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

September 20

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. If this edition was forwarded to you, sign up here to receive Insights Distilled in your inbox next week. 


Hello from the Bank Automation Summit happening this week in Seattle.  

As fintech founders rub shoulders with banking execs, it’s no surprise that one of the big themes is how to build successful, strategic technology relationships.  

For any given launch – whether it involves overdue modernization or a cutting-edge new product – execs need to weigh whether to build products internally, buy from a vendor, or form deeper, substantial partnerships with providers.  

And if you choose the latter, what does that look like? “For a true partnership, the relationship must be a win-win: It has to work for both parties and be a marriage of equals,” Citi’s Mohit Narula said during a panel session on Monday. “Those are the partnerships that usually succeed.” 

This week’s edition highlights the dynamic, wide-ranging nature of tech relationships and spotlights a variety of different models, from partnerships to acquisitions. Let’s dive in:  

  1. Chat choice: Amazon technology is powering Truist’s new AI assistant
  2. Earned wages: TD Bank partners with a fintech to help business clients win over workers
  3. Loan loyalty: Why Citizens just bought a college-planning service
  4. Expert tech advice: Bank leaders share their tips for buying, building, or partnering
  5. Crypto crunch: SEC guidance has custody providers in a bind

Truist leans on Amazon’s conversational AI service, Lex, to launch its new virtual assistant.  

Artificial intelligence-enhanced virtual assistants that answer questions via text or voice chat – from Capital One’s Eno to Bank of America’s Erica – are becoming table-stakes for consumers who want quick and easy customer services. 

Truist is the latest big bank to launch an AI-powered virtual assistant on its website and app. The “Truist Assist” service can immediately answer more than 100 customer support inquiries and, crucially, will automatically transfer clients to human support for more in-depth requests. The service is powered by Lex, the conversational AI platform that underpins Amazon’s own Alexa assistant.  

As such digital assistants are becoming the norm, banks are trying to impress customers with advanced or distinguishing features. For example, US Bank already has a Spanish version of its Smart Assistant, and is planning to roll out additional language options in the next several years.

Like Truist, many big financial institutions partner with AI providers to build out their assistants: Kasisto counts WestPac, JPMorgan Chase, Standard Chartered, and TD as customers, while US Bank, Ally, and Santander rely on Personetics, and BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank use Glia (an Insight Partner’s portfolio company).    

It’s been a busy month for Truist, which also just launched a robo-advisor and acquired strategic assets from data platform Zaloni to help it roll out AI capabilities more quickly


TD Bank partners with DailyPay to let its business clients pay their employees in real-time versus on a set schedule.   

So-called “earned-wage access” has been gaining popularity, particularly given recent inflation woes and a tight labor market – and partnering with a fintech allows TD Bank to make this “highly desirable” benefit available quickly. 

TD Bank recently announced a collaboration with fintech DailyPay to let its business clients pay out their workers almost as soon as they finish a shift. DailyPay’s tech connects with clients’ existing payroll systems to convert hours worked into available money. For employers, it’s an attractive benefit to offer workers in a hot job market, while it allows TD to widen its offerings beyond the standard fare.  

“TD has been looking at the Earned Wage Access space for some time,” TD Bank’s head of commercial digital platforms, Paul Margarites, told Insights Distilled. “When we have an opportunity to help our clients and improve the community in which we operate, that’s a space we want to be in. DailyPay is a leader in this space and we engaged with them early this year around how we could collaborate on Earned Wage Access.”

TD is the latest major bank to hook up with a fintech to allow employers to buck traditional two-week pay cycles: PNC also works with DailyPay, US Bank works with Payactiv, JPMorgan works with Even, and Citizens Bank works with an unnamed provider.  

“By partnering with DailyPay, banks and financial institutions can offer an on-demand pay solution to their clients that is compliant, cost-effective and well invested-in,” DailyPay chief innovation and marketing officer Jeanniey Walden told Insights Distilled. “As more and more employers seek to offer this benefit to their employees, banks and financial institutions now see the importance of on-demand pay and its value as an innovative financial product that benefits their customers.” 


Citizens Financial is buying a college-planning site to bolster its advice capabilities and access to young customers.  

Banks are increasingly deploying personalized services to win customer loyalty – and Citizens’ acquisition will help it reel in customers at the start of their first major financial journey.  

Citizens is buying College Raptor, an online service that helps match prospective students with colleges and includes personalized comparisons of estimated financial aid packages.  

The “innovative platform” provides Citizens with “sophisticated capabilities to support high school students and their families in what is often an overwhelming set of decisions for college, among which financing is typically critical,” Citizens’ head of student lending, Chris Ebeling, told Insights Distilled.

“College Raptor is the only college search tool that recommends strong college matches based on customized academic and financial analysis, based on user input,” he added, and “Citizens looks forward to helping continue to scale the platform.” 

Citizens has $227 billion in assets and currently offers student loan services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  


Making technology relationships work: Execs share their key questions, tips, and scars.

There’s no magic formula or one-size-fits-all approach to crafting successful technology relationships, but three bank execs and a consultant shared nuggets of wisdom during a panel at the Bank Automation Summit on Monday.

TD Bank’s head of commercial digital platforms, Paul Margarites, sang the praises of quick-and-dirty proof of concepts: “You need well-defined, time-boxed POCs, to figure out, ‘Does the partnership work, not just from a product capability perspective, but from a relationship perspective? Do you work well together with that partner?’ Before you go down a yearlong road of trying to figure out how you’re working together, why not do a six- or 12-week POC to make sure that it makes sense?” 

An executive in Citi’s treasury and trade solutions division, Mohit Narula, pulled from past challenges to highlight an example of when it may make sense to build internally: “A key consideration for a bank like Citi when you think about build-versus-buy, or build-versus-partner, is: ‘What’s the technical debt?’ There are a lot of legacy systems, and the moment you bring in a new partner, the challenge is the number of touch points they must maneuver to get the solution that we want. If you go deeper, it can sometimes be more complex to get a partner to know your systems than to do it yourself. That’s the tricky piece and that’s a large partner of our decision making. For a bank like Citi, sometimes it’s easier to partner when you’re just doing the last mile, versus when you’re transforming from within, because it’s more complex for a partner to come in and understand than to do it yourself.” 

Grasshopper Bank’s director of banking-as-a-service, Lauren McCollom, advised evaluating a potential partner based on its service support, cultural fit, and big picture direction: “We try to double-down on ensuring that our product roadmap and their technology stack align initially, and that we can grow with them into the future, and that we aren’t dragging them to somewhere they weren’t planning on going.” 

Consultant Zoya Lieberman issued a general warning based on her experience observing bank and fintech partnerships: “Don’t make assumptions. I know it seems like common sense, but it’s not. Whatever your definition of something is, do not assume that your partner has the same definition. Double check and triple check.” 


SEC guidelines throw a major wrench into Wall Street’s favored way to tap into the crypto market.  

The SEC has disrupted banks’ crypto custody projects, underscoring the current climate of regulatory scrutiny, skepticism, and uncertainty. 

SEC accounting guidance from earlier this year is wreaking chaos on banks’ crypto custody plans, according to a new report from Reuters. By requiring public companies to account for clients’ crypto assets as liabilities on their own balance sheets, the SEC has made it extremely capital-intensive for banks to offer custody services.  

Both State Street and BNY Mellon have had projects disrupted, according to Reuters, with a State Street representative saying that the bank takes “issue with the premise” of the SEC guidance because clients’ crypto holdings are not its assets and “should not be on our balance sheet.” A US Bancorp spokesperson said the bank is “pausing intake of additional clients” for its bitcoin custody service as it evaluates the “evolving regulatory environment.”  

Some banks had previously seen custody services as a safe way to dip their toes into cryptocurrencies and satisfy burgeoning client demand, and the SEC’s move complicates these efforts.  

Read the entire Reuters’ report here.