The RBI Awards, once again sponsored by Fiserv, is now in its 30th year and remains a benchmark for excellence in the industry. Highlighting the best retail banking has to offer worldwide, the winners are selected by an expert panel. Patrick Brusnahan examines this year’s shortlist and last year’s winners

Last year, the Global Retail Bank of the Year was picked up by Royal Bank of Canada, once again shortlisted this year, alongside another Canada-headquartered bank, Scotiabank. The full shortlist for Global Retail Bank of the Year is:

  • Barclays
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Santander
  • Scotiabank

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is no stranger to award shortlists and their addition, as well as Scotiabank’s, show the powerhouse that Canada is becoming for the retail banking sector.

RBC had another record breaking year in 2014 with profit increasing by 8% year-on-year (YOY) to reach C$9bn ($7.4bn). The bank also acquired City National in its biggest ever deal.

In addition, Scotiabank’s profit for its fiscal year ending October 31st 2014 was $7.3bn, 10% more than the year prior. This is bolstered by the bank’s moves into Latin America with the acquisition of Citibank’s retail operations in Peru with more possibly to come.

One of the hardest categories to judge is the award for Retail Banker of the Year. With so many possible candidates in a large industry, the winner must have demonstrated outstanding dedication to retail banking and brought about significant change within their bank.

Last year’s winner Jorge Ruiz, head of business development and digital banking for Citi in Latin America, was responsible for transforming Citi into the number one digital bank in the region. In addition, he introduced significant game-changing business opportunities for the firm. He is also a member of the Citi Global Digital Executive Committee, the Citi Global innovation Council, the Citi Global Digital Governance Office and the Latin American Operating Committee.

The European market continues to push forward and leading the digital banking revolution. With the emergence of new challenger banks, as well as Internet and technology companies entering the fold, the market is accelerating at a rapid rate. This makes the European Retail Bank of the Year award one of the most exciting to judge. Nominees this year include:

  • Alior Bank
  • Barclays
  • KBC Bank
  • CaixaBank
  • Santander

Alior Bank, the winner last year, has been nominated again this year and seems to be attracting offers from across the globe, which is remarkable for a bank so early into its lifespan. Santander is also making its second shortlist appearance in a row.

Barclays’ Personal and Corporate banking unit posted a pre-tax profit of £2.88bn ($4.39bn) in 2014, a 29% rise YOY.

Santander saw similar results in the first quarter of 2015 as their profits spiked 32% YOY to hit €1.72bn ($1.95bn).

CaixaBank has been making huge moves in the European markets with bids for Barclays’ Spanish retail operations and Portugal’s Banco BPI.

The world is becoming more and more connected with each passing year and banking is making full use of that fact. The nominees for Best Use of Digital Marketing and Social Media are varied. The nominees are:

  • Bradesco
  • Fidor Bank
  • HDFC
  • Privredna banka Zegreb
  • Santander

Bradesco, which was the highest rated bank in RBI’s Facebook Top 100, was the first bank in Brazil to launch on Facebook to over 90 million Facebook users in the country. Its customer service function on the social networking site is operated 24 hours a day and guarantees a response within five minutes, no matter the circumstances. Bradesco also released an F.Banking application on which enables customers to access their account through Facebook. Since launch, it has had over one million people utilising the platform.

Santander, which landed at 10th on RBI’s Facebook Top 100, has been active in the digital marketing and social media fields for quite some time. The bank incorporates sponsorship deals with sports ambassadors to put a face on its content and generate greater interest. This all surrounds its frequent content which aims to not only engage their consumer base, but inform them on general financial practices, such as saving to buy a house or student finance.

ICICI, 9th on RBI’s table, launched Pockets this year, a digital banking service which allows users to send or request money to any email, mobile number or friend on Facebook. This can be utilised by consumers who are not customers of ICICI as well.

While digital is currently receiving all the headlines, one should not forget the importance of branches. The Best Branch Strategy award aims to highlight those keeping on a focus on this side of distribution. With increasing pressures on profit margins, there has been an increasing focus on downsizing and consolidation, but we’ve picked banks that are focusing on maintaining the traditional touch. The nominees include:

  • Broadway Bank
  • HSBC Mexico
  • Lloyds Bank International
  • mBank
  • Metro Bank
  • Privredna banka Zagreb
  • PSJ PrivatBank
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • State Bank of India

mBank has embraced the idea of ‘the branch of the future’. The bank’s new physical delivery network, set to be completed in 2018 at a cost of $19m, is aiming to optimise the sales process while also attending to the needs of the emerging digital consumer base. This is set to include both Light Branches and integrated Advisory Centres.

The much smaller Light Branch is aimed to be within higher consumer traffic location, such as shopping centres, rather than focusing on lone, oversized branches. By 2018, 40 of these branches will be operating within Poland.

With the latest technology being utilised, the Light Branches have the appearance of a high-end store rather than a bank branch. They include three 50-inch touchscreens allowing customers to browse products and services.

The screens also have video cameras to assist in the adaptation of content and will eventually include biometric identification of customers, allowing a greater level of personalised service.

The Advisory Centres will be located in office buildings in all of the major cities in which mBank operate. Focusing on advisory, cross-selling and business banking support, 80 of these are set to be in circulation by 2018.

In addition, 60 new mKiosks are to be placed in shopping malls. Private and corporate customers will be able to use these manned kiosks to open an account, purchase savings, investment, and insurance products, as well as get a credit or debit card.

State Bank of India (SBI) is also making a huge effort in transforming its existing branches into something more engaging to consumers.

SBI has opened six digital branches across India as part of its programme to offer next generation banking solutions to the growing mobile phone and internet savvy customer base. The branches include interactive LCD screens to aid SBI customers in mapping out their financial plans though services such as instant loan approval, investment portfolio assistance and mutual funds information.
Additionally, branches have access to remotely based SBI advisors through video conferences.

In efforts to digitise its front-office efforts, SBI partnered with US-headquartered Entrust Datacard to implement the first integrated self-service kiosk solution for account-opening and secure instant debit card issuance facilities. This is set to reduce account opening time by 80-90%.

The new kiosks perfectly service the increasingly young population of India. With the average age of India being a mere 29, this satisfies the increasingly important convenience factor which is so crucial for younger generations.

The conference and awards takes place at the Waldorf Astoria, London. Good luck to all the finalists.