At the end of May, Samsung conducted a workshop in collaboration with GFT’s Digital Transformation Unit for the heads of a number of European financial institutions. The workshop was held at our Digital Innovation Lab in Barcelona. The goal was to define new banking experiences through the use of the latest mobile technologies based on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). We took the opportunity to interview Albert Creixell, Head of Financial Services Strategy at Samsung Mobile Europe, responsible for driving Samsung’s innovation agenda and new business in the financial services segment. We asked Albert about Samsung’s position in the financial services market, the future of mobile payments, biometric technologies, and the use of virtual reality and augmented reality in banking.
For some years now, the top technology companies have positioned themselves as key players in the financial services market. How do you want to position Samsung in this sector?
Albert Creixell: The Samsung conglomerate has been active in financial services for many years. In Asia, it operates several companies in the financial world, including Samsung Securities and Samsung Fire & Marine (an insurance company). Samsung is also a key player in the credit cards business, since its subsidiary Samsung Card is a market leader in South Korea. Samsung Electronics has recently begun to play a more active role in banking with the launch of Samsung Pay, its mobile payment platform, and Samsung KNOX, its mobile security platform.
We are seeing a big change in traditional banking and smartphones are increasingly taking centre stage. How is Samsung dealing with this change through its devices? What technologies is Samsung focusing on?
Albert Creixell: In many countries, smartphones are already the main channel used to access banking services. This phenomenon has positioned us as the main tool customers use to interact with their banks. In this regard, technologies like KNOX that are related to mobile phone security and integrity have taken on special relevance, since secure communication with banks is crucial. We are also firmly committed to adopting biometrics in bank apps for end customers and the bank’s own employees.
Biometric systems play a key role in mobile. How do you think this will affect mobile transactions and banking in the future?
Albert Creixell: We are already seeing how many leading financial entities are opting for biometric identification. It started with fingerprints, but recently we’ve seen how voice recognition and even facial recognition are being incorporated into apps. Our Galaxy smartphones incorporate an SDK called Samsung Pass, which allows iris and fingerprint authentication to be included in any type of mobile app. Although such technology was initially viewed with suspicion by banks and financial regulators, markets such as the United Kingdom, Spain and France are now allowing biometrics to be used in banking environments.
In terms of customers, business and technology, what technologies face the most barriers when it comes to making strides in innovation?
Albert Creixell: Mobile device security has traditionally represented a major constraint for financial institutions when adopting new use cases for mobile. We have come a long way in recent years by investing in our KNOX security platform to overcome this mistrust. Fortunately, major banks and insurance companies are increasingly open and willing to try new use cases due to customer demand, since people are becoming more accustomed to accessing a wide range of services through smartphone apps.
Innovation, a fundamental part of GFT, is also one of Samsung’s core values. In what way have the two companies made progress in this direction?
Albert Creixell: GFT’s customer focus and its unique knowledge of the financial sector are helping Samsung gain a better understanding of the technological requirements of financial institutions and their customers. This has given rise to positive synergies between the two companies, since Samsung wants to ensure that it moves forward only with meaningful innovations and is not dictated solely by the technological advances that emerge from our laboratories in Suwon (South Korea) and Mountain View (California).
The workshop, which was held at the GFT Digital Innovation Lab, explored new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. What would you say are the key uses of these technologies in finance?
Albert Creixell: Samsung made extensive use of virtual reality in 2015, when it announced its new Gear VR glasses in collaboration with Oculus and Facebook. Although this product is aimed at the consumer market, from the very outset, the use of virtual reality attracted a great deal of interest from the corporate world, especially the financial sector. The first VR use cases in banking arose from the need to market real estate properties owned by banks. Through VR, banks can show properties in great detail in remote and hard-to-reach places, such as second homes. This initial use case has evolved into more complex processes whereby the bank is able to offer customers mortgages using an avatar in a virtual world, much like the VR app Facebook Spaces. More recently, we have detected a growing interest among banks to gain a better understanding of augmented reality and its applications in the financial world. During the workshop with GFT, we heard firsthand how leading European banks are starting to analyse this technology in order to marry the real world (banks, financial contracts, etc.) with the virtual world (chatbot, video advisory, etc.).
In mid-May, US researchers prophesied that virtual and augmented reality could wipe out smartphones. What is your opinion of these claims?
Albert Creixell: Virtual reality has driven and continues to drive our smartphone innovation. VR calls for smartphones with better screens and higher resolutions, bigger processors and more memory to run the virtual environments required for VR. AR experiences run mainly on smartphones and, to a lesser extent, on tablets. That’s why we view AR and VR as technologies that give smartphones even greater credibility.
Is this the first time you’ve used a space like the GFT Digital Innovation Lab to conduct a workshop like this or is it a standard practice at Samsung?
Albert Creixell: Samsung has its own labs in several countries around the world that are often used to explore our customers’ technological challenges. However, the GFT space is unique in Europe, since it is dedicated to FinTech and can be used to explore banking experiences from a home environments to a retail shop.
After this first meeting with GFT, are you planning any similar events or collaborations?
Albert Creixell: Following on from the success of our first workshop with GFT, we are keen to continue working together to explore other areas of interest for the financial sector that are set to dominate the agenda of bank CIOs and CTOs in the coming years, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and even distributed ledgers (blockchains).