The secret to FIS’ global success could be encompassed in the simple phrase: “Make sure the end user is happy.” Its strategy to consistently achieve that goal is so ingenious that even incumbent banks now turn to the fintech provider for advice in times of crisis.
Few names make fintech professionals sit up and pay attention like global multinational FIS. The company employs 78,000 people across more than 49 countries and processes over $75 billion in transactions every year. It is also listed in the S&P 500.
What is probably most remarkable about FIS’ growth is that it is underpinned by one core belief: Do everything possible to ensure an excellent user experience.
“FIS has a deep understanding of the user experience,” says Omar Taleb, FIS’ European Vice President for Sales in the company’s Lending, Leasing, Risk and Treasury department. “And we have this understanding because we consistently hire professionals with past industry experience who can predict our clients’ common pain points.”
“Trust is a big word. And we’ve established that trust by working with the banking sector for many years.”David Ratnage, Head of Commercial, Lending Strategy Europe, FIS
One such professional is FIS’ European Head of Commercial Lending Strategy and Growth, David Ratnage, who remembers the difficulties of trying to get project approvals when he worked in the banking sector many years ago. “Banks were trying to develop their own tech back then. But many of the solutions we received just weren’t fit for purpose,” Ratnage tells NFM. “For example, I once received a proposed solution to handle new deals when seventy percent of my day was spent managing existing relationships. The proposals were simply out of touch with the realities of what was needed.”
Complementary technological products to match end-user needs
“The products in the FIS stable complement each other,” Ratnage says. “As one example, our commercial lending department started very much in the loan servicing area because loan servicing was highly fragmented at the time. FIS offered an automated solution to this which grew and grew, both by internal development and external acquisitions, until we were finally able to provide a solution that manages the lending relationship entirely from beginning to end, offering everything from creditworthiness checks to managing the review process on an ongoing basis.”
The company has invested heavily in new technology, especially AI, to ensure it matches every client need. And it additionally provides flexibility for clients through its open API architecture. “Gone are the days of forcing monolithic legacy solutions down clients’ throats,” says Ratnage. “Our solutions are entirely modular, so clients can integrate either part or all of what we offer within their existing systems.”
The aim is to help clients with their business problems through the use of technological solutions. “Twenty years ago,” Ratnage says, “someone in my position might spend twenty minutes of their day on technology. Today, it’s all I work on.”
“Capital planning and capital management are the first priority on everyone’s mind at the start of a recession. And FIS is making substantial investments in this area to provide banks with the solutions they need during this critical time.”Omar Taleb, Vice President for Sales, FIS Europe
To fully understand what the end user needs, FIS regularly engages with clients both at a formal and informal level. Once a year, it holds its Emerald conference where it invites all its clients to give them an update on the market and where it is headed. At this conference, clients can also provide direct feedback on what challenges they are running into.
Internally, people on the ground — such as Ratnage — will regularly interact with clients to understand their difficulties and try to figure out how FIS’ technology can better help them.
A sea change in banking attitude
A large contingent of FIS’ clients are incumbent banks, indicating a sea change in attitude towards fintechs. The change is so marked that many of those banks now come to the fintech directly for help in times of crisis.
“Capital planning and capital management are the first priority on everyone’s mind at the start of a recession,” says Taleb. “And FIS is making substantial investments in this area to provide banks with the solutions they need during this critical time. In the middle of a storm, banks need solutions to liquidity, cash flow hedges, and anything else that can affect tier one capital.”
FIS intends to come up with a solution that will allow the banking sector to better allocate its capital to maximise return.
That these incumbent banks turn to FIS for assistance evinces the huge level of trust that FIS has achieved. This trust was forged in multiple crucibles such as during the implementation of Basel II regulations in 2004, where banks hurried to ensure compliance; as well as the regulatory whirlwind that followed the 2007-2008 economic cycle. FIS demonstrated its reliability as a competent partner during those trying times, helping banks implement solutions that got them successfully through.
“Trust is a big word,” says Ratnage. “And we’ve established that trust by working with the banking sector for many years. For them to come to us indicates that they intend to work with us for many more.”
In many ways, FIS could be called the Apple, Inc. of the fintech sector, putting user experience so far above everything else that it engenders a level of loyalty in clients that makes it difficult for competitors to catch up.