Interview: Crafting Technology for Accessible Banking

Read this interview with Mathias Schütz, International and Deputy Group CEO, Natech Banking Solutions, to learn about Natech’s business growth, digital banking solutions, value proposition for microfinance, plans for expansion, as well as regional financial trends.

Introducing Natech Banking Solutions

Natech Banking Solutions democratizes access to banking technology and liberates resources, allowing financial institutions to prioritize what’s most important— outstanding service and customer fulfilment.

Natech’s product suite encompasses everything from a core banking system to digital engagement channels, enabling banks to craft and deliver personalised financial products.

How Was Natech’s Business Last Year?

2023 was very positive for Natech. We doubled the size of the team, scaling the company to match our international expansion plans, and launched a major rebrand to position ourselves for global growth. Additionally, we signed contracts with key new European clients, including financial and non-financial institutions.

Natech has been operating for more than twenty years, and we believe its current evolution will be a milestone in our expanding company’s history.

And for Those of Our Readers Who Don’t Know More about You, Who and What Natech Does?

Natech delivers comprehensive digital banking solutions, allowing institutions of all sizes to free up time to focus on providing exceptional customer service.

Our product suite includes a core banking solution, cloud-based operations, and customer-centric digital channel solutions that empower banks to offer bespoke financial products and support for microfinance.

In summary, we craft accessible banking technology to help financial institutions worldwide realize their potential. We are guided by a vision of a world where technology empowers all financial institutions, and they are not limited by size.

What's Your Value Proposition? What Are Your Digital Transformation Solutions?

We provide a holistic and comprehensive digital banking platform that covers every aspect of modern banking, from robust core banking to a digital channel engagement layer.

Our solutions are particularly impactful for local and regional banks, fintechs, and neobanks, which now have access to a full suite of banking products and services with future-proof technology that was once only available to the most prominent institutions.

The Natech platform levels the playing field to fuel growth, amplify impact, and enhance competitiveness.

What Makes You Different from Competitors?

We bring over two decades of experience to the forefront of banking innovation, giving us deep domain knowledge and expertise. Our platform embodies this expertise, offering a comprehensive suite of modular solutions built on a modern, cloud-based architecture, making it affordable for banks of all sizes.

When clients opt for Natech, they’re no longer burdened with the complexity of managing multiple systems from different vendors. Instead, they gain access to an integrated suite that empowers them to exceed customer expectations and adapt swiftly to market changes.

A distinctive feature of the Natech platform is its rapid onboarding process for new clients. This enables them to accelerate their time-to-market and optimize the delivery of new products and services, giving them a competitive advantage.

I Know You Focus on Microfinance. Please Tell Me More About This Matter.

We are committed to democratizing digital banking technology, and our support for microfinance institutions (MFIs) is part of that mission. We empower MFIs with technology that ensures operational efficiency, enhances customer experience, and accelerates growth.

Ultimately, this allows MFIs to tailor their services to meet their customers’ unique needs cost-effectively, giving them a competitive edge in the market. We have developed an end-to-end solution for microfinance and see growing demand and massive potential.

You Completed Your First Fundraiser Last Year. The Funds Were Meant to Support Your Expansion. Tell Me About This Expansion, Especially Your Plans for Romania and the Region.

In March 2023, we concluded our first funding round, raising €10 million to fuel strategic expansion initiatives and develop a groundbreaking joint venture with Piraeus Bank, the digital challenger bank Snappi. In addition to delivering a fresh banking experience for end-users, Snappi will become our exclusive distribution channel for an innovative Banking-as-Service (BaaS) offering.

Our expansion strategy covers Europe, Romania, and the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region. Our funding round was a critical moment in our expansion and an essential enabler of our BaaS strategy and broader growth plans.

Why the Romanian Market?

We are headquartered in Ioannina, Greece, a fast-growing tech hub for southern Europe. Romania is a market that is very close to our home market in Greece, both geographically and culturally, and in terms of a commitment to innovation among financial institutions and their customers, who are seeking high-quality digital banking services.

Romania is a regional and European leader in fintech and financial services, which means it is a very interesting and exciting market.

The Funding Round Is Supposed to Help Develop Your Baas Offering. What Are the Developments in This Matter?

Natech will launch a branchless, digital-only bank, Snappi, in partnership with Piraeus Bank. Snappi represents a leap forward in BaaS and will serve customers across Europe. A complete banking license and the official launch is expected in the second half of this year.

We expect Snappi to be particularly relevant to Gen Z and Millennials, although it will also meet a growing demand for digital services among all age groups and market segments.

By 2026, we aim to serve more than one million customers and complete the onboarding of 150 embedded finance merchant partners.

What Are the Region’s Financial Trends?

Romania and the CEE region have faced the same challenging economic headwinds as the rest of Europe. However, despite these challenges, there is a strong sense of resilience and a commitment to innovation, particularly in the financial sector.

In Romania, recent challenges, such as high inflation rates peaking at 9.7% in 2023, have not stifled the growth and adoption of fintech and digital banking.

Encouragingly, the European Commission forecasts a decline in inflation to 5.8% in 2024, alongside a positive trajectory in GDP growth from 1.8% in 2023 to an anticipated 2.9% in 2024 and further to 3.2% in 2025. This economic recovery signals green shoots and indicates renewed optimism across the region.

A significant trend is the evolution of customer behavior and accelerated adoption of digital financial services, driven by the demand for convenience, speed, and personalized banking experiences. This shift is especially crucial in Romania, where digital banking is vital in bridging the technological divide between urban and rural communities and tapping into one of Europe’s highest unbanked populations. The economic backdrop and customer demand propel technological advancements within the financial sector, with artificial intelligence (AI), open banking, and fintech innovations leading the charge.

AI enhances customer service and operational efficiency, while open banking fosters a competitive environment that benefits consumers by giving them access to better products that respond to their unique financial context.

Fintechs are leveraging Romania’s innovative tech ecosystem and skilled developer pool to introduce agile and customer-centric solutions, challenging traditional banking models. These developments are part of a broader digital transformation that improves customer experience and makes financial institutions more efficient and resilient.

Romania’s financial sector, amidst economic challenges, is witnessing a dynamic transformation driven by technological advancements and changing customer behaviors. The country’s ambitious tech ecosystem and the significant opportunity presented by its unbanked population are setting the stage for more collaborations and partnerships within Romania and across the CEE region. This blend of innovation, economic recovery, and technological adoption points to a promising future for fintech and digital banking in the area.

What Is Next for Natech?

In the short term, we will focus on our SaaS offerings as we expand into new geographies. Snappi plays a pivotal role in our planning, alongside a comprehensive go-to-market strategy for our BaaS offerings. Both these initiatives will enable us to innovate further and enhance the capabilities of our product suite.

In the medium term, our focus will extend to further product innovation around AI, including enhancing our product lineup to ensure we stay ahead in the competitive landscape and continue to offer significant value to our customers. In line with our mission to craft accessible banking technology for financial institutions, we see it as our distinct duty to democratize access to powerful AI applications, which will be built into our solutions.

Looking towards the long term, we aim to expand beyond Europe, targeting the US market. We have identified a substantial opportunity within regional banks in the US, which are currently underserved and reliant on outdated technology.

Our successful European strategy and product development will be a strong foundation for penetrating the US market and addressing regional banks’ needs with our innovative solutions.

Source & Notes

This interview was originally published in March 2024 on FutureBanking.ro.

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