Considering that a vast swathe of Europe’s economic wealth is created by the SME sector, isn’t it something of a surprise that there’s no go-to SME Banking platform for the continent?
In our latest answer to the ‘what corporates want’ question, Maximilian Schausberger, an Innovation Manager responsible for the set-up of Raiffeisen Accelerator at Austrian banking giant Raiffeisen Bank International, points to this as a clear gap in the future tech market.
That need makes perfect sense, given that Raiffeisen is a player in over a dozen European countries. And with the Europe-wide PSD2 banking regulations set to take hold next year, there isn’t a better time for a Fintech innovator to come up with something that can fit into what will be a more transparent, more open banking system.
“It’s going to be all about banking being more practical and easy to use for the customer. And it’s going to be easier for them to change banks, of course! So we need to start from where the customer is right now, not where our legacy systems are.”
“There are so many opportunities for startups to really find their niche. In SME Banking, for example, this could be in digital cash management, lending and investment or e-commerce solutions just to name a few. Soon, we will be competing with the big technology providers such as Apple, Google or Samsung. I’d wish for a strong European counterpart to these mainly US-based platforms.”
“Europe has a lot of room for improvement in terms of having its own solutions and own standards.”
But while such an European platform would be a big advantage for the European banking industry as a whole, Raiffeisen is also pro-actively looking for startups that will help to keep the competitive edge in the choppy waters of our times.
“The advancement of technology is challenging us, but so are the regulations that are forcing us to open up towards innovative third party technology providers. Our response – and it’s a board-level strategic decision – is that we don’t just want to keep to the minimum level of what the regulation is asking for but actively enable cooperations.
“We want to seek co-operation with the so called ‘challengers’. The magic word is co-opetition, meaning a change of our view from competition to potential cooperation. It’s a word that’s flying around our office a lot, and we’re going for those more and more.”
But why work with startups, instead of working on new ideas internally?
“Because, especially in larger organizations, it helps from time to time to get a critical outside view. Not only on how to come up with creative ways to solve a certain problem, but also on how to implement new products and processes in the existing framework. Plus, sometimes it is simply also more time and cost-efficient to work with external experts on a certain project than build the knowledge and expertise in-house.”
“We look for startups that not only have the areas of expertise needed, along with a good idea, but also with the open-mindedness to be willing to co-operate with the incumbents. The opportunity for startups is in leveraging the incumbents’ assets in a smart way. The ones that recognise this opportunity are the ones who will win in the long run.”