The British Bank Awards put the spotlight on the very best financial services firms. Now in their seventh year, the ‘Oscars of the banking world’ help identify the best products, hottest innovations and most trusted financial brands and partners in the UK via a public vote.
Run by Smart Money People, the review and insight platform for financial services, the Awards have attracted record voting numbers this year with thousands providing their ratings and feedback. Winners are expected to be revealed on 8 July 2021 at an event at the Museum of London.
Jacqueline Dewey, CEO of Smart Money People and organiser of The British Bank Awards, explains the challenge of finding the UK’s best financial companies.
“The Awards launched in 2015 and they are unique as it’s all about the customer. Around 90,000 consumers have voted this year, which is phenomenal. We don’t have a judging panel, entrants don’t write a paper and submit it and tell us how great they are, they have to ask their customers to tell us that. The customers are the ones giving us the information that decisions are made on and that is a real bonus, because it’s truly the customer’s voice.
“What is also unique is the fact the winners are based on the quality of the ratings that are given to them by customers rather than the volume of votes. And that means there’s a level playing field for the new entrants as well as the existing big, big players in the market. Because it’s not just about going chasing volume, it’s about delivering a good service.
“That’s in fitting with the fintech market where things are changing so far. I often have conversations with entrants, who question if they can compete and I have to explain that it is not about having hundreds and thousands of customers, it’s about ‘do your customers value what you do, do they like you do they think, do you treat them’ etc.
“All the fintechs that have taken part in the Awards this year have one thing in common and that is a very, very strong customer focus. They don’t rest on their laurels from that perspective, they really are coming at things from the bottom up from a customer view as opposed to maybe our big high-street banks now who are much more corporate entities and corporate beasts.
“We know our award entrants are feeling excited right now, but the winners are embargoed until we do the actual awards event. I’m just hoping that the results will be a real testament to those who have worked hard to really serve customers and do the right thing by their customers.”
This year, The Fintech Times is sponsoring the British Bank Awards ‘Innovation of the Year’ category. The Award looks at the products, firms or new product features that are doing something different, inventive, challenging the norms, and not seen before within the industry, that improves the experience for consumers in a positive and helpful way. Now meet this year’s shortlist…
Developed in partnership with IBM, Cora is NatWest Group’s customer-facing AI-powered digital assistant and was the UK’s first banking chatbot when launched back in 2017. Our journey to develop a bank-wide chatbot started back in 2016 when we partnered with IBM to use Watson (its AI system). Initially, Cora triaged all customer contact through the bank’s public website, answering frequently asked questions before being launched on online banking and in our mobile app.
What makes you innovative?
We have a clear vision for Cora over the next four to five years which we have created through our strong partnership with IBM. Our goal is to maintain Cora as the leading cognitive conversational assistant in the UK and the interaction between our internal teams and IBM expands our thinking and views on the ‘art of the possible. Both organisations are passionate about the success of Cora and delivering an exceptional experience for customers.
The concept of Currensea’s product, a Direct Debit Travel Card partnering with your bank account to make saving money simple, was born in 2017. The JPMorgan and Barclays alumni founded Currensea offering consumers and now small businesses zero foreign exchange fees on overseas card payments, without the hassle of topping up and managing a prepaid card. Built on open banking technology, Currensea was founded to solve both those issues, saving businesses and consumers time and money. Currensea uses open banking to partner with all the major high-street banks, making the card as accessible as possible, as well as several environmental organisations to help offer a sustainable travel money solution.
What makes you innovative?
Currensea’s unique card is the layer in front of your current bank account, saving you money, giving you extra security, and making your bank work harder for you. Currensea partners with all the major high-street banks to make saving money simple. No need to prepay, no need to top-up, no need for a new bank. Currensea users access the best rates at only 0.5 per cent above the FX base rate on the company’s Essential plan and zero per cent on its Premium and Elite plan – saving more than 85 per cent per transaction (or, in real terms, £120 on a family trip to Florida). While there are several travel money options on the market, UK consumers still use their existing debit card an average of 28 times a year while on holiday, with fees ranging from three to seven per cent. Currensea offers the same security and convenience, without the fees.
Wombat is a simple lifestyle investment app designed with the next generation of investors at heart. Wombat simplifies investing, making it easy and affordable for everyday Brits to build wealth and achieve their financial goals. We have a simple philosophy: everyone should have access to investing, thanks to fractional shares everyone can invest in the stock market with as little as £10.
What makes you innovative?
We’re breaking down the barriers to traditional investing by providing an easy-to-use app that is accessible to anyone with just £10 to invest. Our product is at the centre of our mission from curated themes – handpicked thematic ETFs allow users to easily invest in their favourite sectors, from food, to tech, to fashion and fractional shares in some of the biggest global brands.
We’re removing the financial jargon and approaching this like no one ever has before. Giving our users interesting stats, and segmenting our customers so we know exactly the things that make them tick. Wombat is the perfect combination between curated investing, creating good financial habits through automated processes such as monthly auto- investments and roundups as well as the technology and ecosystem that supports our products – making what we feel to be the best user experience. The product we have created is for the future generation and their financial wellbeing. We’re here to disrupt the market today and every day to come as you’ll see from our future product releases including our innovative SIPP that is on the horizon for later this year.
As well as giving a complete view of their finances Snoop uses open banking technology to provide data-driven, personalised insights (Snoops) to help consumers save money based on their overall financial situation. Our ambition is to
help make everyone better off by actively helping people extract useful insights from their transaction data to save money. Every customer gets a completely unique experience tailored to them based on their data and it is hyper-personalisation, and the ability to connect people with personalised money insights at exactly the right time, that enables the app to be relevant, practical and useful.
What makes you innovative?
We’re building the open-data powered platform that everyone can use to manage their finances efficiently and to save themselves money. The app uses AI to create customer value through relevance and personalisation, prediction and forecasting, trends and actionable insight.
Snoop’s recommendation engine analyses millions of banking transactions and constantly recommends personalised Snoops to each customer. As well as being able to see all of their bank accounts in one place, our customers can keep on top of all their bills, regular payments and subscriptions in Snoop’s Payment Hub. Here they can link any of their regular bills to service and Snoop helps to ensure they are not on a bad deal for a second longer than they need to be. All of our data handling algorithms were created internally by our engineers and are unique to Snoop.
Ziglu was launched just under a year ago, with a mission to bring fairness and financial inclusion to the UK. We empower everyone to participate in the world of digital currencies, safely, simply and affordably. We enable our customers to hold their cash in an account and also build their crypto investments with a curated selection of cryptocurrencies, and to boost their Bitcoin investments with our interest-bearing Bitcoin Boost account. Our suite of account and payment services allows Ziglu’s customers to bridge the worlds of cash and crypto – they have the freedom to buy, hold and send digital and traditional currencies, where, when and how they want, and a Mastercard debit card to spend with. We’re headquartered in London and are the only company to be both fully authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to operate as an Electronic Money Institution, and to have achieved FCA registration as a cryptoasset firm.
What makes you innovative?
We knew from the outset that the majority of what we were setting out to achieve could only be done through constant, consistent innovation. To enable this to take place, we’ve built our technology platform entirely in-house, from the ground up. It’s only by doing this that we have the freedom to push how we offer financial services in the direction we feel it should be taken, rather than have that direction dictated to us by third party suppliers. We never invent for the sake of invention. We innovate because we know that digital currencies present a real opportunity to change how financial services are offered to consumers – but to get at that opportunity, it’s often necessary to break new ground, technologically and presentationally speaking. Finally, but critically, our innovation comes from all people in our business. The whole team understands that our mission is one of enablement, not one of replication. We try our utmost to do things differently – and a large part of our innovation stems from that drive to change the world of financial services, rather than just adapt to it.