A4 Community/CBLS: a platform for change - Ton Aries
Based in the Netherlands, A4 Community/CBLS (Community Banking & Loyalty Services) provides cloud banking solutions to large multinationals. Founder Ton Aries runs FDE through the benefits of its SaaS platform, and how the group has successfully adapted its approach to market demands.
Could you provide a brief history of A4 Community/CBLS (Community Banking & Loyalty Services)?
Ton Aries: Two decades ago, the idea was born to develop a banking system in the cloud. After years of development, and with a proven technology, we are rolling out a secure and approved system with state-of-the-art functionality. The core of the system is a configurable, multicurrency, multiloyalty, real-time ledger, which is fully web based and available as a white label or full commercial bank. A4 Community/CBLS is a team of experts with a proven track record in the following areas:
- financial system development
- application service provider (ASP)/software as a service (SaaS)/cloud
- community software
- business intelligence
- card development.
How have you adapted your product offering in light of the rise of cloud computing?
Within the market of social media outlets such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter - plus many more on the horizon - there is a need among consumers for a more flexible way of arranging financial budgets.
This means that the banking of the 'old' economy is getting smaller and a new way of arranging the financial budget for the B2B and B2C markets is developing. Diverse mobile wallets are employing different concepts in an effort to gain a share of the market, whereas the focus for us is on servicing consumers through community programmes and adapting to their personal needs.
Do you work much with banks at the moment?
Yes, but not much - we need them now for the bank licence for new corporate companies. We are working to get our own bank licence with some large investors in order to create a new community based on loyalty that benefits independent entrepreneurs. So, we work with large enterprises and corporate organisations that organise there own bank accounts for their employees.
Suppliers and merchants also get there own bank account within the system and the enterprises or corporate organisation then create their own financial cloud.
That is where our system comes in. What we have seen happening over the last three years is that big companies are starting to understand our system, because many people don't feel that they can trust banks anymore.
And we can make a profit from it, too. For example, imagine you are at the grocery store, and you pay for ten bananas on your card; that will cost you about £2. That is a loss for the bank, but with our cloud-based system it is free. It's the same as a short message service (SMS), and that's the difference. That's what we want to say to all of our clients - come on to our system and create your own cloud.
Could you provide an example of how one of your clients has benefitted from your SaaS solutions?
As previously mentioned, the development of CBLS has now been ongoing for over 15 years and the core systems are used in many projects.
Take Hof Hoorneman Bankers. Based in Gouda, with four more offices in the Netherlands, it is an independent investment management company with a bank licence issued by ING. There was a period of eight weeks while the banking system was fitted and, after that, a period of five weeks of testing through to production.
R&D is obviously a critical facet when it comes to developing innovative business applications. How would you describe A4 Community/CBLS's efforts in this area?
Essential for every community is a solid basis in relation to finance and members. In addition, there is a continuous focus on revitalisation and development. The internet community is one through which different areas can be distinguished. Active users on the internet are looking for fun, knowledge, products and services, all at an optimum price and presentation. Providers search and find ways to offer products and services.
The rules in the physical world are applicable to the virtual world and new insights will also be developed that lead to new rules. It is expected that, in the next few years, models will be developed that communities will be able to facilitate and evolve. One of the main conditions is a stable starting position with regard to financial flows - this is where A4 Community/CBLS comes in.
Does A4 Community/CBLS provide any other value-added services such as consultancy and training?
We actually do it all on our own; only the likes of Hewlett Packard is doing this. We develop our software by ourselves and roll it out as an SaaS system. We carry out the implementation, which takes a year, and then the client is free to work and interact with the new system. A4 Community/CBLS can also help its clients connect and collaborate with the suppliers. We help the people that want to work with our system - it's a new way of thinking - and we are offering it to corporates and banks, combined with new ways of banking.
Waiting for the ultimate business model is not an option, given the speed that e-commerce, m-commerce, F-commerce and G-commerce are moving. Joining this market and being a player in the social media arena is a must.
We are able to create a learning curve in the payment industry for future business clients. Not only because of financial market share, but also for services such as mobile security, bridging technologies for infrastructure, market and financial data flows in the cloud, and one or other approaches to service customers.
Are there any business plans in the pipeline that you are at liberty to discuss?
At this moment in time, we are preparing two launches; one involves the biggest non-food retailer in the Netherlands and the second features one of the world's largest automotive companies.
The general focus is to centre a large amount of financial services around the consumer in order to create value for them. The aim will be to galvanise the consumer into making purchasing decisions, with the buying impulse stimulated around the core product. The consumer is actually receiving several financial services to increase their buying experience.