Michał Łukasik, CEO at Kontomatik tells us about open banking during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Michał Łukasik: COVID-19 times are challenging. The pandemic changed our society – our way of working, studying, everyday routines and social interactions have evolved in an accelerated mode, but I strongly believe life is happening now and we need to accommodate and enjoy it. We should not wait for ‘old normal’ to come back, both in business and personal lives. Personally, for the past few years, I have been spending a major part of the year outside of Poland. Unexpectedly, the COVID breakout gave me an opportunity to spend more time with my family.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you joined Kontomatik.
Michał Łukasik: Working already for a few years in a FinTech environment, I was looking for new opportunities within this sector. I have been observing innovative services that support the world of modern finance for a long time. Since the introduction of open banking in the EU (PSD2, a European regulation which went into full effect on 14 September 2019), working for a licensed data company like Kontomatik is probably the greatest opportunity you can get in the FinTech world.
Kontomatik is an established company, working with high-profile clients, improving their processes, and contributing to the creation of the FinTech ecosystem in CEE and a market leader in Poland from where I came from. When I got an opportunity to join the Kontomatik team, I had no second thoughts.
How does Kontomatik innovate?
Michał Łukasik: Kontomatik is one of the European pioneers of open banking, already operating in over 10 countries around the world. The company was founded in 2009 and has Polish roots. The startup years are long behind us, and I can confidently say that we are the market leader in Poland and have a robust position in European countries.
Our company delivers, analyzes, and categorizes banking data in real-time, helping banks, FinTech’s, lenders, and factoring companies make better business decisions. Kontomatik solutions based on the banking API provides them with customer identification, aggregation of banking accounts and their types, analysis of customers financial behavior, verification of data and financial flows, precise customer segmentation, verification of payment discipline and account holder’s obligations, categorization of banking transactions or enrichment of scoring models.
Our goal for 2021 and in the coming years is to provide open banking services to companies from outside the financial sector. We want to be a leading force for introducing banking-data-driven decisions in sales processes for companies whose clients are SME’s and private individuals irrespectively if they are in trade or services.
It is important for us to go beyond the common pattern and help companies from e-commerce, trade, real estate, rental sectors, and more traditional industries to reach for the most valuable assets of the financial industry – data and in-depth information about the client. Such knowledge will ensure that companies will always be able to prepare tailored offers for their clients, optimize their sales process and minimize trade and credit risks. In Kontomatik we truly believe that we can contribute to increasing our client’s sales potential, strengthen upselling, optimize processes, and many more.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Michał Łukasik: That was a very rewarding year for us. Due to the new regulatory framework we were able to start large projects for corporate clients and well-known, international companies like Revolut joined the group of our clients. We managed to achieve stability despite seeing a lot of uncertainty among our potential customers with many companies putting cash preservation as their priority. Banks in CEE tightened their lending policies. Some of the large projects we had in the pipeline for 2020 were put on hold or moved to 2021.
Additionally, we see pandemic outbreaks forcing many companies to digitize services faster. It opens an opportunity for us to explore new market segments. Good examples from our portfolio would be migrating offline lending companies to online, supporting real estate or car rental platforms.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Michał Łukasik: The company was organizationally and culturally prepared for a pandemic; thus, my role was mainly to strengthen these structures. Even before the pandemic, we worked partially remotely. There was simply no need to implement new tools or managerial techniques. Clear and transparent communication is a key for everyone to understand where we are as a company and which direction we are going – that is where my communication skills and understanding people’s needs were helpful. My role was to assure employees that the situation in the company is stable and predictable.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Michał Łukasik: In the longer run, lack of everyday contact in the office will be a critical challenge to address for many managers in tech firms and me. With all the advantages of remote work, there are two aspects to be addressed: maintaining company culture and identity and relations between team members while not being physically in the office. And with extended remote work, the workplace benefits and company culture will play a lesser role in building long-term employee loyalty. Additionally, we cannot forget about an important aspect of peer learning to be addressed. It can adversely affect employees’ learning process as it brings the practical application of communication skills.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Michał Łukasik: There are companies, like us, providing open banking services for the financial sector in Europe. And I am glad that there are entities such as Think with a solid financial background that want to help companies innovate through open banking. Thanks to all of us, it may soon become a market standard.
However, at Kontomatik we would like to go a step further and offer open banking services outside the financial sector unlike most players in the market. We are convinced that Kontomatik can bring many benefits to companies that want to digitize their processes. Such companies may have never heard yet of the idea of open banking.
What will the market look like in the near future?
Michał Łukasik: This market has yet to mature. We hope that the use of open banking tools will become a commodity just like online payments. With the entry into force, the subsequent EU regulations market can be even bigger. What is critical now, is to build users’ awareness and perception of open banking as a safe and fast way to prove their financial health and position.
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