You may remember we introduced our online debt collector a few weeks ago. Today, our Financial Services Director, Slawomir Podolski talks about it in more detail. He also discusses modern financial sector trends and how businesses have been affected by the pandemic.
The interview was published in November 2020. The current Director of Financial Services at Spyrosoft is Michal Kaleta.
What’s your experience in the finance sector?
I’ve been involved in financial projects for the past 13 years, always as an IT services provider. I’ve taken part in large international projects for banks and financial institutions. I know this sector from the perspective of business support systems. Representing IT companies, I’ve come a long way from a software developer to a director responsible for implementing complex IT solutions.
What are the current directions in this sector?
The financial sector has been impacted by the crisis related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Looking at the stats from the last few months, you can clearly see how much this industry has shrunk. The most visible example is the loan sector that’s now 50% smaller compared to the numbers from the same time period last year. Not all financial institutions were ready for the steep decrease in the number of customers, supporting them outside of their branches and new regulations that were introduced by the Polish government in one of the Anti-Crisis Shield programmes. There’s currently a small increase in the overview reports on the sector, but full recovery and going back to the numbers from before the pandemic, will take a long time.
Due to the current market situation, offering financial products has become a lot riskier. All companies have increased their risk metric. For an average customer, it means that it will be more difficult to get any additional funding and the costs will become higher.
Additionally, there’s also a need to look at cost savings. Just to give you one example: in Poland, the interest rates were lowered in May to the lowest level since they’ve been recorded – 0,1 percent. Valuations for the largest banks and profitability for some parts of their business have shrunk as well. Some of the costs were actually placed on the customer’s side, but banking executives are looking to save more money wherever they can. Until now, one of the most popular products that was aimed at gaining new customers, was 0% interest loan where you could give back only as much as you’d borrowed. Now, one can forget about these offers – they've been gone since the crisis hit.
What are the current needs of the financial sector when it comes to software products?
The crisis caused by the pandemic has forced financial institutions to lower their own costs, but also to make decisions related to investing in innovations. These aspects are related, and the solution seems to be in using the possibilities that lie in the latest IT product, especially when it comes to process automation and optimisation.
The business sector will need to focus on online customer support even more. Typical agencies where customers are served directly by the staff are slowly losing their importance. All eyes will be now on how to lower your costs by moving most of your services to web and mobile applications. This past month’s situation has made all of us realise that there’s no going back when it comes to online services if we want to our businesses to thrive and be safe for customers.
What are the needs that customers approach you with?
When it comes to the requests we’ve been getting from the financial sector, these are mostly related to building new customer platforms. Unfortunately, not one of the companies had them already – they are the perfect place for customers to do most of their tasks, see the offering in full and sign up for new products in the safest possible way, all without leaving their home. These platforms can often give you the ability to track customer behaviour and match the offering to their needs.
One of the most visible sectors making these requests is the debt management industry. So far, they have been supporting their clients via phone calls. Their call centre teams were one of their most significant internal costs and as a consequence, the costs of debt services increased. These companies want to lower their costs right now. There’s also another side to it: this type of contact becomes less and less effective, especially when you’re trying to reach younger target groups. The debt management companies are currently investing in building and developing their digital channels.
What else has changed in the financial sector?
I’ve mentioned the rapidly changing legal regulations. The ability to comply with them as soon as possible is often make or break for a business. Our clients expect flexible IT solutions and a short time-to-market. One of the best examples of this approach is our collaboration with TakTo Finanse where thanks to investing in specific type of IT products early on, they’ve been able to overtake their competitors in adjusting their offering to the new loan market regulations.
When it comes to lowering costs, it’s worth mentioning the cloud solutions as well. Their biggest advantage is the ‘pay-as-you-go' rule. This approach gives you a lot of possibilities to optimise your costs compared with traditional services provided by hosting companies. When some of the servers are not in use, we can automatically put them on hold and lower costs by 90%.
Could you tell me a bit more about online debt collector that we’ve been developing at Spyrosoft?
It serves as a platform for online debt management. The customer can log in to the system, check their debt, sign an agreement choosing flexible conditions that will suit their needs. They can also modify the offers they receive. The agreement is signed automatically, and the payment schedule is generated. They can then pay their debt online, in instalments. The biggest benefit of this system is the fact that the customer can pay back their debt and sign the agreement in a few clicks, without leaving their home, without meeting with a customer rep and without any phone calls.
In addition to this, they can also complete other tasks that – as applications - go directly to the person responsible for that particular area of customer support. The service flow is significantly shorter, its cost is lower, but the customer satisfaction increases. This is one of the elements important to financial companies – process automation. It means that they can support their customers quicker and cheaper, all while lowering their own costs too.
I understand that the online debt collector is not a product per se, it’s a solution that can be customised and adjusted to the client’s needs.
Yes, exactly. It can be tailor-made to better address the customer needs. Every financial institution has existing systems and processes. They also have a specific course of action that we need to consider. Of course, based on our experience, modules that can be used and our domain expertise, we can significantly fasten this course. As a result, the client received a product with full intellectual property rights and that they can modify it further. It’s fully owned by them and it’s a product customised to their needs.
Can this tool be used in sectors other than debt management?
Of course. There would be no problem if this solution is used by any businesses that do not have online customer support. We always discuss the functional range of a specific platform in detail, before we start developing it. As a company specialising in delivering financial solutions, we can help a customer by advising them on the most effective products in their area. The list of possibilities is practically endless.
Traditional business sector can also use this solution.
By all means. Banks are also interested in such solutions and they've been reaching out to us and asking us to support them in developing such projects. Often a solution has to be integrated with their internal systems and online banking – all while aligning with quality standards. As an experienced IT solutions provider, we have experience in such collaborations and we’re ready for the challenges to come.