Interview with André Renfer on Finstar's strategy
With the opening of its overall banking platform and the establishment of its award-winning ecosystem, Finstar is well prepared to meet the challenges of the decade ahead. The foundation for this strong future was laid early on and has been consistently pursued at all levels.
For André Renfer, the 2010s were all about opening up and realigning with a dedicated unit focusing on Finstar and related services. For Hypothekarbank Lenzburg's Executive Board member, the better positioning and increased visibility of the overall banking platform Finstar as an independent product brings significant advantages, for example in terms of communication with the market. The latter perceives that Finstar is not identical with the bank. Nevertheless, the affiliation with Hypothekarbank Lenzburg continues to play a very important role.
"We have mastered the technology and the banking business"
According to Renfer, the technical opening under the keywords Finstar Open Banking and Finstar Ecosystem was accompanied by a mental opening: new people bring in their ideas and increase the dynamics from conception to implementation. Currently, the Finstar team consists of around 50 experts. The fact that Finstar has moved into its own premises underlines the importance of the area for Hypothekarbank Lenzburg. Technology and banking can do many things. But mastering both is a strong unique selling point, making Finstar and the "Hypi" Lenzburg unique, according to Renfer.
Mr Renfer, if you look at Hypothekarbank Lenzburg's annual report for 2019, Finstar is also becoming increasingly important in terms of business results. Is this impression deceptive?
No. Finstar has become a substantial part of the income statement. The intention is to generate constant income by selling services. This decision was made in 2000, when we started to put the solution on a new technological basis in order to maintain the technical independence of Hypothekarbank Lenzburg. From today's perspective, it was a wise and fortunate step: we know where parts of our future revenues will come from.
Apart from financial aspects: How would you summarize the past financial year?
2019 was a year of new beginnings, change and dynamism, especially with regard to Fintech companies - many different dominoes came together. 2020 also holds interesting projects in store: After another decade, the next technology change is now on the horizon. Cloud computing and block chain, service strategy and a large ecosystem offer many new opportunities, but also raise questions about future architecture. In doing so, we have to consider not only the technological aspects but also the regulatory and banking aspects. In addition to our banking license, our reputation and our most important asset, the trust of our clients, depend on our decisions.
"He who controls the data controls the bank"
Can you be a bit more specific about the Finstar ecosystem?
We receive many more inquiries from Fintech companies and banks on the subject of open banking than we can currently process. This shows how many ideas are out there, reflects the size of the market, but also that our resources are limited. We must be able to give more ideas a chance to dock and undock more quickly and in a more standardised way. With the help of the Finstar platform, Fintech companies must be able to start their business within six months at the latest. We have the technical integration under control and we have to work on the mental opening: Our job is to facilitate innovation. We must let partners do more and prescribe less, without neglecting central issues such as security and legal framework conditions.
Is it important for Hypothekarbank Lenzburg to have its own software?
It's existential: in the end, banks are nothing more than data. Those who master IT control the data and thus the bank. At the same time, we eliminate dependence on external software suppliers. Without its own platform, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg would be a regional bank like all the others, would be known less and not as digital and innovative.
What are the objectives for the new Finstar banks?
As mentioned, Finstar not only guarantees the efficient operation of the bank, but as an additional source of income it also provides flexibility and freedom. To further consolidate this strong position, we have set ourselves the goal of acquiring at least two new partners per year for our overall banking platform or for individual banking elements.
As soon as a Swiss bank strategically considers where its future will take it and which skills will be relevant, it will stop by sooner or later. It is now well known in the industry that we at Hypothekarbank Lenzburg use Finstar to implement good, open, flexible and innovative solutions.
Differentiation in customer contact
The efficient integration of customers and Fintech offers is only one advantage of a functioning ecosystem. However, the fact that the participants have the opportunity to work together is often forgotten: Given openness and flexibility, everyone can cooperate with everyone else and no longer do everything alone. Differentiation takes place at the digital and analogue interfaces between bank and customer. The combination of selected services from different providers ensures bank-specific further development, continuous updating of the platform and makes costly migrations unnecessary.
Neon is just one example of this flexibility: The Fintech company was initially interested in the banking package. In the course of the discussions, however, it became clear that Banking as a Service would be more suitable, at least for the beginning. Thanks to the open interfaces, the new concept was implemented in a time and cost efficient manner.
Innovate and optimise
According to Renfer, the challenges in the cooperation with Fintech companies lie less in the technical than in the regulatory area and in the coordination of processes. In addition, Fintech companies are faster and more straightforward for various reasons. They thus put additional pressure on the internal organisation to continuously innovate, optimise and consistently work on the future of the Finstar banking software. It is becoming more modular and flexible, even more efficient and can be configured from the overall system down to individual products and services in a bank-specific manner. Cloud computing and block chain, service strategies and ecosystems make these developments possible in the first place, while at the same time placing new demands on banks and software houses. Those with a clear vision and a stringent strategy are prepared for the banking of the future. Being a bank and software company in one will be a decisive advantage for the new decade.
Would you like to learn more about the core banking software and Finstar or are you interested in a partnership? Contact us, we look forward to receiving your email