World’s Best Digital Banks 2022: Round 2

Global Finance announces the second-round of winners of our World’s Best Digital Banks Awards.

The pandemic pushed everyone toward more digital processes. That has led to an exponential rise in embedded finance, as companies of all sizes and sectors take the opportunity to sell directly to businesses and consumers. To meet this rising demand in embedded finance, banking-as-a-service (BaaS) with integrated ecosystems has become the next stage for banks that have already undergone a sufficient digital transformation to offer such services.

“With globalization, digitization and being relevant to our customers, our goal is to become an extension of our clients’ operating models, helping to support their strategic goals while we provide the financial capabilities and know-how to assist them with their evolving cash management needs and business models,” says Naveed Anwar, global head of Digital, Treasury and Trade Solutions for Citi, the winner of multiple awards, including World’s Best Digital Bank.

“The digital economy has created new consumer demands, requiring banks to become invisible or integrated into digital experiences,” Anwar says. “From mobile applications to the metaverse, new business models are emerging as super platforms, offering consumers an interconnected ecosystem of services powered by e-wallets that use Citi’s APIs to facilitate online payments.”

Citi, like many companies, has seen an immense growth in client demand for B2C distribution models, which could be developed at a business’ inception or a strategy that a more established company could pivot towards to complement their D2C offerings.

“To support these models, Citi has developed ‘Spring by Citi,’ a dedicated payment acceptance business to help our B2C clients achieve efficiencies in cash reconciliation, counterparty exposure and liquidity optimization,”  he adds.

DBS, our winner for Best Integrated Corporate Banking Site and Best SME Banking, has made a serious investment in this marketplace approach, developing seven specific online consumer marketplaces, with an ecosystem with merchants and SMEs, to deliver special offers to customers.

Bank of America (BofA), which took home the Most Innovative Digital Bank award, has created ecosystems for buying a home or automobile online. Clients can use the bank’s Real Estate Center to search for properties, check home values and connect with real estate brokers; they can then use the Digital Mortgage Experience (DME) to complete their mortgage application online.

Having launched Pay By Bank in the UK earlier in the year, BofA extended it to the eurozone – enabling eCommerce shoppers to pay directly from their bank accounts. Matthew Davies, head of Global Transaction Services EMEA and global co-head of Corporate Sales, GTS says: “Pay By Bank is suitable for all eCommerce sales and also helps support new emerging operating models, including service based ones, where companies are getting much closer to the end consumer and need a more comprehensive set of payment options to offer their clients.”

Caixabank, which won two consumer digital bank awards, including the Best Bill Payment and Presentment award, has developed several solutions for customers to manage payments, including ReciBox, which allows them to control their bills and modify direct debits. A notification system alerts them of any unusual payment activities.

Increased volumes of digital banking resulted in an enthusiastic response by banks to match the demand. Boubyan, our winner for Best Islamic Digital Bank, delivered more than 10 app releases with over 100 services and features in 2021 alone. This year’s Best Consumer Digital Bank, Bank of Georgia, transformed its mobile bank into a super-app that includes third-party insurance bundles, cryptocurrency, gamification and prepaid gift cards as it morphs into a full-scale e-commerce marketplace.

TBC Bank, which bagged the award for Best Corporate/Institutional Digital Bank in Central and Eastern Europe, introduced open banking in its mobile banking application, enabling corporate clients to check their accounts in all Georgian banks in one place.

Eurobank, the Best Consumer Digital Bank in Western Europe award winner, is the only bank in Greece that added other major Greek banks and international neobanking entities, such as Revolut and N26, to its account aggregation portfolio. Eurobank is also the first bank in Greece to offer a payment initiation service, which allows users of Eurobank e-banking to perform transfers and debit accounts that they maintain in other Greek banks.

In open banking, application programming interfaces (APIs) act as a secure channel through which financial institutions can share customer data with authorized third parties.

Mashreq Bank, winner of our Best Trade Finance Services award, launched an active API developer portal, allowing developers to use Mashreq’s APIs on their own applications and bring their API ideas to the portal. The goal is to encourage API innovation and adoption, and build an ever-richer ecosystem. Goldman Sachs, which took home the Best Corporate/Institutional Information Security and Fraud Management award,  uses APIs to externalize fraud capabilities to offer a seamless suite of fraud services.

Mobile banking remains a strong area for innovation. Millennium Bim, the Best Consumer Digital Bank in Africa award winner, upgraded its SmartIZI “Look and Feel” app with new features, including the ability to make transfers to electronic money accounts and tap into services (M-pesa, e-Mola, and mKesh) to pay social security and reload prepaid cards.

In November 2021, NBK, the award winner for Best Consumer Digital Bank in the Middle East, launched Weyay, a mobile app for attracting and engaging younger users. The app is geared toward helping Kuwait’s 15-to-24 year-olds better track and organize their expenses and provide them with appropriate investment channels to grow their savings. Saudi National Bank, named this year’s Best Mobile Corporate/Institutional Banking App, is the first app tailored for corporate clients in Saudi Arabia. While SMEs use it as their primary channel to execute transactions and onboard clients into products and services, larger corporates use it to approve payments on the go.

Ecosystems and Engagement

Personalization has become the name of the game for several of this year’s digital bank winners, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which won the Best Consumer Digital Bank in Asia-Pacific. It has been opening 5G smart banks, where a holographic projection can scan the faces of customers, while they can enjoy a cup of coffee tailored to their preferences. ICBC is developing the idea further, to create a metaverse business hall, while looking for ways to expand the concept beyond a marketing tool.

Citibanamex, the winner of our Best Consumer Digital Bank in Latin America award, is creating a personalization ecosystem to enhance customer engagement and contextual offers. Meanwhile, TD Bank, our Best Consumer Digital Bank in North America, developed “AI-powered nudges” to provide proactive, contextual and personalized experiences based on a customer’s past behavior and transaction patterns.

 Ping An, which landed the Bank Best Consumer Bank User Experience (UX) Design award, has been focusing on a UX enhancement of the Ping An pocket bank. This includes extra-large fonts on pages for the elderly and voice notices for the blind. Banco Santander, the winner of the Best Consumer Mobile Banking App award, updated its app dashboard to improve the UX, bringing information about client products to its homepage.

Bancolombia, the winner of the Best Corporate/Institutional Social Media Marketing and Services Bank award, carries out brand campaigns to enhance engagement. It also draws up content strategies with its digital analytics team to develop suitable initiatives and follow-ups.

Integrating with its customer-relationship management system to provide real-time offers and communication enables Arab Bank, which won the Best Integrated Consumer Banking Site award, to track customer requests across multiple channels and make real-time product recommendations and alerts.

Commercial Bank of Qatar secured the Best Consumer Social Media Marketing and Services Bank award. In response to the pandemic, it is humanizing its brand and messaging on social media, with content trending through Reels/TikToks, inviting users to “Choose to Click.”

Banks are responding to the multiple challenges of delivering products and services to their customers, from front-end channels to ecosystems that support more personalized and integrated user experiences. Their ability to meet these constant demands is a testament to their continued investment in digital transformation.