“Part­ner­ships are the best kind of re­la­tion­ship”

Swiss banks can hold their own against ma­jor in­ter­na­tional banks, fin­techs and tech gi­ants, says Anke Bridge Haux. The Head of Dig­i­tal­iza­tion & Prod­ucts at Credit Suisse in Switzer­land dis­cusses in­creas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion, “magic mo­ments,” and her own analo

Bulletin - - Contents - Text Si­mon Brun­ner

Anke Bridge Haux, Head of Dig­i­tal­iza­tion, on col­lab­o­ra­tion in the dig­i­tal age.

Ms. Bridge Haux, in a dig­i­tal, glob­al­ized world, what do Swiss banks stand for?

Our clients can an­swer that ques­tion best. The as­pect they men­tion most of­ten is still trust. The banks’ im­mense sta­bil­ity and long­stand­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion are also im­por­tant to them. We al­ready fo­cused on these client needs in the past. We still do to­day and will cer­tainly do so even more in the fu­ture. In an in­creas­ingly com­plex world, peo­ple need se­cure, strate­gic partners in fi­nan­cial mat­ters – such partners can be found in Switzer­land.

Swiss banks are con­sid­er­ably smaller than their Amer­i­can and Bri­tish com­peti­tors and have cor­re­spond­ingly smaller de­vel­op­ment bud­gets. How does Credit Suisse man­age this dis­ad­van­tage when it comes to in­no­va­tion?

Al­though I am the Head of Dig­i­tal­iza­tion, I find the quest to have the high­est pos­si­ble dig­i­tal bud­get is an an­ti­quated no­tion. Dig­i­tal­iza­tion is an en­abler. It serves to make things pos­si­ble, but it is not an end in it­self. Let’s com­pare dig­i­tal­iza­tion to the in­ven­tion of the steam en­gine, which only of­fers any ben­e­fit when it is used cor­rectly. In other words, the very first thing you need to know is what the bud­get is for. More­over, the in­vest­ment needs de­cline over time. Once you’ve built a good plat­form, it’s rel­a­tively easy to add smaller, lighter mod­ules later on.

Will that be suf­fi­cient against the strong com­pe­ti­tion, some who also come from dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries?

Swiss com­pa­nies work to­gether to­day more than they did in the past. Such part­ner­ships are a key fea­ture of the Swiss econ­omy. In re­cent years we have seen the rise of a mind­set rec­og­niz­ing that there are ad­van­tages in work­ing to­gether on com­mon solutions to some is­sues – even though some of these com­pa­nies are com­pet­ing with each other. Com­pa­nies are be­com­ing more aware that by act­ing to­gether on these ini­tia­tives, we are sup­port­ing the Swiss econ­omy as a whole.

In the last cen­tury, it took al­most 50 years for the Swiss to agree on a joint clear­ing house. Sud­denly, ev­ery­one is work­ing so well to­gether these days – where did this cul­ture of col­lab­o­ra­tion come from?

The part­ner­ships be­gan in pay­ment trans­ac­tions, where dig­i­tal­iza­tion dis­rupted the sta­tus quo early on – even be­yond the bor­ders of Switzer­land’s fi­nan­cial cen­ter. Re­cently, for ex­am­ple, the TWINT pay­ment plat­form ap­peared. An­other ex­am­ple is elec­tronic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, the E-ID, a ma­jor and crit­i­cal in­no­va­tion that will be prac­ti­cal in a wide ar­ray of dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries and some­thing that tends to be un­der­es­ti­mated. A joint of­fice for “know your client” pro­cesses and a dig­i­tal Swiss Ex­change are also be­ing dis­cussed a good deal. These could all be op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate syn­er­gies while still com­ply­ing with client con­fi­den­tial­ity guide­lines.

In the world of fi­nance, fears that one of the new tech gi­ants could com­pletely throw the sec­tor into tur­moil are noth­ing new. Why hasn’t that hap­pened – at least not yet?

The large tech com­pa­nies usu­ally op­er­ate in a less reg­u­lated en­vi­ron­ment, with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent cul­ture. The rel­a­tively heavy reg­u­la­tion in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor rep­re­sents a bar­rier to their en­try into the mar­ket. This takes a great deal of ex­per­tise, and the cost as­so­ci­ated with that is high. Rather than found­ing a bank or buy­ing one,

they are there­fore look­ing for ways to op­er­ate along­side us.

And then?

The ques­tion is al­ways how can el­e­ments of dif­fer­ent value chains be com­bined. How can the best as­pects of the bank be com­bined with the best of the tech com­pany. I think it’s a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment that part­ner­ships are be­ing con­sid­ered more, al­though we typ­i­cally partner with the smaller fin­techs, rather than very large com­pa­nies.

There was still a lot of skep­ti­cism just a few years ago about the young start-up com­pa­nies in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor. We be­lieved they rep­re­sented a threat to the busi­ness of the tra­di­tional in­sti­tu­tions. Are you afraid of the com­pe­ti­tion?

No, the fin­techs are a pos­i­tive ad­di­tion. Here, too, part­ner­ships are the best kind of re­la­tion­ship. They al­low both sides to use their core com­pe­tences op­ti­mally. The fin­techs de­velop solutions for a very spe­cific prob­lem. And they do this very well. We, the banks, han­dle in­te­grat­ing the solutions into the reg­u­la­tory frame­work and into our chan­nels. This cre­ates economies of scale. At Credit Suisse, we serve half a mil­lion clients through On­line and Mo­bile Bank­ing. It would be prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble for a fin­tech to build a mar­ket like this on its own. What con­sumer wants to have ten dif­fer­ent bank­ing apps, each one for a sin­gle bank­ing ser­vice?

How do part­ner­ships like these work?

We have a team that works ex­clu­sively with fin­techs and is deeply em­bed­ded in that scene. More and more, there are oc­ca­sions when our own clients are in­volved with start-ups and let us know, “This com­pany has a great so­lu­tion – take a look.” If we like the idea and if the un­der­ly­ing plat­form is well built, then in­te­grat­ing those in­no­va­tions moves along rel­a­tively quickly.

How do clients ben­e­fit?

Let’s take a re­cent ex­am­ple. A fin­tech de­vel­oped a plat­form that brings to­gether in­voice is­suers and pay­ers in or­der to mo­ti­vate them to pay early. Of­fer­ing dis­counts can be an at­trac­tive op­tion in a low in­ter­est rate en­vi­ron­ment. We re­cently in­te­grated this plat­form, and it’s be­ing used a great deal.

Now let’s get to the ana­log part of the in­ter­view. Why will the per­sonal con­sul­ta­tion still be im­por­tant in a hun­dred years?

There are some key mo­ments in client re­la­tion­ships, in­ter­nally we call them “magic mo­ments,” that leave a last­ing im­pres­sion on peo­ple – in terms of their ex­pe­ri­ences and the re­sult­ing fu­ture de­ci­sions. These con­sul­ta­tions will never be pos­si­ble dig­i­tally.

Such as when buy­ing a house?

For in­stance. For most peo­ple, buy­ing real es­tate is the big­gest trans­ac­tion they will ever make. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing con­sul­ta­tion fo­cuses on much more than the tech­ni­cal as­pects of a mort­gage, in­ter­est rates, tranche sizes and fixed ver­sus vari­able rates. The ques­tions in­clude things like what if some­thing hap­pens to me? What hap­pens when the chil­dren move out and the house is empty? What if I re­tire – how can I pay the in­ter­est on the mort­gage? These magic mo­ments also in­clude de­ci­sions con­cern­ing re­tire­ment pro­vi­sion.

Which part of your life can you per­son­ally not imag­ine ever do­ing on­line?

(Laughs) I deal with dig­i­tal things all day long, but I am more of an ana­log type of per­son. My en­vi­ron­ment is es­sen­tial to me. Hu­man con­tact can­not be dig­i­tized. I’m a pas­sion­ate gar­dener, and I love to jog and ride my moun­tain bike – I love be­ing out­side in na­ture. And even my work is fun­da­men­tally about peo­ple. Tech­nol­ogy has to help im­prove hu­man in­ter­ac­tion – that’s its only ob­jec­tive.

Hu­man con­tact can­not be dig­i­tized.

Pho­tos Yves Bach­mann

Anke Bridge Haux ( 40) is the Head of Dig­i­tal­iza­tion & Prod­ucts of the Swiss Uni­ver­sal Bank divi­sion of Credit Suisse.

Im­prov­ing hu­man in­ter­ac­tion: Im­pact Hub in­no­va­tion cen­ter in Zurich, sup­ported by Credit Suisse.

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