How to run a bank from a cloud: Satandar’s Openbank, Spain shows the way

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In one of the path-breaking initiatives in Spain’s banking history, Banco Santander is overhauling the operations of Openbank, its direct banking subsidiary in that country to 100% digital infrastructure; transferring all IT assets and client transactions to the cloud; revamping its online and mobile presence; and targeting 30 million digital customers by 2018.

Openbank was a fledgling telephone-based banking offshoot, up until 2005, and has grown since to provide mobile banking and online financial transaction services to its customers. In the process, the bank has garnered a customer base of over one million users in Spain.

With the 100% digitization, the bank will operate as a fully modern, Fintech-backed, customer-friendly institution offering up-to-date machine-learning technology which will deliver a deeper, more personalised understanding of its customers and also upgrade its market-player capability.

Taking a balanced version of private and public cloud technology, the hybrid architecture employed in the digital infrastructure at Openbank will apply results and lessons learnt from the parent Santandar’s Cloud Centre of Competence, which primarily addresses compliance and operational challenges of running a bank in the cloud.

Switching over to the latest generation Cloud technology for its entire operations, Openbank, meets a great banking challenge head-on, it is felt.

The feat requires improving the provisioning of resources for running its machine-learning capabilities real-time, a hard-core policy change based on embracing the technology of the future.

According to CEO, Ezequiel Szafir, “It’s an enabling technology, rather than one driven with an emphasis on cost savings”.

The efforts to go digital had taken a long-time preparation. Over 15 months, Openbank conducted focus group interviews with customers and re-designed its mobile apps and Website-based customer services, and re-designed them from ground up.

The objective was to deliver maximum branded values and satisfying user experiences.

At Openbank, the digital infrastructure provides a complete onboard experience with facilities such as videoconferencing, in-app messaging services, and the like to verify customer bonafide processes and data.

“It’s a simple one-session process, a banking equivalent to the one-click shopping services used by our customers on Web,” says Szafir.

Titled, ‘Virtual Bank’, the bundled arm of the bank offers a plethora of services under one-click – mobile services, from brokerage to PFM, card control and payments with on-call access to a dedicated team of personal account managers.

In addition, a customer can access personal investment planning, digital mortgage contracting and a catalogue of savings and payroll accounts – all on  the Web or on mobile app.

Says Szafir: “Openbank offers one of the best digital banking platforms in the world. We have built the bank from scratch using some of the most advanced technologies available, allowing us to provide customised products and services for customers who want a digital-only banking proposition.”

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