The future of smart banking

Discount Bank’s new artificial intelligence-based personal assistant eases online finance management

December 7, 2017 16:53
4 minute read.
DISCOUNT BANK CFO and head of strategy, Ziv Biron, is given the The Jerusalem Post award for the org

DISCOUNT BANK CFO and head of strategy, Ziv Biron, is given the The Jerusalem Post award for the organization's success in fostering economic growth.. (photo credit: SIVAN FARAJ)


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Imagine a future when a smart banking robot could tell you whether a salary was paid, relay how many checks were used that month or identify you using fingerprints when you call at 1 a.m. to say you lost your credit card. Consider that robot could also summarize your month’s financial activities, analyze expenditures, and even warn of unusual debits.

That future is now – at least at Discount Bank, where Didi, the bank’s digital, artificial intelligence- based personal assistant will be offered to Discount customers in the next few weeks.

The robot is a first-of-its-kind service in Israel and product of Discount’s own developers with two Israeli financial technology (fintech) companies.

“We live in such an exciting time, a time of change, innovation and advances,” said Discount CFO and head of strategy, Ziv Biron. “We are lucky to be here in Israel... We take pride in being a leader in adopting and collaborating with the fintech industry in Israel.”

Discount’s innovation was celebrated earlier this week at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference. The bank received an award on Wednesday from the paper for its contribution to Israel’s economy.

The bank presented the highest growth rates in the banking system in Israel in every business parameter in recent years. Discount has set a goal of becoming the leading bank in customer satisfaction and in many recent consumer surveys, it appears the bank is on track to achieve this goal.

The Discount Group completed the first nine months of 2017 with a clean profit of NIS 888 million and a return on equity of 8.1%, according to a letter from Discount CEO Lilach Asher- Topilsky to customers and investors.

“This data reflect the continued momentum of change and action of the Discount Group, and a pattern that is positive and consistent,” Asher-Topilsky wrote. “My administrative colleagues, our staff and their managers are prepared to advance the momentum of change in the bank, while before our eyes the Discount Group’s growth and success continues.”

Biron explained that the banking industry is undergoing significant changes. Changes in regulations are making baking easier. Technology is enabling more accessible banking. Most significantly, the expectations and preferences of customers are shifting. Research indicates that “new banking” will be neither personalized nor digital, but a combination.

Biron also said that new banking will leave the walls and edifices of the bank and integrate into a wider ecosystem. The new banking will also require quicker, simpler and more intuitive service, greater transparency and fairness.

A recent global study by Accenture Consulting of almost 33,000 banking customers across 18 markets found that customers expect digital innovation, but banks could go further and may need to transform their value proposition to meet emerging needs.

The research found three groups of consumers that vary in how they want to bank, and in what they want from banks: Nomads, hunters and quality seekers. Nomads and Hunters want banks to match tech providers’ digitally-driven service level, while quality seekers are driven by service and trust.

Additionally, a CGI report titled “Understanding Financial Consumers in the Digital Era” found that “Digital transformation begins from the outside in. It starts with understanding your customers and leads to fundamental changes within your organization that revolutionize the customer experience.”

To meet the expectations of customers in the digital world, three years ago, Discount embarked on a strategic planning process under the leadership of bank chairman Dr. Yossi Bachar and Asher-Topilsky that resulted in a change in the organizational culture of the bank to a new, customer-centered model. Discount’s banking now focuses on connectivity, and what it calls smart banking and open banking.

Discount defines connectivity as the ability to connect with the bank through multiple digital (direct) and manned channels. This includes allowing clients to reach the bank via telephone, email, and soon, via a messaging application.

Smart banking recognizes the customer and his/her needs by “wisely” and responsibly using the information the bank obtains through its customers’ accounts and transactions. Discount’s smart banking is rooted in the use of an advanced customer relationship management (CRM) platform that enables the bank to communicate with customers when and how they want to be addressed.

Open banking means that Discount has opened itself – in a monitored and secured manner – to banking services using third-party platforms and partners, such as iCount, a leading online accounting system and Paybox, Israel’s first and leading peer-to-peer and group payments application.

Biron said that while Discount strives to remain at the forefront of technological innovation and digital transformation, the company is cognizant of the need to guide and assist customers that might take longer to adapt. He said bridging traditional ways with new ones is a challenge and an opportunity.

“We are slowly enabling our customers to adapt while we remain at their side for as long as they want, and as they slowly find more convenience in doing more and more by themselves from the comfort of their personal mobile phone or computer,” said Biron. “At Discount Bank, our mission is to enable our customers to reach their financial freedom and fulfill their dreams and desires. This has been our passion and the source of our success.”

This article was written in cooperation with Discount Bank.

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