This week’s tech news, filtered for financial services execs

December 6

Hello and welcome to Insights Distilled, a weekly email briefing that curates tactical technology news for financial services execs. Every Tuesday morning, we send you the top five stories you need to know – and explain why they matter. Our tech news roundup helps you stay on top of the innovations driving business agility in your industry. To get next week’s edition in your inbox, sign up here.


This week’s edition is all about getting personal.  

One of the promises of artificial intelligence and automation is that they make it easier to enable customized user experiences, at a lower cost. That framework is on display in several of this week’s stories, including features on Wells Fargo’s new business banking tool or National Australia Bank’s customer service solution.  

Each of these pieces demonstrates how big financial institutions can use technology to become more customer-centric. After all, as JPMorgan’s chief information officer put it earlier this year, “The future of banking really is personalization.”  

Let’s dive in: 

  1. Unconventional rewards: Two fintechs highlight the power of finding a niche
  2. Customer service success: How National Australia Bank is using AI in its call center
  3. One-stop shop: Wells Fargo’s new portal for businesses leans into customization
  4. Easy onboarding: A UBS partner enables almost-instant new account creation
  5. Algorithmic advising: JPMorgan invests in Swiss fintechs to personalize wealth management

Two startups recently raised funding for their novel uses of credit card points, highlighting the power of affinity-based rewards. 

The recent success of two niche credit card startups shows how specialized rewards can be a draw for consumers – and why incumbents may want to explore affinity-oriented benefits.

Two recent funding rounds spotlight how fintechs are setting themselves apart through the unconventional use of credit card rewards: 

Treecard, which just raised $23 million, promises to plant a tree for every $50 users spend, while X1, which received $15 million in fresh funding, lets members use credit card points to buy stocks. Both promote their unique points schemes in their marketing and have boasted extensive waitlists. 

Affinity cards like these can “feed into a tribal sort of affiliation,” Bankrate analyst Ted Rossman told Insights Distilled, adding that other examples include cards for crypto investing, charity donations, sports benefits, or rent perks. “There are more ways than ever to demonstrate your loyalty with a credit card and earn related rewards and experiences,” he added.   

While big banks like Capital One, JPMorgan, and Citi have recently focused their credit card rewards on travel benefits, these funding rounds demonstrate other ways to stand out, build deeper connections, and win a share of consumer spend. Incumbents should take note and explore ways to appeal to users’ passions or offer outside-the-box benefits. “Credit cards aren’t one-size-fits-all, so for some people, these niche options may be their best option,” Rossman said. 


National Australia Bank is saving $1 million per month in cloud costs and expanding its contact center AI through a new deal with Amazon Web Services.  

Artificial intelligence-powered contact center technology can help financial firms build more personalized customer service experiences, at a lower cost, by answering questions or correctly routing callers.

One of Australia’s “Big Four” banks, National Australia Bank (NAB), just signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Amazon Web Services to increase its cloud-enabled efficiency and innovation.  

The bank has moved 70% of its applications to the cloud and used Amazon’s cost-optimization tool Graviton to slash its cloud costs by $1 million a month.

It is also expanding its artificial intelligence-powered contact center tech, Connect, to all its call centers. Connect helps customers make authenticated calls through NAB’s app and uses natural language processing to respond or connect callers to the right customer service reps based on their queries, which helps the bank operate its centers more efficiently, with tailored experiences. “We want to deliver more personalized experiences for customers, aligned to their preferences in how they want to interact with us,” an NAB exec said in a press release.

Improving customer service through automation and NLP is a focus for cloud giants and ScaleUps alike, including Insight Partners’ portfolio company Cognigy, which serves insurance firms


Wells Fargo just launched a comprehensive banking portal for business clients that emphasizes personalization, automation, and analysis.  

Wells Fargo is providing a platform for its customers to build their own ideal digital banking experiences and hopes to set itself apart from competitors through customization, forecasting, and self-service tools.

Wells Fargo just unveiled Vantage, its new digital banking platform for business clients of all sizes. The portal uses artificial intelligence to provide recommendations and specific tools to each client, based on a firm’s scale and a given user’s position within the company.

Vantage will drive “an increasingly insightful experience” the more it’s used and includes features like forecasting and the ability to complete complex transactions.

“Wells Fargo builds closer relationships with its customers because it takes each business’s unique factors into consideration,” Wells Fargo head of digital, Reetika Grewal, told Insights Distilled. “By allowing customers to create an experience that works for them, it allows them to focus on the pieces of the platform they need and not sift through pages and menus that have no relevance to their business.” 

Vantage replaces a previous portal that launched over two decades ago and has had more than $1 trillion in payments volume per month. It differentiates itself from competitors’ business banking tools by offering a one-stop shop for clients ranging from Series A startups to global institutions.  


UBS will now let new customers open accounts in minutes, without video interviews.  

The pandemic normalized digital customer onboarding, often through video. AI-powered tech can provide even more seamless experiences.

UBS is streamlining its customer onboarding through a new partnership with ID verification firm Regula.

UBS uses Regula’s technology to read, authenticate and verify data from a person’s biometric passport – with RFID checks run on a server-side. Combined with facial recognition for a “liveness check,” this combination of techniques “ensures not only that the document belongs to the real person but also prove the document – for example a biometric passport in the case of UBS – is genuine, and its data is not manipulated,” Regula chief technology officer, Ihar Kliashchou, told Insights Distilled.  

Because this process is fully automated, UBS can now offer customers a 24/7 onboarding process that requires very little effort on their part, and also allow them to create secure electronic signatures. UBS appeals to high-touch, wealthy clients, and it wants to make their initial experience with the bank as seamless as possible.  

Regula also counts The Commercial Bank of Dubai and Emirates NBD among its banking customers. Other know-your-customer verification providers catering to financial firms include Chekk, Veriff, and Insight Partners’ portfolio company Transmit Security, which serves Santander and HSBC.   


JPMorgan invested in two software firms to supercharge its financial advisors amid the “challenging market conditions.”

As the economic climate remains precarious, technology for optimizing client portfolios can provide advisors with an edge as they try to help their customers build wealth.

JPMorgan Private Bank just made a strategic investment in Swiss software firms Edgelab and Evooq – which specialize in risk analytics, portfolio construction, advisory platforms, and workflow – as it seeks to strengthen its digital investment capabilities for wealthy clients. 

JPMorgan has already been using the firms’ technology to deliver “personalized planning” to its clients and its investment comes at a key moment: As the market becomes particularly challenging to navigate, systems that can flag risks and opportunities that a human may otherwise miss are crucial.  

The Private Bank has been acquiring and investing in companies in recent years to anticipate “the technology needs of our clients 5-10 years down the road,” a spokesperson tells Insights Distilled, including buying OpenInvest and Global Shares, and investing in Kraft Analytics Group, and MioTech. “These companies will enable us to deliver the next generation of digital, personalized, and ESG solutions to our clients.” 

JPMorgan’s move also aligns with a larger industry trend towards a “true hybrid advice model” of wealth management, which combines algorithmically suggested portfolio changes with human advice.   

Quick Bits:

Personnel news: Visa appointed Kunal Chatterjee to be its new head of innovation for Asia Pacific. Bank of Lonon also appointed Marc Jenkins – a veteran of Metro Bank, NatWest, and Mastercard – as its new chief financial officer.

Money moves: Greenwood, a digital banking platform for Black and Latinx people, just raised a $45 million round of funding, including from Bank of America, Citi Ventures, PNC, Truist Ventures, and Wells Fargo. Meanwhile, Intuit just bought SeedFi to help Credit Karma customers build credit.

Industry happenings: Money managers including State Street, Pimco, and Amundi are investing heavily into their digital investment platforms in hopes of emulating BlackRock’s technology business. Cybersecurity training firm Immersive Labs is hosting a free cyber threat simulation for financial services execs on January 17 – sign up here


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