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TBI Bank’s CIO On: Becoming the Next Generation Digital Lender

November 20, 2017 | Cheryl Cross

The internet is infused with innovators, visionaries, and influencers — larger-than-life personalities with contagious ideas about the future of banking. To be sure, inspiration is ready for the taking around every corner in a technological age that supports advancement. Andreas Down, CIO at TBI Bank, exists passionately in this group of forward-thinkers. He’s the type of executive that makes you believe that, with just a cup of coffee and a great attitude, you too could change the face of the future.

It’s not too far-fetched to believe that Andreas Down will star in an HBO documentary one day, an inspirational tale on the rise of digital banking. Before his appointment as CIO at TBI Bank, Andreas Down was CIO and Board Member of Fidor – one of the world’s most innovative digital-only FinTech Banks. He was the head of the entire data center operations, application development, and internal IT group landscape and led the team that developed numerous innovative concepts. He has also worked for well-known banks and financial services companies, such as Unicredit, Direkt Anlage Bank, HypoVereinsbank, Probank, Direkt Anlage Bank and others.

Andreas is in the day-to-day of digital transformation with TBI Bank, a consumer and business focused bank operating in Bulgaria and Romania, so we interviewed him about the real-life progress and challenges he sees in this digital banking movement.

Andreas, thank you for speaking with us today. We are curious about your vision for digital transformation. Tell us about some of your inspiring ideas:

Andreas Down: Absolutely. TBI Bank has made the customer the center of our universe. In a very successful offline business, this has taken the shape of an outstanding personal experience in every interaction. Of course, to be truly customer-focused in any environment, in-person or online, technology is critical to survival and has been key to our success. Now, we are translating that customer-centricity into a better, faster digital lending experience and the technology comes to the forefront.

Our vision at TBI Bank, as part of the 4Finance group, is to digitalize the lending process, pushing the preconceived boundaries of lending to make the experience faster, smarter, and well… cooler. The big picture vision? For a customer to apply for a loan online and have access to the funds in less than 5 minutes.

Can you give us an example of this experience in application?

We have just gone live with an e-commerce partner in Romania to embed the lending function within a shopping cart interface. The shopper is online, perhaps purchasing a new television, and has access to TBI Bank lending within the buying event. From her mobile device, the buyer can apply and be approved for a loan in fifteen minutes. She can fulfill the entire loan process, full KYC through signature and funding while shopping for electronics on her phone.

That’s fifteen minutes in a reasonably frictionless transaction, and it’s only going to get faster from here.

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Wow. So, you’re obviously moving quickly in the execution of this digital transformation. What are some of the more “out of the box” ideas you’ve considered?

Well, nothing should be considered outside of the box. We understand that we have regulatory responsibilities and that risk must be balanced. However, this journey welcomes every new idea and potential use of technology. We talk a lot about artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, and alternative data — how are these things going to make the customer fall in love with us? For example, why couldn’t we offer a 300 euro loan based solely on a Facebook profile? I could talk about ideas all day. The point here is to encourage new ideas to build a pipeline and prioritize for the needs of the customer.

With all of these ideas, you have to encounter challenges along the way? What are some major challenges you’re facing in TBI Bank’s digital transformation?

We face three main challenges: Accelerating time to “yes”, balancing that acceleration with regulatory requirements, and finding the right talent to facilitate this progress.

Accelerating time to “yes” first means simplifying the application for the borrower. While traditional loan applications might have 120 fields – requiring time and manual input from the applicant – we want to give you 2-3 fields while we handle the rest. Time to “yes” is directly related to our regulatory responsibilities because we must fulfill necessary KYC requirements without unnecessarily inconveniencing or delaying the customer. It’s a balancing act. However, regulations often provide inspiration and opportunity. Consider PSDII and the implications it has in customer data accessibility, revealing potential for speedier, more automated application process.

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Provenir actually plays a vital role in navigating this balance between compliance and speed because it gives us the ability to orchestrate all of our scoring and compliance processes very quickly.

Then, there’s talent. Our platform is .NET based, so we are always looking for skilled .NET developers. The real quest, though, is to find highly visionary business analysts in the Romanian and Bulgarian markets, those people who can analyze business demands and bridge the gap between those and the technologies available to us. These analysts are our translators, so to speak, those who can look at the status quo and translate existing systems and demands and translate that into a backlog for the future.

How does the future look from where you’re sitting?

Everyone is talking about open banking because it opens doors for customers to experience speed and convenience in ways they never have. Of course, the UK has the Open Banking Standard and The Open Bank project has existed in Germany since about 2010. These are the regionally exclusive, early stages of collaboration among financial institutions. Nonetheless, this movement reveals with great clarity that the future is data.

What does that mean for the future of the bank? It means more opportunity to analyze and act on data. Today we talked about rapidly approving customer’s requests. Tomorrow we are looking at rapidly predicting customer’s desires. All of that comes from data.

Thank you, Andreas! We will have to speak again. Until then, is there anything you’d like to leave us with?

You know, we talk about all of these trends and buzzwords. It really comes down to the way a customer and an employee feels when interacting with our brand. We venture into this new technological world at TBI Bank because we’re motivated to hear them say, “Wow. TBI Bank is really cool.”

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