Mobile banking made in Poland? Yes, it’s hot! Among its other specialties, including quality music and arts, good food and appealing landscapes, Poland has most recently become an unlikely pioneer of fintech, particularly in cashless and mobile payments. Polish banking apps and solutions offer both inspiration and concrete tools for banks, financial institutions and fintech companies worldwide. Copernicus would not be ashamed?
The value of the Polish fintech market - by far the largest in the CEE region - was estimated at 856 million euro by Deloitte, in their “FinTech in CEE” report. This comes as no surprise not only because of the size of the economy, but also because Poles are visibly more inclined than other European nations to use new solutions in financial services. According to ING’s “Financial Barometer” report, 65 percent of Polish smartphone users have performed a banking operation with their mobile device, compared to a 57 percent European average. The only country exceeding Poland was Turkey.
We are proud of those numbers, and they are growing quickly. The Polish Bank Association and other sources reported there were 11.2 million mobile banking users at the end of 2018, including 8.7 active users - a number that grew by 10.5 percent compared to the previous quarter. Poland has a population of 38 million.
The above-quoted ING report, says that what convinces Poles to use mobile banking is mostly its convenience, and what prevents those who don’t use it is doubts about its security. Anyone developing new fintech solutions should know those are the two key factors driving innovation in the sector. By increasing both convenience and security, we can convince increasing numbers of customers to use new technologies, everywhere.
It was mostly convenience and functionality that allowed a Polish banking application - PKO Bank Polski’s IKO - to win the title of world’s best mobile banking app in 2018, for the second time in a row. Retail Banker International said “the platform shows a customer everything that they need on one screen. Although we are stepping into a digital age, the mobile app has a feature that tells a customer where their nearest branch or ATM is to withdraw cash, supporting the best of both worlds”. Customers praised the app, co-developed by a fintech innovator, for a user-friendly interface that makes managing money and making transactions easy.
The Polish app’s list of functionalities is, in all fairness, pretty impressive. From opening a new account and making all kinds of transfers to buying travel insurance and managing multi-currency cards, it can make customers all but forget about traditional online banking. This is the key selling point for bringing in new users - of which it already has more than 3 million. The current number matches the popularity of the shining star Revolut. But IKO is not stopping any time soon - it wants to reach 4 million users shortly.
The IKO app is based on Braintri-developed Mobile Banking Framework (MBF). Next to its award-winning functionality, MBF guarantees exceptional security. The framework can easily be used to create high-quality apps. While at a certain level banking apps become quite similar in what they can do, what sets the best ones apart is how good the actual user experience is and how excellent security it maintains. With Mobile Banking Framework the technology is already there.
BLIK is another good example of Polish mobile banking innovation. Once again, it is a project from PKO BP (which is Poland’s biggest retail bank) and its consortium partners, with Braintri as a solutions provider. Considered the largest mobile payments scheme in Europe, BLIK has become very popular among its users. It has an almost 100 percent user rate among mobile banking customers in Poland and has recently set out for international expansion. Thanks to a strategic partnership with Mastercard, the system will soon be available for contactless payments outside of Poland, and perhaps even offered by banks abroad. We would like to think it will become the global mobile payments standard and the first Polish startup unicorn.
Some Polish banks are already working on introducing blockchain technology to their operations - mostly to implement a durable medium for company-customer communications. Others are working closely with fintech startups, so they don’t fall behind in a fast-changing environment. They certainly have a lot of startups to choose from and firmly partner with, becoming fintechs themselves.
This drive for fintech innovation in Poland, a country that only transitioned to a market economy 30 years ago, can seem either surprising or natural. On the one hand, we have still not quite caught up with the Western world when it comes to GDP per capita and the purchasing power of earnings. On the other, not unlike many neighbors in our region, we have a stronger drive to compete with bigger markets in areas we actually have a chance in - not traditional banking institutions, but new technologies, where the playing field is a lot more even.
Combined with an openness to new ideas, a highly educated society, and a substantial market size, it makes Poland a great place for creating and testing out innovations. It shows - earlier on in how quickly Polish customers adopted contactless payments, and now in the use of mobile banking. Whatever comes next, be sure you’ll find it in Poland.