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Manage the new jungle of your subscriptions - Banks and Fintechs should step up to the challenge

With more and more companies switching from transaction-based consumption to subscription-based solution models and customers (both consumers as businesses) actively adopting this trend, the management of these subscription services becomes more and more difficult. Very quickly you start accumulating a lot of different subscriptions, which are automatically debited on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis, of which the added value can often be debated.

When I look at myself, in the last 2 years my subscriptions have grown considerably as well. Most of them are just a few euros per month, but all in all it starts to add up. For example, an increase of my iCloud storage space, a subscription to a digital newspaper, an account for 1Password to manage all my logins and passwords, my Netflix streaming account, a service to see people passing at my front-door via Ring…​ All luxury services, which don’t cost that much individually, but all combined already result in quite a big amount.
If you look at companies, the situation is even worse, with SaaS and other subscription services becoming more and more adopted. As a result, a typical company has quickly dozens, if not hundreds of subscriptions to manage, e.g.

  • A Microsoft 365 account

  • A virus scanner account

  • A cloud account like AWS, GCP or Azure

  • A Google account offering services like Google Adwords, Google Data, Google Forms, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, YouTube (paying account), Google Firebase…​

  • A chatbox account like Slack or Teams

  • A video call account like Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Meet, WebEx…​

  • A Facebook business account

  • A paid LinkedIn account

  • A picture account like Shutterstock, iStock, Photocase, Flickr, GettyImages…​

  • A CRM account like SalesForce

  • A customer support tool, like Zendesk, Freshdesk, Intercom…​

  • A time tracking tool like BeeBole, TimeChimp, TimeCamp…​

  • A tracking tool like JIRA or Trello

  • An SMS/Mail gateway like Twilio, SendGrid, MailGun, MailChimp, CM Telecom…​

  • A tool for automatic workflows, like Zapier, Automate.io, IFTTT, Elastic.io…​

  • A source code management system, like GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket…​

  • A CMS (content management system) tool, like Wordpress, Wix, Drupal, Jekyll…​

  • …​

and this is just the tip of the iceberg, as it doesn’t include any of the business domain specific SaaS solutions and non-IT subscription services yet.

While in the beginning this new model gave an easier asset management, today managing all those subscriptions, both for consumers as for businesses, has become a nightmare.
Subscriptions are automatically paid at different dates, often to parties which you don’t even know anymore. As a result, consumers and companies don’t have a clear view on their costs, pay for unused services or pay too much for a specific service (not comparing to competition, paying for unused SaaS licenses…​) and have difficulties to cancel an existing subscription or to correctly book these subscriptions in their accounting systems.

service to manage all those subscriptions becomes vital and banks and Fintechs, which position themselves more and more as financial and administrative advisors, are ideally positioned for this.

Research shows that the average European household pays for 21 different subscriptions (gym, telco, music and video streaming, insurances, newspapers and magazines, cloud services…​) and 1 in 3 consumers are paying for subscriptions they no longer use.

The Swedish company Minna Technologies is providing such a service for banks to integrate in their banking app, with multiple banks in Europe already adopting the service (Swedbank, Danske, ING…​).

Their service is mainly oriented towards consumers, allowing to:

  • Quickly and automatically identify all recurring subscription expenses from a transaction history

  • Automatically cancel a subscription service in a one-click way

  • Suggest alternatives for a subscription service and manage a possible provider switch

Although this offering is very interesting and useful, the subscription management for companies is even more complex (higher number of subscriptions and more complex subscriptions) and in need for a good management service.
Not only should they have the above described services (offered by Minna Technologies), but on top of that they are in need of services like:

  • Managing the payment, i.e. all these subscription services offer a nice credit card payment interface, via which recurring payments can be registered. While this is very user-friendly, it also gives a lot of organizational issues. Preferably companies want to avoid that different employees ordering subscription services need to ask for a corporate credit card and input its details. This gives a number of issues like:

    • Difficult to organize as often only the top management in a company has a corporate credit card. Furthermore, an everyday employee doesn’t want the pressure of making a mistake with the corporate credit card, e.g. using the card on an erroneous page (e.g. phishing attack) or losing the card altogether.

    • Security, i.e. with corporate credit card details inputted on different websites and inputted by different employees

    • Updating all services, when a corporate credit card is lost, stolen or expired. With these subscription services often servicing critical business processes, a blocking of such a service due to an unpaid invoice, can have severe business impacts

    • Difficult to comply with procedures within finance departments, like 4-eyes principle in payment, need for a purchase order to link a payment and an invoice to…​

    • Difficult to retrieve the associated invoices (to book in accounting), as often only available within the portal of the subscription solution, i.e. more and more tools don’t send invoice, since no need, not supported or not wanted for security reasons. However finance departments need the invoices, so a person of the finance department either needs to send monthly mails to request invoices from the different service owners or this person needs to have a user account for every service, where he can log in and retrieve the invoice. I don’t have to tell you that finance departments are no fan of this.

  • Selection of the right subscription service: as many subscription services start with a free trial period, these services are champions in locking-in their users. A subscription service choice that was made in a hurry for a small proof-of-concept, might soon become a critical business function, with so many critical data stored in it, that it’s impossible to switch vendor.
    Therefore, it is important to do a selection of a subscription service as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  • Managing the existing subscription inventory: this consists of services like user-friendly overviews (cataloguing) of all subscription services of a company, allowing easy visualization and search capabilities on attributes like employee owning the service, vendor associated to the service, payment details, invoices, contractual details…​ Such a tool should also keep track of changes in pricing or in terms and conditions, so that subscription services can be easily stopped when the service is no longer opportune for the company.

  • Management of the subscription settings: this consists mainly of managing the actual service provided by the subscription service like:

    • Employee onboarding, i.e. add a new employee to the service or onboard an existing employee who switched role or position

    • Employee offboarding, i.e. remove users who don’t use the service anymore or shouldn’t have access to the service anymore (e.g. employee leaving the company or employee switching role or position)

    • Managing admin access, i.e. making sure that the admin account doesn’t get lost when the admin leaves the company. In some cases, this can be handled by setting up business accounts as owner of the service instead of personal accounts.

    • Switching to other tarification model offered by the same vendor if more opportune for the company. E.g. some subscription services let you pay by the user, but also offer a package for an unlimited number of users. As of a certain number of users, it can be cheaper to switch to the "unlimited usage" model.

    • …​

A number of applications providing niche solutions to some of these concerns exist already. E.g. Spendesk or Cledara allow to issue separate virtual corporate credit cards to pay for each subscription service (avoiding some of the above mentioned payment issues), solutions like Capterra, GetApp or Software Advise can assist companies in selecting the right subscription service and tools like CoreSaaS and Zylo can help in managing your subscription service inventory. Apart from that there are also specific solutions optimizing your subscription settings for specific subscription services, like e.g. Altoros, Mission Cloud or CloudCheckr allowing to optimize your AWS cloud subscription or Zylo (Salesforce License Management Workflow) and BetterCloud allowing to identify and deprovision inactive or underutilized Salesforce licenses.

While in large organizations, there are people and departments responsible for managing all these subscriptions, of course in smaller to medium sized enterprises this doesn’t exist.
Furthermore the above tools are often too expensive and too complex. A typical SME just wants a standard package of the most common SaaS tools with the least possible burden.

Ideally a marketplace should be available, much like an API marketplace like RapidAPI, 3scale, CloudRail, Mashery…​ These marketplaces offer a 1-time onboarding and 1-time billing, while getting access to all APIs on the marketplace. A similar marketplace, where subscription services can be onboarded would be great. Not only can this help with the selection of the right service, but also with easy onboarding, providing a repository of your services, central invoice management and central user management (allowing to onboard/offboard users to the different subscriptions automatically).

Such a platform could easily be offered by a bank or a Fintech, as banks and Fintech companies already have access to the financial data and often offer already invoice management services.

The subscription economy is a global megatrend, so banks and Fintechs should also provide the value-added services to their customers to properly manage this trend. A bank or Fintech offering an easy solution to these subscription problems, will definitely have a competitive advantage. It is now time to step up to this challenge.

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