Open Banking: closed systems have had their day

Why banks need to open up in the battle for customers


In payment transactions, providers face major challenges due to the complex combination of current technological developments, new and increased customer expectations, growing legal requirements and new competition.

We rate the following developments in particular as highly relevant:

  • Increased, multifaceted customer expectations

Customers want convenience and to make payments in real time, but at the same time they demand security and fee-free service

  • Compliance with international standards

Ongoing regulatory initiatives require massive investments in the renewal of the payment infrastructure

  • Transaction monitoring and financial crime prevention

Outdated transaction-monitoring systems and manual processes result in rising costs—without reducing risks

  • New players entering the market

The market landscape is changing fast—from “neobanks,” to fintechs, to bigtechs, the competitive pressure in the payment market is growing faster and faster

  • Reduction of revenue pools in classical payment transactions 

Falling transaction fees and account fees will work against this trend

  • New digital technologies and challengers

Mobile, NFC and other new possibilities create added costs and effort in implementation. At the same time, bigtechs and fintechs are currently on the attack in this area.


For example in Amazon supermarkets in the USA, the motto is ‘just walk out’: customers pay as they leave the store—without having to stop at the register. Customers’ purchases are scanned, and payments are deducted from their mobile phones. This convenient option is technologically and organizationally possible today. However, it cannot (yet) be reconciled with European data-protection laws or the preferences of many customers.  

Our market observations over several years, and our cooperation with various international providers, has shown the following:

  • Banks must develop alternative revenue pools in payment transactions 
  • Innovation is critical for success, to maintain the customer interface over the long term
  • Efficient implementation of technical standards will become a differentiating characteristic 
  • Use cases with financial and non-financial partners strengthen future-readiness
  • Transaction monitoring must now be set up with advanced data analytics

"Customers expect payments to be secure, smooth and free of fees. The real-time factor is increasingly being added to expectations. It is these factors in particular that determine the innovation boost in payment transactions.” "

Erwin Meichenitsch, Partner


In addition to established market participants, technology providers and fintech start-ups are trying to gain market share in the payments sector through innovative products and services. zeb supports both traditional and new financial intermediaries in the European market with the right mix of different consulting competencies: industry expertise and in-depth knowledge of regulatory requirements, strategy, and technology and management competence paired with change competence.

Consulting services:

  • Conception and implementation of profit-oriented payment transaction strategies and new business models
  • Design thinking to create disruptive payments use cases
  • Development and implementation of mission statements for IT and process architecture in payment transactions
  • Benchmarking and optimization of payment operations with a Zero-Ops approach
  • Conception and calculation of business cases for innovative payment methods
  • Design of advanced data analytics and machine learning solutions for transaction monitoring


Here at zeb, we are convinced that both our in-house innovation in payments and our cooperation with new players are critical building blocks for successful market positioning. For example, we accompanied a profit-oriented strategy for a joint venture between an Italian bank and a large mobility provider through to implementation.

New standards in the European market, such as PSD2/Open Banking or Instant Payment, enable the bank to reposition itself with regard to its private and corporate customer relationships. Disruptive use cases simultaneously increase revenue and reduce unit transaction costs. As a consultancy specializing in financial service providers, we were able to convince ourselves of this as part of a project for a major European bank—the bank was supported in the development of innovative use cases from the initial idea through to market testing.

However, the introduction of new payment solutions is anything but easy. In recent years, it has been less the established players than young financial start-ups (“fintechs") that have brought innovative payment methods to the market. We support them with sound know-how of the processes and IT architectures that form the basis for a solution that works. For example, we designed and supported the conversion of operating processes and IT platforms for new payment transaction functions.

The cost pressure in the area of payments is enormous. We have been supporting classic cost-reduction projects in operations for a decade. In one of our last projects, we evaluated the merger of operations as a multi-bank cooperation. “Zero-Ops approaches” are becoming more and more popular in payment transactions—several projects for banks in the DACH area are the foundation for this.

New solutions must overcome the well-known “chicken-and-egg” problem, because the acceptance of the paying agent depends on the willingness of its customers to use it and vice versa. The concrete added value perceived by the customer often only develops during the process of use. Several technically functioning alternative payment methods have already failed at this hurdle. We know the criteria that lead innovative payment methods to a successful business case and use them in all our projects.

Transaction volume and complexity, especially of international transactions, are growing rapidly in our networked, digital world. In combination with outdated rule-based systems for transaction monitoring, this leads to a flood of false positives, which cause enormous verification efforts and thus capacity commitments. zeb has addressed this issue for a major Swiss bank through machine learning in money laundering prevention and implemented it.