Most Digital Bank in Swiss Banking

Two years ago, finews.ch labelled Glarner Kantonalbank the digital bank of Switzerland. In the meantime, fintech has taken hold of the financial services industry. Lessons to be learnt?

The answer is no. Glarner Kantonalbank (GLKB) is still worthy the label. Compared with all other banks physically present in Switzerland, GLKB retained its position – and by quite some margin. Vontobel and the cantonal banks in Basel are playing catch up. But there's a gap opening up behind them.

In 2014, finews.ch didn't need to apply a specific methodology to find out which institute had most embraced the digital means available to banking. GLKB was the first of the cantonal banks to define a digital strategy and to implement it with its online service platform.

Three Questions

Numerous bank have followed suit, with digital solutions going far beyond the normal online and mobile banking services available for monetary transactions.

finews.ch used information publicly available to make its judgment and based on three questions:

1. Does the bank have a digital strategy and is it already noticeable in the business model?

2. What is the organization in respect to the digital services and is it represented in the bank's organization chart?

3. Has the bank a digital service, what it is like and what possibilities are available for a digital client contact?

No. 1 – Glarner Kantonalbank

UBS and Credit Suisse, the two big Swiss banks, haven't been evaluated on the same basis. Finews.ch investigated the services of banks which had pronounced their intention or promoted existing services of digital banking.

GLKB is the No. 1 on every account. The bank has defined the strategy to move clients to digital channels and communicated this publicly. Online services are represented on the executive board by Marcel Stauch. GLKB has a head of digital office – Ivan Buechi – and Ralf Luchsinger is an excellent chief information officer. And finally, CEO Hanspeter Rhyner (pictured below) is the embodiment of the digital spirit at the bank.

Rhyner

Messaging Systems

GLKB extended its services since 2014, launching the «Investomat», a robo-adviser, as the embodiment of its strategy. Two messaging systems are available for communication purposes. While rivals are still in the process of defining a strategy, GLKB is already earning money through its digital channels.

No other bank is a thorough as GLKB. Basler Kantonalbank also has a digital strategy signed off, wants to turn into an adviser bank with a digital service portfolio and plans to open digital branches.

In reality though, the digital services so far are limited to the sale of mortgages online and the mobile pay service Twint.

Profit-Yielding Instruments

Its neighbor, Basellandschaftliche Kantonalbank (BLKB), boasts a member of the board responsible for direct banking – Kaspar Schweizer. The bank lacks however the statements regarding a digital strategy. BLKB does have a crowdfunding- and a crowdlending platform and it keeps digital communications channels open for its customers.

Bank Vontobel, a Zurich-based private bank, obviously has a completely different business model compared with the cantonal bank. With Deritrade it has installed one pillar of the digital bank so far. It contributes about a third to the bank's profit.

Postfinance and Valiant

The private bank recently enhanced its multi-issuer platform with a robo-adviser. Gerhard Meier, the head of the unit, has assembled a small team of digital developers. Vontobel aims to extend the platform and maintain it leading position. In wealth management, Vontobel has created an app for its clients.

Postfinance and Valiant are the financial-services companies doing the most to catch up their more advanced competitors. Valiant hired Christoph Wille last year to implement the plans and installed him at board level. The bank is cooperating closely with Swisscom and aims to enable digital communications with clients – private customers and companies alike. It is investing 3 to 5 million francs this year.

Digital Business Award

Postfinance meanwhile positioned itself astutely in the fintech sector. The daughter firm of Switzerland's publicly operated post office is developing the pay-app Twint, organizes Hackathons and organizes the «Digital Business Award».

Postfinance kopie

Thomas Jakob is in charge of the digital strategy and Postfinance is one of the pioneers of online and mobile banking.

But the services have not been extended yet. Postfinance is planning to launch an online wealth management offering by 2017.

While St. Galler and Luzerner Kantonalbank only just defined a digital strategy, Zuercher Kantonalbank progressed a little further. It is currently developing a multi-channel distribution concept for its clients. Daniel Previdoli is the man in charge of direct banking and representative on the board level. Remo Schmidli signs responsible for the multi-channel management and is heading a small team of innovators.

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