Bank + Fintech love story: Erste Group + Dateio

Martin Kobza, Head of Digital at Erste Group, and Ondrej Knot, Co-founder and CEO at Dateio, spoke with Efma’s Boris Plantier about their mutually rewarding partnership.

Bank + Fintech love story: Erste Group + Dateio

How did the two of you meet?

Kobza: Dateio already had a relationship with our subsidiaries in the Czech Republic and Romania. To take this relationship to the next level, Ondrej and his team were introduced to us as a local innovation on our Group Digital Board.

Knot: The meeting was initiated by people from Česká Spořitelna, Erste’s Czech entity, who had been piloting our solution already for some time in a separate application. The client responses were good, so they thought it would be a good idea to integrate it into George. The fact that we were already working with BCR in Romania made the case for central cooperation even stronger.

Could you tell us about your first date?

Kobza: I remember that on our first date, we gave Ondrej quite a tough time. We challenged every aspect of his business, from the value for our customers up to the value of his company for our group. On the group level, we are trying to avoid innovation just for the sake of innovation – there has to be a business case and real added value for our customers. So the start is always very critical. Ondrej did well and proved his point.

Knot: Indeed, I remember it was not exactly an easy discussion, but I already thought to myself back then that “These guys take this very seriously,“ which I took as a good sign. We left the meeting with a concrete list of next steps, which – even though it took longer than initially planned – were eventually realized.

What made you realize that you were perfectly matched?

Kobza: In our case, it was not just about the right match, but also a matter of timing. We always believed that our banking ecosystem George spreading across four (soon six) countries can be a great platform to scale start-ups and new services across the CEE region. Still, we needed George to reach the scale of millions of users before we could prove this idea. Dateio already partnered with two of our local subsidiaries and has been present with their service in additional markets of ours. Besides, Dateio is eager to grow in CEE and that fits us perfectly.

Knot: In Dateio, we realized we could be a good fit for George much earlier when we learned about the George project and the idea behind it: that it should become an open platform / ecosystem, common for all the Erste banks across CEE. But we knew that we first needed to prove our value locally, via the cooperations with the local banks. Fortunatelly, I believe we have managed to do so.

What is the fruit of your relationship?

Kobza: An additional service for our customers – easily and safely accessable through our platform George.

Knot: At the moment, we are in the implementation stage. Once implemented, George users will be able to enjoy offers from our retail partners, which include, for example, major grocery and petrol chains in each of the markets where we operate. Since the offers will be presented to clients in George, they will have another reason to visit George and their overall activity will increase, an impact which we have already seen in other banks using our solution.

What makes your relationship work?

Kobza: George is the only banking platform in the CEE region with customers across several countries. Plus, our customers use George very actively. Dateio’s service will enhance our proposition and make George even more attractive.

Knot: I would add that from the start, on the soft side, we have been transparent with each other, so there have been no unpleasant surprises during the process. We have both kept our commitments and when problems emerged, both sides did their best to solve them.

What are your plans for the future?

Kobza: We are working together to disseminate Dateio’s service across all of our markets. In parallel, Dateio is adding new loyalty propositions to provide merchants with higher flexibility. I believe that the partnership with Erste will bring enough momentum to accelerate Dateio far beyond CEE.

Knot: The priority is to launch our service in the markets where we are already present, which is Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. During 2020, we are planning to add Austria, which is also a major Erste and George market. The plan for 2021 is to also expand into Hungary and Croatia. On the product side, we are extending our concept in the direction of “one-tap loyalty.“ The idea is that clients will no longer need separate loyalty cards, since their loyalty will be tracked and loyalty points accumulated based on payment. This will mean a major CX improvement for clients and also open new possibilities for our retail partners.

Want to hear more about the collaboration between Erste Group and Dateio? Register for Bank+Fintech on 21-23 April in Berlin.

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