Strands, recognized by the financial industry as “The Fintech Partner for Banks”, is pleased to announce the launch of its new technology blog, https://medium.com/strands-tech-corner.
“Strands Tech Corner features posts written by all the employees that build our products: developers, data scientists, designers, product owners, devops, quality engineers, etc.” said Pablo Reyes, VP Engineering of Strands. “We will share our experiences in the best way we know: with real case examples, showing our day-to-day challenges, and our failures and successes”.
This new blog reflects the brand’s continuing commitment to the use of technology to help people make decisions in a more effective way. “At Strands, we have been innovating in technology for 15 years, in which we have had the opportunity to research, test, create and innovate with dozens of technologies and methodologies,” said Reyes. “Now, the Strands Tech Corner is a fundamental stepping stone in sharing our experience so you can improve your tech stack, make better decisions, and save some time trying things we’ve already tried.”
This text is an extract from the press release published on CISION PRNewswire.
In direct response to customer feedback gleaned from a two-year-long listening tour, Huntington (NASDAQ: HBAN; www.huntington.com) is rolling out The Hub across its footprint as part of its purpose to look out for people.
Doing the right thing has been at the heart of Huntington’s Fair Play Banking philosophy since it launched in 2010. The development of The Hub is the next chapter in how Huntington is looking out for people by investing in and enhancing its digital and mobile customer experience.
“Innovation and technology have never been more important to customers, but we firmly believe it is people who make the difference. At Huntington, we want to be a catalyst for improving the lives of our customers and the introduction of The Hub is another way of demonstrating our commitment to looking out for people,” said Andy Harmening, Huntington’s Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Consumer and Business Banking. “People are the heart of our business at Huntington and some of our best ideas come from our customers.”
“We began the journey to develop The Hub by taking a road trip. We went into consumers’ homes and sat around their kitchen tables to discuss finances, and more broadly, to discuss life, their dreams and challenges,” added Harmening. “That setting was hugely important because it’s our homes and families that matter most to people. And the proverbial ‘kitchen table’ is the centerpiece where real conversations happen. Where they evolve or take on a new life of their own. That was the inspiration that led us to develop The Hub.”
The Hub is Huntington’s new digital banking experience, built to look out for customers and their financial future with a focus on people-first, technology-enabled delivery and solutions. Free to all Huntington customers, The Hub is designed to help customers save more money, manage their spending and keep their financial goals front and center.
The newest iteration of The Hub includes the long-awaited Heads Up feature, a digital messaging program designed to provide insights into customer spending and saving to help them make more informed decisions about their money. Beginning in Q1 2019, Heads Up will integrate artificial intelligence tools to provide customers with up to 40 key insights into their financial wellness as they set and reach their goals.
“Life is about moments, but it’s not just the big events that require planning and a heads up. It’s the little everyday moments too, which ultimately make all others possible. That’s what we heard clearly from our customers and why we created The Hub and Heads Up. To give all of our customers the tools to help them achieve their goals, big and small,” noted Harmening.
Other features of The Hub, all born out of direct feedback from customer conversations, include:
- Spend Analysis – Helps customers categorize their spending and better understand how they can change those habits going forward.
- Spend Setter – Allows customers to set up monthly spending limits by category.
- Look Ahead Calendar – Provides a financial view of the month to come. Customers can see when future bills and deposits will impact their accounts, so they can plan accordingly.
- Savings Goal Getter – Helps customers visualize what they’re saving for and shows their progress along the way.
The phased rollout of ‘The Hub,’ which began this summer and continues across Huntington’s entire eight-state footprint, is being supported by print, online and television advertising throughout Huntington’s markets, and also includes direct mail.
Huntington’s “Fair Play” philosophy – a simpler, more straight-forward approach to banking launched in 2010 – was designed to help attract and retain customers through transparency and a commitment to doing the right thing. The Hub is Huntington’s next step in doing the right thing by being a bank that looks out for people and businesses with a focus on people-first, technology-enabled delivery and solutions.
Attending conferences is one of the best ways to stay ahead in the ever-changing financial technology and digital banking industry.
At Strands we have been active participants, sponsors, and speakers at major events all around the world. In 2017 alone, we were involved in more than 40 events. That being said, we would like to share our top fintech events list, some thoughts on the reasons for picking them, and a few tips on what to look out for.
Note: the list is in chronological order, from the earliest to the latest date.
21-22 February, Kigali, Rwanda
Our first stop this year is in Rwanda for Dot Finance, Africa’s top Fintech summit, which brings Africa’s FinTech leaders together. From our previous experience, speakers deliver fresh content and networking is top quality. Chris Skinner takes an active role in preparing the agenda and engages throughout the conference, which makes for a very interesting program.
13-15 March, Singapore
After its success in the US and Europe, Money20/20 is now expanding into Asia. The event brings together a global network of innovators, disruptors and established industry players with a pan-Asian focus. As in the case of other Money2020 editions, it’s a very large scale financial services innovation conference where you can easily get lost if you don’t prepare well before. To make sure you engage with the right people – pre-schedule your meetings, plan which tracks to attend, and power up your energy to keep up with 3 days of intense networking and running around huge exhibition halls. The highlight of this event is the venue – Marina Bay Sands – what a breathtaking place, those that have been to Singapore know what I mean 😉
9-10 May, Singapore, Asia
A lower scale event but very productive. Organizers arrange one-to-one meetings between financial institutions and solution providers. This gives an opportunity for banks to select the companies they want to share their challenges with and hear solutions. FinTechs are guaranteed a minimum of 10 or 20 meetings (depending on the sponsorship package) with the decision-makers of major banks with potential business opportunities. Our experience last year was very positive, adding to our pipeline of quality leads in the APAC region, so this year we have decided to repeat.
15-16 May, Nairobi, Kenya
This is the first edition of the SME Finance Forum in Africa. As a founding member, Strands has been an active participant at all the SME Finance Forum events, as they are really unique. Matthew Gamser and his team really do their best to bring together SME Banking decision-makers from all around the world, especially from emerging regions such as Asia, Africa and Latin America, and a wide range of FinTechs with innovative SME Banking solutions. Given Strands’ growing presence in Africa and our flagship project with CBA, we couldn’t miss this event.
4-6 June, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This has become an absolutely unmissable event in Europe, as this where all the key influencers, industry disruptors and decision-makers meet. If you are interested in sponsoring the event, there is a range of options from an affordable kiosk-stand to large-scale exhibition areas for larger institutions. Make sure to book your spot at least six months in advance, as the best locations are taken fast, and in such a large exhibition area you should aim position yourself in a strategic location where you are most visible for best impact.
11-13 June, Dublin, Ireland
Another large scale event with 5,000+ attendees, 14 content tracks and 1,000 companies. MoneyConf is organized by the team behind the world’s largest digital banking conference, Web Summit. This year it’s taking place in a new venue in Dublin, having previously been held in Madrid. It’s our first time sponsoring this conference; we attended the previous editions and were impressed by the quality of this event with its fresh content and format.
13-14 June, Paris, France
A niche digital banking conference with high-level participants. Efma is a banking association formed in 1971, with over 3,300 member-companies from 130 countries. Their SME Banking Summit has become a must-attend annual event that focuses on the challenges facing SMEs in the evolving retail financial services landscape. What is especially interesting for Stands is the focus on analyzing how FinTechs cater to SMEs in a business environment, how banks can digitize operations to improve the customer experience and increase the number of relevant customer touchpoints.
24-27 September, NYC, USA
For sure most of you know Finovate, one of the first flagship events in our industry. Since 2009, Strands has demoed at Finovate events across the world, from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Each year we pick one of the locations to present our recent product innovations. This year it’s going to be NYC, which promises to be one of the largest, with over 1,500 attendees. Last year we demoed at FinovateAsia, which was a much smaller scale event with around 300 attendees. Our most recent experience has demonstrated that Finovate has a much stronger footprint in the USA and UK, whilst in Asia there seems to be too much competition in the FinTech events space.
21-24 October, Las Vegas, USA
Yes, this year is a Money20/20 year for Strands, it’s our third one after Asian and European editions earlier this year. As mentioned above, it’s a huge event that requires good preparation and a clear idea of what you are after in terms of content and contacts. The marketing of this conference definitely stands out; I love their caricatures and infographics!
Come meet us at the Money20/20 USA event between Oct 21-24!
Or Request A Demo at the Event Here
5-7 November, Madrid, Spain
Last but not least on this list is our all times favorite SME Finance Forum annual flagship event that brings together 400+ senior executives from commercial banks, development finance institutions, Fintech companies, as well as regulators to focus on leveraging digital banking to serve SMEs. We like it because it is an action-packed 3-day event that includes study visits to high-performing institutions, a B2B marketplace, Fintech expos, panels, working groups as well as networking sessions and a gala dinner. Towards the end of the conference, the friendly atmosphere is particularly pleasant; there’s a definite feeling that you have had a chance to get to know everyone there.
12-16 November, Singapore, Asia
The Singapore Fintech Festival promises to deliver on bringing together the brightest and best FinTech professionals from around the world. The event will feature a series of exciting events including FinTech Conference & Exhibition, Global FinTech Hackcelerator Demo Day, AI in Finance Summit, FinTech Awards, Innovation Lab Crawl, Workshops, and an expanded Investor Summit comprising of “FinTech Deal Day” and a new component “Meet ASEAN’s Talents and Champions (MATCH).”
Come meet us at the event between November 12-16th.
We will be at booth 2D24 in Hall 2.
Bonus pick. If you are into InsurTech, make sure you don’t miss DIA Amsterdam taking place on 16-17 May. This event has become the meeting point for insurers seeking innovative solutions. A very high-quality event with over 50 insurtech demos, numerous thought leader keynotes and a great venue.
Look forward to bumping into you at one (or more) of these events!
Having a workforce that is fluent in the ways of the world isn’t a luxury. It’s a competitive necessity.
That’s why last year, STRANDS opened a new office in Kuala Lumpur, the financial and economic centre of Malaysia — marking an important milestone for the FinTech company in Asia.
One notable leader in this endeavor was Carlos Javier Mena, Customer Tech Lead of STRANDS. He traveled to this fast-growing city to accomplish a mission: to build a strong team of software engineers and business developers.
He says that the project he was assigned was one that he had never done before. But working outside of his comfort zone forced him to tap into his wide range of skills and also “unleashed hidden talents.”
In this interview, we checked in with him to know more about his experience abroad. Here is what he had to say!
1. Spending three months working in Kuala Lumpur showed that you’re a take-charge type of person. How did you prepare for the assignment?
I knew that going abroad would give me the upper-hand in taking note of the finer components in my work. So I was very excited about it!
Before leaving Barcelona, I had a clear picture of the goals that I needed to achieve:
- To recruit a team of engineers, specifically front-end, back-end and full stack developers.
- To train sales professionals by transferring my knowledge of STRANDS’ value proposition, and the functional and technical features of the PFM and BFM products.
The biggest preparation started a month prior to my departure, when I began to video-interview potential candidates for the positions needed. I hadn’t conducted a lot face-to-face interviews before (let alone remote interviews!) so that was my very first challenge and learning opportunity of the assignment.
2. Once you were deployed in KL, what strategies and tactics did you tackle first?
First off, I had to embrace a role I didn’t expect to: the work of an office manager.
As the office was completely new, I had to manage a lot of office-related duties: organizing its layout, ordering stationery and equipment, arranging repairs, providing administrative support… You get the idea.
But once the office was up and running, my responsibilities narrowed down to employee training – which I enjoyed the most!
I prepared a hands-on workshop where the developers could learn more about the company, product attributes, database, API, deployments, software customization, and overall, how products are integrated with our customers’ solutions through our Professional Services department.
By performing in-person learning sessions, the new employees were able to get a fuller understanding of the information during training, and have a reference to turn to if issues arise in the future.
I’m really proud of the way this turned out.
3. And what about the Sales Team? How did you start making STRANDS known in Asia?
As I’m not a sales guy, what made sense for me was providing them with an overview of the company’s mission, as well as a deep understanding of the main software products we offer to banks: PFM and BFM.
Other than that, I enabled them to really showcase their talents rather than having them go with my own prescribed notions.
Last year, STRANDS began making its mark on the Asian market, particularly Singapore, and during the summer of 2017, we completed pilot tests with Singapore’s OCBC Bank during their Accelerator Program. Together with the Pre-Sales team in Barcelona, we collaborated with OCBC Bank to help their SME customers better manage their business and cash flow.
That event gave me the opportunity to talk with real SME clients of OCBC, and learn first-hand from their feedback: how they used the widgets, features they appreciate most, etc.
4. What learning points would you highlight from this mission?
The biggest thing I received while working overseas was self-training in cultural diversity, a huge necessity in today’s tech space.
In this sense, my communication skills improved tremendously. I had no choice but learning to articulate my thoughts in a comprehensive way – which also involved deepen my knowledge of the technical aspects of the products.
But most of all, these three months abroad helped make me stronger in managing a team. That included developing leadership and problem-solving skills, working more collaboratively, and in the process, strengthening company loyalty.
5. KL is home to a variety of cultures, and its work life and lifestyle are very different from the Spanish way. Any cultural-shock anecdotes?
You bet it’s different from Spain!
Although KL offers a range of modern conveniences, and its local population is generally friendly and welcoming, here are some facts I encountered:
- Taxis and car-sharing options like Uber or Grab were so cheap in comparison to Spain, which was very convenient because it was so hot you could hardly see pedestrians on the streets.
- The “No-kissing” signs on metro stations. I can’t imagine these signs being displayed in Spain to avoid “Indecent Behaviour”.
- The Kiblat arrow on my hotel room ceiling. It helps Muslim guests easily orient themselves for prayer toward Mecca.
- It’s quite common for people in KL to eat smelly durian fruit and drink hot beverages all the time. They say it’s because hot drinks cool you faster than cold ones. I don’t know if that’s a myth or reality, but the fact is I was the only one having a cold Coke!
- The widely-known song Despacito was banned on state radio and TV due to “obscene lyrics”. Malaysia’s most professed religion is Islam, and it’s not uncommon to censor songs “out of sensitivity to local culture”.
6. Lastly, what’s next for Carlos Javier Mena?
I’d love to get involved in Product Management positions with a focus on technical skills.
What I like most about this role is that sits at the intersection of business and technology, combining strategy, marketing, and other skills with the end goal of delivering one-of-a-kind products.
And as a software engineer myself, I advocate for a deep technical background and a core understanding of the product to balance the other pillars.
I believe it’s a matter of bridging the gap between “where you are” and “where you want to be”. So I’m looking forward to making more happen!
It is all about data these days. It’s relevant for everyone, not just the financial sector. What is your opinion about the position of banks in current data sharing landscape?
Absolutely. In the coming years, banking will be fundamentally different from the way we have always known it. The new currency of the digital economy will be data.
As a result of UK Open Banking and PSD2, consumers will gain a new level of control over how their data is used, and by whom. This, in essence means that banks will no longer have full ownership of financial data, as they always have, something that may look like it could pose a serious threat to current banking business models, but far from it; it also creates many opportunities for banks to leverage the data they have.
Technology has democratised many industries. What do you think about the new technologies and innovations disrupting the banking sector?
When Bill Gates stated 30 years ago that “banking is necessary, but banks are not” he might have been ahead of his time. Banks still exist, of course, but technology is making the bank – and the branch – as it once was an outdated idea. Huge competition is boosting innovation and transparency, which in turn is providing consumers with greater freedom of choice. True democratisation of finance is happening right now.
In the coming years, the impact of APIs and data will be huge. Using internal data properly and complementing it with external data is crucial in order to enhance service offerings, improve customer engagement, and increase revenue from new, less-conventional channels.
How could banks fully take advantage of these opportunities? What type of data do you think they are most likely to benefit from?
Basically, there are two important steps banks need to take to get the most out of data:
- Firstly, they should focus on improving the overall customer experience by using both financial and non-financial data. (Data-driven banking)
It is all about data these days. It’s relevant for everyone, not just the financial sector
- Secondly, they should generate new revenue streams using new channels. (Bank as a service)
There are different data channels that will help banks to differentiate themselves in a competitive market and create new revenue streams:
The first is financial data. By the help of account aggregation technology, banks are able to provide a consolidated view to customers to allow them manage their entire financial life using digital channels. This feature enables banks to position themselves as their users’ primary financial institution, and give them less reason to leave their platforms and go elsewhere.
The second is non-financial data. Banks should consider how to use third-party services for their offerings as well. This way, banking customers can access 3rd party applications through their banks, resulting in better retention, acquisition and new revenue streams.
There are many different kind of APIs on the market : retailers, social media, invoicing and accounting services, crowdsourcing platforms etc.
What is the starting point in effectively using data?
Having access to a customers’ entire financial profile and understanding what they really want is fundamental in offering smarter services and solutions.
To make this happen, data aggregation – having all customer data on your bank’s channels and nowhere else – is the key to knowing the customer better, targeting them correctly, in a relevant manner and getting results, more quickly.
The secret is in having a clear strategy and objectives firmly in sight. The tools are there to make data an ally for banks rather than an impediment; this is the first time banks have had all the tools and so many opportunities at their disposal. The future is data, but it is also banking, in a new and improved guise.