“Our key objective, as far as our ongoing digital projects, is to maintain our market position by redesigning the bank to be more customer centric. Providing digital options within the contracting process is a main priority within that goal.”
Insightive.tv: Can you begin with an overview of your contracting process?
Michael: At the moment, the contracting process remains fragmented across the group. We are working across a multitude of different legal frameworks and jurisdictions — the degree of digitisation within the contracting process reflects this multiplicity. This year, we are set to start our new, end-to-end electronic banking system in Austria. In other locations, the process is just beginning — although many are in a good starting point for the digitisation process. The jurisdictional differences make it hard to build up one process for the whole group, but digital harmonisation is the goal and is something we are on track to achieve.
Insightive.tv: Are regulations the main barrier to that change —what are the key strategic priorities driving your digital transformation agenda?
Michael: Regulatory differences are a significant constraining factor, but, within that whole framework, digitalisation can also help solve regulatory challenges through making tasks more consistent and alleviating some of the administrative burdens. Digital solutions will ultimately help resolve one of the barriers to digital implementation.
Perhaps more substantial than the regulatory challenge, one has to contend with the different regional cultures. Banking is a business between people for people. It is not easy to just terminate traditional processes — it has to be an iterative process of implementation. People always say that technologies and regulations are the biggest barriers to change. These are, or course, very important considerations. But, the biggest challenge is how people think. To change this, we must focus on the digital aspects of working life. Our HR division is starting programs for our managers and staff to train them on digital aspects of the business. We will build up a whole innovation process within our bank — innovation and flexible thinking are very positive parts of digitisation. All of us see the necessity for a good digitised process, but it takes some time to bring that technology into the daily lives and culture of our colleagues all around the network.
Our key objective, as far as our ongoing digital projects, is to maintain our market position by redesigning the bank to be more customer centric. Providing digital options within the contracting process is a main priority within that goal. Through doing this we will gain efficiency within our structure and processes — cutting costs. This is also a way to reduce operation legal risks. Digitisation will improve our customer experience, gain efficiency and help manage regulatory challenges and risk.
Insightive.tv: Are you building your systems in-house or buying from third parties?
Michael: The process is mainly driven by internal teams. But, in times like this, it is also important to monitor external providers. If they can provide some aspect of the process or a service in relation to the contracting process, it is often practical to bring in outside expertise. The systems we build often have an aspect of both internal and external contribution.
Several months ago, we began an innovation process for finding external providers for the whole product and process portfolio. We are also applying the same system to internal innovation — allowing our own teams to pitch ideas within a framework set up to find start-up companies that we can fit into our system. I am a member of the internal board that defines which services we could take on board.
Insightive.tv: Looking forward over the next three years, how do you see the customer journey changing and how do you see digital fitting into that process and development?
Michael: I think the process will change fundamentally. Raiffeisen Bank International is one of the most important corporate banks in Austria. From this perspective, we will continue to make tailor made solutions for our corporate clients
Within the retail business, we will continue to be open to new technologies — mobile payment, APIs, etc. Regulations like PSD2 will also change the whole payment framework for the group. Perhaps two or three years is too tight of a framework for these changes to materialise — there is always a kind of evolution that is hard to see as it happens. Within the next five to ten years, we will look back and think things have changed quite a bit. Digitalisation will change the position and business model of banks, just as technological and regulatory changes have done so in the past.
Perhaps a new aspect pertaining to how we have to view the market, that has already materialised, is that banks are no longer orientating themselves solely in relation to other banks — we have new competitors. Fintechs and other big corporate entities are providing payment services. Competition will become more comprehensive in terms of who our competitors are. Competition is good for an economy. Our banking group has a very successful presence in Central and Eastern Europe and we intend to remain a main player in this area after digitalisation.
Michael Höllerer is Board Member at Raiffeisen Zentralbank. He joined the company as Head of the Executive Secretariat in 2006, became Secretary General in 2012 and joined the Board in 2015. He has a background working as a Department Head for the Austrian Financial Regulatory Authority and as an Advisor for the Austrian Ministry of Finance. We spoke with Michael to gain his perspective on digital transformation, its impact on the financial services and how Raiffeisen aims to leverage technology to retain its market position.
Raiffeisen Zentralbank [RZB] is the central institution within an Austrian based banking group that spans central and Eastern Europe with total assets near €140 billion. The third largest bank in Austria, RZB was founded in 1927 but has roots dating into the 19th century and early credit unions founded by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen — propagating a banking model based on sustainability and social responsibility. RZB is about to be merged into Raiffeisen Bank International.
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