SBB Magazine / February 2020


banks / money / finance


small business banking magazine

AI in Banking

Reshaping SME Finance

Let’s discover CEE

region together!

Bank as a reliable

partner for SMEs

Key takeaways from

SME Banking Club

events 2019





SME Banking Club


SME Banking Club







SME Banking Club

Your source for SME Banking News!

Innovations, Marketing, Interviews


Dear Reader,

This year we will discover and examine in more detail how financial

services for small business customers are developed in different

markets in the Central & Eastern Europe region. In this issue you can

read interviews with István Fetter, Head of the Small Business Division at

CIB Bank, who offers some insight into the Hungarian market (pp.14-15);

Arton Celina (CEO at BPB), who discusses what it takes to be a specialized

bank for small businesses in Kosovo (pp.17-19); and Michal Pawlik

(SMEO), who talks about the online factoring market in Poland (p.24).

Also, we’ve scheduled a series of events that will help you learn in detail

how banks in Hungary are approaching SMEs — during a Study Tour

to Budapest on March 30-31, and how FinTechs are approaching SMEs

in different markets — during our Study Tour to Berlin on June 22-23.

In Berlin, among others, we’ll visit Spotcap, an online lender operating

in five countries since 2014. Read our interview with their CEO, Jens

Woloszczak (pp.28-29)

Additionally, we plan to host a series of local events and webinars, which

we will announce on our social media pages. Please follow us there.

Our 6 th Annual SME Banking Club Conference will take place on

November 25, in the beautiful Zofin Palace in the heart of Prague. The

event will provide participants the opportunity to explore, among other

topics, insights into the SME banking sector in the Czech Republic.

This year we are also launching the CEE SME Banking Awards —

the only SME Banking Awards in the region! The best SME bankers from

the CEE region across 5 categories will be awarded during the Awards

Ceremony on November 25 in Prague. Join the Ceremony for free to

celebrate it together!

As a separate topic in this issue, we focus on artificial intelligence in

banking, as this is one of the biggest drivers for change in the financial

service industry at the moment. Daniel Huszár gave a snapshot of the

paradigm change in computer science decades and how exactly AI is

changing factoring services (pp.10-11). We also talked with Erik Brieva

(CEO at Strands) (pp.6-7) about how AI is transforming the customer

experience in banking and dived deep into some of the most innovative

technologies leading the revolution.

I wish you pleasant reading!


Olena Gryniuk

CEE Regional Director at SME Banking Club










5 reasons to read this issue...

AI in Banking

How AI is driving

the banking revolution

How AI changes SME finance

Start it @K&H — an incubator

program launched

by K&H Group in Hungary

How Dateio enhances

payment data





Digitalization of Trade

Finance services

iFactor – Alternative SME Finance

Platform on the Romanian market


SBB Magazine

Magazine of SME Banking Club

SME Banking Club Team:

Andrey Gidulyan






CIB Bank: How to ensure

better service quality in the

small business segment

Citibank: Being the best bank

for small business clients

BPB: A bank as a reliable,

long-term and trustworthy partner

that meets clients’ needs

The role of DLT on MSME firms

in the international trade industry

SMEO — Digital Factoring

for SMEs in Poland


Reshaping SME Lending











Banking that matters:

Erste Group measures impact

of its Social Banking activities

BUM SME Banking Club

Conference 2019

Central Asia SME Banking Club

Conference 2019

CEE SME Banking Club

Conference 2019

Building an ecosystem

for SME customers:

Roundtable in Prague

Study Tour to Budapest

Study Tour to Berlin

CEE SME Banking Club

Conference 2020

CEE SME Banking Club

Conference 2020

About the SME Banking Club

Olena Gryniuk


Alexey Sayapin


Guest Authors:

Daniel Huszar

Ivan Dovica

Deepesh Patel

Design, layout:

Alexander Kryachko


SME Banking Club operated by:

Gidulyan Company Ltd,

61/31, Avtozavodskaya str.,

Kiev, 04114, Ukraine

and GG Company Sp. z o.o.

ul. Królewska 65a/1

30-081, Krakow, Poland

For details of advertising please contact

us at




November 25



AI in Banking

Olena Gryniuk talks to Erik

Brieva, CEO at Strands,

about AI strategy and how

technology and data are

changing the customer

experience in banking.

Strands has been creating

highly customizable

digital money management

software for fi nancial

institutions since 2004.

How can banks make the most of

AI technology? It requires a good

on-site IT team, probably, the

right corporate culture and availability of

customer data. But what’s most important?

There is a 450-billion-dollar market opportunity

for the applications of artificial intelligence in

the financial sector. Banks are currently funding

AI initiatives within their organizations, most of

them oriented to obtain customer insights that

will allow them to anticipate their customers’

needs and suggest the best course of action


There are four essential ingredients to achieve

an AI strategy:

• Relevant Data: You need to have access to

a huge amount of customer data. Trillions of

transactions and events happen every day in

banking, and most of them contain hidden

patterns and relationships.

• Use Cases: Understand what the needs are,

as well as the desired results to cover those

needs, and define the use cases of application.

• Appropriate Algorithms: Identify the appropriate

algorithms to create valid models

for the desired use cases.

• People: A good IT team with the necessary

talent, experience, business mentality and

corporate culture.

Erik Brieva, CEO at Strands

© Joan Gosa 2019

However, these ingredients are not sufficient to

succeed if they are not effectively and efficiently

combined. To make the most of AI technology,

banks need to implement an AI platform that is

integrated with their core and digital systems.

I have seen many banks trying to develop

artificial intelligence software and applications

by themselves, mostly unsuccessfully. Even

though these banks have direct access to a vast

amount of data, identify the use cases, know the

algorithms and have put together a group of

data engineers and data scientists, they haven’t

come up with a solution that has a big impact

on their business. This is why banks, instead of





trying to build their own AI technology, now

plug-in an existing and proven platform that

provides pre-configured rules and models as

well as out-of-the-box actionable insights that

they can use right away for their existing banking

applications and operations. These banks will

then be able to develop new algorithms and

enhance such a platform in order to generate

more insights and additional solutions.

Customer data is another topic for

discussion here. On the one hand, data is

not a problem these days, as banks have

many data sources available to them,

and thanks to Open Banking — getting

the data has become much easier. On

the other hand, banks need to have the

proper infrastructure to support, acquire

and analyze a vast amount of data, comply

with all the regulations connected with the

usage and sharing of personal data, etc. But

are customers willing to hand over their

data in order to be better served by banks?

What would you comment on here?

While there are some concerns regarding

privacy regulations, we now know that

consumers are willing to share personal data in

exchange for personalized offers, to avoid noise

and improve their financial wellbeing. At the

end of the day, consumers want to feel special,

want to be alerted, advised and even amazed by

their bank and by other service providers. They

crave new experiences. True value comes from

understanding what the customer needs and

helping them achieve it by presenting them

with personalized, actionable notifications and

recommendations of the best course of action.

Yet, many banks are still leaning on simple

forms of personalization and therefore failing

to engage increasingly demanding and techsavvy

consumers. Bear in mind that studies

show that around 75 percent of users aren’t

satisfied with the level of personalization

they currently receive. This means that banks

are failing to create experiences that actually

engage customers in any real way. AI-based

financial technology generates deep customer

insights that are valuable both for the bank

and customers. Ultimately, it helps banks to

empower people to better manage their life

and business by making financial decisions in

a smarter, more transparent and independent

way. AI can unleash a substantial increase in

revenue, and the key to unlocking this potential

is none other than personalization.

But, as mentioned above, for banks to be able

to implement a successful AI strategy, they

have to rely on third-party AI platforms and be

able to feed them with reliable and massive

data. And this is a limitation for banks because

of regulations that prevent them from sharing

personal or sensitive data. The solution is

synthetic data. There are startups focused on

generating anonymous insightful data given a

sample data set. And they can generate billions

of similar data, all the data that is needed to feed

an algorithm and create reliable and effective AI


Data and algorithmic bias have been a hot

topic at the latest FinTech events. Raising

awareness about diversity and inclusion is

often stated as a priority in many industries,

yet many companies fail to set conditions for

it. What are your thoughts on the matter?

In the artificial intelligence field, like in many

overwhelmingly white and male-dominated

tech spaces, efforts to implement diversity

policies haven’t been entirely successful. This

can lead to unintended consequences and

hurt the ethics of AI-powered technologies.

Although deploying biased algorithms doesn’t

necessarily entail a conscious intention to

discriminate against specific groups, developers

must act responsibly to ensure their software is

as impartial as possible.

The problem with this is that even the most

carefully constructed algorithms only have

real-world data to pull from. Data scientists

define the questions and analyze the data, but

the technology will compound the bias in its

logic, rendering it dependent on the whims

and imperfections of the world. It is crucial

that management teams understand the dire

consequences that unfair bias can have, both on

their business and on society at large.

Data scientists must scrutinize data-collection

methods, look for any biases and work actively

to diversify their datasets. Then, given a valid

dataset, they can rely on a synthetic data

generator to produce massive amounts of data

that follow the patterns and relationships of that

sample dataset.

In Strands’ Making It Personal eBook,

you stress on the application of AI in the

personalization of the way banks approach

customers. Can you give some examples

of what can be used by banks in better

servicing SME customers?

SMEs are the backbone of the global economy

and represent one of the biggest potential

sources of revenue for banks, yet they are

typically offered banking solutions designed

with the retail customer in mind. Our in-house

research shows that more than 60 percent of

SMEs set cash flow management as one of

their top three priorities to help them secure

their financial future, but the banking solutions

offered today by issuer banks do not address

these unique requirements.

At Strands we have been working to provide

banks with an integrated platform of digital

cash management and commercial payment

tools specifically designed to benefit their smallto-medium

enterprise customer base. Strands’

Business Financial Management (BFM) solution

helps SMEs to better understand their finances,

project their short-term cash flow, provide more

liquidity to their business and engage on a

different level with their customers. Our solution

offers a comprehensive set of tools and insights

to empower SME owners to achieve better and

more efficient management of their cash flow

and working capital needs, manage accounts

payable and receivable, budgets and provisions.

It’s incredibly fulfilling to bring the power of

AI-enabled solutions to SME users in order

to allow them to predict income, expenses,

forecast balances, receive personalized alerts

and notifications, and recommend products

and services that meet the immediate needs of

their business.






Artificial intelligence (AI) is definitely

one of the biggest drivers for change

in the financial services industry.

In a few years, AI has made tremendous

progress and is helping banks around the

globe save on costs while changing the way

they interact with their customers.

From enabling frictionless onboarding to

preventing payment fraud, the uses of AI in

banking are far-reaching. However, the real

game changer is its capacity to deliver a robust

personalization strategy. «By leveraging AI,

banks can turn every interaction with their

customers into a guided and meaningful

conversation, transforming complex data into

relevant customer insights in real time,» says

Erik Brieva, Chief Executive Officer at Strands,

a leading FinTech company that helps banks

leverage Artificial Intelligence-based tech to

grow customer loyalty and boost their bottom


This sort of interaction not only results in happy

customers but impacts directly on banks’ core

business and boosts return on investment. «To

put it simply, AI helps banks know, help and

monetize their customers from end to end, by

providing smart product recommendations,

targeted to those who need them most,» Mr.

Brieva notes.

Why banks need

to make it personal

The aggregate potential cost savings for banks

from AI applications is estimated at 447 billion

dollars by 2023, according to a report from BI

Intelligence. So far, machine learning has been

mostly used by financial institutions to reduce

operating costs in mid and back operations such

as credit scoring or anti-money laundering.

However, AI still has to conquer the front end

space, the domain of user interaction, where it

can unleash a substantial increase in revenue.

The key to unlocking this potential is none

other than personalization.

Consumers want to feel special. They crave new





experiences. As The Financial Brand’s Jim Marous

puts it: Personalization gives the impression

that people matter on an individual level to the

banks and credit unions that serve them. «This

is despite the fact that most personalization is

an automated process, made possible by the

collection of massive data sets and increasingly

sophisticated analytics,» Marous adds.

As is stated in many marketing guides, creating

relevant and unique customer experiences is key

to generating loyalty. Doing so has everything

to do with good quality data, and banks own

one of the most valuable data sets in the world:

transaction data.

The first step in implementing a successful

AI-driven personalization strategy is learning

how to put all that data to work. Here’s where

machine learning comes in handy. By reading

and analyzing data through this technology,

banks can build deeper relationships with their

customers and provide them with personalized

digital experiences.

In other words, through AI, banks can improve

the financial lives of their customers and be

more profitable.

Let’s dive in a little deeper.

Artificial intelligence-powered technology can

help banks to:

1. Know their customers in a much richer way

than traditional high-level segmentation.

2. Help those customers improve their financial

life, regaining trust.

3. Monetize the interaction at the right time in

the relationship.

Why is it so important

to make it personal?

«Many banks are still leaning on simple forms

of personalization, and therefore failing to

engage increasingly demanding and tech-savvy

consumers,» Strands’ CEO Erik Brieva points

out, remarking that «true value comes from

understanding what the customer needs and

helping them achieve it by presenting them

with personalized, actionable notifications and

next-best actions.»

Banks should implement solutions based on

advanced analytics and AI, extracting insights

from data to offer the end-user a personalized

service that assists them in making more

informed financial decisions.

4 reasons to bet on personalization:

• Customers expect it. Around 75% of users

aren’t satisfied with the level of personalization

they currently receive. This means that

banks are failing to create experiences that

actually engage customers in any real way.

• Customers are willing to give away data

to get it. While there are some concerns

regarding privacy regulations, around 60% of

consumers are willing to share personal data

in exchange for personalized offers, to avoid

noise and improve their financial wellbeing.

• Personalization simply helps banks sell

more. By providing smart product and service

recommendations, banks can monetize

their customers from end-to-end. Information

helps financial institutions develop new

products, and target them to those who

need them most.

• It’s key to engage SME customers. Artificial

intelligence-driven financial management

solutions provide a high number of

business opportunities for SME banking

institutions. SMEs are really keen on trying

tools that help them automatically reconcile

invoices and stay on top of their accounts.

A win-win proposition

Implementing a personalization strategy is

equally beneficial for customers and banks.

Consumers crave to be known, understood and

rewarded for their loyalty. They want to build a

trust-based relationship with their bank, feel like

they are being cared for 24/7 and know that they

have the best tools and experts at their disposal

to help them make the best financial decisions.

To achieve this, financial institutions need to

be extremely good at targeting products and

services, and ensure that they only offer solutions

that satisfy a specific need or that anticipate a

given life event. Banks that pay attention to the

psychology of personalization will undoubtedly

get better results at connecting with their

customers and succeed in building up trust and


This article is an excerpt from Strands’ ebook

«Making It Personal: How AI is driving the

banking revolution.»

The full white paper is available for free

download at




How AI changes SME finance

Daniel Huszár (efcom) during the CEE SME Banking Club Conference 2019 (Warsaw, October 22)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already impacting all of our

lives. Prominent examples of current uses include virtual

assistants, such as: Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. Curated

(Spotify) playlists based on individual musical taste are

another. AI can analyze numerous types of data, such as

language rules in order to be able to translate into another

language or to recognize speech. Individual behavior is

another interesting field, especially for risk analysis within

financial products.

To understand how AI will impact

the financial space, we need to

first understand one of the biggest

paradigm changes in computer science

decades. I will illustrate this change with

two examples of AI playing games against

human players.

In 1997, an AI developed by IBM called «Deep

Blue» beat chess world champion Garri

Kasparov. Deep Blue was able to win through

sheer processing power. Deep Blue was able to

calculate 200 million moves per second using

a method called decision trees. While this is

an impressive feat, the AI did not really «learn»

like a human would. The approach IBM used

calculates probabilities of the best possible

move, going through many possible iterations

on the board — winning through «brute force».

The IBM team was allowed to change certain

parameters of the AI between matches, acting

as a guiding force. This bears a similarity on how

we handle big data in financial risk assessment

today — by applying parameters and thresholds

based on human experience.

Alpha GO — a new paradigm

The year 2016 had another challenge in store for

artificial intelligence: the 2,500-year-old Chinese

game called «GO». This game cannot be solved

by the brute force approach, because there are

more possible moves than atoms in the known


The team behind AlphaGo (London-based Deep

Mind, acquired by Google) had to use a different

strategy to «solve the game». After all, it had to

beat the then best GO player in the world: 18-

time world champion Lee Sedol from South


In the end, AlphaGo won 4-1 against Lee Sedol

under tournament conditions. Sedol remarked

that the AI made unusual moves that no

experienced human player would have ever

made, because they are considered «bad» under

the given circumstances. It turned out that the

AI showed its creative genius with exactly this





kind of moves. Another famous player, Fan Hui,

the European champion, remarked that the way

AlphaGo approached the game taught him to

be a better player.

The AlphaGo team used a technique called

Deep Learning to accomplish this result. This

neural network approach is much closer to the

workings of a true self-learning system, like the

human brain. Neural networks take a description

of the Go board as an input and processes it

through a number of different network layers

containing millions of neuron-like connections.

To beat the strongest players, an AI «brain»

needs to be trained. AlphaGo was trained using

recorded moves of human players. After this

initial phase, the AI mimicked these strategies

and played thousands of games against itself.

Based on this training, AlphaGo is able to

recommend the best plays in a given situation.

The crucial paradigm change is to let software

write and improve itself based on experience

(training), instead of human developers writing


Practical applications within

trade and receivables finance

In today’s world there are many possible

applications for AI in the financial sector. One

of them is the assessment of risk in factoring.

efcom offers a standard factoring solution:

one of its modules is a parameter-driven riskmonitoring

tool, which is able to tell whether an

invoice is fraudulent or not.

Risk parameters for current solutions are all

based on human experience of past instances of

fraud. These experiences are translated into code

and can be weighted using parameterization

depending on a banks risk strategy. This

parameterization is comparable to the IBM chess

team who acted as a human adjustment to the

AI by changing its parameters after each game.

This could be problematic in the future, because

it is very inefficient to think of a rule for every

situation or detail that the computer will

encounter. Additionally, this limits us to past

experiences with fraud. Ideally, we want the

algorithm to find the necessary patterns and

corresponding rules on its own. With vastly

growing amounts of data, the challenge will be

to continue making the correct risk decisions

while handling higher and higher volumes of


A true AI approach could help us to find new

patterns that teach us new things about the

«game» of financial risk. This could lead to

immense growth, because we could scale and

automate risk control to a much higher degree.

Daniel Huszár,


Scan the QR code

to watch Daniel’s

presentation during

the CEE SME Banking

Club Conference 2019

During the «SME finance PAnel» Panel. From left to right: Michał Pawlik (SMEO), Christian Ruehmer (Q-Lana),

Daniel Huszár (efcom), Auke Douwe Veenstra (Cloudlending at Q2), Michał Tusznio (ING Bank Śląski)







Start it @K&H is the largest corporate

incubator program in Hungary

— launched and backed by K&H

Bank — that supports startups in their

development. Its main goal is to support,

strengthen and boost the Hungarian

entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Unlike other incubators in Hungary, Start it @K&H

is based on CSR, which means a „no share, no

equity” model with free services for participants.

During the incubation period, participants are

not involved in the bank’s everyday tasks or the

focus of the Group’s investors or shareholders.

The bank supports startups with huge potential

(usually at an early stage) for 6-18 months, by

providing help with product development and

finding investors for their plans:

• 0-24h available working space in Budapest

(280 sqm) and Győr (135 sqm) for selected

startups so they can work on their ideas


• 40+ mentors (who are experienced in the

corporate world or in the startup ecosystem)

can assist in development of the startups;

• Throughout a detailed training program,

with the help of experts, the participants

can achieve practical skills needed for later

stages of their ventures;

• Regular networking events are key to creating

and maintaining business connections with

future investors and business partners;

• The best startups have a chance to gain

international experience during the

incubation period: for example, by visiting

international hubs of Start it @KBC (Belgium,

USA, Czech Republic).

To participate for a min. period of 6 months,

startups have to apply online and pitch their

ideas on a Pitch Day. The jury for this event is

always made up of mentors and experts in


There is no industry restriction on participating

startups; the incubator is not solely fintech

focused. Start it @K&H has helped 50 earlystage

startups from 15 different industries since

October 2017, attracting more than 4 million

EUR of external market investment during this

period. Currently 33 startups are active in the

program, thus making Start it @K&H the largest

corporate incubation program in Hungary.

More info:




with fintechs



Dateio is a fintech company

founded in Prague (Czech

Republic) in 2013. Ivan

Dovica, Dateio’s COO &

Co-founder, explains how

payment data can be used

for customer’s analysis and

decision-making processes.

The digital disruption

Challenger banks have been disrupting the

banking environment for the last few years, but

now the big players are finally realizing their

power. Even the SME banking industry has

welcomed a few new entrants. But how are the

challengers changing the game? User experience.

They have developed easy and fun to use

interfaces to which traditional banks haven’t yet


We know challenger banks mainly from the B2C

environment but people in companies are still

just people, therefore ease of use and friendly

interfaces in SME banking has become very

important too.

customers who are then forced to google the

name of the merchants to find out if they are

being scammed.

On the other side, banks have information about

billions of transactions, yet they don’t know

how to draw insights from them. Payment data

enrichment helps both sides obtain insights

from payment data and easily navigate with

online banking interfaces.

Solution and benefits for SME’s

Dateio has developed a technology that

connects the payment data with information

about the GPS location of the store, clear brand

name, logo of the company and category which

opens doors to new opportunities.

On the side of SME, benefits of enriched data

start with simpler, easier, and thus faster,

navigation for everyone involved starting with

approval of payments to accountants.

By gaining insight regarding in which category

and in which particular company’s employees

are spending most of their resources, financial

departments can get a better understanding of

costs, their attribution to individual companies,

or even optimize them. Until now, determining

this information regarding card payments was a

difficult question.

Accounting can be more automatized by

sending payments from chosen merchants

directly to the accounting cost centers.

Also, security and overall spending control can

be improved. GPS information helps with fraud

detection such as when an employee is on a

business trip in a certain location, but payments

are happening somewhere else. A set of rules

can be created so the employee card can only

be used at certain locations, at a particular

merchant or for a specific category.

Ivan Dovica, Dateio

The Problem

One of the main pillars which banking is based on

is payments. It is surprising how such a key feature

is being neglected in many ways, especially in the

21st century. Some of the fintech buzzwords are

“big data”, “data analytics”, “business intelligence”,

“AI”, etc., and yet banks are still not able to tell their

clients trivial information such as where exactly

we made a payment in terms of the correct brand

name, location, etc.. How can we expect them

to deliver any extra value out of the payment


On one side, the bank clients must still be

decoding imprecise payment strings in their

payment history and face the banking interface

accounting system from the ’90s. This confuses

Scan the QR code to watch Ivan’s

presentation during the CEE SME Banking

Club Conference 2019






Olena Gryniuk (SME

Banking Club) talked to

István Fetter, Head of the

Small Business Division

at CIB Bank (Hungary),

about competition on the

Hungarian market and how

they are servicing SME

customers at CIB Bank.

What is your segmentation of small

business customers in the bank,

and how many small business

customers do you have in your portfolio?

Small entrepreneur customers include

individual businesses, business associations

or small-scale agricultural producers with less

than EUR 1M net annual revenue, managed

within the Retail Division of CIB Bank. In certain

cases, we also manage in this segment clients

with higher net sales. We have almost 55,000

small business clients, which represents more

than 10% of the Hungarian market. We have a

different segment for companies with net sales

amounting to between EUR 1M and EUR 50M;

they are managed under the Corporate Division.

What are the main channels of acquisition

of small business customers at CIB Bank at

the moment?

We have an omnichannel acquisition strategy,

so we use advanced CRM, IT and other

models to acquire new small business clients.

However, the most powerful way to get new

clients is still based on personal contact and

recommendations, i.e. word of mouth remains

a key driver. CIB Bank has 64 branches with

more than 85 small business banking advisors.

Besides having branches all over the country,

we have set up an Acquisition Team to contact

prospective clients instantly, to serve them and

to provide them with a flexible, tailor-made

service even at the client’s premises. We analyze

all available data on our potential clients, which

enables us to offer them pre-filtered loans,

suitable account packages or POS offers. We

have a dedicated Small Business Team at our

Call Center (CIB24), which is also responsible for

acquiring clients via cold calls besides our small

business advisors. One of our strategic goals

in 2019 was strengthening and deepening

cooperation with third parties (mortgage and

insurance partners) to further broaden our sales

team, just as we had already successfully done

in our Consumer Segment. Thanks to these

efforts, now there are more than 20 contracted

partners’ agents, which is like having several

thousand more colleagues to acquire new

clients. It is increasingly important for customers

to have the possibility to consider various

options and to have a trusted aggregator or

advisor to find them the best deal. We put

a great deal of emphasis on acquiring new

customers through digital channels as well. We

use Google AdWords and aggregator sites to

make CIB Bank more visible on the market. We

have a unique online platform (Small Business

Loan Offer Generator), where small businesses

can calculate themselves the best deal based on

their given data and chosen product features,

and receive a non-binding indicative loan offer.

We also use our award-winning mobile app to

sell products for our clients.

Which digital solutions do you have right

now for your small business customers?

We have a wide range of digital solutions

for small businesses, such as the CIB Mobile

Application, CIB Bank Online, CIB Internet Bank,

Business Terminal, eBroker and CIB Mobilbank.

Our responsive CIB Mobile Application can

be used both on iOS and Android, and all

relevant banking functions are available

within the app (e.g. free notifications about

transactions, balance queries, current account(s)

and transaction overview, transfers, savings

handling, etc.). Our internet banking platforms

are also easy to use and are available almost

on every device (PC, tablet, mobile). A web

browser is all that’s required to arrange for the

most important banking operations. Our recent

analysis shows that 87% of our clients have been

using at least one digital channel, of which 77%

do so on a regular basis. 68% of our customers

use the CIB Mobile Application, of which 75%

use it frequently. Basically, all payments are done

online in the small business segment, and CIB

Internet Bank is the strongest channel in terms

of online payments. We also have a state-ofthe-art

treasury platform, through which small

business customers can immediately receive the

quotes they require.

What are the main challenges banks are

experiencing on the Hungarian market in

the area of services for small businesses?

Do you feel the competition from Fintechs?

The most important and challenging question

is how to ensure better service quality in the

small business segment. The name of the game

is who is going to own the client relationship,

whose digital platforms are going to be used

and who gets the clients’ most important assets,

namely their time and attention. It is by far not

only being the cheapest and fastest, but sending




that message in clear language, after having

completely understood your client’s needs, and

keeping your word both in terms of quality and

deadlines. There is strong competition among

banks on the Hungarian market, in which you

must have a clear vision on how to reach clients,

earn their trust and fulfill their expectations.

Fintechs do not provide more advanced

solutions to clients; however, they are able to

provide certain services faster or at a lower price.

These are important considerations, but not

enough in the long run, where a trusting, strong

relationship makes all the difference. However,

banks have a lot to learn from Fintechs and

should further decrease margins and complicity

in all areas, including products, processes and


What is the main advantage of CIB Bank

on the market? Why are small business

customers choosing to open an account

with you?

CIB Bank has a stable, international background

thanks to our Italian parent company, Intesa

Sanpaolo, which is one of the largest banks in

Europe in terms of market capitalization. A lot of

great initiatives and ideas are originated by them,

which can be easily implemented generally by

sharing best practices and working together

with other subsidiaries. CIB Bank has branches all

over Hungary, so we’re easily accessible to clients

throughout the country. In 2018 we introduced a

new client service model in our branches, which

enables us to transform the process of opening an

account into a pleasant journey for the customer,

where they are greeted by a dedicated employee

upon entering their branch, who then helps

them find the most useful channel to manage

their finances. We have worked up a set of various

current accounts (CIB Partner current accounts)

for small businesses, which can be chosen

according to the client’s individual characteristics.

What does CIB Bank do in terms of highquality

customer service?

We continuously train and develop our banking

advisors. We have a unique program, the Small

Business Academy, which ensures that our

advisors provide real solutions to our clients’ well

mapped and thoroughly discussed needs. The

Academy has 3 different modules, and every

module focuses on different topics. The skills our

colleagues pick up during these modules makes

them unique on the market, which ultimately

benefits our clients.

Visit CIB Bank HQ during the Study Tour in

Budapest on March 30-31, 2020. For more details,

visit pp.44-45

*The above information is incomplete and is

intended solely to raise awareness. The detailed

terms and conditions of the products are

contained in the prevailing list of conditions and in

the General Terms and Conditions.






Marcin Woźniak, Commercial Bank CEE

Head at Citibank, talks to Olena Gryniuk

about working with the SME segment at


How many banks in Citi Group (and in which countries) are

involved in servicing SME customers here in the CEE region?

In the CEE region, Citi serves SME customers in Poland, Russia,

Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Turkey. We have local

teams on the ground in these countries and provide clients with a full

range of banking products.

What is your segmentation of SME customers in the Group?

We actually do not use the term SME at Citibank or in our Commercial

Banking segment. We address different client needs by allocating them

to either the Emerging Corporate segment, which covers smaller clients,

managed by the owner or owner’s family or Mid Corporates, who are

usually professionally managed and use more complex services. Our

Emerging Corporates, clients with annual sales from USD 5 mln up to USD

100 mln, are probably closer to the definition of SMEs in CEE.

What is the Group’s strategy for servicing these customer segments

in the coming years?

We would like to be the best bank for these clients. The way to achieve that

is to have the best bankers in our teams, an outstanding service model and

record turnaround time for onboarding and lending in the industry. We

also plan to digitize our processes to be able to respond faster to customer


What are the main acquisition channels for SME customers at the


In our acquisition process, we do not use any channels other than RM and

we do not plan to. We carefully prepare ourselves for each and every client

meeting so that we know what their needs might be and what we should

offer. We don’t want to become an online supermarket for prospective

customers. We want to offer the services of our best-in-class bankers

who are able to tailor a proposal to client needs and advise on possible

solutions and options. We do not acquire and do not plan to acquire our

clients via online channels. Of course, there are some customers that send

us inquiries through our webpage contact details or Facebook profiles, but

this is not going to be a strategic channel for the client segment that we

would like to acquire.

Which digital solutions do you have right now for your SME


Apart from the obvious electronic banking solutions, we are able to

provide our clients with an online FX platform where they can trade foreign

currencies online, book FX forwards and options and use our information

services. The platform also has a risk management module that helps our

clients to manage their FX risks. In addition, we offer our clients integration

of electronic banking with their ERP systems offering multiple variants and

advancement levels. We are adopting digital signatures where possible to

digitize the documentation that we sign with our customers. Our clients

are able to switch transactional communication with us into a simple file

exchange, where all the transactions, confirmations and statements can be

exchanged directly between client and bank servers without any human

intervention. Our digital solutions allow our clients to have access and

transact with Citi on all of their accounts, not only if they work with us

locally, but also in other countries.



A bank as a reliable, long-term

and trustworthy partner

that meets clients’ needs


Olena Gryniuk talked to

Arton Celina, CEO at BPB

(Bank for Business), about

their transition to specialized

banking for SMEs in Kosovo,

their competitive advantages

and challenges.

BPB is a specialized bank for SMEs

in Kosovo. You’ve undergone a

transformation process to adapt

the bank to that format. What were the

main challenges you experienced during

that process? And how exactly does this

differentiate you on the market in the eyes

of SMEs in comparison to other universal


BPB is a local bank in Kosovo primarily focused

on Micro and Small enterprises and households,

with a vision of being a reliable, long-term and

trustworthy partner that meets clients’ needs,

generates sustainable growth and adds value

for all the stakeholders. By the end of 2016,

BPB shifted its market strategy and approach

completely by realizing its vision to become

the bank of choice on the SME market. Hence it

was of utmost importance we put the client at

the very center of the banking ecosystem and

we are very keen to use the latest technological

developments to advance our services and

introduce innovative solutions to best benefit

our clients. At the same time, we place great

emphasis on properly screening our clients and

ensuring full compliance with applicable law and


As a bank oriented towards Micro and Small

businesses, we based our business model on

the development of our clients in terms of

both financial and non-financial services.

During the last three years, BPB continued to

demonstrate that it aims to be the bank of choice

for our target clients. With its strategic shift in

positioning towards the market, BPB was able to

unlock the full potential of upper Micro and lower

SME clients, including the agro sector, where BPB

holds a 15% market share. Apart from providing

access to finance, BPB analyzed all market

developments, then applied the best possible

approach to assist clients in their business

development, while playing a crucial role as a

catalyst in support of this client profile. The abovementioned

sectors comprise more than 90% of

business entities in our country. Even though the

domestic economy includes a variety of activities,

it is dominated by Micro and Lower SMEs, which

play a vital role in Kosovo’s economy, and are the

biggest providers of employment opportunities.

As a result, BPB’s strategy proved to be correct for

Kosovo. The structured methodology of the bank

towards clients and staff increased even more

after we accepted our role in the development

of the economy, by defining clear goals and

actions to excel in our objectives. Aligning head

office personnel with front office staff enabled

the bank to serve our targeted categories

efficiently. Furthermore, we managed to offer

the service while following excellent customer

service practices, determined to build upon

the strengths of BPB staff. As a result, the bank

prudently orchestrated the necessary steps that

should be taken to ensure that the strategy we

had adopted was as successful as anticipated.

Apart from daily activities, the bank made sure

to plan and accomplish major milestones that

demonstrated the bank’s determination to

contribute to the market.

In this respect, we have streamlined processes for

SMEs, making us the fastest bank in the market

regardless of having the highest labor intensive

business model. Having always in mind the

triangle of staff, clients and shareholders, we have

specifically addressed our market challenges

thanks to policies and procedures for creating the

best possible SME Packages. As a result, we apply

and assess client needs rather than client requests

through a structured method called Credit

Limit Service, where we assess and approve

the short- and long-term needs of the client

accordingly. Apart from process optimization




Arton Celina,


and advancements, BPB has invested heavily

in infrastructure as well. Nowadays, SME clients

have complex needs and expectation from a

banking partner, so we consulted with our clients

and reshaped our branches in terms of structure

and formations. BPB is present in all regions of

Kosovo with Main Branches, Service Centers and

Service points, by offering 24/7 areas in main

branches where clients can independently carry

out all their banking transactions. In addition,

we introduced Business Corners in 7 Main

Branches that are equipped with the latest touch

screen PCs. Business corners are one-of-a-kind

environments in our market because they are

located within branch premises where clients

can interact with a business Client Advisor and

independently carry out banking transactions.

What is your segmentation of SME customers

in the Bank? And how many SME customers

do you have in your portfolio?

Our current segmentation in SME business lines

consists of:

• Micro Business Clients with annual turnover up

to 500,000

• Small and Medium Business Clients with

annual turnover of 500,000 to 2 million

Currently, we serve a broad client base consisting

of 6,850 loan and non-loan clients of which 4,250

are credited and use our wide range of credit and

non-credit services

What are the main channels of SME customer

acquisition at the moment?

Though Human Interaction Channels continue

to shrink and we are very keen to expand our

reach through Omni channels, our main market

advantage is BCAs (Business Client Advisors).

Currently, we employ one of the most prepared

team of BCAs with an average of 5-8 years of

experience in the banking industry, which

gives us a solid position with respect to market

developments and expectations.

What percentage of customers are acquired

online and via RMs/branches? Do you plan to

change this proportion? And how so?

Current acquisition of BPB clients via the Web

Application is around 10%, all of which are

requesting access to finance that usually has a

20-30% success ratio. Though we are preparing to

expand our points of contacts through different

channels as well as ATMs, by preparing a Credit

Scoring infrastructure where clients will be able

to communicate and request banking services.

This will be possible because the bank has

significantly invested in technological and digital

services in multiple areas. Leading is a completely

new E-banking platform that stands above other

platforms in terms of user interface and features

available for PI and Business profile users. In

addition to functionality, the dashboard can also

be configured according to user preference. It

is accompanied by an advanced secure mobile

token application, making it easier to use and far

more personalized than those requiring physical

token devices, while featuring the highest

security levels.

Likewise we introduced the new M-banking

application that delivers the ultimate

experience with its easy and personalized

interface. M-banking enables clients to carry

out all transactions and review account related

information, with an advanced, yet very userfriendly


In addition, we have introduced a new, stateof-the-art,

touch screen ATM-fleet, produced

by NCR. They’re all equipped with self-service

features that enable our clients to perform several

services, including a deposit service which

proved to be one the most important time-saving

features for our clients. We have equipped some

of our strategic business clients with deposit

cards so that they can quickly/safely deposit their

daily turnover. In a further advancement, starting

in May, the bank will introduce deposit reasoning

for business entities, enabling them to distinguish

their deposit types.

Although BPB is determined to offer advanced

electronic services, in parallel we made sure

to provide a cutting-edge environment in

our branches. Tailor made Business Corners

were introduced in all of our main branches

throughout all 7 regions in Kosovo. In Business




Corners, clients can access touch screen PCs and

initiate E-banking transactions, in addition to

having an ever-present business client advisor to

tend to all their needs.

Simultaneously, the bank has recently introduced

a new self-service area — Non-Stop Banking

24/7. The area is designated for personalized

use and is accessible 24/7. It provides privacy

and a wide range of equipment for carrying

out all banking transactions and accessing

services independently. The zone is equipped

with a deposit ATM, touch screen PCs and an

online phone directly linked to our call center.

Withdrawals, deposits and money transfers are

just a few of the transactions available to clients

in these self-service areas.

Which digital solutions do you offer your

SME customers at the moment?

In crediting SME clients, data analytics proved

that one of the main barriers to growth in the

micro sector is their inability to create scales for

their supplies and create a mark-up on their sales

through better supply prices. The competitive

advantage was missing in many cases. We found

a solution to this problem by creating specific

arrangements with large suppliers and negotiating

deals with them on behalf of our micro clients

according to the industry they operate in.

So the cluster approach service that we called

the Supplier’s club was introduced for the first

time in our country, and proved to be one of the

most innovative business platforms for our client

profile. Our experienced Business Client Advisors,

accompanied by business managers in the head

office, negotiated better terms and deals for our

clients to show that we are interested in both

financing and providing flexible and advanced

banking for their business transactions. As a

platform, it empowers the bank to link suppliers

with buyers. By being a client of our bank, Micro

clients can achieve better value in terms of pricing

from their suppliers, while suppliers gain a channel

to communicate with our micro clients in groups

that are managed by us. As a bank, we settle their

invoices as an intermediary in financing micro

client working capital in a fast and efficient process

flow. It works through a platform connected to

suppliers in the same industry and all of them

have access to the approved limits of their buyers

via SMS notification. Additionally, the SMS channel

provided for these transactions works both ways

by enabling the Micro client to initiate, confirm

and inform the supplier that a payment has been

made. It is worth mentioning that the platform is

free in terms of service and transactions, and that

the invoice has a built-in no-interest waiting period,

which was carefully measured in transactions

performed through our bank. We are proud

to have provided a Business Ecosystem for our

banking industry that enables both the bank and

clients to dare and ask for more from their banking

and business partners. This win-win situation has

started to pick up and new Micro clients are joining

the bank to get their supplies through the club.

BPB has already introduced a specific Suppliers

Club whose members include the largest suppliers

and we have just finished signing up members

from another industry to provide supplies for more

than 100 clients for which the bank has approved

limits for invoice payments.

What are the main challenges banks are

experiencing in the local market in the area

of services for SMEs? Do you see Fintechs as


The main challenges in our market and overall in

the Balkan region are related to whether we will

be able to adapt our financial institutions instead

of experiencing disruption in financial services.


Debt collection

Small Market (limited opportunities)

Access to new markets

Low margins

Lack of specific trainings

Rent Costs


As a result, the main challenge involves facing

severe difficulties in attempting to transform our

business, with the constant aim of increasing

financial inclusion. Hence all banks should

be aware of the services offered by Fintechs,

especially since PSD2 is already implemented

in some countries. We should be able to predict

how we and Fintechs can coexist in the same

environment. Therefore we have a different

approach toward such service providers by being

open to cooperating and having in mind one

specific objective: better serving our clients while

remaining financially stable.

BPB recognizes the increasing expectations of

clients as well as the opportunities and challenges

posed by increased use of smartphones

and mobile devices in general, the latest

developments in technology (particularly block

chain) and the emergence of Fintechs. In this

regard, we are working on an important project to

open up our systems through the development

of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

which would enable the bank to harvest the best

technology to the increased benefit of clients and

achieve greater agility and faster deployment

of innovative market solutions. The next step is

introducing M-POS and wallet payments, where

we are preparing our core banking through the

development of API interfaces to accommodate

new developments. Wallet payments and M-POS

will help our clients to have faster access to cash

and increase our banking potential with them.

What are the main challenges for SMEs

in Kosovo? And how do you help them to

overcome these challenges and grow their

businesses as a bank?

We conducted a survey with more than 200

SME clients that indicates that SMEs face and

struggle to overcome similar challenges in order

to sustain their development. In this regard, we

have divided these challenges into internal and

external factors.


Price oriented competition

Lack of the Rule of Law

Fiscal evasion

Political stability

Inability to plan long term

Technological changes

Access to macroeconomic information

As a result of our survey, we have already invited

several possible strategic partners to join us in

piloting a specific training package that will help

business owners to address those challenges.

We have received a positive reaction, but also

previously coordinated several activities to

address these challenges during our operations

by providing adequate credit and credit services.

We believe that the fact that BPB is a home

bank for Upper Micro and Lower SMEs shows

that we were not afraid to take the long road

to success. Internal analyses show that SMEs in

our portfolio have increased in equity by 27.5%

and in sales by 19.5%, indicating a healthy trend

in the growth of the businesses, while Micro

businesses have grown in sales by 24.3% and

in equity by 23.4% compared to the previous







In September, the Asian Development

Bank (ADB) released the results of the

2019 rendition of their annual Trade

Finance Gaps, Growth, and Jobs Survey. The

survey indicates that the Trade Finance Gap

has held place, remaining at its daunting

$1.5 Trillion.

Deepesh Patel,

Director of Partnerships &

Marketing at Trade

Finance Global (TFG)

The barriers to trade finance, and largest

drivers for the maintenance of the gap, remain

predominantly unchanged from previous years

surveys. KYC and AML requirements remain the

most cited barrier, with high transaction fees,

and low credit ratings rounding out the top

three. Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises

(MSMEs) remain disproportionately affected by

these and other barriers, experiencing a 45%

rejection rate on proposals, much larger than

the 17% seen by multinational organizations.

This limited access to financing for MSMEs

inherently lowers their economic participation,

and consequently their job-creation and growth

prospects. While these challenges remain

paramount, Distributed Ledger Technology

(DLT) holds considerable promise for alleviating

some pressure.

The Promise of DLT

Perhaps the most widely known and oft cited

opportunity for DLT in the trade and shipping

space is its ability to streamline tedious

processes, driving efficiency and slashing

costs. In partnership with the World Trade

Organization (WTO) and the International

Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Trade Finance

Global conducted a survey of DLT experts in

the trade industry in an attempt to flesh out

the industry perspectives of the challenges and

benefits faced. When asked to list their top three

benefits for DLT in the trade finance sector, 44

per cent of respondents to this survey using or

developing DLT indicated gains in speed and

efficiency as being part of their top three, and

35 per cent indicated cost reductions. These trail

behind only transparency, with 55 per cent, as

the most indicated benefits.

The immutable and distributed nature of

DLT instills trust through a direct, digital, and

transparent environment. Real time, trusted

data flows, enabled through a combination of

cryptography and digital signature technology,

have been touted by many experts as facilitators

for automated and simplified practices such as

KYC, AML, and risk assessments. The cost savings

for this digitization is twofold: automating the

current labour intensive processes and reducing

risk by making illegal practices such as Trade

Based Money Laundering (TBML) increasingly

more difficult to pursue. In general, expert views

support those held by the mainstream media

that DLT presents a tremendous opportunity

to cut costs and improve efficiency in the trade

and shipping space.

How DLT will impact MSMEs

The generally cited benefits for the trade industry

adopting DLT, seem to apply particularly to

MSMEs. For firms in this category, there are two

distinct benefits that emerge.

First, is its ability to instill a bi-directional sense

of trust. The first direction is from the MSME to

their bank. By recording business data on a DLT

network, MSMEs will become more transparent

to potential financiers, opening new financing

options that they may currently be locked out

of. The other direction is from the MSME to their

counterparty to a transaction. In a lot of cases,



Trade Finance

Figure 8: Key benefits of Distributed Ledger Technology (Source: TFG, ICC and WTO Blockchain for Trade Survey, October 2019.

Responses from corporates, banks, consultancies and vendors, n = 202)

MSME customers feel inclined to turn down

a transaction either because they do not feel

comfortable with it or they are obliged to a prepayment

of 100% before they have proof that

the goods are ready, a particular obstacle for

often liquidity-strapped MSMEs. Utilizing DLT

platforms, and their enhanced transparency, will

ensconce MSMEs with the confidence to follow

through on more transactions that they are

currently nudged to shy away from.

The second argument in favour of MSMEs

benefiting from DLT is that it opens financiers

to providing financing on smaller transactions,

which often come from smaller firms. This

stems from the idea that, while trade is a very

paper cumbersome industry, the amount of

paperwork required remains relatively stagnant

even as the ticket size of a transaction increases.

From the financier’s perspective, the answer

of where to allocate limited resources, like due

diligence researchers, is easy to determine

when costs are equivalent throughout all

allocative possibilities. One can simply devote

resources to the highest ticket items available,

until there are no more resources left to allocate.

Often, without DLT, the limited resources leave

MSMEs underserved. However, DLT promises to

drastically increase speeds, reducing what used

to take hours or even days, into mere seconds.

This means that the amount of work required

to finance each transaction goes down, freeing

up more time and resources to apply to more

transactions. This will inherently allow financiers

to lower their threshold for accepting tickets

and serve smaller firms. This means that MSMEs

will benefit from receiving financing where

previously they would have none.


MSMEs face many daunting challenges in an

international trade environment populated by

larger, established peers. The existing means of

international trade and trade finance leave these

MSMEs vastly underserved and underfinanced.

DLT networks are promising to address many

of these challenges are poised to help level

the playing field for MSMEs by improving

transparency and efficiency.

Written by Deepesh Patel

Trade Finance Global

Deepesh Patel is Director of Partnerships &

Marketing at Trade Finance Global (TFG). In this role,

Deepesh leads efforts in developing TFG’s brand,

relationships and strategic direction in key markets,

including the UK, US, Singapore, Dubai and Hong

Kong. This includes TFG’s fintech platform and

blockchain projects. Deepesh regularly chairs and

speaks at international industry events including

at the World Trade Organization Public Forum, The

Telegraph’s Future of Trade & Export, BCR Consortia,

TXF Geneva, Excred Commodities, as well as FCI and

ITFA’s Annual Conference.

He is a regular contributor to specialist trade

journals and is Editor of the publication ‘Trade

Finance Talks’. In addition to his work at TFG, he is

a strategic advisor for WOA, a board member of

ITFA’s Emerging Leaders Committee, and sits on the

Fintech Working Group of the Standardised Trust.

Prior to TFG, Deepesh worked at Travelex where

he was responsible for the cards business and

the Travelex Money app in Europe, NAM, UK and





All information and advice are

provided by experts with banking

experience at managerial

positions in various areas a

stipulation which is confirmed by

the recommendations

of banks’ top managers.

All inclusive

You will receive comprehensive

support in all key areas (reports,

events, recommendations

and networking, news and

information), necessary for the

development of SME segment.


You get access to detailed

analytical reports on markets,

annual studies; access to the

information that is not available

anywhere else on the market.


It costs you € 6 per day. Also, you

can save up to 50% on additional

services of SME Banking Club.




SBB Magazine:

printed and online issue

SME Banking



Annual Regional

SME Banking






CIS & Caucasus

SME Banking Report 2018

SME Banking Outlook for CIS & Caucasus

region and detailed analysis per countries:

Armenia, Belarus, Georgia. Kazakhstan,

Ukraine. Banking Groups Overview for CIS &

Caucasus region in SME Banking segment

Language — Russian

CEE SME Banking Report 2018

SME Banking Outlook for Central and Eastern

Europe region and detailed analysis per countries:

Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Hungary. Banking

Groups Overview for CEE region in SME Banking


Language — English

Ask for your copy at




SMEO is a factoring

company in Poland,

providing purely online

factoring services to

SME customers. SMEO

has worked in the Polish

market since 2018, winning

almost 2,000 customers and

processing invoices worth

over PLN 180 million. Olena

Gryniuk talked to Michal

Pawlik, CEO and Co-

Founder at SMEO, about the

company’s 2019 results and

future plans.

Was 2019 successful for SMEO?

What were your main achievements?

First, our turnover this year was tremendous;

we processed invoices valued at over PLN

180 million. Also, we were able to establish a

successful partnership with Santander Leasing.

This deal is already generating significant

revenue for both Santander and SMEO.

In one of your presentations, you showed

the statistic that only 10% of entrepreneurs

in Poland know what factoring is. And 4%

of SMEs use factoring in Poland. For other

markets in the CEE region, this percentage

is even lower. How do you deal with that?

How do you educate small businesses?

We believe that educating our market is the

key to our success. That’s why we spent more

than EUR 1.2 million on marketing in 2019.

We know that the knowledge gap won’t be

closed overnight, but we also know that once

entrepreneurs understand the value of our

product, they immediately want access to it. This

explains the incredible growth we’ve seen. All it

takes to educate the public is time.

Michal Pawlik during the CEE SME Banking

Club Conference 2019 (Warsaw, October 22)

Who is your customer exactly? Can you

describe the profile of your average


At SMEO, we view any viable firm as a potential

customer. For some financial institutions, entire

industries can count themselves as persona non

grata, for example TSL (Transport Shipping and

Logistics). Often, banks and institutional lenders

treat them unfairly. We don’t.

Now, we are focused on small and medium sized

firms. This is a market segment that has been

historically underserved by financial institutions.

But these businesses are the lifeblood of our

economy. As a macroeconomist myself, these

dynamics are important to me. They are our

foundation! At SMEO, we aim to treat them with

the respect they deserve.

What is the maximum amount you finance

per customer?

Customers have a limit of EUR 60,000, or PLN

250,000. As of the fourth quarter of 2019, SMEO

provides financing in both currencies: PLN and


You acquire 70% of your customers

online, and you have a fully digital

automated decision-making process and

disbursement. How much money have you

invested in IT systems?

Technological innovation is key to SMEO’s position

as an industry leader in Central and Eastern

Europe. We’ve invested EUR 1.1 million in R&D and

technology. But that figure only tells part of the

story. Anyone can pump investment money into

a complex system. At SMEO, we understood the

traditional factoring product well enough to target

areas for optimization and efficiency. So, we use

the technology in ways that actually drive revenue

and improve the customer experience.

The other 30% comes from partners. Who

do you partner with? And do you do this as

a co-branding project or white label?

We believe that the way forward for many

FinTechs is to seek out partnerships and the

accelerated access to clients they represent.

SMEO has developed both co-branding and

white-label partnerships. We have more than

10 active partnership agreements. Most of these

are with financial institutions and IT companies.

How many people work in SMEO? How

many of them are IT personnel?

We have 35 employees. More than 30 percent of

our workforce is in IT.

Now you work on the Polish market. Have

you been thinking about expanding SMEO

to other markets in the CEE region?

Our plans for expansion depend on partnership

agreements that I can’t talk about in detail right

now. Nevertheless, our home market is Poland;

we are focused on improving our offering here

and reaching our 2 million businesses. This is

a very entrepreneurial country, which means

there’s a lot of room to grow at home.

Scan the QR code

to watch SME Banking

Club’s Webinar

featuring Michal



Trade Finance


The Overview of the

digitalization of trade finance

services for SMEs in the

CEE region

In the digitalization of trade finance

services, it is essential to focus on both

short-term improvements in processes

and long-term innovations such as


Still, most documents connected with

trade (invoices, bills of lading or inspection

certificates, etc.), remain in paper form. For

companies involved in trade, this volume of

paperwork is challenging, especially for small

businesses that have neither the time nor the

resources for bureaucratic procedures, which

is why they try to avoid such complex paperbased

documentation processes in banks. For

banks, such manual processes only pay off with

corporate customers. As a result, SMEs remain

underserved in this area.

The only way for banks to increase the portfolio

of LCs or guarantees issued to SME customers

is to simplify and speed up processes and

make interaction with the bank seamless for

customers. And that means automatization and


Automation and digitalization not only make

it possible to streamline bank processes for

customers but also to process documents more

efficiently, as well as eliminate and auto-correct


To take a look what is happening in this area in

the CEE region these days, I’m turning to a study

devoted to online banking solutions for SME

customers, which we launched last year at SME

Banking Club.

The scope of the study involved an analysis of

100 parameters of online banking solutions

from 25 banks that work with SMEs in the

CEE region (covering Poland, Romania, Bulgaria,

Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia and Czech Republic).

With this set of 100 parameters, we are setting

a kind of benchmark for the main functionalities

that banks should have for the SME segment.

And what we see in the region as a result of this

analysis is that in the area of trade finance products

30% of analyzed banks implemented an

online Trade Finance module, which includes

the following functionalities:

• List of Guarantees

• Guarantee details

• Templates

• Reports

• Letter of Credits list

• Export/Import of LCs

• Templates

In ING Bank Śląski, a customer can apply for a

Guarantee or LC via online banking, see the list

of existing products, their expiry date, etc. Also,

the bank implemented e-Guarantee, which

is an electronic version of the standard bank

guarantee securing a company’s transactions.

A customer can verify the compliance of

signatures placed on the e-guarantee through

the bank’s application and receive confirmation

in the form of a pdf file.

In Ceska Sporitelna in Czech Republic, the

main functionalities are also available for the

customer online.

More details are available

in the Full Study. Join SME Banking Club

to get access us at

The transactional module in online banking

solutions includes an overview of account

Trade Finance

• Guarantees,

• Import Documentary


• Export Documentary


• Discount products with

Receivable Purchase


• Order for collection


Online Banking for SMEs - CEE 2019

balances, transfers in a local currency, and

international and domestic transfers in foreign

currencies and this is implemented at most

analyzed banks. So, this has become a musthave.

Implementing the Trade Finance module

gives a competitive advantage to banks. This

definitely provides added value to customers

and empowers them with self-service banking,

which will generate new revenue streams.

With respect to the topic of long-term

innovations and applying blockchain in trade

finance, a separate article is needed to cover

this. Some individual companies and consortia

are working on trade finance-related blockchain

solutions. A number of banks have invested

$107 million into R3, a consortium developing

distributed ledger technology for financial

companies. So, we’ll see more cases of its

application very soon. In recent news from the

CEE region, this past January ING Bank Śląski

(Poland) announced the issue of an electronic

Letter of Credit using blockchain technology,

by which it secured the delivery of goods

to the Polish company Granulat Sp.j. from a

counterparty in Asia. I’m also sure we’ll see more

and more partnerships with FinTechs in this area

as well.

Olena Gryniuk

CEE Regional Director at SME Banking Club.

ING Business

Figure 1. Trade finance module in ING Bank Śląski in Poland.

Extract from the Online Banking for SMEs Study by SME Banking Club (2019)




iFactor – Alternative SME Finance

Platform on the Romanian market

Cosmin Curticapean, CEO and Co-founder of iFactor

iFactor is an online

platform in Romania that

aims to become the fi rst

online B2B marketplace,

bringing together investors

and SMEs looking for

alternative fi nancing.

Olena Gryniuk talked to

Cosmin Curticapean, CEO

and Co-founder of iFactor,

about the Romanian market,

the company’s achievements

in 2019 and future plans.

iFactor is an online platform both for SMEs

that need to finance their invoices and

investors looking for diversifying their

asset portfolios. Can you tell us more about


iFactor, as a technology company, envisions a

world of innovation, digitalization and cuttingedge

technologies, where all legitimate SMEs

should have options for their trade finance

needs. We are enrolling lenders/buyers from the

traditional financial space, banks and NBFIs, as

well as private investors, companies, and private


iFactor aspires to offer SMEs a comprehensive

range of price competitive technological and

flexible finance solutions for working capital

needs. iFactor’s first deployed financial product

is factoring and will be followed soon by SME

loans. iFactor’s innovation doesn’t only relate to

technology, but also to the business concept.

iFactor gives customers (both sellers/borrowers

and buyers/lenders) the value of the best

product at the click of a button.

Was 2019 successful for iFactor? What were

your main achievements?

Some of our achievements in 2019 included:

• Expansion of our team;

• Development of a new version of the

workflow engine based on RPA;

• Entering post-revenue by acquiring SME


• Graduating the Startup GrowPad KPMG

Spherik Accelerator;



SME Finance

• We have obtained clearance for Private

Investors to become buyers on the iFactor

platform, through a process led by KPMG

and supported by the NBR (National Bank of

Romania), and we are proud to be the first

company on the romanian market to have

this documentation approved;

• We were admitted into the Scale up Innovix

BCR acceleration program from which we

will graduate in March 2020. Based on this

program, we were selected to pitch in the

Startup Grind global conference Silicon

Valley on February 11;

• We successfully organized the AI in Finance

Hackathon and deepened our partnerships

with great companies such as CFTE London,

KPMG Romania, Bank Transilvania, UiPath,

Microsoft, Saltedge, Netopia and others.

How many entrepreneurs know what

factoring is on the Romanian market?

Fortunately, enough to start our business, but

un fortunately not enough for a sustainable

economy. Our market study in 2018 showed

that between EUR 150,000 and 2 million

yearly turnover, 47% of entrepreneurs know or

properly understand what factoring or invoice

discounting is.

How do you deal with that? Do you try to

educate small businesses? And if so, how?

Our strategy regarding entrepreneurial and

financial management education is basically to

target our customers’ business growth instead

of sales conversion. We took this approach as

we are focused on SME needs and not on the

financial product since we are engaged in future

technology and innovation instead of today or

yesterday’s finance. This translates into using

the best technology to convert traditional and

alternative data into creditworthiness. Banks

have tried to educate entrepreneurs for ages

by investing lots of money and the result is

still unsatisfying. Therefore, we try to have a

360° approach to SMEs for better access to

liquidity. After their first debt rounds, they can

join our educational program to gain skills and

understanding of how to grow their businesses.

Based on our model of collaborating with SME

banks, we are doing shared events on the

topic of their platforms and customer base. We

organize webinars and meetups in partnership

with, CFTE, Founder Institute and


Who is your customer exactly? Can you

describe the profile of your average


Our Go to Market strategy splits our customers

into 3 target profiles based on a specific timeline.

In Eastern Europe, we target companies with

EUR 200,000 to 2 million turnover with some

differences based on geography, industry, etc.

What is the maximum amount you finance

per customer?

As we also have banks as lenders on the

platform, we do not have a maximum cap.

What are your channels for customer

acquisition? How many of them do you get

via online channels?

We acquire customers through introducers,

partner bank databases, online channels and

also through direct sales. Online channels

are now at only 35% but we aim for them to

become mainstream.

How do you cooperate with banks?

We have adjusted our technology in such a

way that we can basically offer smart leads to

banks, reducing their processing costs and time

to decision.

Through our platform they can offer tickets

as low as EUR 1,000 for a very short period of


How many people work at iFactor? How

many of them are IT personnel?

At the moment, IT accounts for 5 of our 12

employees and for some specific capabilities

the extended IT team is 10 people.

Now you work on the Romanian market.

Have you considered expanding to other

markets in the CEE region?

We plan to expand first in the UK and DACH in

the year 2020, but we are also looking to Poland

and the Czech Republic around late 2021.

We are aware that the European fintech

landscape is dynamic, so we are always

exploring and interested in opportunities.

Part of the iFactor’s team






Olena Gryniuk talks to Jens

Woloszczak, Founder &

CEO at Spotcap, about their

omnichannel approach in

different markets and plans

for the future.

Spotcap is an online SME

lender, operating in fi ve

countries, that lent more

than EUR 400M in credit

lines since 2014.

You have been providing SMEs

with funding since 2014 and have

launched operations in multiple

markets such as Spain, the Netherlands, the

UK as well as Australia and New Zealand.

What are your main reasons to enter these


At Spotcap, we look at opportunities across

the globe following our mission to empower

small businesses with tailored finance. Each

market is unique, and provides a different

set of opportunities and challenges. But as

a rule of thumb, we entered these markets

based on a combination of their size both in

terms of number of small businesses and the

credit market, the regulatory and banking

environments, the balance between interest

levels and credit defaults, as well as access to

data for our risk assessment.

What was your go-to-market strategy in

those markets, and what has worked best?

We have found that an omni-channel approach

is most successful. As a direct lender, we

set up both online and offline distribution

partnerships, collaborating with intermediaries

such as brokers and accountants, as well as

online marketplaces and affiliates. These play

a major role in our strategy, as a large portion

of SMEs still consult with financial experts on

their funding options. These partnerships are

supported by content marketing, PR and SEM


Last, but not least, rather than compete head

on with traditional institutions, we take a more

collaborative approach in markets where we do

not operate yet— we provide our technology to

financial institutions looking to digitize their SME

offering, thus extending our business model to

include Lending-as-a-Service (or LaaS).

Jens Woloszczak

CEO & Founder at Spotcap

Could you explain which types of SME

customers you target across markets?

We target a wide range of micro and small

businesses, most of which are limited

companies across both asset-heavy and assetlight

industries. We also offer financing to

sole proprietors with a “light” version of our

origination process for smaller tickets, which

has particularly interested our Lending-as-a-

Service partners as it enables a higher level of

automation regarding lending decisions.

Could you share some of your achievements

since you launched in 2014, e.g. how much

you lent, your default rates, etc? What are

your 2020+ plans?

Since our launch, we’ve lent more than EUR

400M in credit lines with low single-digit default

rates and have an NPS score of over 70%. Our

default rates have been below market averages

as a result of our leading risk assessment


For 2020 and beyond, we plan to enter new

markets, particularly in Europe, through

partnerships based on our Lending-as-a-Service

model with banks and other fintechs.

Can you tell us more about your bank

partnerships, how have they evolved and

what is your role in them? Do you offer

white-label or co-branded solutions?



SME Finance

Half a dozen institutions from five countries

have already selected Spotcap as a partner in

their digital transformation during the last 18

months, with the intention to offer a best-inclass

digital loan product to both existing and

new SME customers. Some examples include

our partnerships with BAWAG Group in Austria

and Zip Co in the ANZ region with more

announcements to come shortly.

Our role differs in each partnership, as it’s tailored

to the institution’s specific needs, but mostly we

provide a white-label technology solution, as

well as expertise as a direct SME lender.

Your product Spotcap LendSuite — a

Lending-as-a-Service platform — seems

to cover all aspects of a digital lending

journey. Could you please explain which

components it has, and what is unique

about them?

Spotcap LendSuite is our proprietary Lendingas-a-Service

platform made up of numerous

modules that facilitate onboarding, data

processing, decisioning and servicing — all of

which allows us and our partners to make credit

decisions within 24h. A summary of each:

• Onboarding: Our onboarding technology

includes multiple white-label web properties

that allow customers to apply online in a

few minutes. Customers need to submit

some basic details, and our application forms

fetch the rest through API connections with

authorised third parties. Our KYC/AML checks

confirm their identity and legitimacy, abiding

with both local and international regulatory

standards. To finish their application,

customers can connect their bank account,

upload PDF versions of their documents, or

connect their accounting provider.

• Data Processing: As customers upload their

documents, our technology automatically

recognises and processes them, extracts

the relevant information and supplies it to

other parts of the lending platform. Through

machine learning, our algorithm can learn

to recognise multiple types of documents,

such as P&L and bank statements, and can

be applied across multiple languages and


• Decisioning: Our underwriting models

generate a credit score for each customer

immediately after they apply. A dedicated

underwriting dashboard displays important

insights, such as trends in income and

expenditure, available balance over time,

and how regular administrative payments

are. For simple cases, our technology can

fully automate the decisioning process

and deliver a response to the customer,

while analysts can use the dashboard to

assess more complex cases in less than one

working day.

• Servicing: Banks can introduce multiple

cost reductions by optimizing their

workflows with automation. For example,

we developed a highly scalable system

that works as a secondary layer on top

of Salesforce. Based on information from

customer interactions, the bank’s funnel

structure and service level agreement, the

system automatically generates, prioritizes

and pushes tasks to multiple departments.

At which stage of the process are humans

involved (if any)? What percentage of credit

decisions are made fully automatically

versus the ones where underwriters are


This depends on the institution’s strategic

priorities. If the bank’s aim is to focus on a fast

response for smaller tickets, for example up to

EUR 50,000, our platform is able to fully automate

the end-to-end origination process and deliver

a decision to the customer in under one minute.

Larger tickets usually involve manual reviews by

experienced underwriters.

What are the primary data that you base

your decisions on?

We use multiple data sources such as credit

bureau data, financial data, bank account

data as well as information from regional

databases (such as fraud). Over the past years,

we have found that the category with the

highest predictive power for unsecured loans is

transactional data from the applicant’s business

bank account.

Our risk assessment models use transactional

data to calculate a default probability score,

signaling how likely an applicant is to default

on a potential loan. In addition, they produce

a recommended credit amount for applicants

who stand below the bank’s risk threshold.

While we have included these features in our

end-to-end platform, we also offer Business

Bank Account Insights ML , which is a more flexible

option. Through an API call or a dedicated

portal, banks can upload transactional data

in CSV files and receive the same insights in a

PDF report. This allows them to pre-score leads

and filter out rejections in a more streamlined

process, without having to reconstruct their

entire system.

Visit Spotcap HQ in Berlin

during the Study Tour on June 22-23, 2020.

For more details, visit pp. 46-47




Banking that matters:

Erste Group measures impact

of its Social Banking activities

• Social Banking activities helped to

create and preserve almost 45.000 jobs

across CEE

• Since its launch, 30,000 clients were

supported with financing, education

and/or mentoring

• Erste Social Banking supports starting

entrepreneurs, microfinance businesses,

social organisations and people in

financial difficulties

• Financing efforts are combined

with financial education to ensure

sustainable financial well-being

Erste Group is systematically growing its

comprehensible Social Banking programme in

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE): The 2 nd impact

assessment of social banking activities, based

on methodology developed in cooperation

with the Vienna University of Economics and

Business, measures the impact of the social

banking efforts on local communities. More

than 19,000 people in financial difficulties, 7,000

small farmers, 3,100 entrepreneurs starting

their micro-businesses in areas with high

unemployment and poverty and 600 social

organizations across CEE accessed offerings of

Erste’s Social Banking. Overall, Erste dispersed a

total of EUR 235 million in loans across CEE, with

EUR 65 million provided in 2018/2019 alone

Thus, Erste lives up to its believe that growth

must be inclusive. While the overall poverty rate

in CEE has decreased by 6% since last year, 14

million people in Erste’s core markets Austria,

Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and

Slovakia are still at risk of poverty. A majority of

these can barely make ends meet, cannot cover

unexpected expenses or lack basic household

amenities such as heating or proper sanitation.

Job creation in local

communities through

supporting small businesses,

entrepreneurs and NGO

Erste’s Social Banking programme collaborates

closely with a broad variety of local partners —

offering a set of measures ranging from access

to finance up to mentoring and training. This

collaboration ensures that funding translates

into sustainable and measurable social impact

— such as the creation of 15,000 new jobs



Social Banking

and the preservation of 30,000 jobs across the


Since its start, Erste’s Social Banking financed

3,100 starting entrepreneurs and almost 7,000

microfinance businesses in order to fight

unemployment in rural areas across CEE. For a

third of entrepreneurial clients, a start-up loan

meant a path from unemployment to their own

business — not only for themselves but also for

others: On average, every starting entrepreneur

creates two further jobs in a local community.

50% of these entrepreneurs report that starting

or expanding their business without Erste’s

support would have been impossible. In

addition, Erste disbursed to these clients more

than EUR 160 million in loans

«One of the most difficult tasks for microbusinesses

is raising finances to get their ideas up

and running. For women entrepreneurs the hurdle

is even higher, as they need to battle against

gender bias, too. With our help, they can start and

successfully expand a generation café in Vienna, a

sheep farm in Romania or organic baby clothing

business in Croatia», explains Peter Surek, Head

of Social Banking Department.

An additional growth of social banking impact

was achieved by services provided to social

organizations across CEE. The number of

financed organizations grew by 50% y-o-y,

from 400 in 2017/2018 to more than 600 in

2018/2019. Overall volume of loans increased

from 41 to 72 EUR million. More financing led

to preservation of 10,500 and creation of 2,300

new jobs in social sector, 60% of which were

created for socially excluded.

«Many NGOs and social entrepreneurs have poor

access to financing as their business models are per

definition not profit-oriented and thus unattractive

to mainstream banks. They have scant support from

the state and difficulties in accessing EU subsidies.

The development of the civil society is limited when

NGOs and social entrepreneurs, who deal with

some of the most challenging issues in our society,

lack adequate funding. To meet their needs, we

provide working capital loans, bridging loans and

investment facility loans», states Peter Surek.

Financial education to ensure

sustainable financial well-being

As the level of financial literacy remains

generally low across CEE, Erste’s education

programmes help clients to achieve sustainable,

long term improvements in their financial

health. Erste’s efforts for financial inclusion

started with Zweite Sparkasse, a volunteer-run

“bank for the unbanked” founded in Austria

by Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation in

2006. The 2nd impact assessment shows that

financial inclusion programmes in Austria and

Slovakia helped over 19,000 people in financial

difficulties in partnership with local NGOs. 76%

of low-income clients report that they can now

pay regular expenses on time.

Business skills and financial advisory are

crucial also for Erste’s entrepreneurial clients:

8,500 participated in training and mentoring

programmes using various formats from online

tools to individual support. In, 2,600 social

organizations participants benefited from

business training and capacity building. 9 out

of 10 supported social organizations reported

that they can now better fulfill their social

mission, serving over 123,300 socially excluded

beneficiaries across CEE.

Erste Group is the leading financial services

provider in the eastern part of the EU. Around

47,000 employees serve over 16.7 million

customers in almost 2,400 branches in 7

countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia,

Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia). As per the

first nine months of 2019, Erste Group had EUR

252 billion in total assets, posted a net profit of

EUR 1.22 billion and had a tier -1 capital ratio

(CET-1, Basel III, phased-in) of 13.5%.

Our approach to Social Banking

We foster

Starting Entrepreneurs

We support

Microfinance Businesses

We empower

Social Organisations

We stand by

People in financial difficulties


Working-capital loans

Start-up loans

Working-capital loans

Investment loans

Cash flow assessment

Financial advisory

Bridge loans

Investment loans


Business trainings


Capacity building


Special accounts

Housing micro loans

Debt advisory

Financial education

to create

new jobs

to create and preserve

jobs in rural areas

to expand their

social impact

to reach financial





From left to right: Oleg Klymenko (OTP Bank, Ukraine), Dmitriy Lazarchik (System Technologies),

Sergey Sheko (Alfa Bank Belarus), Svetlana Shapovalova (Alfa Bank Belarus),

Tatyana Kirishun (CS Ltd), Andrey Gidulyan (SME Banking Club)

BUM SME Banking Club

Conference 2019

Andrey Gidulyan

(SME Banking Club)


September 20

For the eighth time, SME

Banking Club gathered

SME Bankers in Kyiv

(Ukraine) at the BUM

SME Banking Conference

2019, which was held on

September 20 and devoted

to financial services for

SMEs in Belarus, Ukraine,

and Moldova.

Diana Grigoryan





From left to right: Andrey Barkov (Hope Ukraine),

Andrey Kopyl (Hope Ukraine)

From left to right: Evgeniy Metzger (Ukrgasbank),

Sergey Lunegov (Belinvestbank), Andrey Gidulyan (SME Banking Club)

Sergey Sheko (Alfa Bank Belarus),

Svetlana Shapovalova (Alfa Bank Belarus)

From left to right:

Evgeniy Metzger (Ukrgasbank),

Aleksandr Bukovinskiy (ESKA Capital)

Lidiya Kuliba

(GfK Ukraine)

Juliya Kislukhina


Scan QR code

to view

more photos




Central Asia SME Banking

Club Conference 2019


November 12

For the second time,

SME Banking Club

gathered SME Bankers

in Almaty (Kazakhstan)

at the Central Asia

SME Banking Conference

2019, which was held

on November 12 and

devoted to financial

services for SMEs in the

Central Asia region.

From left to right: Aleksandr Nikolenko (Tascombank), Nikolay Adeev (Abanking), Damir Kakiev (Alfa Bank Kazakhstan), Andrey Gidulyan (SME Banking Club)




Valeriy Siroshtan

(Renome Smart)

Juliya Yasinskaya


Stanislav Orobinskiy


From left to right: Shokhruh Kamarov (National Bank VED of Uzbekistan),

Murod Iskandarov (National Bank VED of Uzbekistan),

Andrey Gidulyan (SME Banking Club), Alexey Sayapin (SME Banking Club)

Olga Rudenko


Mikhail Medko


Anton Kim


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to view

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CEE SME Banking Club

Conference 2019

Olena Gryniuk

(SME Banking Club)


October 21-22

For the fifth time,

SME Banking Club

gathered SME Bankers in

Warsaw (Poland)

at the CEE SME Banking

Conference 2019,

which was held

on October 21-22

and devoted to financial

services for SMEs in that

region (#CEE19).



Event | Day 1

Boyan Byanov


Jakub Makurat


Dmytro Syvolap


Gareth Aled Davies


Mariusz Topór


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During the Ecosystem Roundtable

Michał Pawlik


Michał Tusznio

(ING Bank Śląski)

John Mark Williams

(Agile Business Consortium)



Event | Day 2

Adam Jano (Budapest Bank)

Maria Cenusa (ICG)

During the Agile Workshop

Auke Douwe Veenstra

(Q2 / Cloudlending


Christian Ruehmer


Charles-Alexandre Gamba


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more photos




Building an ecosystem for SME

customers: Roundtable in Prague

On December 5, 2019, SME Banking Club (Poland), together

with Charlie-India (Hungary), organized a Roundtable

in Prague (Czech Republic) to discuss the building of a

productive ecosystem for SME customers with local banks.

Olena Gryniuk (SME Banking Club)

stressed that adding convenience

to daily banking operations is

no advantage enough to give banks a

competitive edge.

The analysis of online banking functionalities

for SME customers in the CEE region shows

(Online Banking for SMEs Study, SME Banking

Club 2019) that primary transactional

operations and access to information about

customer bank accounts, such as an overview

of account balances, transfers in local currency

and international and domestic transfers in

foreign currencies, are implemented at most

of the banks analyzed. So, this is a standard

functionality available to SME customers in

any bank. Meanwhile, providing non-financial

services, combined within the ecosystems that

help entrepreneurs develop their businesses,

is becoming a decisive criterion for small

businesses when choosing a bank.

Integration of Value-Added Services (VAS)

will become a must next year. 30% of banks in

the region have integrated e-invoicing and online

accounting services into their online banking

systems. Integration of a BFM (Business

Financial Management) module gives SME

customers the option to analyze their account

and expenses, but also to forecast cash flow and

manage a company’s liquidity. For the bank, this

module provides the option to cross-sell working

capital lending products and factoring precisely

at the moment when a customer is in the red.

Business rationale for banks to provide

non-financial services to SMEs:

• Each bank must create its own business case

and value proposition in a market. Nonfinancial

services (e-invoicing, accounting,

BFM) are a part of the value proposition

Shortened version

of the Study is

available via the link


the video

presentation here

A snapshot of the Study:

Online Banking for SMEs Study

for the CEE region




• Cross-selling opportunities. Banks can

offer new bundles of packaged services

in which established traditional and new

e-invoicing services are deployed together.

Factoring and financing solutions contribute

to revenues from lending.

Business rationale for SMEs to have nonfinancial

services (e-invoicing, accounting,

BFM, etc.) from banks:

• Automation of SMEs’ everyday tasks.

Banks are able to integrate e-invoicing

with payments in many creative ways (e.g.

e-banking, file transfer, authentication

and call centers, etc.). Due to the growing

popularity of electronic banking, there is an

automatic economy of re-use and repetition.

This facilitates reconciliation processes and

reduces errors.

• Small businesses spend up to 50% of their

time on non-core activities, which can be

automated. Banks can increase SMEs’

productivity by providing subscriptions

and/or connections to productivity tools.

• Banks can provide invoice financing, factoring

and credit enhancement facilities.

• Banking channels can meet legal com -

pliance and authenticity/integrity requirements

From left to right: Olena Gryniuk (SME Banking Club),

Katalin Kauzli (Charlie-India) during the Roundtable

in Prague (Dec 05, 2019)

See the full

SME Banking Club
















Issue digital


Receive and process

digital invoices


and invoice


















Access to bank

transaction data










Case Studies of Ecosystems for SME customers

powered by Charlie-India in Hungary



The beginning of the Open Banking era provides

new opportunities to connect with bankschallengers,

multi-bank platforms and Fintech


Katalin Kauzli (Charlie-India) presented the

case of OTP eBIZ – the first ecosystem for SME

customers launched in the CEE region two years


Access the full


presentation here

Charlie-India’s mission is to convert all invoices

into an automatically processable form and

decrease the proportion of paper or pdf

invoices, which can only be processed manually.

And as online banking payment transfers by B2B

customers are made based on invoices, it makes

sense to integrate an e-invoicing module (which

allows customers to not only issue invoices in

electronic format, but also to receive invoices

from counterparties (even from different

e-invoicing systems, and also transaction

matching for customer’s invoice data) into the

online banking and mobile banking to business


Accepting and paying an invoices in two clicks




customers, which will allow customers to pay

received invoices with just two clicks of a mouse

and without entering all the invoice data into

the transfer form. This functionality works in the

OTP eBIZ platform when a customer receives an

invoice in their Invoice Inbox, allowing them,

with just two clicks of their mouse: (1) accept

the invoice and (2) pay it (see Pic.3), which is

essential for SME customers for two reasons. The

first is, of course, time-saving and automation of

customers’ back-office activities. And the second

is a psychological one: nobody likes to pay

invoices, so the faster the process, the better.

Ideally, it should be seamless for the customer.

Charlie-India is currently testing communication

between OTP Bank’s platform and the platforms

of other Hungarian banks (See Image 4). Banks

are not integrated with each other, and they

communicate invoice data via a secured email

protocol and a standardized invoice data

structure. Invoices sent and received this way

can be processed automatically and paid with

just two clicks of a mouse.

Also, Charlie-India is working on adding to

that ecosystem not only banks but also ERP

companies, e-invoicing companies, and large

invoice issuers and enterprise customers (such

as service providers, etc. because they can also

benefit from automating the invoicing process).

The idea is to send invoices via banks as service

providers, and when you have invoice content

in a bank as an invoice platform, people will

use it. And the more users, the more payments

will be made, and this is where the banks can

earn: processing the payments and cross-selling

additional financial products based on invoice

data (overdrafts, invoice financing, factoring,


In November 2019, Charlie-India began

providing the opportunity to participate in a

real-life simulation in order to show banks what

it is like to be able to work with fully accessible

digital invoice data and how the bank can

use it if all invoice data is available digitally.

The simulation aims to demonstrate that the

existing payment ecosystem can be extended

and connected to invoice data exchange.

All interested banks are invited to join the


As a result of the simulation, banks will see

how they can integrate invoicing systems, and

how banking customers will be able to send

and receive invoices among one another and

exchange invoices with customers of other

banks and invoicing systems.

If a given bank wants to proceed with a reallife

project, the test environment can be

turned into a real project with no additional

development required in order to arrive at an

MVP, which can be later tailored to that bank’s

individual requirements. Apply to take part in

the simulation by contacting Katalin Kauzli

from Charlie-India using the details provided




Customer invoice data


at the bank

Invoice and

invoice data

Supplier invoice and

invoice data




Payment and

payment data

Customer Invoice data

matched with

payment data

Payment and

payment data

Payment data



from supplier invoice

data at the bank

Case Study of an Invoicing & Payment Ecosystem in Hungary





MARCH 30-31

Learn about the best practices of banking solutions for the Micro & SME segment

in the area of customer acquisition, lending, and building the ecosystems.

During the 2-days Study Tour to Budapest on March 30-31 we will visit

leading Hungarian banks to learn how they are:

• Creating Ecosystems for SMEs

• Approaching SME customers

• Launching Startup cooperation programs

Learn best practices, ask your questions, and enjoy Budapest! Join us!

To get the detailed agenda, please email us at




Mrs. Ms. Mr. / First name Last Name

Job title

Institution VAT ID number



Email Twitter account @

Assistant’s information (or person in charge of the registration)

First name Last Name

Tel Email



The Study Tour will start on Monday, March 30, at 9.00

and will end at appr. 19.00 on Tuesday, March 31.


Head offices of Hungarian banks


All sessions will be held in English


Each participant must pay the cost of his or her

accommodation directly to the hotel before departure


The registration fee covers participation in the Study Tour,

transportation during the visits, lunches, dinners, and coffee

breaks. Registration must be paid in full before the event.


€1200 for financial organizations —

representatives of non-members


SME Banking Club members receive

a 20% discount for all tickets


Bank Transfer

Credit Card

Date____________ Signature_____________


All cancellations must be received in writing. A 20%

cancellation fee will be charged for all cancellations received

before March 15, 2020. Full price cancellation fee will

be charged for all cancellations made after that date as well

as for delegates that are unable to attend unless a substitute

delegate is provided. Substitutions are accepted at any time.

Please send this registration form by email at

Or register online at

Organizer’s contacts: Olena Gryniuk,

+48733404985, e-mail:



JUNE 22-23

Learn how SME-Focused FinTechs approach small business customers.

During the 2-days Study Tour on June 22-23, we will visit FinTechs, headquartered in Berlin

and providing services to SMEs in different countries in the region, to learn how they:

• Approaching and onboarding SME customers purely online

• Transforming SME lending, how they’re doing it purely digitally, and the steps

they take to keep the risk of bad debts in check

• Creating ecosystems for SMEs

• Cooperating with banks

Learn best practices, ask your questions, and enjoy Berlin! Join us!

To get a detailed agenda, please email us at




Mrs. Ms. Mr. / First name Last Name

Job title

Institution VAT ID number



Email Twitter account @

Assistant’s information (or person in charge of the registration)

First name Last Name

Tel Email



The Study Tour will start on Monday, June 22, at 9.00

and will end at appr. 19.00 on Tuesday, June 23.


Head offices of FinTechs based in Berlin


All sessions will be held in English


Each participant must pay the cost of his or her

accommodation directly to the hotel before departure


The registration fee covers participation in the Study Tour,

transportation during the visits, lunches, dinners, and coffee

breaks. Registration must be paid in full before the event.


€1200 for financial organizations —

representatives of non-members


SME Banking Club members receive

a 20% discount for all tickets


Bank Transfer

Credit Card

Date____________ Signature_____________


All cancellations must be received in writing. A 20%

cancellation fee will be charged for all cancellations received

before June 05, 2020. Full price cancellation fee will

be charged for all cancellations made after that date as well

as for delegates that are unable to attend unless a substitute

delegate is provided. Substitutions are accepted at any time.

Please send this registration form by email at

Or register online at

Organizer’s contacts: Olena Gryniuk,

+48733404985, e-mail:



Cooperation Models Between Banks

& FinTechs. Pitches of FinTechs

focused on SMEs

SME Banking Ecosystem

The building of the ecosystem

is becoming a key competitive


Digital SME Banking

How to transform the business into

a new reality

CEE SME Banking

Awards 2020

Where the SME Banking community

comes together to honor the best of

the best in 2020

How AI is driving the

banking revolution

AI in Banking. Making it Personal.

Use cases

Unique Venue

Beautiful Zofin Palace in the heart

of Prague




Mrs. Ms. Mr. / First name

Job title




Last Name

VAT ID number


Twitter account @

Assistant’s information (or person in charge of the registration)

First name

Last Name





The Conference will begin on Wednesday 25 November at

08.15 and will end at appr 22.30 with the Gala Dinner


November 25, all day: Žofín Palace, Slovanský ostrov 226,

Prague, Czech Republic


All sessions will be held in English


Each participant must pay the cost of his or her accommodation

directly to the hotel before departure


The registration fee covers participation in SME Banking Club

Conference, documents, lunches and coffee breaks. Registration

fees must be paid in full before the event.


All cancellations must be received in writing. A 20%

cancellation fee will be charged for all cancellations received

before 01 st of November 2020. Full price cancellation fee will

be charged for all cancellations made after that date as well

as for delegates that are unable to attend unless a substitute

delegate is provided. Substitutions are accepted at any time.


€1000 for service/solution providers

€700 for financial organisations - representatives of


€0 for SME Banking Club members*

* according to membership terms


All registrations are strictly individual.

In a case of registration more than one participant from one

company the following discounts are provided:

Third and next participant - 10% discount for all tickets.


Bank Transfer

Credit Card

Date____________ Signature_____________

Please send this registration form by email at

Or register online at

Organizer’s contacts: Olena Gryniuk,

+48733404985, e-mail:





Tbilisi | May 21-22 Kyiv | September 24-25 Prague | November 25

SME Banking Club

Digital Forum 2020,

dedicated to the development

of digital banking services

for SMEs in the CIS and

the Caucasus regions

SME Banking Club Finance

Forum 2020, dedicated to the

development of financial

services and products

for SMEs in the CIS and

the Caucasus regions

6th Annual SME Banking Club

Conference 2020 will take place

in Prague. Join a unique event

focused on the SME Banking

in the CEE region and CEE SME

Banking Awards 2020

For more details please go to


the SME Banking Club

The SME Banking Club was established by a team of former SME bankers in 2010.

The SME Banking Club organizes regional SME banking conferences on an annual basis (one regional

conference in each region where it has a presence) that bring together financial institutions, technology

companies and development finance institutions to share knowledge, spur innovation and promote the

growth of SMEs in the region.

For details about our regular events, featuring expert professional guidance and exclusive panel

discussions, visit

SME Banking Club members benefit from access to detailed analytical market reports and annual studies.

This information is not available anywhere else in the market.

Regions of operations: Central and Eastern Europe, CIS countries, the Caucasus region and Central Asia.

Representative offices in Ukraine and Poland.

We invite you to stay in touch and join our online platforms: our website,;

our LinkedIn page; and our Soundcloud page, which offers unique knowledge resources.

Join the SME Banking Club network for events and ideas that connect and inspire.

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