Emerging technologies offer seemingly limitless opportunities across the marketplace. From factories to medical practices, agriculture to finance, advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cognitive analysis and biometric recognition have immense practical applications.
Spain’s banking and financial services sectors are currently undergoing a particularly striking digital transformation. While major traditional players are beginning to channel significant investment into new technologies, a variety of online-only neobanks, start-ups and fintech companies have hit the market and subsequently taken off.
Newly established disruptors offer exciting prospects for collaboration. In fact, a number of institutions have already merged or formed strategic partnerships in order to pursue novel digital opportunities. This promises to improve customer satisfaction, as well as boost a firm’s reputation. Enrique Tellado, Managing Director of online bank EVO Banco, spoke to World Finance about the opportunities for disruptive innovation in Spain’s evolving banking sector.
EVO Banco’s commitment to digitalisation and customer experience has resulted in a business that looks nothing like a traditional bank
What makes EVO Banco stand out in the Spanish banking sector?
EVO Banco represents a new generation of financial entity that challenges the traditional banking industry by using technology to help customers manage their money more effectively. We aim to make life easier for each client based on what they need, and we do it quickly, cheaply, easily and across all channels.
Our commitment to digitalisation and customer experience has resulted in a business that looks nothing like a traditional bank. Rather than being a bank that implements disruptive technologies, we consider ourselves to be a disruptive technology firm that happens to work in the banking sector.
We want to occupy a new space in the market that combines the trust of the banking sector with the innovation and customer experience found in the fintech sector. Our philosophy is to build a platform of financial and non-financial services that makes life easier for our customers, while also enabling us to adapt rapidly to any changes in the market.
At EVO, we also understand that customer satisfaction can be a source of profitability. By listening to the client and creating collaborative environments to guide the business towards what really matters, we make our company as accessible as possible.
What is your strategy for innovation?
Digitalisation and enhancing the customer experience are in our DNA. This is why we have managed to be pioneers of recent technological advances in the banking sector.
Our innovation strategy is structured within the cloud and built on the pillars of stability, scalability and security. We aim to improve the ease and enjoyment of advanced financial services by ensuring users have the highest-quality experience possible. For instance, our mobile app is powered by disruptive AI technology. By running customer data through AI algorithms, our product can offer hyper-personalised solutions in real time.
In order to maintain an agile and efficient service that allows for constant disruptive innovation, we also use short software development cycles. This has enabled us to continually provide an attractive user experience.
Within this framework, last year we proudly presented our latest launch: EVO Assistant, the first ever ‘voice bank’ in the Spanish language. This pioneering AI technology offers integral assistance to all customers. Customised queries, banking operations and financial advice are all available through voice-to-text channels.
By predicting and responding to our customers’ needs, we have also led change in various other areas of the banking sector, including partnerships with fintech firms and companies outside our traditional sector.
How are you enhancing the customer experience through digital platforms?
With our entire business now digitalised, all of our initiatives are directed towards improving the customer experience through both internal renovation and fintech development. We also prioritise collaborations with other fintech platforms.
One way we put the client at the centre of our products is by making changes based on customer feedback. For example, using a beta testing programme harnesses the thoughts and feedback of our customers to fix bugs and implement better-functioning models on our mobile app and other services.
Our big data and machine learning architecture also allow us to address each client in a unique and hyper-personalised way. We invented a ‘liquid customer journey’ concept, through which millions of customer journeys are triggered by machine learning techniques, thereby generating real-time services and sales. This allows us to constantly increase customer satisfaction.
Could you tell us about the process of launching EVO Assistant?
EVO Banco is proud to be the first bank to develop an integrated assistant in the Spanish language within its main banking application. Our virtual assistant is much more advanced than the chatbots currently available through most financial entities.
EVO Banco’s virtual assistant is an AI engine that allows clients to develop their bank activity through natural conversations, thus redefining the relationship between banks and clients. Through EVO Assistant, clients can ask any question or perform any operation with their products using their voice alone. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
EVO Assistant is made up of three main blocks: the speech recognition system that translates the client’s voice into text; the natural language processing engine, which processes text and triggers the most appropriate action; and the speech synthesizer, which transforms the answer into a human-like vocal response. The key features of the EVO Assistant are its ability to facilitate a natural conversation, its response time and its accuracy. The whole project was internally developed within EVO’s innovation and digital development departments.
EVO Assistant was released to all customers in 2018 through the EVO Banco mobile app. Within the first month, 10 percent of customers used the tool regularly and spent up to 50 percent more time on the app. EVO Assistant can also be connected through third-party virtual assistants like Google Assistant and Siri.
What are EVO Banco’s key areas of focus for the next 12 months?
Over the next year, we aim to establish the company as one of the most innovative financial institutions in the Spanish market. To achieve this, we will consolidate the bank’s digital acceleration strategy, which has allowed us to offer high-value financial and non-financial services.
EVO will continue to focus on creating alliances with fintech companies, such as wealth management start-up Finizens, or collaborative models such as Booking.com and Rentalcars.com. We will also focus on developing our own technologies that improve the lives of our users by simplifying their relationship with money. In the medium term, EVO seeks to consolidate its strategic position as a new-generation bank in the emerging digital economy. This position connects the security of banking with the innovation of new fintech models.
Our objective is to continue to lead the charge and become a benchmark in the financial sector, as we have with EVO Assistant. To do this, it’s key to have a first-rate team that is very focused on innovation, and to be open to collaboration with third parties in the fintech space in order to improve our services.
In economic terms, EVO’s digital inversion represents 25 percent of the total general expenses of the bank. This investment plan has allowed us to renew and strengthen the technological infrastructure of the entity. It has also enabled us to launch new products, services and alliances, and to create one of the best mobile banking applications on the market. Regarding specific customer-experience projects, EVO has more than doubled its budget compared with last year.
How do you envision the banking sector’s future digital transformation?
I believe data consolidation and AI have brought with them the Fourth Industrial Revolution; this is producing the greatest transformation humanity has ever seen. For the first time in history, machine intelligence could overcome human intelligence, uncovering an extensive spectrum of opportunities. However, it is important that we define technology’s role in our future. For instance, we must examine its interaction with current social structures to ensure and define how this non-human intelligence will contribute to creating increasingly prosperous and equal societies in the future.
Virtual assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri have advanced impressively – the speed of adoption of these devices has already outpaced that of smartphones when they first entered the market. Over the short term, they will continue to develop even more uses.
As companies, we are presented with the ongoing challenge of predicting and meeting our clients’ needs in advance. We must be able to offer useful solutions that integrate our services into customers’ daily lives. This is our approach at EVO Banco: today, it has materialised in our Spanish-language voice assistant, which solves queries, performs banking transactions and offers personalised advice about a customer’s financial health. Through this technology, we have strengthened our core values of utility, transparency and intelligence. Ultimately, it is a clear, practical example of how a company can relate the most disruptive technologies back to meeting their customers’ needs.