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May 18, 2022

RBI 36th annual Global Awards: winners revealed

It was a great night for NatWest, Royal Bank of Canada, HSBC and Alior Bank at the 36th annual RBI Global Awards with wins also for Alternatif Bank, Wema Bank and Unblu

By Douglas Blakey

NatWest wins three awards while RBC collects two awards including Best Global Retail Bank at the 36th annual RBI Global retail banking awards, writes Douglas Blakey

NatWest has snapped up three awards at the 36th annual global RBI Awards hosted at The Waldorf Hotel, London. Specifically, NatWest wins the awards for Best Mobile Banking Initiative and Best Security Initiative.

In addition, NatWest is recognised in the hotly contested Best ESG initiative category for its innovative Carbon Footprint Tracker – making it easy to track, manage and reduce consumers’ carbon footprint. 

RBC: Best Global Retail Bank, Best Bank for SMEs

It was also a good night for Royal Bank of Canada, winning the award for Best Global Retail Bank.

A past winner of the category, collected last time by DBS, RBC posted a record $16.1bn in net income in fiscal 2021 – an impressive 40% increase over 2020. This is the highest net income among RBC’s core comparator group.

RBC again met and exceeded all of our medium-term objectives, with a return on common equity (ROE) of 18.6%, up from 14.2% in 2020.

Moreover, RBC wins the award for Best Bank for SMEs. To earn the right to support SMEs, RBC offers special Beyond Banking partnerships and support from a wide range of business services that can help them to be successful in every step of their entrepreneurial journey. In addition, the judges noted the bank’s support for over 320,000 women entrepreneur clients, to whom it has provided C$4bn billion in financing since 2019.

Another hotly contested category, Best Open Banking initiative was collected by HSBC. The judges were particularly impressed by HSBC’s moves into the realm of personal data passporting. This step beyond Open Banking and into Open Finance will enable customers to share the personal data they have entrusted to HSBC in the safest and most efficient way.

Full list of winners

  • Best Global Retail Bank

Winner: Royal Bank of Canada

The award recognises the bank’s success in respect of its enviable dividends strategy, record retail banking profits, world-class cost-income ratio and continued market share gains.

In 2021, RBC posted a record net income of $16.1bn– an impressive 40% increase over 2020. This was the highest net income among its core comparator group. The bank again met and exceeded all of its medium-term objectives, with a return on common equity (ROE) of 18.6%, up from 14.2% in 2020. RBC delivered double-digit diluted earnings per share growth of 41% in 2021, with 5-year compound annual growth of 10% (well above a target of 7%)

RBC’s retail banking unit contributed 49% of total earnings in 2021. Moreover, RBC improved its efficiency ratio to 43.5%. Meantime, digital banking hits included a rise to 8 million active digital users in Canada and 5.5 million active mobile users. Mobile sessions increased 15% year-on-year to over 114 million.

  • Best mobile banking initiative

Highly commended: Unblu

Winner: NatWest

NatWest is recognised for the combination of its mobile banking excellence in user experience, user growth, retention and conversion rate and its class leading integration of its AI platform into the mobile channel. NatWest launched its

first in-house built chatbot (‘Cora’) back in 2017, the UK’s first banking chatbot. A significant transformational and complex integration of Cora means it that it now provides class-leading personalised responses. 

In 2019, Cora manged to help answer over 5.4 million customer queries. This figure doubled to reach over 10.5 million in 2021.

  • Best open banking initiative

Winner: HSBC

The judges were particularly impressed by HSBC’s moves into the realm of personal data passporting, enabling customers to share the personal data they have entrusted to HSBC in a safe and efficient way. The benefits from this stretch beyond banking products and include simplified switching of other services (for example, mobile phone or utility contracts), improved protection against identity theft and other frauds, and also benefits to other industry partners through age and identity verification (with customer consent)

HSBC is also recognised for its substantial investment in its developer resources. 

  • Best fintech partnership

Highly commended: Royal Bank of Canada, Pexip

Winner: Wema Bank

Wema Bank is leading the way in terms of supporting fintechs in Nigeria with direct partnerships with over a hundred active fintechs including three unicorns (Flutterwave, Interswitch and Opay).

Other partners include eTranzact, SystemSpecs, Unified Payment, PayAttitude, Paystack, Teamapt, BudPay, Cellulant, Opay, Palmpay, Arca Payment.

Today, Nigeria has about 750 startups across fintech, insurtech and edutech. Wema is offering invaluable help to help the fintech sector grow their businesses and deliver value, spotlighting Nigeria in particular and Africa as a whole as vibrant fintech markets.

  • Best retail banking product innovation

Highly commended: NatWest

Winner Dreams Technology

The Dreams Financial Wellbeing Platform is a revolutionary way of engaging banking customers rooted in psychology, neuroscience and behavioural economics.

Dreams users are intrinsically motivated to save and invest money that they did not know they had. Users are given positive encouragement to take small sustainable actions emotionally-linked to their aspirations, to improve their financial wellbeing and to reduce their carbon footprint. 

The judges were impressed by the success of Dreams in helping to expand bank revenue streams, by enabling a personalised, responsible approach (via “nudges” and “boosts”) to positively engage customers with their finances. This significantly improves customer retention, attracts new customers and, based upon customer intent (“Dreams”), increases relevant cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

  • Best customer experience initiative

Highly commended: Alternatif Bank, Monument, NatWest

Winner: Pexip

Pexip is recognised for its Video Enablement solution. Successful recent implementations include a major success with Nordea.

After implementing the Pexip Video Enablement solution for Adviser to Customer video meetings, the bank experienced a meeting success rate increasing sharply to to 85%+ with plug-in free experience. The number of web-based video meetings with customers soared to 4,000 per month from 500 in the previous year. Such was the success of the implementation, the bank employed 60 additional advisors to manage the increased growth in customer interactions. And now, at peak times, as many as 500 concurrent video meetings are conducted with customers.

  • Best ESG Strategy

Winner: NatWest

NatWest is recognised for its industry first: the NatWest Group Carbon Footprint Tracker, making it easy to track, manage and reduce consumers’ carbon footprint. 

The NatWest challenge was to enable its customers to measure, understand and manage the carbon impact of their everyday spending.

In late 2020, NatWest partnered with Carbon Tracking experts, Cogo to utilise their carbon footprint tracking technology that they have within their app. Initially, the bank

piloted the proposition with over 250 NatWest colleagues and customers. The concept resonated really well with the pilotees, and the bank got some great feedback.

Insights from the pilot showed the average user saved approximately 11 kg of CO2 emissions per month by committing to behavioural changes that used less carbon – such as composting, reducing meat consumption, or switching utilities providers. If this behaviour was replicated across NatWest’s 8 million customers who use its mobile app, it would save more than 1 billion kg of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to planting 17 million trees. 

Following the success of the pilot, NatWest Group became the first European bank to market with a Carbon Footprint tracking feature in its mobile app in November 2021.

Within 3 months of launching, the bank had over 150,000 customers engaging with the feature and viewing their total monthly carbon footprint associated with their spending. This number continues to grow month on month.

  • Best banking sector Covid initiative

Winner: Alternatif Bank

The winning bank is recognised for its success in protecting the health of its employees and customers while continuing to provide uninterrupted banking services.

Within days of the outbreak of Covid, the bank transitioned to a remote working model. The first priority was to ensure all branch and head office employees had secure remote connections. The bank postponed all face-to-face training, events and business trips and started holding meetings online. Within a few days of the first notified Covid-19 case in Turkey, over half of the bank’s headquarters team was working from home. The bank increased this rate to 95% for head office and 50% for all branch staff by the beginning of April.

To ensure that no vulnerable customer was unable to transact during the pandemic, the bank connected with all customers aged 65 and over, and customers in other high risk groups. In particular, the bank prepared short videos to show all vulnerable customers and clients not experienced in using digital banking to demonstrate how to transfer money and how to set up passwords, to enable them to use the bank’s digital and mobile banking channels.

  • Best bank for SMEs

Winner: Royal Bank of Canada

The bank is recognised in this category, inter alia, for its world class support for female entrepreneurs. Specifically, RBC

supports over 320,000 women entrepreneur clients, to whom it has provided $4bn in financing since 2019.

To earn the right to support SMEs, RBC offers special Beyond Banking partnerships and support from a wide range of business services that can help them to be successful in every step of their entrepreneurial journey.

In 2021, for example, RBC introduced a new partnership which gives RBC clients access to GrantMatch, an online platform which makes it easier for business owners to pursue government funding that matches their needs.

RBC also launched a new partnership with HelloDarwin, a web-based marketplace designed to help business owners find professional support for their digital and marketing. And the bank also offers products and services through RBC Ventures that makes it easier for entrepreneurs in various industries to get started and to grow their businesses. These include Ownr, RBC’s digital business and legal management platform that simplifies the process of registering or incorporating a business. This has enabled entrepreneurs to launch 70,000 new businesses in Ontario, BC and Alberta and has driven 30,000 small business RBC bank account openings since inception.

  • Most innovative branch initiative

Highly commended: Alternatif Bank

Winner: Banca Carige

Banca Carige’s new Smart Branch initiative combines cost saving, digital transformation, most effective use of the bank’s staff – all the while promoting the bank’s most profitable products. Moreover, the new branches help to maintain a local presence for Banca Carige at a time of bank branch closures across the sector.

  • Best use of IT in retail banking

Highly commended: NatWest, Pexip

Winner: Unblu

The Unblu Platform is recognised for its success in offering class leading core digital capabilities that empower advisers to provide personalised digital advice – flexibly and efficiently. In particular, Unblu is recognised for its ability to demonstrate significant growth in customer engagement, resulting in an improvement in customer satisfaction and crucially, an increase in sales

  • Best banking use of AI

Highly commended: Banking Circle, Alternatif Bank, NatWest

Winner: Alior Bank

Alior is recognised for two separate but complementary applications: InfoNina, a voicebot to front-end all incoming calls into the bank’s contact centre and for the success of its Speech Analysis platform.

The overall aim of InfoNina is to enable customer self-service, thereby reducing mundane call volume and freeing agents to assist customers with more challenging needs. The judges were impressed by the success of the bank’s Speech Analysis platform to further improve agent effectiveness by providing agents relevant information for each conversation in real time and to provide managers actionable insights into contact centre and agent conversation effectiveness.

After extensive analysis of the expected scope of implementation, Alior Bank established the overall objective of the project—full automation of 40% of calls into the bank’s contact centre by the end of 2022. And by deploying InfoNina, Alior shortened the average call time by 15%. The bank is now expanding the service to include outbound sales calls and debt collection, further saving agents’ time and offering greater efficiency in debt collection.

  • Best Core banking initiative

Thought Machine

Thought Machine is recognised for its demonstrable success in offering comprehensive cloud-based core banking products for all key types of users: (1) those wanting to build a new digital-only bank, (2) incumbents looking to start a digital greenfield bank, and incumbents seeking to migrate away from their legacy systems. Its success is reflected by the diverse nature of significant client wins around the world. These include some of the most significant contracts to be awarded such as Standard Chartered (to build Mox in Hong Kong), Lloyd’s Bank, and the expanding retail banking unit of JPMorgan Chase in the UK.

  • Best digital banking initiative

Winner: Unblu

Unblu is recognised in this category for the success of its co-browsing solution. This has enabled client banks such as UBS to reach customers more easily, augmenting the customer experience via existing channels. The new service allows advisers to deliver a more efficient service and improve customer satisfaction and this is borne out by client banks reporting a rise in engagement levels and an increase in sales.

  • Best security initiative

Winner: NatWest

NatWest is recognised for its initiative to establish a UK banking first that keeps fraudsters out and places the customer in control via biometric authentication. The bank partnered with Daon to deliver a best in class solution. Now no matter what biometric approval customers are doing via eBanking, they can approve it quickly and securely on the mobile app using their NatWest group stored face biometric.

Initial results show the success of the implementation with key metrics including

  • 2.4m registered customers
  • 1m eBanking transactions completed
  • 7.2m mobile payments completed
  • Over £5m in benefits to date

And that is just for starters-the benefits of the successful implementation continue to accumulate month on month.

  • Best cloud initiative

Winner: Banking Circle

Banking Circle is recognised for the speed and efficiency of its cloud migration with end-to-end processing times decreasing by up to tenfold. Banking Circle can now process three times the number of daily transactions compared with prior to the migration, meaning far greater headroom for clients to service more customers. This is a vital capability considering the company’s ambitions. Prior to the migration, Banking Circle was settling 6% of Europe’s B2C e-commerce flow and processing over €155bn worth of payments.

The migration to Microsoft Azure has dramatically increased efficiency, enabling Banking Circle to reach its target of achieving a €250bn run-rate annual payment volumes and more than 100 million annual bank transfers by the end of 2021.  

Note from the editor and chair of judges:

I want to thank all entrants for their participation. It was very obvious that much time, care and effort was taken as regards the submission of entries.  A large number of the entries had clearly been very carefully thought out and did the Awards proud in terms of the attention to detail. The judging process was certainly not made easy due to the quality of the submissions.

The 37th annual RBI Global Awards are already confirmed and will be held in London on 20th April 2023. Full details of how to participate in the awards will be posted on the RBI website in Q4.

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