“It’s not about enabling mobile payments on the moon” – Idea Bank on innovation

By Sarah Gill | 23 May 2016

Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean it’s necessary and when it comes to innovation in finance, the days when new products were simply pushed out to customers are numbered. So how do you make sure your design team is solving real problems for real customers? How do you make sure you have the right people in place to make bright ideas come to life?

Idea Bank knows a thing or two about all of those things, recently taking the prize of ‘Innovation in Corporate Banking Solutions’ at the Fintech Innovation Awards. Here, we talk to Idea Bank board member Dominik Fajbusiewicz about what’s driving change in SME financing right now and how to make innovative ideas reality in banking.

What are the key drivers of change in corporate banking right now?

The small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) banking industry is currently embracing mobile payments, cloud computing and ever-new concepts for branch revitalisation. But the true change in this sector will come only with the raising of financial awareness. Many SME owners in Poland are still more inclined to entrust their business finances to a bank they already have a personal account with, regardless of what it offers. They are most often oblivious to fully available sources of financing, often not even knowing what factoring is and inevitably choosing a loan. Systemic education has the power to change the whole market.

Another challenge is maintaining personal relations with your clients in increasingly technological times. It is difficult to take care of them when it’s all about bells and whistles, but that’s exactly what our services aim at – building new, valid touch points.

Ideas versus execution: what does it take to make great ideas reality in fintech?

The clue is to keep it simple and functional. Many teams have great ideas initially, but when the project is launched they tend to overcomplicate things. They forget that the primary aim of their innovation is to solve a particular problem, and instead of focusing on the best solution, they start looking for the most spectacular one. Spectacular is not always good, just as new is not necessarily better.

If your purpose is to scoop multiple awards for the most extraordinary service, go on. But if you really want to change the market, then it is not about enabling mobile payments on the moon where no one will ever use them. We always try to keep that in mind while working on a new project. We keep asking ourselves: will that really benefit the user, or is it just us trying to make an impression?

What are the advantages Idea Bank has over competitors when it comes to implementing new initiatives?

Idea Bank’s development strategy is based on providing its clients with different SME-targeted tools for business management, so innovation is basically what drives our company’s growth. We have plenty of experience in implementing new initiatives, launching Idea Cloud, the Mobile ATMs, Idea Hubs, Be Proud and other revolutionary projects all in the past two years.

Currently we’re working on integrating Idea Cloud with e-services. In December we became Poland’s first and only private institution authorised to confirm Trusted Profiles (which are necessary to communicate with the public administration systems). Our services are targeted specifically at sole proprietors and small business owners, so we have a good knowledge of their needs and expectations, whereas our competitors are more focused on individual clients. Moreover, we are still a young company, created in 2010, so we are a lot more flexible, and less hierarchical and bureaucratic than an average corporation, where it sometimes take months to get an approval for a project, and by the time it’s launched, its innovativeness is long gone.

 

What are the challenges of innovating in this space?

The challenges lie in the contradictory nature of SME owners’ preferences. They are very fond of mobile solutions, but would still rather use cash than other methods of payment and like to do business in a pretty conservative way. Most of them know all too well that using online services would help them cut red tape and save time, but only few have confirmed trusted profiles and file tax returns online.

Innovating in the Polish SME sector requires the ability to develop new solutions, but without really breaking with the old habits. It can be extremely difficult sometimes, but that is how our concepts of Mobile ATMs and a Digital Gateway to Administration were born.

What’s the most important lesson you learned building Idea Cloud?

That when it comes to driving innovation, deadlines are really guidelines. You should never get too attached to them because the quality of your work is at stake. Similarly, don’t ever listen to skeptical comments made by your competitors. When the project’s launched and it’s a success, it suddenly gets widely mimicked anyway. That’s what happened with our integration of banking and accounts systems.

What are the qualities of a kickass team in your eyes?

A kickass team is fearless, works together, and its members don’t take themselves too seriously.

What distinguishes Idea Cloud from its competitors?

This is the first cloud-based transactional platform in Europe. Although many entities from the banking industry have already adapted cloud technologies, Idea Bank was the first to invite its clients to explore the system. Idea Cloud is also the world’s first transactional platform combining both accounts and banking functionalities. The invoicing center generates all standard accounting documents and offers automatic updates on an invoice status. Meanwhile the banking-related benefits include the automatic creation of transfer orders and a possibility to make multiple payments with a single click via six different online utilities, such as Gmail and Facebook.

In a time of such change, how do you future proof your solutions?

We are very solid in our research. We start every project with a thorough survey of our clients - they tell us whether they are interested at all and what to change in our original concept. Then, when we have a beta version of the new service, we ask them for help once again, and we test, test, and test. We never start working on a project without consulting the market first. And in a few years time, if we have to adapt our innovations to a new reality, then we’ll do so. That’s just how it works.

Missed out on the FIAs 2016? Get a flavour of what the biggest names in finance are predicting about the industry with our interviews from the night on the most exciting trends in fintech, the biggest challenges facing the industry and where the most lucrative opportunities for disruption are.

To secure your table at next year’s awards or discuss partnership opportunities, get in touch with Stephen McMaugh at Stephen@bobsguide.com or call +44 (0)208 080 9164.

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