4 Companies Win 2013 Bank Innovation Awards

  • JJ Hornblass
  • March 19, 2013
  • 9

shutterstock_77250238SAN FRANCISCO — Bank Innovation awarded four companies with 2013 Bank Innovation Awards at the blog’s annual conference yesterday. The winners are:

  • The Bancorp
  • BBVA
  •  Fidor Bank
  • SaverNation

A panel of judges determined that the four companies went beyond the obvious to produce financial results or innovations of particular note, either in product, method, message or means. The goal of the Bank Innovation Awards is to highlight those ventures that made a difference, not just those that got press coverage, during calendar year 2012.

The Bank Innovation Awards are presented annually at the Bank Innovation annual conference.

The Bancorp

When you consider the landscape of startups, several have required banking licenses to realize their vision. A banking license is not something that can be picked up at a Costco, however. And once a venture has a banking license, that license is not something to be trifled with. It is to be preserved, as mandated by regulators. So the judges could only imagine what those first meetings between startups and The Bancorp officials were like: “You want to use our banking license to do what?” Indeed, The Bancorp has worked through the risk implications to wholesale its banking license to more than 120 enterprises, many of them off-the-beaten-path financial services startups. Other banks do this, to be sure, but in the view of the judges The Bancorp has been at the forefront of them, providing the seeds of innovation for many ventures — and many ventures to come, presumably. The Bancorp’s foresight and contribution to industry innovation merited it a 2013 Bank Innovation Award.


Many people have argued that gamification has a real role in the future of banking. BBVA has tried to realize that future with its release of the Spanish-language BBVA Game, a gamification platform to incentivize clients to use the bank’s online banking service. At first glance, the BBVA Game looks like a typical points, badges, and leaderboard system. But actually BBVA created a virtual economy around the point system. Customers in Spain are awarded points for activities such as using specific online services or contracting new services online. Badges are awarded for completing challenges and leaderboards create competition. Players can win music or movie downloads and even tickets to soccer games in the Spanish La Liga. In the six months BBVA launched its game more than 100,000 customers signed up. Is the BBVA Game revolutionary? Maybe not. What is noteworthy is that the 31st largest bank in the world would embrace gamification to such a degree — and find success while doing so. BBVA received a 2013 Bank Innovation Award for that bold step forward with the BBVA Game.

Fidor Bank

Fidor Bank AG, based in Munich, Germany, was awarded with a 2013 Bank Innovation Award specifically for its “Like-Zins” initiative, which is the first user-driven interest rate in a real banking environment. Utilizing Facebook’s like-button users can directly influence the credit interest paid on their bank deposit in their FidorPay checking accounts. “Liking” Fidor directly rewards customers for their activities around Fidor Bank in the social network ecosystem. The underlying rules for raising the interest rate are as soon as 2000 “likes” are reached, the interest rate paid on the balance in bank for the entire Fidor checking customer base is raised by 10 basis points per year, capped at a total rate of 15% per year. As of a couple of months ago, the Fidor Bank Facebook-community has affected an increase in the interest paid by Fidor Bank on Fidor checking accounts by 0.5 % to 0.7%. Fidor’s slogan is “Banking with Friends” — which apparently is true. Fidor was recognized for its innovative “Like-Zins” initiative that combines novel approaches to pricing, social media, and marketing with a 2013 Bank Innovation Award.


Innovations are great, but they resonate more when the innovation is of an aspect of financial services that appears to be neglected or unworthy of innovation. And this is the space in which SaverNation has chosen to focus, and that toil merited it a 2013 Bank Innovation Award. SaverNation is the first and only cash-back program for workplace retirement plans. Retirements have suffered for decades from what some people have called an “unsolvable” problem: most people want to save for retirement, but can’t afford to. SaverNation of Santa Monica, Calif., aimed to overcome that problem. It created a cash-back program for everyday purchases that transfers those benefits directly into pre-tax 401(k), 403(b) or 457 contributions. SaverNation has arrangements with more than 500 merchants for cash-back rewards of 1% or more. The program took seven years to build, according to the company, because of all the tax, legal, payroll, credit, and retail challenges. As the company describes it, SaverNation “enables everyone to save for tomorrow, without having less to spend today.” For that, SaverNation received a 2013 Bank Innovation Award.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at hornblass@gmail.com or 212-564-8972.

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9 thoughts on “4 Companies Win 2013 Bank Innovation Awards

  1. Good Day

    I’m working for one of the Banks based in South Africa. The reason for my email is to find out what is the criteria/cut off dates to enter global competitions for our great Customer Service Strategy we do in our branches.

    Your assistance will highly be appreciated!


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