“Fintech Startups Need to be Flexible and Adjust their Products”

Head of corporate strategy at the First International Bank of Israel elaborates on the fintech-banking crossroad.

Shirli Shoham Klein, the head of corporate strategy department and in charge of fintech initiative of the First International Bank of Israel (FIBI), has been collaborating with fintech startups before fintech became a buzzword. Finance Magnates sat with her to get some perspective on what a young company has to do to become a leader in the ‘startup nation’.

In what fields has the First International Bank of Israel implemented or been using fintech solutions?

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FIBI has been collaborating with startup companies for many years, before ‘fintech’ became a buzz word.

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We were the first bank to implement Personetics’ personal finance management tools. “Fibi – your personal virtual banker”, our main PFM tool, both on our app and website, is based on its technology. The tool uses an analytical engine to help customers manage their accounts by providing analysis, suggestions and tips.

Recently, we established a dedicated unit for locating interesting startups to collaborate with, and we are mainly focused on client facing solutions in the fields of trading, wealth management, and client engagement through user experience.

Shirli Shoam Klein
Shirli Shoam Klein

What are the hottest trends in the fintech-banking relationship?

We believe the trading and wealth management services are about to change dramatically in the following years and we are excited to be a part of this trend. Many banks declared recently they are in the process of developing robo-advisory services. We think our clients want both the advanced technology and the trust of communicating with a specialist advisor, especially in volatile markets like now. Our mission is to provide both, and we are currently working on it.

We also believe social interactions will become a vital part of the way our clients make their investment decisions. Social trading platforms are already available but changes in regulation are required in order for banks to take part in this trend.

How can a young fintech firm best attract bank executives’ attention?

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Sometimes we get very good product ideas that can work as an individual platform but simply cannot work under banks regulation. We expect companies that reach out to us in order to work in a B2B model to learn this regulatory environment thoroughly. Our limitations as a bank, for example data security, might be limitations, but also what keeps us safe and stable and make our customers trust us.

In order for young fintechs to ‘win’ our customers, they need to be flexible, adjust their products to our needs, even if it is not what they had in mind when they first started.

6-Facts-on-Israeli-Fintech-Sector

 

What are the main difficulties and advantages of working with startup-like firms, and for an institutional bank?

Banks are usually complex organizations, and quick changes are a challenge. This is why we are looking for collaborations with startups to help us bring in new technology and shorten time-to-market.

Even so, integrating an external product or technology with the bank’s core systems, sometimes many different systems for each product, takes time and effort – both for the bank and the startup. On top, don’t forget the process of choosing the right product between many different solutions in the market, legal process, procurement, etc.

As a smaller bank, we have the advantage of making fast decisions and working in a more efficient process. Bringing all the relevant people in the bank for the first meeting with the startup is crucial according to our methodology. Some of the startups we work with told us it took them months of emails and meetings just to get to that point with other banks, especially foreign banks.

What are your recommendations on running a business for young fintech companies?

We recommend young fintech companies to work with a design partner bank in order to build and adjust their product to real needs. There is nothing like a beta site with real bank systems and real bank data, to help startups adjust and improve their products. A good design partner will provide quality feedback and get the startup ready for global banks quick enough before they become irrelevant.

On Thursday June 23th Fintech Aviv will host a meetup at the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv. This meetup will be focused on fintech implementations within banks, and the attendees will have the chance to mingle with the country’s leading fintech CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs. Launched by Daniel Abrahams (currencytransfer.com), Nir Netzer and Tal Sharon (Equitech), FinTech Aviv has grown to become the biggest fintech community in Israel, boasting over 2,000 fintechers.

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