Interview with Andre Achtstaetter (an experienced entrepreneur in banking, insurance and finance)

In this video we are proud to introduce to you Andre Achtstaetter, an experienced entrepreneur in banking, insurance and finance, who has worked in seven different countries and has a wide vision of the industry.

Topics of dialogue:

  • Why is it worth learning the language of the country where you do business?
  • How to build a connection between branch offices and the head office
  • Differences from one country to another
  • Different choices for investment 
  • About software in European banks
  • Why is partnership with startups important for banks?
  • Why is it difficult for banks to change quickly?
  • What do millenials want?
  • Trend for superapps
  • Remote work vs office
  • Traditional guest tips

Key insights:

  • According to Andre’s experience, financial business is a people business. You need to speak the language of the country in which you do business to understand the local culture and consumer behaviour. Learn the language, live in the chosen country, as the differences can be very significant. Staying in the local area gives you much more than just research. 
  • In branches in other countries you need a strong team and local consultants who understand the local market. You also need a manager who can build relationships with the main office and help translate the company’s values.
  • Some differences between countries:
    • In Germany many people still use cash and this is probably going to continue for many generations. This is because cash is considered as an independence. This goes back to a time when there was strict control in East Germany and Deutsche Mark gave people a little freedom;
    • Italy is different from Germany because most questions are solved quickly, literally over a cup of coffee. Germans on the other hand need to sit down and discuss the various items in detail for a couple of hours, and then perhaps postpone the dialogue to the next meeting;
    • Germans prefer to send preliminary emails with a list of questions and expect to receive an answer to such emails before arranging a call. In Italy, they prefer to call immediately, and even to meet in person.
  • There is no common template for doing business in different countries, as legal regulations and customer demands are very different.
  • Due to the historical evolution and M&A deals of European banks, a large number of systems are created, which makes the customer journey much more difficult. For example, there are some branches where you need to enter data in 8 different systems to create an account, which can take 60-90 minutes! 
  • For most neo-banks, the question of how to make money is still open. The excellent and user-friendly UI itself does not provide an answer to this question. There is a possibility of serious overvaluation of such projects. Therefore, with the technologies that neo-banks have, the way out may be to partner with classic banks to work on mobile-only solutions.
  • Large European banks have huge data sets, but not all of them can transform it into valuable and useful information. FinTech companies, for example, are much better at scoring, predicting behavior or making offers to customers based on their journey. This is why higher value is created in partnership.  
  • Andre believes in systems that are not monolithic. Where you can easily replace, plug and unplug various modules. In today’s world, technologies are evolving very quickly and can become obsolete after 6-12 months. This is why it is so important to use microservices.
  • When a bank grows over time and its value becomes, for example, 30 billion euros, there are many layers of decision-making appear, as well as a lot of old practices that are not so easy and fast to replace with new ones. Even though the knowledge and design of user experience is constantly evolving. For example, the introduction of ML and AI technologies for behavior-based scoring will be a very difficult task for such a large mechanism.
  • Many banks have thousands of people working in various branches and switching work from offline to online only will mean great problems, so the boards of the world’s largest banks are in no rush to innovate as well. Therefore, outsourcing, for example, to create or use external out-of-box solutions can help in addition to the current situation.
  • Millenials and younger generations want full transparency. Everywhere and always they need full control over their accounts.
  • The trend for superapps also goes to Europe. Soon there will be more and more services in banking applications, which are complimentary to the main products. The more features are added, the more you can understand customer relationships.
  • There are various ways to invest assets, but if you use instruments that are not completely familiar, the process may look like a casino in this case. It is also very important to invest time in your personal development. 
  • If you are building your FinTech startup and communicating with the press or visiting some meetups, never promise too much, better do more than promise. 
  • Always try to discuss existing questions with mentors, it gives unexpected insights and helps to develop the company, as mentors usually have no personal interest in your business and they can help you to look unbiased. 
  • Traditional guest tips:
    • Mistakes must occur all the time, otherwise it means that there is no growth;
    • In Andre’s experience in the banking industry, one of these mistakes was to try to work digitally, online, to provide quick solutions but with the classic processes. In other words, from a client’s point of view, the frontend could look new, but inside (backend and people) everything worked very slowly.  Therefore it is better to partner with FinTech and other start-ups to avoid such difficulties;
    • One of the things that Andre has learned from his army experience is a decentralized command. It’s not up to headquarters to give detailed orders when you’re in the field. And you are responsible for what happens because you see the situation closer. Successful companies understand that they need strong leaders in the country, who know the laws and local details, who should be responsible for the activities in this country.  

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