In recent years we’ve seen the rapid rise of innovative neobank challengers, who’ve been shaking up retail and commercial banking by carving out parts of the value chain. Traditional banks have fought back with their own innovative offerings. 

In recognition of these seismic shifts in the industry landscape, the Banking Innovation Awards—run jointly by Accenture and EFMA—includes a category for Neobank and Specialized Player Innovations. This award looks at both “digital attackers” with banking licenses and new brands launched by incumbents, such as mobile-only banking services.  

In many cases, these innovative strategies and offerings achieve fast and agile penetration and growth in their target segments. This certainly applies to this year’s winner of the Neobanks & Specialized Players award, Italy’s illimity bank, which clinched first place for its suite of offerings under the banner “The New Paradigm Bank.”  

illimity’s distinctive strategy centers on using the latest technologies to take quality, service and efficiency to a new level for three currently under-served markets in Italy: SMEs, corporate non-performing loans and direct banking. What’s more, it’s doing this without losing the human connection that customers love. 

As a fully digital bank with no physical channels and no legacy IT systems, illimity is a flat, agile organization that sustains the rapid time-to-market of a start-up. Its innovative business model enables it to provide customers with a wide range of open banking-powered products including loans, insurance, foreign exchange and mortgages. And it maintains the human touch by having skilled SME tutors and using smart customer care to serve direct banking customers in a personalized way. 

In just six months, these strengths saw illimity evolve from being a concept to raising €600m of capital as a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in 2018, to becoming a fully operational bank listed on Italy’s MTA stock market. And innovation has been the driving-force behind this meteoric rise. 

The Silver award in this category went to Santander of Spain for its Fintech Open Platform for Growth, and Bronze to South Africa’s Discovery for its Bank Integrator solution for segmenting life insurance risks.  

In my next and final blog in this series on the 2019 Banking Innovation Awards, I’ll take a look at the Global Innovator award. 

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