Given the whirlwind of recent events, it seems like ages since January, when one of our payments experts Larry Pruss weighed in on Visa’s acquisition of Plaid, API aggregator for P2P players such as Venmo. He discussed what this combination could mean for banks and credit unions going forward, reinforcing two key points:
- Financial institutions are hungry for objective expert opinions on market developments; and
- The strategic moves of major industry vendors – not just their direct competitors – can have a major impact on their competitive position.
When it comes to evaluating product capabilities of existing and prospective vendors, the banking ecosystem is now evolving at an exponential rate. So much so, that it’s becoming unrealistic to expect leaders of small and mid-sized institutions to remain intimately familiar with each new trend. Not all have the luxury of a dedicated market intelligence team to do the legwork. Fortunately, the other 99% of financial institutions have a valuable option at their disposal: they can have conversations around product roadmaps.
Show Me the Waze
There are multiple roadmaps to be considered. Naturally, every financial institution should have its own product roadmap outlining the intended direction and timeframe for enhanced features and functionality. For all but the Top Five banks, however (and perhaps not even them), these next-generation solutions aren’t being created in-house.
An important part of a bank or credit union’s vendor management strategy is developing a clearer lens into their suppliers' roadmaps, including the visibility to reconcile them to their own. It is important to know if service providers are on track to deliver the expected capabilities. These conversations are a great opportunity to confirm expectations are aligned.
A vendor’s roadmap can serve as a punch list for its mindset on market evolution, a window into understanding organizational priorities. Additionally, bank and credit unions should expect fintech providers to offer insight how they vendors invest time and research with fintech disruption, to enable financial institutions the ability to compete with megabanks and other disruptors. Service providers should welcome such conversations which can lead to highly constructive exchanges and deeper relationships. It is an ideal chance for incumbents as well as challengers to demonstrate their understanding of market dynamics and to share substantive research supporting their approach. It is also entirely possible that new information could come to light, leading a financial institution to reconsider aspects of its own roadmap.
We are seeing a trend among fintechs in how they service their clients, from the traditional CRM (customer service representation) to now PSM (partner success manager), in which PSMs should present, at minimum, an annual review on how solutions are being utilized and defining areas to improve to help the institution maximize the platform investment. Isn’t that the type of thought leadership a trusted partner should be counted on to provide?
The following is a list of five topics for roadmap alignment:
- Reducing the number of clicks to approve (or decline) an online loan application;
- Leveraging intelligent automation and machine learning for cost savings and revenue generation;
- Contemplating partnerships with and/or open API connectivity to providers of emerging services;
- Giving customers easier access to their information with self-service innovations; and
- Knowing the latest on most desired features likely to make digital engagement more appealing to a broader base of users.
The Challenges of Virtual Vendor Vetting
In a normal year, we would have enjoyed the peak of the industry conference season, where expert panels and impromptu conversations offer ideal venues for such information gathering. In the absence of such in-person events, open exchanges with service providers take on even greater importance. Of course, these presenters harbor an underlying agenda, but a worthy partner understands that substance and trust should underpin any solid business relationship.
The Bottom Line: As mentioned, not all banking professionals have the luxury of a dedicated market intelligence team to do the legwork; having conversations around product roadmaps with vendors is another option. Further, an impartial arbiter (such as SRM), can help cut through the clutter, separating hype from reality while adding its own layer of market intelligence.
Whether they are driven by the implications of the next major merger or by a nuts and bolts discussion of market trends, product roadmaps are a great vehicle for keeping your bank or credit union on course – especially in times of uncertainty.