Fidor Bank VP: “Innovation is in the DNA of challenger banks”

By Alara Basul | 16 May 2017

bobsguide's exclusive interview with Sophie Guibaud, VP of European Expansion at Fidor Bank

How did you get started in the fintech industry and what’s your role at Fidor Bank?

I started my career in investment banking in New York before joining TIME Equity Partners, a Growth Capital fund in Paris. It was here that I got my first experience with investing in start-ups, specifically in fintech.  

However, while really enjoyable, I wanted to be more deeply involved in start-up operations, so I moved to London and was part of the launch of HelloFresh UK, a Rocket Internet backed e-commerce company. I joined Fidor in 2015 to oversee our expansion into the UK market.

Overall, in my day role as Vice President of European Expansion I provide a range of insights and then recommendations on what territories or countries we could, and should, launch into across the globe. I also support our technology subsidiary in developing and deploying new customer propositions for our B2B white-label clients.

How does Fidor Bank pioneer the collaboration between traditional financial services and technology innovation?

The relationship between some banks and these fintech innovators is already, to some extent, symbiotic. After all, these companies rely on existing banks to provide them with accounts so they can get set up, and sometimes even on their banking licence to operate.

Fidor has been developing partnerships with fintech since as early as 2010. As a technology-enabled bank, those partnerships have enabled us to focus on what we do best and rely on others to develop the best offering in their field, so that we can provide a user-friendly, one stop banking experience to our clients, through the use of APIs.

Essentially we have been ahead of the curve but the institutionalisation of it will enable us to go even faster. We have structured this offering as a marketplace, FinanceBay, where all our Fintech partnerships are made available to our clients. We are also now offering this marketplace to other banks & retail organization willing to enjoy this open banking revolution without having to develop the technology or clinch the partnerships by themselves. FinanceBay, was initially launched in Germany as a Beta Test and due to its widespread success, Fidor is rolling it out as a standalone white-label solution, which will soon be launched globally.

In the long term, when we consider partnerships we care to reflect on the value this will bring to our customers. Due to this, we are always eager to collaborate with other businesses that can offer our customers useful services and vice versa.

Where do challenger banks hold the advantage vs traditional banks?

While many established banks have traditionally concentrated on getting the best results for their shareholders, building products that have the greatest boost for profit margins and treating customer convenience as an afterthought, this is not how the challengers play the game. They typically turn the whole thing on its head, thinking about creating products customers want and getting them onto the market as quickly as possible. They keep their focus narrow until they achieve market penetration, and only then do they think about scaling up the service and adding to their product set. They’ve also astutely realised that today’s customers expect much more from their bank than previous generations.

On the whole, they want clear differentiation between banks before thinking of switching, they want a personalised experience based on their data, with a forward looking analysis of their finances and want to have a real relationship with their finance institution, instead of a transactional approach.

Will we see traditional banks follow in the footsteps of challenger banks?

While the banking landscape is changing, it is unlikely that the emergence of these new banks will be the catalyst for the disappearance of any of the big banks. It’s much more likely that we will see a future of acquisitions and partnerships between these new players and incumbents.

The banks that will make the biggest impression in the market in the coming years will be those that are ahead of the curve in terms of understanding what customers want, and providing tools and services that match these desires. Furthermore, the customer experience and customer service provisions need to be best-in-class. The shift that is required from the traditional banks is simply explained - they need to put the customer first. However, without following the example of the challenger banks - whether by investment, partnership or acquisition - this will be very difficult for them to achieve.

How will challenger banks stay ahead of the innovation?

Challenger banks are naturally better equipped than traditional banks to cope with innovation by their size, lack of legacy infrastructure, agile process delivery and short customer feedback loop. Innovation is in their DNA. For the years to come, by keeping on applying those very simple principles, Challenger Banks can stay ahead of innovation.

Are you looking at PSD2 closely? If so, what are the main challenges you’re facing?

Fidor has been at the forefront of Open Banking Services through its open API infrastructure and open approach to integrating Fintech partners directly onto its platform. PSD2 represents an opportunity for Fidor to not only accelerate the integration of new Fintech partners but also offer premium APIs to B2B & white-label partners, beyond PSD2.