in a solution that meets their specific needs. Because BATS Chi-X Europe had upgraded its regulatory status in 2013 from being a multilateral trading facility to a recognised investment exchange, participants were obliged to submit high-quality data. This meant the exchange was in a position to demand the highest level of accuracy. 

As the largest pan-European equities exchange in terms of traded volume, it is the logical choice of venue for participants to report to. Another factor in BXTR’s success was that it was developed to support the Market Model Typology initiative, which aims to standardise post-trade data. 

The BXTR project, which was implemented in September 2013, went live in October and has seen increasing volumes reported. In April 2014, €364bn of pan-European OTC trades were reported to BXTR. BATS Chi-X Europe expects that by the third quarter of this year, more than 70% of OTC equity market transactions will be reported to BXTR. 

“BXTR is the first, critical step in the road to the creation of a pan-European ‘tape’ of data on equities trading. If Europe wants to have a united capital market, then a single source of data is imperative. We’re proud to be at the front of that drive,” says Mr Hemsley.

Customer data management

Winner: Citi Financial Institutions Insights 

Party involved: Citi 

What to do with all their data is one of the biggest challenges that banks face, and the Citi Financial Institutions Insights project is an example of how to create a solution that is useful for clients. 

Citi Financial Institutions Insights is an in-house big data solution that was developed for use within the bank’s correspondent banking business to present its financial institution clients with payments and collection information, as well as counterparty information. 

The relationship management team in Citi’s correspondent banking division in Latin America was looking for a way to provide business intelligence based on the data the bank captures as part of the payment transaction flows. The division serves the transactional needs of financial institutions outside their home countries. For example, Citi’s clients include Latin American banks that use the bank’s cash management and trade services in the US and other markets around the world. 

Driss Temsamani, Citi’s regional head of business intelligence, analytics and innovation for Latin America, says that the project was a response to an ever-changing economic environment where banks need to rethink traditional value propositions and explore data as the new frontier.

The team in Latin America joined forces with the Citi Innovation Lab in Miami, which has a core skill in big data and analytics. It took 12 months to develop and test the Financial Institutions Insights application and by February 2014 the bank started the first pilots of the solution. “The lab has developed applications to unlock hidden value from data, allowing clients to generate profits by improving their margins around transaction flows,” says Mr Temsamani. 

The solution also has a simulator where clients can model changes to improvements to their pricing models, by changing their fee structures, volumes or exceptions lists. The solution provides a way for Citi’s clients to visualise the data and present it to them in an interactive way. 

“For the clients it is the first time for them to see such a thing,” says Mr Temsamani. The solution shows clients opportunities they have been missing to either make or save money. 

The impact of the solution has allowed Citi’s financial institution clients to make better pricing decisions based on the data, and it has also improved Citi’s relationship with its financial institution clients. Now that this solution has been developed and tested, the bank has plans to roll it out globally.

Customer service 

Winner: TCS Bank’s real-time voice authentication system

Parties involved: Tinkoff Credit Systems Bank, NICE Systems

A common frustration for customers calling their bank is the time it takes to get through all the security questions and remembering their personal identification numbers. Russia’s Tinkoff Credit Systems (TCS Bank) tackled this problem head-on by implementing a solution that meant callers could be authenticated by their voice alone, saving the bank time and the customer from irritation. 

As a branchless bank, it is critical for TCS Bank to have efficient remote service channels. The bank was looking to improve the service provided by its 1400 call-centre employees who handle approximately 1.5 million inbound calls a month. 

Asking security questions – which in some cases can be easy for impersonators to answer – was time-consuming. By using the NICE Real-Time Voice Authentication solution, TCS Bank was able to reduce the authentication of the bank customer to seven seconds, a reduction of 40 seconds on average per call. 

TCS Bank’s chief information officer, Viacheslav Tsyganov, says that NICE Systems was chosen for this project as it is a market leader in voice-recognition technology and the bank already has a partnership with the company for other solutions. “It understands us well,” he says. 

One element that stands out with the implementation of this technology is that TCS Bank customers were passively enrolled in the scheme. TCS Bank’s project was the first implementation of NICE System’s Seamless Passive Enrolment process, which uses historic recordings of the bank’s customers so that their voiceprint is created without any effort from the customer or the customer service agent. 

The first stage of deployment was limited to 70 workstations and 100 operators between August and October 2013, which then went live during November and December 2013. The project was then expanded to the entire TCS call centre of 1000 work stations at the beginning of January 2014, with the deployment completed in May 2014. 

Mr Tsyganov explains that one of the challenges in implementing this technology was how the technology would be adapted to work in the Russian language and how it would be influenced by local factors, such as the telecom providers. 

The response of the customers to the system has been positive, says Mr Tsyganov, who points out that the need for security questions – such as ‘what is your mother’s maiden name?’ – is now obsolete. 


Winner: ParFX

Parties involved: Tradition, Bank of  Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citi, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Nomura Securities, Royal Bank of Canada, SEB, Société Générale, Standard Chartered, State Street, UBS 

“Fairness” and “equality” are the two key words that Roger Rutherford, the chief operating officer of ParFX uses to describe the wholesale electronic trading platform. “We treat everyone equally and that cannot be said about other platforms – everyone is charged exactly the same,” he says. 

Daniel Marcus, CEO of ParFX, explains that the platform was created to find a solution to a problem in the foreign exchange markets where banks were frustrated at the use of disruptive trading strategies and a “liquidity mirage”, as well as an arms race that emphasised speed rather than strategy. A group of banks approached Tradition – an interdealer broker in over-the-counter financial and commodity-related products –to design and manage the platform. ParFX was designed to overcome the frustration that the banks had with disruptive strategies that meant they were being picked off by high-frequency trading firms (HFT) that were preventing them from making the trades they wanted to in the public markets. 

“It is important to make the point that we are not a platform who goes in and says all HFT is bad,” he says. “This is about creating a level playing field. ParFX puts intelligence before speed.”  

Not gaining an advantage simply by technological superiority is one of the guiding principles of the platform. ParFX has other principles, such as a strong focus on transparency and that all participants should have a genuine interest to buy and sell. The platform also responded to a need among smaller participants for a cost-effective solution that did not put them at a disadvantage. 

Mr Marcus explains that ParFX will be launching to the buy side in the coming months, and when he speaks to firms that use HFT trading the response has been counter-intuitive. “They have all said they love it,” says Mr Marcus. “They use latency strategies because their competitors do – it is a race for zero that they do not want to be in.” 

Mr Rutherford says: “We have yet to meet someone who disagrees with our philosophy that they would not want to play on a fair and equal basis.”

Delivery channels 

Winner: Native Bolsa Abierta app for Smartwatch 

Party involved: CaixaBank

One of the latest trends to emerge in the use of delivery channels is wearable technology, and CaixaBank’s Bolsa Abierta smartwatch app falls squarely into this field. The use of the app on the Sony Smartwatch 2 is the first time a bank in Europe has launched a native app for the smartwatch and indicates how in the future customers could access all their financial services from their wrists. 

“Wearable devices, such as smartwatches, represent a new communications channel that we believe can be harnessed to improve the way we interact with our customers,” says Benjamí Puigdevall, head of electronic channels at CaixaBank. “With these devices still in the development stage, now is the time to explore every opportunity to provide optimal services once they become more widespread among the general public. This is coherent with our culture of innovation and philosophy to provide customers with services tailored to the new devices that emerge on the market.”

The app, which can be downloaded via Google Play or the CaixaBank app store, enables the bank’s customers to track the movement of their stocks and various indices. It displays recent price information, and fluctuations, for the stocks and indices. It also allows users to follow summaries of the main indices in Spain, Europe, the US and Asia, as well as news related to securities. And if there is the need for more information, the watch can link to a smartphone, via a Bluetooth connection. 

The project was developed by a team of 15 in CaixaBank’s business department. They started to design a proposal for the app when Sony announced the launch of its Smartwatch 2 in June 2013. When the devices reached the Spanish market in September 2013, CaixaBank began to carry out tests and by February 2014 the app was launched. The bank has now reached an agreement to work with Samsung on its Gear 2 and Gear Fit devices.

“Current smartwatch functionalities remain relatively limited and they still need to be connected to a smartphone. However, we expect the devices to evolve rapidly and become more widely used among our customers,” says Mr Puigdevall. “Users of these devices enjoy their simplicity and functionality. The devices have already proven useful in areas such as health and sports, and we will be monitoring their development very closely. The next step will be to capitalise on any advances to provide our customers with new services tailored to these devices.”

Risk management

Winner: Vantiv’s protection of cardholder data 

Parties involved: VeriFone, Vantiv 

The payment industry’s need to better protect cardholders’ data became more urgent after some high-profile breaches where card details were compromised, exposing how card payments can be vulnerable to attack by cyber criminals. 

Vantiv, one of the largest payment processors in the US, sought to find a solution that would better protect cardholder data. The company processes payments for large merchants and financial institutions in the US, and processed nearly 17 billion card transactions in 2013. 

The project, in collaboration with technology company VeriFone, aimed to find a solution where card details would be encrypted at the point the card is swiped, tapped or put into the merchant’s point-of-sale (POS) terminal. By encrypting the card details at this point, it removes a vulnerability whereby a fraudster or cyber criminal could intercept the unencrypted payment information as it travels away from the merchant. 

Vantiv wanted to protect cardholder information and implemented a multi-layered approach to security using VeriFone’s encryption technology, VeriShield Protect, which is hosted in Vantiv’s data centres. 

“VeriShield Protect is unique in that it protects data at the POS – whether consumers are paying with their mobile device or credit/debit card – and beyond the merchant store system environment. Essentially, payment information is encrypted from the moment it’s collected at the POS and remains encrypted throughout the payment cycle to and from the processor. The data may still be stolen, but the fact that it’s encrypted renders it useless to the cyber thieves. This approach defeats the memory-parsing malware responsible for so many recent high-profile breaches,” says Joe Majka, chief security officer for VeriFone.

“Recent data breaches have brought renewed focus from retailers to not only better protect customers’ sensitive information but also the brands they have spent considerable time and resources to build.” 

The solution also helps merchants comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards and the chip technology in payment cards, known as the EMV standard. 

Mr Majka says: “VeriShield Protect is a major development considering its ability to remove cardholder data from the merchant’s POS, store systems and headquarters – protecting their brands and customers by reducing the risk of data breaches and payments fraud while also simplifying PCI compliance at a time when there is a proliferation of store-system targeted malware. This technology is the perfect complement to EMV card authorisation and is already in production in Canada and the UK.”

Social media

Winner: F.Banking Bradesco – investments and credit through Facebook

Parties involved: Banco Bradesco, Facebook

Facebook banking – or F.Banking – has been developed by one of Brazil’s largest banks as a way for the bank to be where its customers are. 

Banco Bradesco executive vice-president Maurício Minas explains that it is the bank’s policy to use the platforms that customers use, whatever the trend in the marketplace may be, and have the bank’s services in those channels or interfaces. The choice to use Facebook as a channel was made as a result of a survey of the marketplace and asking customers about the latest trends. 

Once Banco Bradesco realised that Facebook was the biggest trend among its customers, it developed a platform where regular banking services – a simplified version of what is available through online banking – could be available through the social network without the customers having to leave Facebook. 

The bank’s system has been adapted to the new channel, but still has the same look and feel as the other channels, such as online and mobile. The convenience for the user is they do not need to leave Facebook to do their banking transactions. In between messaging a friend or commenting on photos, the customers can carry out online transactions without having to go to the bank’s own website. 

Mr Minas explains that the bank opened its application programming interface (API) to Facebook so that the bank’s systems integrate with the site. When a customer banks online through the Facebook channel, they are actually using the bank’s systems – with the same security processes of customer authentication and so on – but through the presentation layer of Facebook. The bank’s interface is secure, says Mr Minas, and even though the customer does not leave Facebook, the transactions are done from the bank’s systems in the same way they would be through other channels. 

More complex services, such as personal credit and investment services, were added to the bank’s existing Facebook solution last year, adding to the range of functions offered to the bank’s F.Banking customers. 

Mr Minas expects the use of this channel to grow incrementally. At the moment there are 150,000 heavy users of F.Banking. “In the next two years we expect to reach 2 million active users in [the F.Banking] channel – that is a realistic number based on the figures we have,” says Mr Minas. 

Wholesale payments

Winner: Straight2Bank Wallet

Party involved: Standard Chartered Bank

Mobile money has been around for a number of years, but “almost everything in this space is retail-oriented”, according to Sanjay Israni, Standard Chartered Bank’s global head of product development and client access, who adds that most mobile money solutions have so far focused on how an individual or a micro business can make payments using a mobile phone.

Straight2Bank Wallet is Standard Chartered’s solution for larger institutions looking to make payments to or from mobile wallets. The main idea behind the project, explains Mr Israni, is financial inclusion of underbanked or non-banked people. 

The solution enables Standard Chartered’s clients, such as development agencies, charities or corporations, to make payments to unbanked people’s mobile wallets in emerging markets. A charity might need to pay healthcare workers, a large company might need to pay farmers, or an insurance company to pay policyholders when the recipients don’t have a bank account and cash is not a viable method. The solution enables payments to be made from the institution’s bank account to the individual’s mobile wallet and vice versa. 

In 2013, Standard Chartered embarked on creating a partner-agnostic mobile money infrastructure that could be replicated in multiple markets. The first phase of the project was the launch, at the end of 2013, of Straight2Bank Wallet in Kenya, which targeted the bank’s corporate clients. The bank partnered with telecommunications company Safaricom, which meant that the bank’s corporate customers could make payments to individuals from the client’s bank account to the individuals’ M-Pesa mobile wallet. 

The solution has been extended to Nigeria and the bank plans to roll it out in an additional 10 markets in Asia and Africa. For Standard Chartered’s corporate clients, the mobile wallet payments and collections seamlessly integrate into the clients’ existing processes, with real-time processing of transactions and efficient client reporting with a simple on-boarding process. 

The bank aims to create a mobile money ecosystem with telecommunications companies and the existing providers of mobile wallets, such as Kenya’s M-Pesa. Mr Israni is keen to point out that it is not a Standard Chartered ecosystem, but rather a model of broad engagement where Standard Chartered is a partner, not a leader in the project. 

For now, although a number of national mobile wallets are in operation, these are not interoperable as there is no connectivity between countries. “That ecosystem is still evolving,” says Mr Israni. Standard Chartered has already built the foundations for cross-border remittances as part of the initial launch of the mobile money ecosystem.


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