Payments Banks Are Feeling Restricted, Worry About Getting Customers to Transact


I have read a lot about the payments bank scene in India as I find the approach taken by the companies award licences an interesting one. Financial inclusion has always been a key driver for most companies as it provides the greatest of opportunities, not only in India but across other developing payments markets.

For those unaware of what a payments bank is – the idea behind these new-age banks is revolutionary – to provide financial services to the remotest corners of the country, something that the traditional banking model has failed to do.

The article below written by Beena Parmar (Moneycontrol News) crucially highlights quotes from senior figures from these payments banks and where the subsequent challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Link to article

AP Singh, CEO of India Post Payments Bank said: “Getting customers is easy but getting them to transact is difficult… At present, we have Rs 10,000 in our payments bank account.”

All the players concluded that they would require to build scale of business before looking for profitability.

They are looking at unconventional revenue streams including data monetisation, cross-selling of financial products, forming credit access platforms and creating alternate merchant payment models to get around the constraint of not being able to lend.

My verdict on payments banks

  1. Creativity and product innovation is crucial, as such, customer on-boarding, UI/UX and quality of service and fees/costs are going to be deciding factors.
  2. They can succeed as long as they are with allied financial products and a strong distribution network provided they avoid falling into the trap of misselling.

Interesting times ahead given the vast competition from the traditional banking players and FinTech companies alike.

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Open Banking – Consumer Impact


I have read quite a lot on Open Banking over the last couple of years, what it means to the industry, the players and more importantly the consumer. The revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) is required to be implemented in the UK by 13 January 2018.

This will definitely change the banking experience, bringing with it more competition and innovation in the sector, and a host of benefits for the consumer.

I don’t want to delve too much into PSD2, the technical aspects regarding API’s, how it will work and implementation. I do want to focus on the consumer and really understand the impact on them.

As we know, consumer awareness is always a good start in order to aid adoption of new products/services from different players in the financial services space.

Interestingly a poll of over 2,000 Brits conducted by YouGov on behalf of consumer and business insights venture, Equifax, reveals that 90% have not heard of the Open Banking initiative, with 45% adding that they are not likely to use it when it becomes available.

When asked about sharing personal data through Open Banking, 60% would not consent to this, with concerns including security and that third parties would be able to contact them.

Does this bode well though from an adoption perspective? After all, as consumers we always crave choice, competitive rates and a good deal. However, when it comes to financial services, it seems we’re not willing to take the risk with new FinTech’s or digital challengers – unless of course you happen to be a young millennial or gen-Z’er.

Obviously, with every negative there are positives to play upon here, esp. when you consider how companies are offering us better ways to manage our money, savings, investments and credit.

I liked this quote taken from the Open Banking: A Consumer Perspective Report. A report commissioned by Barclays and written by Faith Reynolds (a government advisor)

“For SMEs, managing cash flow and receiving payments should be cheaper and easier. Technologies like Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) have the potential to create new services delivered by existing players and new intermediaries, like Personal Finance Management platforms.

“They have the power to bring substantial benefits to consumers, aggregating their financial products in one place; providing new insight about spending patterns; making recommendations about saving money; automating parts of the decision-making process and even offering new ways to pay.”

“Open Banking could widen access to existing products, like credit, debt advice or financial advice. And bring new products to market from overseas or the UK, at the click of a button. Open Banking will make things simpler, quicker and more convenient. The innovation that new technologies make possible is endless and over time could create new forms of value we can’t envisage today.”

Roger Vincent – Equifax’s Head of Banking & Innovation made some good points in a recent publishing via CityA.M.

“Over half of the people we surveyed said they would find the capacity to compare current account offerings from different banks important, while 50 per cent of Brits said the same about being able to access lenders offering better terms for financial products.”

“A significant number felt that the potential to monitor their spending or debt more easily would be important. The most valued benefit, however, is the ability to better monitor their bank accounts to help protect against fraud.”

The Challenges

Inevitably, it was always going to come down to how consumer data and privacy are managed and protected.

The concerns that people have about their data being shared with more companies will only increase their anxiety when it comes to the growing number of fraudulent activities on a day-to-day basis.

It’s clearly a genuine problem and as a result people will be more wary about taking risks, consenting to data being shared regardless of the benefits. Could Open Banking help consumers become more aware of their data?

I have always taken the stance that people become less worried when they’re better aware of what’s happening and better educated. Think of it as some kind of safety blanket that we usually associate with small children when they’re anxious.

Education and a different level of thinking is required in order to generate the much needed trust element with regards to consumer data and sharing. This is the only way this initiative will prove to be the success the industry wants. However, without this not much will happen and people will still be pondering as to why.

Concluding Thoughts

Do you think Open Banking/PSD2 will make consumers wake up in the morning and immediately think about their personal banking?

I would say that is unlikely happen. However, this is more about making the financial lives of the consumers better, by changing the dynamics of the bank/customer relationship, moving it beyond the transaction, creating more competition and transparency and ultimately putting control where it belongs, in their hands.

As a consumer of banking and financial services products, all I want is transparency, all I want is for my bank and other service providers to inform me how my data will be managed and protected. If they can provide me with reassurances that I need, they have my attention and we can move forward.

Data sharing is bad if it’s not managed or protected well, however, if done in the right way, it can be rewarding, regardless of organisation (bank, new start-up, digital challenger etc).

I look at this as an opportunity for all organisations to put the consumer first by being better engaged, and as a consequence, offer me access to an array of targeted financial products.

What’s It Really Like Working For/With FinTech Start-ups?


I get asked this question a lot by the corporate community with whom I am typically engaged with, usually this would comprise of senior figures from the BFSI community. The people I am usually in conversation with have never worked for a start-up, let alone have had any professional dealings with any. For those that know me well, I am not short of an opinion or two on this subject or anything else for that matter.

My Start-up Journey

Before leaving the UK in 2015 to embark on my own professional journey to Asia where I am firmly based, I had no idea of what is was truly like working for/with the start-up community. The UK, in particular London, is a hotbed for FinTech talent and is laden with a number of great start-ups. I had the privilege of knowing a few of these guys but wasn’t really involved in what they were doing to the extent I am now and have been these past 2+ years.

Making the move to APAC was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, and I am in no regret for swapping a very comfortable life in the UK for the opportunities that Singapore, APAC and now India and South Asia present to me. The FinTech ecosystems in this part of the world have developed very quickly in the last couple of years, Singapore more so than any other region and India isn’t too far behind in some respects.

The Start-up World

Having worked for a young start-up in Singapore, I am fully aware of the challenges that these guys have to go through and it really is a different world to the corporate environment I have grown up with. Firstly, I didn’t have the resources (people) available to me and had a very limited budget to do what I needed and had to adjust very quickly to a different way of working. Secondly, I had more autonomy and decision making freedom compared to my previous life which was refreshing in order to get things moving along quickly. The above points seem obvious in black and white, but once you’re in this environment you only begin to realise it.

There are obvious pros and cons but I am certainly glad that I had the opportunity to live and breathe the start-up world for myself, otherwise my opinions would be pretty meaningless and not really based on anything tangible.

Advisory and Mentorship

My experiences working within the start-up world has really had an impact on my professional career to-date. I am now working in an advisory/mentorship capacity for start-ups across India and APAC via three FinTech accelerator programmes. If I am able to support start-ups through these programmes, I am more than happy to do so. It’s a combination of giving something back to the community, but in my case an opportunity to learn. I am continually amazed by the intelligence, determination and desire to make a difference by young people at the ages of 19-25. The FinTech world is a chaotic seen globally right now, there is a lot of noise and continual media frenzies. However, away from the noise, on the ground, I am seeing young teams of start-ups doing some amazing things from a product/solution level.

In summary, I would recommend anyone to at least try and work for a start-up once in their careers, it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions, energy, happiness and adversity to name but a few.

Innovation Labs, Hackathons & Accelerators – Fad or Fab?

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There has been a tremendous amount of debate as to whether innovation labs, hackathons or accelerators are indeed a success or just another way to garner public attention. The FinTech world has been awash with a lot of hype over the last 3-4 years but those working at a product/solution level see things very differently.

As someone who is heavily involved working within these domains, I thought it was my duty to at least past some objective comments. I recently moderated a panel discussion at Bank Tech Asia in Kuala Lumpur November of this year, it was probably the most riveting panel discussion over the two days. The future of what the banking world will do is largely underpinned by the success of these types of events. That’s tremendously important if we think about FinTech and it’s meaning, and the foundation for success.

Let’s first focus on all three types individually.

Innovation Labs

Innovation labs are really nothing new but in the context of FinTech over the last few years, the banking world has embraced the opportunity to try and do more when it comes to co-creation, ideation and building small PoC’s (proof-of-concept) and small point solutions with the start-up community. Indeed, I’ve spent time at a few innovation labs and both the banks and start-ups are taking this very seriously, it’s not just a show or publicity stunt to prove to the rest of the world that they’re doing something. Banks like many large financial institutions are in desperate need of trying to stay relevant in the digital world we’re now in. Working with a handful of clever start-ups is just one way to try and tackle problem statements they’re trying to address, creating the relevant use cases and then building solutions for the future.


I’ve been involved in several hackathon events with more being planned and I absolutely love them. It’s been a couple of decades since I’ve coded in anger and even then I wasn’t very good at it. Hackathons are a great way for large financial institutions to work with start-ups and then select the best ones based on the problem statements/use cases the bank for example is trying to address. If you’re a techie you’ll love the vibe and commitment of the teams as they have a very limited time frame to build something they’re able to demonstrate to the judges.

Having been a judge at a recent hackathon run by DCB Bank in Mumbai, I was mightily impressed with the young start-ups. They demonstrated their technical abilities but built solutions that would be a great benefit to the banks but also consumers and business clients alike. The teams thought very hard as to how to make the lives of the consumer and business clients better utilising the new and emerging tech we’re reading about today.


I’ve been mentoring for a number of different accelerators now for the last year or so now and I throughly enjoy it. Being part of the FinTech ecosystem is throughly rewarding, not only from a giving perspective, sharing knowledge and experience but I am continually learning from start-ups too. Accelerators are very important to drive awareness of known problem statements and to attract the very best start-ups who can look to kick-on if they’re successful through investment and reach. Typically there are two formats which exist, firstly independently run programmes backed by large MNC’s who help support the programme or banking led accelerators where these programmes are run exclusively by the banks themselves. Both programmes ultimately have have the same objective and goals.

Final Thoughts – Fad or Fab?

I believe all domains provide some form of value in their own way which contributes to this ecosystem. The single biggest objective across the start-up and banking world is centered on the consumer or business client with whom you’re trying to serve. How do we make their lives easier? How we keep them engaged? Most of the time there aren’t the huge successes we’d all like to see, but that’s ok as this is a test and learn exercise anyway. In my experience though as part of the process we’re never exactly sure what we’ll unearth at such events and for me that’s always the fun and exciting part.

Is The FinTech Bubble About to Burst?


It’s been well documented that the financial services industry needed some form of disruption and a move away from the traditional models. The industry as we know it has become too out-dated in the modern, digital world that we now live in. True product innovation, improved customer UX/UI were always going to be a problem for large financial institutions to manage and rectify. FinTech was seen as the holy grail to address the bulk of these issues, and for the most part there has been some progress.

I’ve been fortunate to work closely within the FinTech ecosystem in Singapore/APAC and now presently here in India. The hype to a certain degree is still there but I feel after the last 12-18 months, this has reduced from before. It’s also worth noting that venture capitalists and investors have equally been reserved from a funding perspective. We’re definitely seeing signs of a slowdown, which is why it’s vitally important that those start-ups continue to focus on building solutions which address tangible problem statements. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the viewpoint that start-ups are purely in this market to create momentum and publicity, with a view of being bought out by a bigger player.

Working closely with the banking community in APAC, they themselves are very keen to try and address a lot of the reasons FinTech start-ups exists and what they’re trying to do. It takes a brave financial institution to admit they have problems in certain areas, are willing to accept change and to be more collaborative in order to rectify them.

We’re now deep into collaborative FinTech amongst the community of start-ups, banks and insurance companies. This collaboration (via innovation sandboxes/use of development API’s) is a positive move and I’ve certainly witnessed this first hand, with some meaningful proof-of-concept solutions co-created within innovation labs/accelerator programmes. The focus being on the consumer, providing them with an engaging product/service, a great experience and fit for the digital age we’re now in.

In terms of the future for FinTech – I don’t see the bubble bursting, but I do see it getting smaller, we will see some form of rationalisation and a different landscape. This may well be driven by a number of factors, regulation will no doubt play it’s part, specifically on a region-by-region basis from my understanding. The net result will see the established financial institutions and only a handful of start-ups which have survived, co-offering the next wave of solutions to business and consumers.

We may also need to consider the other major technology companies, such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook making a play into the banking world. We know that these organisation are adept at capturing, managing and monetising business and consumer data. This is a real threat to the traditional banks and as such, this is where their focus should be targeted, esp. at the millennial and upcoming generation Z customer segments.

There is a great quote taken from Walter Wriston, a former CEO of Citibank (1967-1984)

“Information about money is more valuable than money”

This quote is still true today and will continue to be so.

Blockchain: It’s a solution; now what’s the problem?


I felt compelled to write something about the so-called Blockchain hype that we’re seeing today and to provide an alternative viewpoint.

It’s a buzzword dominating the BFSI world and beyond and is seen as some form of saviour to a lot of different problems that exist today. The pros & cons have been well documented, either in white papers, articles, blogs or discussed at many global conferences. The intention of this post wasn’t to document these specifically or to describe what Blockchain is and how it works.

I am not a hardcore technology person by any means, but I understand the benefits of using Blockchain technologies and the varying use cases they could be applied to. I attended Indian Blockchain Week recently in Mumbai, a fascinating event in which I was surrounded by passionate entrepreneurs, industry experts and businesses showcasing the good work they’re doing with the technology.

We all know the benefits of what Blockchain technology can offer and the known barriers to a successful global adoption across the many industry verticals. Time will tell as to whether we move ahead from proof-of-concept (PoC) stage, small point solutions developed regionally to a fully global commercial roll-out.

What comes first, the problem or the solution?

I am a big believer in applying technology to solve problems that exist today, as a product guy that is engrained in my DNA. However, we can occasionally get carried away and overthink where we don’t necessarily need to. The general feeling I’ve developed over the last 18 months or so, given my involvement is that the majority believe that many different types of Blockchain can solve all of their problems. This is a common trap to fall into.

Problem statements are important

It’s really important to fully understand the known problems affecting consumers and businesses today. As someone who builds product strategies and solutions, I am forever questioning and asking myself – is this a genuine problem for a consumer/business today?

Common trap

It’s very easy to apply a form of emerging technology to deal with problems that exist in industry but the process needs to be flipped around. The simple steps I tend to follow are:

  • Fully understand the problem you’re trying to address using whatever methodologies required.
  • Build your use cases once you’re fully satisfied you have a problem statement worth pursuing.
  • Apply the correct technology to address that problem – it may not require a Blockchain remember that.

It’s a common theme I have seen across the industry, it’s also very easy to use technology to try and fix problems that aren’t really a problem or don’t necessarily exist in the real world. All that is needed is a change in thinking, approach and constantly questioning yourself.

Digitised Banking is Now… Digital Banking is the Future


The intention of this short article is not to talk about digital banking being the future, we all know it is and will be. I do feel there needs to be a clear distinction between what we’re seeing now, what we’ll see in the future and terminology.

There has been a lot written about digital transformation and quite rightly so, if one industry is in desperate need of it, that is banking and the move away from the traditional models which have existed for years.

Digitised Banking

Many are led to believe that what we’re seeing today is a move into digital banking, the fact of the matter is that is not the case. All that we’re seeing are services which have existed for a long time being adapted to the digital era we’re now in. These are then distributed over platforms which have existed for years, namely the Internet and smartphones. The key challenge for banks and their supporting vendors is not modernising the digital experience (although very important) but thinking about what digital capabilities they could offer to their consumers in the future.

Digital Capabilities

  • Digital Customer Experience – Including for On-boarding
  • Personalisation and Individualized Experience
  • Cross-sell/Up-sell
  • Leverage data/Big data
  • Emerging Technologies – AI/IoT/Blockchain

Digital Banking – The Real Focus

Digital banking is about creating new opportunities and these are underpinned by what is delivered against the list I have noted above. The key in all of this as it has been for years is the data, and how it is going to be contextually used to generate the true value. Digital banking should also be focused on customer engagement and deriving new insights on existing customers whilst trying to obtain new ones.

I certainly look forward to playing a part in contributing to the future of digital banking capabilities.