A Day in the Life of... Our Head of FinTech and Banking
Welcome to today's installment of 10Clouds’ ‘A Day In The Life’ series in which we’ll be talking to our Head of Banking & Fintech, Karol Stępień.
Karol has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services sector, with a specific focus on corporate banking, SME banking, micro banking and FinTech. He is passionate about unleashing the power of technology in finance, and using it to drive innovation across the board. At 10Clouds, he has been instrumental in setting up the Business Banking of The Future Think Tank, and the more recent Virtual Bank Branches Project. We speak to him to get a bit more insight into his everyday job and his future plans.
Welcome Karol. Could you tell us a bit more about what your role involves?
Sure. I guess that the simplest answer to that question would be to say that I build digital financial institutions. There’s a lot of innovation currently happening in the world of finance. I’m a strong believer that for banks to remain competitive, they need to identify the key areas of opportunity when it comes to digitalization and to drive these forward with an effective strategy. I play a key role in supporting financial institutions of all sizes to prepare and execute this strategy, and to use it not just for revenue generation, but for genuine process improvement - be it in the area of customer service, or any other.
The Banking and FinTech venture at 10Clouds is still relatively new, and as such, it’s in bootstrap mode. However, my team has recently entered an exciting period of growth. We’ve employed a Director of Consulting Projects and are about to recruit a Products & Partnerships Manager, and we now have a dedicated project team, including web developers, designers and a product delivery manager, all of whom are working on bringing some of our latest solutions to life.
Building effective strategic partnerships is essential to being successful when it comes to financial digitalization, which is why I’m also pleased to work with specialists across a range of areas.
It would be great to expand a little on these important partnerships. What kinds of partners do you work with and why are these relationships so important?
I view them as the building blocks of the solutions that we’re building. To illustrate my point - we work with Stripe on payment processing, with Airwallex on efficient international payments and currency exchange and with Pexip on delivering a video experience which is ideal for our Virtual Branch product, to name just a few. Each of our partners is an expert in a given field, which they’ve honed for many years. We also have an experience development team on board, which can build bespoke solutions for clients using our partners’ building blocks combined with our own solutions (such as meeting scheduling). Of course, each solution very much depends on the business needs of the clients. We take the time to carefully explore these, and to recommend the best course of action. But the benefit of working with us is that there’s no time wasted on reinventing the wheel - we’re already very likely to have the core components that you need.
Could you tell us a bit about The Business Banking of the Future Think Tank that you launched?
Business Banking of the Future was launched at 10Clouds in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. It’s essentially a community of financial sector experts, who are jointly focussed on solving some of the most pressing current business challenges. As part of the think tank we’ve held several workshops on key subjects including effective onboarding for banking customers in the digital age, and more recently, foreign payments solutions for SMEs. It is commonly known that most of the traditional FX providers have extensive offers for large scale clients, but very few bespoke offers for micros or SMEs. As a result, such companies struggle to accept payments from abroad. We decided that this needs to change, and we worked on coming up with an integrated solution for this target audience. Of course we focused only on one specific journey (dealing with expenses during a foreign trip) in the example above, but the idea was to that it is possible to constantly change the way financial institutions deliver value even in seemingly obvious areas
We’re proud to have worked with top decision makers here in a range of financial institutions including Airwallex, Mastercard, Stripe, Raifeissen Bank Romania, Pekao SA and BNP Paribas. In former editions of the Think Tank, we also collaborated with PKO BP, Raifeissen Bank International, mBank, Mambu, Tink or SKS Legal.
And one recent key area of innovation is Virtual Branch. What exactly are these and how did the solution come about?
The concept of the Virtual Branch is all about improving the digital customer experience, with a focus on convenient access to competencies that banking clients look for. The pandemic highlighted that while many banks had a digital presence, this presence was limited to performing a range of basic functions, mainly to do with individual current accounts. There were still a whole host of tasks that were almost impossible to do remotely, including opening a business bank account, or even changing the personal details of the account holder.
The Virtual Branch aims to dynamically change the virtual customer experience. The idea was to incorporate functions such as virtual account onboarding, loan applications, deposits, customer service and other banking services into the remote experience. The main goal was how to make these regular products impressive from a customer experience perspective for example how to effectively deal with client needs via this channel. We’re excited to have some concrete results, having gone through the entire product process, from market research through to user testing.
What would you say is the most exciting part of your work?
I think it’s the fact that it opens doors to complex and far-reaching projects, which are truly pioneering in their field. In the future, it will be great to look at some of the innovative solutions for the financial sector which we’re currently working on and see them become the norm in the sector. To know that you’ve played a key part in a venture like that is highly rewarding.
At the moment, the projects that we’re working on are largely focused on European markets, but there’s nothing standing in the way of them being scaled internationally.
The other exciting part of the role is that the possibilities are endless, and new opportunities keep cropping up. For example, we’ve recently partnered with ING Group’s SAIO - robotic process automation software. Its aim is to improve banking related business operations, and help in customer relations, while guaranteeing stability and security.
This is likely to lead to other interesting growth opportunities - we would like to have specialized task forces for specific areas, such as a team focused on Stripe’s or Airwallex solutions, Pexip or SAIO.
We’re also aiming to build a large team of highly experienced Java developers on loan to banks in order to help them to implement the above-mentioned innovative solutions.