Think licences for Atom and Tandem and exciting plans for such as Mondo and Secco and the UK launch of Fidor.
The fintech sector has also gone from strength to strength with exciting new start-ups using technology to disrupt and not a bad year in many respects for a number of the established major retail banks.
Innovation and digital disruption have come to the fore including interesting examples of digital marketing, new product launches and prudent investment in enhancing the customer experience.
Highlights of the year that spring to mind include what RBC is doing with its mobile wallet; ditto Chase. Odeabank’s mobile innovation; la Caixa’s multiEsterlla enFamilia Community – in fact pretty much everythting that laCaixa and for that matter BBVA are doing in digital is headline grabbing.
Hello Bank rolled out Hello Play; mBank in Poland continued to punch above its weight and is enjoying success with its network of Light Branches.
Payment innovation and evidence of banks finally getting to grips with the potential offered by big data and analytics have been other highlights.
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Examples here included CheBanca’s WoW; laCaixa (again), Swedbank, and ICICI will be in the running come Awards time for their use of social media and big data.
Negatives? Well, not too many really. It was shaping up to be not exactly the most exciting year for banking M&A activity from a journalistic point of view but the year ended strongly.
Deals that stick in the memory include RBC closing its deal to acquire City National (see pages 6-7) in a deal worth $5bn; DZ and WGZ announcing plans to form Germany’s third-largest bank by assets was another.
M&T gaining approval to close the deal for Hudson City stands out as does the KeyCorp deal to buy First Niagara adding nearly $40bn in assets and 400 new branches.
In the UK, two deals stand out. Lloyds managed to dispose of its interest in TSB to Spain’s Sabadell, albeit at a cost. It incurred a £600m charge from the sale with around £450m of IT costs adding to about £2bn that it spend in offloading the branches.
BBVA’s tie up with Atom also merits a mention, gaining a 29.5% stake for £45m, in the process valuing the start-up at about £150m before it has signed up a single customer.
Big negatives of the year would have to include certain banks unerring ability to shoot themselves in the foot. Despite the hire of one of the leading retail bankers of his generation, Ross McEwan, RBS somehow manages to score PR own goals such as its IT system going down in the Summer and as RBI goes to press, getting into a muddle over dormant accounts.
There will doubtless be political outrage from certain quarters if the UK government sells off its stake in RBS at a loss, except that it was not an investment: it was a bailout. It is to be hoped that the New Year will see new investors, new capital and new owners for the bank.
Two other areas close to the editor’s heart also deserve a mention.
The Digital Banking Club, founded by Intelligent Environments: the third year of the DBC has been hugely enjoyable. Membership has gone through the roof, four debates have attracted record numbers of Club members and web traffic has soared, boosted by an impressive and expanded number of contributors to the website.
Exciting plans are already underway for the DBC in 2016.
Retail Banker International Annual Awards 2016: the 2015 annual Retail Banker International Awards sponsored by Fiserv attracted a record number of nominations and the highest ever calibre of entry. The 2016 Awards are set to launch with the Awards night fixed for 19 May 2016 in London. Nomination and category details will follow in early January.
To all subscribers, freelance contributors, commercial partners, the tech community, analysts, consultants, regulators, press offices and PRs: a very hearty Merry Christmas and all best wishes for the New Year.