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ABN AMRO: the bank of choice for Dutch SMEs 03 June 2021

Patrick Pfaff is responsible for ABN AMRO's services for small and medium-sized enterprises. He discusses how the bank’s “never stop learning” mindset is leading them to continually innovate. 
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 developed in the last 18 months?

ABN AMRO wants to serve its clients as a personal bank in the digital age. We are aiming for growth in the SME segment by means of new propositions, partnerships, and sales through intermediaries. Looking at our digital business proposition, two aspects in particular have received special attention over the past 18 months. First, scaling up and developing business propositions, and second, leveraging those propositions to help our clients navigate the coronavirus crisis with financial and beyond-banking propositions. 
Some examples: 

• New10 is our 100% digital funding platform for SMEs. Over the past 18 months, the platform has seen solid growth, partly thanks to a new business mortgage proposition. Simultaneously, we used New10 to rapidly process Covid-19 emergency credit requests with government guarantees.

• Tikkie Zakelijk is another good example. Tikkie is a WhatsApp-based payment channel for which we have developed a range of business applications to achieve growth for Tikkie in the commercial market. For instance, we set up creative cash-back promotions with Coca Cola and Dutch retail chain HEMA. But we have also created new methods to facilitate quick and contactless payments. In other words: pandemic-proof. Ideal for delivery companies like DHL and the hospitality sector.

• Last summer, we launched the online support platform ‘Doorpakken’. Business owners visit the platform for relevant information and services during the pandemic. Not only does the platform offer a wealth of useful information, it also provides accessible solutions for entrepreneurs. These services include VraagHugo (to easily draw up legal document templates online), SnelBetaald (factoring), and Tikkie for companies (to facilitate payment requests through the Tikkie app).
 
What are your key digital initiatives and what benefits are you looking to generate from them?
 
Never stop learning, that's extremely important. That means sometimes you have to look beyond the borders of your sector. For example, inspired by the telecom sector, we developed a payment proposition where clients can choose between three payment packages. Fully digitally supported, with a different service level and matching price for each package. Clients have the option to request personalized advice at important moments. This way, everyone can pick the package that best suits their needs.
 
What are the challenges of a more traditional institution in creating more digital offerings as opposed to a fintech that starts out as digital on day one?

The IT landscape is a major difference, of course, but so is mindset and culture. We want to provide integrated service, as one bank, not separately from our respective business lines. That requires an integrated back-end IT infrastructure and data overviews. At the front end, you need people and applications that can assist and advise a client in multiple areas, from a single client view.
 
Another challenge: maintaining the flexibility to keep up and get ahead in this rapidly changing world. Especially as a large organization, sometimes that means outsourcing or partnering for the development of a proposition. New10 was in fact created externally. Now that it's up and running successfully, we are relying more and more on the New10 processes.

Last but not least, we want to provide our clients with that personal touch during important moments. Multiple channels, chiefly digital, but all of them personal. Our task is to make it easy for clients to switch between channels, while we keep the up-to-date overview handy in their file at all times. 
 
Does your institution have the required digital skills to build these new tools? How are you trying to acquire those skills?

We are very proud of our extensive in-house expertise. Sometimes we partner with major international IT companies and specialized fintechs. To give direction to our innovation agenda, ABN AMRO has set up an innovation center and uses its Digital Impact Fund to invest in companies developing technologies that are relevant to the bank.
 
Do you have existing partnerships or do you have plans to develop partnerships to speed up time to market?
 
Certainly, we maintain partnerships in IT and other technologies with current or future relevance to the bank. In addition, we want to unburden our clients when it comes to services that border on banking services. For instance, together with our partners we offer a digital accounting program, online HR, legal services and the sustainable investing tool. The latter helps clients improve the sustainability of their real estate with concrete insights into the actions required to make that shift. A number of these banking and beyond-banking services are available to clients as subscriptions, and will be included in our packages strategy, tailored to the sector in which the client's company operates.
 
How do you see yourself competing with the fintechs and challenger SME banks in the years to come?

Nobody has an absolute monopoly on wisdom, we're bearing that in mind. What's important is that we keep learning, stay flexible, and work together with our partners. Simultaneously, we find ourselves at a good starting point thanks to our expertise, large client base, and trust in the bank.
 
We are committed to providing user-friendly digital solutions so clients can take care of their banking matters safely, easily, and conveniently. And we're here for our clients at key moments, always with a personal touch. That's how we are creating growth opportunities in the Dutch SME market.

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