Santander's Openbank relaunched as 100% digital bank

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Banco Santander is overhauling the operations of its direct banking subsidiary in Spain, transferring all IT assets and client transactions to the cloud and revamping its online and mobile presence as part of a group-wide mission to recruit 30 million digital customers by 2018.

Launched in 1995 as a telephone-based banking offshoot, Openbank has since grown to provide a suite of mobile and online services to one million customers in Spain.

The overhaul will see Openbank relaunched as a modern digital-first operation, adopting the latest in machine-learning technology to gain a deeper, more personalised, understanding of its customers and enhance its go-to-market capability.

From an architectural perspective, Openbank is using a hybrid model of private and public cloud, applying lessons learned from parent Santander’s Cloud Centre of Competence – an initiative designed to address the compliance and operational challenges of running a bank in the cloud.

At Openbank, the switch to the cloud is viewed primarily as a means to improve the provisioning of resources for running its machine learning capabilities in real-time. “It’s an enabling technology,” Openbank CEO Ezequiel Szafir told Finextra “rather than one driven with an emphasis on cost savings”.

The bank has also undertaken a 15 month-long consultation programme with customer-based focus groups to rebuild its mobile apps and Website from the ground-up, with a keen emphasis on improving the user experience.

It now provides a completely digital onboarding process using videoconferencing or in-app messaging services to verify customer bona fides. “It’s a simple one-session process, a banking equivalent to the one-click shopping services used by our customers on Web,” says Szafir.

The bank has also bundled all mobile services, from brokerage to PFM, card control and payments into a single app, billed as a ‘virtual branch’, with on-call access to a dedicated team of personal account managers. The range of products on offer has also been expanded, to incorporate personal investment planning, digital mortgage contracting and a catalogue of savings and payroll accounts.

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.”