Innovation in Retail Banking? Poland has it all!

Following Efma’s recent very successful study tour in Poland, Lukas Dzuroska, Efma’s regional manager for Central and South-Eastern Europe, tells us more about what the region has to offer.
Innovation in Retail Banking? Poland has it all! Seven years ago, you would have struggled to find a retail banking expert who would have bet big on the Polish retail banking industry. Nobody would have looked at Poland and said: “Hey, something major is going to happen there; let’s keep an eye on it.”

In 2008, most financial executives were dealing with a whole host of problems – the burst mortgage bubble, volatile international financial markets and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which led to possibly the largest financial crisis of its kind in human history. But while others were counting their losses, closing operations and firing people to somehow survive, in Poland a new bank emerged from the ashes – Alior bank – and so was born a new era in retail banking across the country.

In the last few months, three Polish banks have been recognised globally for their innovation strategies by not one, nor two, but three highly regarded industry bodies:
• In Barcelona, mBank won in three categories and Getin bank was nominated for the physical distribution award at the Efma Distribution and Marketing Innovation Awards 2014
• In Chicago, Ideabank, with its Idea Cloud project, and mBank won top prizes at the BAI-Finacle Global Banking Innovation Awards
• In London, at Finnovate Europe 2015, mBank was announced as ‘best of show winner’ for its interactive, digital retail-branch concept.

Many other awards and industry recognitions have followed, and each time at least one Polish bank has been called on stage to accept a prize.

So what has changed? Nothing and everything! When Alior bank entered the market, it brought with it a completely fresh approach to banking and forced others to respond. In 2013, mBank crowned a huge digital transformation strategy and rebranding exercise. Strong local banks (Getin, PKO Bank Polski) and international groups (Bank Pekao, ING Bank Slaski, Bank Zachodni WBK) also followed suit. Keen to retain their marketing-leading positions, they too began looking for ways in which they could bring something new to their customers and stand out from the competition. And suddenly many of the major players in the Polish retail banking industry were putting the customer at the centre of their strategies and taking on board the latest global innovation trends to keep up with their demands and exceed their expectations.

This is why a month ago (June 7-12) 20 banking executives from the most innovative institutions and markets globally, under the professional guidance of Efma, came to Poland and spent five days visiting the top seven innovative banks to learn and understand more about the Polish retail banking industry.
I think it’s fair to say that the experience far exceeded the expectations of everyone who attended. When providing feedback, some even said that they had found it to be a life-changing experience and it had had a big impact on their professional growth.

So, what have we found out? Does Poland really have it all and can others replicate their success?

According to Innovation in Retail Banking study published by Efma, the most successful, innovative leaders in retail banking share five common traits:

1. They have full support from the CEO and/or the board regarding their innovation strategy. In essence, they have a culture of innovation
2. They have a dedicated innovation department or innovation committee
3. A clear innovation strategy and roadmap
4. KPIs which can clearly define what a successful innovation is
5. Open innovation platforms.

I’ll be going into more detail about this and more in my next article.




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