Banking and WebRTC done right.
[If you are new around here, then you should know I’ve been writing about WebRTC lately. You can skim through the WebRTC post series or just read what WebRTC is all about.]
I had my fair share of demos where a banking or a contact center application felt boring and Spartan. Too many times, the focus is on how to get video to show and when that happens – the developers are so happy they forget about the bigger picture – the service.
When I met Lori Van Deloo, Founder & CEO of BancSpace, I thought I was in for the same kind of an experience. But boy, was I wrong. She started off in the best way possible. She just explained that she worked for many years at VISA and then decided to found BancSpace. This is always a good sign – a founder who comes from the vertical he or she wants to serve instead of a VoIP engineer who decides to fix and disrupt industries.
The rest of the demo was an eye opener on how things could be done in a way that looks so simple but is devilishly complex. I of course wanted an interview, and Lori was kind enough to oblige.
What is BancSpace all about?
BancSpace is a WebRTC digital banking communications and collaboration platform that facilitates live access and engagement with qualified specialists, anytime, anywhere.
Prior to founding BancSpace, I spent a number of years working in software, including mobile and most recently, payments. These and other technologies have become increasingly important in the delivery of financial services for both consumers and businesses. However, when it comes to critical decisions or complex tasks, many prefer to consult with an expert to get financial advice or to get assistance such as when opening an account or applying for a loan. The idea behind BancSpace is to allow Financial Services providers to deliver innovative customer experiences that combine both – the best of digital technology and live service expertise.
BancSpace provides a full suite of real-time capabilities to enable advisors/specialists to connect and collaborate with their customers just as if they were meeting face-to-face. It’s basically video banking + deep, two-way collaboration. Since the service is cloud-based, both advisors and customers can access the platform from any device (and thanks to WebRTC, no downloads or plugins on either side!)
Having spent more than a decade working closely with large Financial Institutions, we also knew that any service we developed must address industry needs for greater management and controls. As such, multiple layers of authentication, security and permissions have been built into the BancSpace service platform. These additional features help support compliance with industry standards to confirm a customer’s identity and help protect the access to and exchange of information during a BancSpace session.
Why WebRTC, and why in banking?
Unlike other communications technologies, WebRTC was purpose-built from inception to specifically address security considerations through the framework of the WebRTC technology architecture. For example, encryption is a mandatory feature of all data and media streams sent over WebRTC. Features like this are especially important when you are working in highly sensitive, highly regulated environments such as banking and other financial services.
We also chose WebRTC for its ability to deliver on the important benefits of quality and convenience. The real-time nature results in a high quality voice-video-data exchange, and the convenience of no downloads / no plugins makes for a superior customer experience.
Backend. What technologies and architecture are you using there?
We have developed an intricate service platform that integrates a number of different technologies and a proprietary advisor-customer interaction model. Our developers are strong advocates for node.js. It is great for use with WebRTC, as well as more broadly to support our full suite of real-time collaboration capabilities. The underlying service architecture also includes support for managing the controls and permissions that govern the access and use of the service.
In your service, you have an interesting co-browsing and collaboration mechanism. Can you elaborate a bit about it?
Yes. Our two-way collaboration workspace is a core aspect of the BancSpace service. The workspace allows advisors or specialists to engage and assist their customers to immediately complete important tasks or transactions, all in a secure 1:1 session.
A number of services provide one-way screen sharing tools or applications, but as we looked at the requirements for our customers’ use cases, we needed a solution that went well beyond that. It called for something that enabled a more intimate, two-way interaction because our goal was to replicate the same high quality, engaging experience that typically has been associated with in-person or in-branch service and then extend it to every customer interaction, on any device.
We also needed something that was more secure in terms of managing session content. The basic “open desktop” format offered by other services just doesn’t work for many Financial Services transactions. Think about how many times someone running an online meeting inadvertently shared the wrong file? Or had a personal email or IM pop up in the middle of a meeting? BancSpace’s approach allows providers to completely prevent these issues and only allow approved content to be shared in a given session.
Where do you see WebRTC going in 2-5 years?
For WebRTC-based vertical applications it is still early days. Especially for those in highly regulated industries, WebRTC needs to be viewed within the broader technology adoption landscape – many Financial Services providers are still getting comfortable with cloud and SaaS. Focused pilots and test programs will be important for applications in Financial Services to ensure bank-grade quality before expanding to full, generally available (GA) services. A real opportunity to accelerate efforts here is for leading Financial Services providers to partner with Fintech-focused start-ups developing WebRTC-based applications and establish a beachhead for the industry.
Getting to an agreed standard with ubiquitous access for all end-customers is also critically important for driving enterprise adoption. Financial Institutions, and really any large enterprise, need to be able to provide solutions that serve their broader customer base (not just the majority), and do so in a way that maintains a consistent experience for customers across any channel. It’s also more efficient from a back-office operational perspective.
If you had one piece of advice for those thinking of adopting WebRTC, what would it be?
If you are thinking about creating a mobile/web application or service that includes WebRTC, it’s important to understand the problems that your clients are trying to solve. WebRTC is an enabling technology and we believe a foundational one, but consideration should be given for how to best incorporate it into the design of your service to ensure it delivers the desired functionality and provides a great experience. Once this is determined, then there is much to be leveraged from the vast resources, libraries and community supporting WebRTC globally.
For BancSpace, we are 100% focused on the end customer experience (CX). Any WebRTC functionality we include must address a specific need and support the scenarios for which our clients are looking to employ our service. We then spend time on the UX design so that using our service (and WebRTC) is an effortless experience for both advisors and customers.
Given the opportunity, what would you change in WebRTC?
Our experience with WebRTC has been very positive thus far, especially when you compare to the early days of video banking. For years the industry has been experimenting with various instantiations of video banking applications. WebRTC unlocks the potential to truly bring together technology + live expertise and provide a modern, cost-effective option for Financial Institutions to expand their footprint without the legacy CAPEX and OPEX of a fixed, physical branch network.
So what would I change? Well, I guess continuing to drive toward a foundational set of standards so that WebRTC can become a ubiquitous enabling technology.
What’s next for BancSpace?
Driving the next wave of Digital Banking! The ability to combine communications and collaboration technologies with live expertise is allowing us to re-imagine the delivery of Financial Services in ways that can have immediate impact on growth.
We are actively engaged with Financial Institutions and other Financial Services providers, and believe there is a real opportunity to reinvent the advisor-customer experience. WebRTC is central to this proposition and we expect it will play an increasingly important role in the BancSpace technology strategy as we expand our use of it and create new capabilities to support a growing client base.
The interviews are intended to give different viewpoints than my own – you can read more WebRTC interviews.