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Behind City National’s embedded finance platform banking Hollywood

  • The entertainment industry has been severely hit by the pandemic.
  • City National Bank, which caters specifically to the entertainment industry, is using its platform to help its clients weather the storm.
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Behind City National’s embedded finance platform banking Hollywood

City National Bank, a bank with its roots in the entertainment industry, has been slowly upping its fintech game. The bank has widened its scope of technology services by offering more API and cloud-based features -- part of its embedded finance platform, a suite of complementary financial services specifically catering to the entertainment industry.  

“We want to be that one-stop shop for our entertainment clients.” said Linda Duncombe, executive vice president and chief marketing, product and digital officer, at Tearsheet’s Embedded Conference last week. In 2010, the bank bought Datafaction, an accounting software company which specializes in the entertainment industry and family wealth firms. Since then, CNB has acquired additional specialized finance companies to round out the banking services it provides Hollywood.

Last year, City National acquired FilmTrack, a scalable, cloud-based platform that manages royalties and residuals for people in the entertainment industry. The fintech tracks and analyzes billions of dollars’ worth of revenue. It also manages the lifecycle of property rights, including contracts, invoices, and royalty calculations. 

“It's scalable, where the previous model wasn’t, and it's in the cloud, so it's really easy to use,” she said.

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A year before that, the bank bought Exactuals, a SaaS provider that focuses on payment methods for the entertainment industry. The acquisition gave the bank access to PaymentHub, an automated payment system which allows people within the industry to process direct deposits and manage tax documentation.  

As the world turns more digital, and paper checks become more outdated, Duncombe said services like PaymentHub have become more important in providing clients with the best payment methods possible. Now, during the pandemic, this is more true.

“Even celebrities -- they're people like us,” said Duncombe. “And so, we’ve been making sure we have the right digital capabilities.” 

CNB launched its new mobile app around the time the pandemic hit. Month over month, the bank has seen an increase of 800% compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

The entertainment industry has suffered significant losses as a result of the pandemic. PwC predicts revenue loss for the entertainment and media industry to be $117.6 billion in 2020. With many revenue streams cut off, people in the business are struggling. And consequently, CNB is also facing challenges in figuring out how to best serve its industry clients.

“It's been harder this year, because a lot of the verticals within entertainment have really been hit badly by the pandemic,” said Duncombe. “And so, we’re finding ways to be more creative as we start to think about how we can help with cash flows and making sure that we're able to do that.”

CNB is creating an ecosystem around its financial services for entertainers. And with the pandemic, the bank’s embedded platform has become more important for the industry.

“For us, it's your typical core baking, which I think is not hard to duplicate,” said Duncombe. “Everybody's got a checking account, everybody's got a credit card. But then when you start thinking about things like FilmTrack, Exactuals, Datafaction, and how we support all of that with the things that are important to the clients -- it’s something we love doing.”

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