• MBAs win place in banking innovation competition final in Paris
  • Competition focused on impact of fourth industrial revolution on banking
  • Two students from India and one from UK tackled the task
  • Their idea used cryptographic technology to combat internet banking fraud

A trio of MBA students from Warwick Business School beat more than 50 teams to reach the final of a global Banking Innovation competition in Paris.

Called NAM, Nagesh Naman, 28, of Bangalore, India, Marie Kirwan, 34, of Coventry, and Anirudh Pundir, 32, of Gurgaon, India, used cryptographic technology to tackle the problem of internet banking fraud.

The banking sector is undergoing rapid change with the development of disruptive technologies like blockchain and AI, new currencies in the form of cryptocurrencies, customers' rising expectations for a personalised digital experience and the emergence of fintechs, robo-advisors and crowdfunding. 

In the final at the Banking Innovation competition, sponsored by HSBC, Sia Partners L'Agefi and Arkea, teams had to present their entrepreneurial idea that utilised some or all of these unfolding trends in a pitch to judges from a host of multinational companies from the financial sector.

Anirudh, a former Team Leader for Investment Banking & Corporate Finance at credit raters Moody's Analytics, said: "It was challenging to fit the competition in around our assignments and projects for the MBA, but it was a great learning experience.

“The whole process taught us what is expected when presenting a new commercial proposition, what kind of things should be included and how to make a compelling pitch.

“We learned not only how to make a robust business case, but also how to prototype an idea and code it to make it work.”

Teams were charged with building a strategy to design a new banking innovation that could help banks take advantage of the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution.

Contestants could choose six areas to tackle; retail, operations, asset management, risk compliance, financial control including asset-liability management, and corporate and investment banking. They then had to outline a proposal alongside a business case.

Related course: Full-time MBA

Only eight were chosen to go through to the final where teams were able to work on a prototype or proof-of-concept before pitching their idea to a panel of judges made up of representatives from HSBC, Swiss business newspaper L’Agefi, French consultancy Sia Partners and leading French co-operative bank Arkea.  

Marie, who was Head of APAC Production at conference organisers Marcus Evans Group before embarking on a Full-time MBA, said: “We saw the enormous cost that fraud was putting on the retail banking sector and knew that there was an opportunity to create something which addressed this gap.

“We further narrowed this down to call and internet banking frauds and the massive challenge it is for banks to identify their customers, without making them vulnerable to fraudsters.

“At the same time, customer experience expectations are being shaped by companies like Amazon, who offer fast and frictionless experiences.

“Our solution was to use cryptographic technologies like ZK-SNARK to help banks and their call centres to identify their customers without them disclosing their identity details and at the same time improve their user experience.”

Unfortunately NAM didn’t win the €7,000 first prize, but Nagesh believes the experience will help his entrepreneurial aspirations after his MBA.

“Apart from learning more about the fraud challenges facing both banks and customers, it was really interesting to see how firms creating these kinds of solutions go about managing the commercial angle,” said Nagesh, who was Bangalore Head for commuting app Zipgo before embarking on a Full-time MBA.

“If I were launching a new product in the future I would feel I had a much better grasp of how to structure my thinking around the business and technical viability of the product or service.”