The Summit Of Service

The winners of Global Finance’s Best Digital Banks awards are leveraging APIs and building an ecosystem of partners to deliver ever-more-tailored services—anywhere, anytime.

Citi sent a large contingent from the four corners of the globe to accept its many awards, pictured with Joseph D.Giarraputo (l) and Chris Giarraputo (c) of Global Finance.

Will 2018 be remembered as the year the open-banking era dawned? Not everywhere, to be sure, and banking-as-a-service is not yet the norm. But the winners of the Global Finance Best Digital Banks Awards 2018 showed that breakthrough banks understand the importance of application program interfaces (APIs) and building an ecosystem of partners to provide a personalized customer experience based on data sharing. That amounts to a whole new world for a once very traditional sector.

Global Winners

Taking home the coveted World’s Best Digital Bank award, once again, was Citi, which also was recognized as Best Corporate/Institutional Digital Bank. Citi stood out for developing and deploying digital technologies that enable clients to grow their businesses and operate more efficiently, both locally and internationally. Citi Interactive Solutions and the rollout of CitiConnect Blockchain and CitiConnect API combine to provide an integrated banking experience; while Citi Ventures, with various fintech partners, searches for new digital solutions with strong customer impact. Citi is also launching digital services for consumers, including an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot in Facebook Messenger, robo-advisories and real-time use of data and analytics.

The Best Consumer Digital Bank was awarded to Tinkoff Bank, a branchless Russian bank that offers 90% of its products and services online. It harnesses advanced technologies including cloud computing, social media, analytics and single sign-on to bolster its customer offerings. “The focus on lifestyle banking and ecosystems are two things that will help companies stay competitive in the era of digital transformation,” says Max Evdokimov, head of digital and mobile strategy. Tinkoff offers products and services from other banks alongside its own—and recently added movie-ticket bookings to its mobile app.

Yulia Kuznichenkova of Sberbank, which was honored for digital excellence and financial innovation.

Boubyan Bank was named Best Islamic Digital Bank. Delivering many firsts in Kuwait, Boubyan offers straight-through processing, a fully automated account opening/onboarding process and many advanced technologies including cloud computing, customer analytics and single-customer view.

This year, we chose to include nominations from mortgage providers, reflecting the digital disruption taking place in the industry. Taiwan’s E.SUN Financial Holdings took the Best Digital Mortgage Bank crown based on the efficiencies it has created, including improving price inquiry and comparison times from three days to three minutes and improving the speed from mortgage application to funding from seven days to three. E.SUN’s Small-i robot personal financial adviser offers 24-hour advice and gives customers immediate access to services. AI has brought robust fraud protection to the Taiwanese bank.

Regional Winners

Bidaya Home Finance won the Middle East Best Digital Mortgage Bank award. Mohamed Ismail Badat, chief commercial officer, says that by tailoring an automated underwriting model used by institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the US, Bidaya was able to simplify home-loan approvals, enabling it to carve out a 38% market share among mortgage companies, and a 7% market share if Saudi Arabia’s 13 commercial banks are included. Bidaya has yet to celebrate its third anniversary.

Standard Chartered has a much longer history: Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the merger between Standard Bank and Chartered Bank, both of which opened their doors in the mid-19th century. That pedigree hasn’t diminished its innovation, however. Standard Chartered, which took home the regional awards for Best Islamic Digital Bank in Asia-Pacific and Best Consumer Digital Bank in Africa as well as Best Information Security and Fraud Management for Consumers globally, has focused on empowering customers by enhancing digital capabilities to offer better and more convenient ways to bank. The creation of a new business unit to invest in fintech and other startup companies; the opening of two new eXellerator innovation labs, and the launch of a digital bank in Ivory Coast after only 10 months in development shows Standard Chartered is keeping pace with fintech innovation.

CaixaBank, recognized as Best Consumer Digital Bank in Western Europe, continually raises the bar for creating digital initiatives to provide personalized customer service. The new CaixaBankNow app features an AI chatbot and intuitive, customizable tools. CaixaBank personalizes products for each client further by taking into account variables such as age, geographic area and relationship with the bank.

Bancolombia, 2018 Best Consumer Digital Bank in Latin America, has launched a variety of apps to aid customer transactions, as well as a personal-finance management tool on the tablet version of its Bancolombia app, which allows customers to graphically visualize all their bank data. Bancolombia’s social media team is highly adept, drawing engagement disproportionate to its size. Working with a fintech and using APIs, Bancolombia launched a robo-adviser within 32 days last year.

Capturing Customer Insights

Turkey’s Garanti Bank, winner of this year’s award for Best Web Site Design, takes a high-tech approach to improving customer experience, using analytic, measurement and advertising-optimization tools to understand visitors’ behavior and maximize conversions. A behavioral targeting and segmentation tool helps increase the effectiveness of campaigns on Garanti’s website, while a strong presence on social media helps Garanti bring customers and noncustomers closer to the bank.

Emirates NBD, 2018 Best Consumer Digital Bank in the Middle East, began the year with a new CIO appointed to lead its planned 1 billion UAE dirham ($272 million) digital transformation effort, along with the bank’s first chief digital officer leading a new digital office. Fintech partnerships and a sandbox approach to open banking will help transition the bank to real-time data flows. New features launched in 2017 included FaceBanking, a live video chat service available online and via mobile calls; the first paperless digital branch, located in the Dubai World Trade Centre; and the “lifestyle digital bank for millennials,” Liv. Also, Emirates NBD’s AI banking robot learned to speak Arabic.

Bank of America, named Best Digital Mortgage Bank and Best Consumer Digital Bank in North America, in October launched an AI virtual assistant, Erica, that provides 24/7 customer support. Breaking down artificial barriers, BofA now enables customers to move easily between the apps for the bank, Merrill Lynch, Merrill Edge, and U.S. Trust without having to reauthenticate. Other recently added mobile features include biometric enhancements, more Zelle options for P2P payments and more ways to manage alerts.

Bank of New Zealand, named 2018 Most Innovative Digital Consumer Bank, is also pushing ahead with new digital banking features. One recent app launch, Convert It, allows travelling Kiwis to hold their phone up to any foreign currency and instantly convert the price into New Zealand dollars. BNZ has also implemented cloud, big data and blockchain technologies, as well as conducting open-banking trials.

Another multiple winner this year is DBS Bank, which takes awards for Best Online Portal Services, Best Bill Payment & Presentment and Best SMS/Text Banking. With its “live more, bank less” digital mantra, DBS aims to weave mobile banking into customers’ lives through joint efforts. These include DBS Car Marketplace, DBS Electricity Marketplace, Property Marketplace and the Carousell classifieds. In November last year, DBS launched the largest bank API platform—155 APIs across 20 categories—to create more customer-centric experiences with ecosystem partners.

Open banking is widening the financial field and pulling fintechs into the fold. Dave Cunningham, CEO of Priviti, a fintech that helps banks with open -banking data-sharing concerns, argues this is the best way for banks to raise the quality of their products, services and customer experience, and therefore earn and retain consumer trust and loyalty. “Banks are increasingly embracing the digital-marketplace model and providing an ecosystem for customers to explore innovative products and services from third-party partners,” he says. “This enables the best and most tailored customer experience.”

In 2019, we will undoubtedly see new value propositions enabled by open banking. How banks position and prepare themselves for this new banking marketplace will no doubt be reflected in next year’s Best Digital Banks awards.


Global Awards
World’s Best Digital Bank Citi
Best Corporate/Institutional Digital Bank Citi
Best Consumer Digital Bank Tinkoff
Best Islamic Digital Bank Boubyan
Best Digital Mortgage Bank E.SUN Financial Holdings
Regional Awards — Best Digital Mortgage Banks
Asia-Pacific E.SUN Financial Holdings
Central & Eastern Europe Tinkoff Bank
Latin America Itaú Unibanco
Middle East Bidaya Home Finance
North America Bank of America
Regional Awards — Best Islamic Digital Banks
Asia-Pacific Standard Chartered
Middle East Boubyan Bank
Regional Awards— Best Corporate/Institutional Digital Banks
Africa Citi
Asia-Pacific Citi
Central & Eastern Europe Sberbank
Latin America Citi
Middle East Citi
North America Citi
Western Europe Citi
Global Sub-Category Awards — Best Corporate/Institutional Digital Banks
Best Investment Management Services Tinkoff Bank
Best Online Cash Management Citi
Best Trade Finance Services Citi
Best Online Portal Services DBS Bank
Best Integrated Corporate Banking Site Yapi Kredi Bank
Best Information Secutiry and Fraud Management Citi
Best Online Treasury Services Citi
Best in Mobile Banking Citi
Best in Social Media Marketing and Services TBC Bank
Best Mobile Banking App Citi
Best Innovative Digital Bank Citi
Global Sub-Category Awards — Best Consumer Digital Banks
Best Online Deposit, Credit and Investment Product Offerings Tatra banka
Best Bill Payment & Presentment DBS Bank
Best Web Site Design Garanti Bank – Turkey
Best Integrated Consumer Banking Site TBC
Best in Mobile Banking Citi
Best Information Secutiry and Fraud Management Standard Chartered
Best in Social Media Marketing and Services Siam Commercial Bank
Best Mobile Banking App Tinkoff Bank
Best SMS/Text Banking DBS
Most Innovative Digital Bank Bank of New Zealand