Nordea: Capitalizing on trust as the largest bank in the Nordics 08 June 2021

Nina Arkilahti, Head of Business Banking at Nordea, discusses the myriad digital initiatives underway at the bank. 
We are excited to partner with FintechOS to produce a report on digital-first SME banking. As part of the report, we interviewed SME banking executives from top financial institutions across Europe. This interview is one from a series of four interviews. To dive deeper into the world of digital SME banking and the transformation that is underway, be sure to access the full report here.

How has your service model/value proposition evolved within the last 18 months?
I am new to Nordea; but I have seen that there is a strong vision and dedication to blend the expertise of the bank, the skill of our people, and the power of digital solutions together in a way that truly supports our customers and the needs of their businesses. 

Nordea as a whole is on a strong digital journey exemplified by our award-winning app for personal customers – we are now starting to see the fruits of this labor for our corporate customers. By the end of this year we will have rolled out in all countries our new web and mobile platform for SMEs, called Nordea Business, built on modern technologies. 

We are using our digital channels to be proactive and personal towards our customers, supporting them in the moments that matter. 

In parallel, we have introduced online video meetings, chat support and digital signing coverage on >80% of our loan products – this has been especially important for being there for our customers and supporting them through the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. 
With this strong foundation we can and will accelerate the digitization of more of our services, enabling our customers to be in control of their finances and spend more time doing what they love – running their businesses. 
What are your key digital initiatives and what benefits are you looking to generate from them? 

The rollout of Nordea Business and Nordea Business Mobile in the four Nordic countries is a key initiative that has already been introduced and will further introduce digital self-service for basic needs such as account management, cards, cash management and user rights. This allows us to be even more proactive in and available for customer advisory services when customers have needs concerning financing and savings, for example. It also offers flexibility and efficiency for our customers, enabling them to handle their simple tasks easily, anytime, anywhere. In addition, this will give us a truly Nordic digital reach and provide a solid technological foundation with increased development efficiency. 
What are the challenges as a more traditional institution in creating more digital offerings as opposed to a fintech that starts out as digital on day one? 

Nordea is a universal bank, and we have services that cater to basic banking needs all the way to the most complex large company needs. This complexity is something we need to tackle in our digital development – simplifying this complexity is a challenge fintechs normally don’t have. 
There are certain advantages that are unique to banking. Traditional banks have more capital, greater knowledge of regulations, recognized brands, and customer confidence. Traditional banks are the least risky financial institutions. They are regulated by the central or national banks of their country of origin and customers can trust that their data and money is safe with them. 
Does your institution have the required digital skills to build these new tools? How are you trying to acquire those skills? 

We have a very strong and diverse team of professionals with competencies spanning from service designers and business analysts to technical specialists with deep knowledge about micro web apps, databases, security and performance optimization. We aim to ensure that we attract the right people when recruiting employees either through normal channels or through our networks. But of course, the availability of these competencies remains a challenge, as is the case across the industry. 
Do you have existing partnerships, or do you have plans to develop partnerships to speed up time to market? 

We have existing partnerships for providing services to SME customers, so we can say that we have started to experiment with partnerships and assess the impact they have on time to market. For example, we have partnerships in Sweden, Finland and Norway to provide bookkeeping services for our SME customers. 
How do you see yourself competing with the fintechs and challenger SME banks in the years to come? 

I expect competition to increase in the future and I think we will also see consolidation in the market. 

We welcome the PSD2 directive, which introduced Open Banking, and see it as a direction that will also allow us to integrate the services of other banks into our channels for the benefit of our customers (account aggregation). In addition, we are also looking into adding more non-banking services to our offering that would further support our customers’ operations and also provide a response to the competition from challengers (i.e. Starling Marketplace). 

However, it should be mentioned that Nordea is the largest bank in the Nordics with a very wide service offering and a very large customer base. Many customers trust us as their financial partner due to our competencies and capabilities and feel confident that their data is safe. Authorities – with whom we have good collaboration – obviously follow us closely and help to ensure regulatory compliance and the quality of our services and advisory, which is a focus and constant source of urgency smaller fintechs might not have to the same extent. 

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