Kostas Tovil for Revista Biz: Banking for the future

Kostas Tovil, our Market Leader of Greece, is in the spotlight of the latest issue of Revista Biz magazine. He shared what distinguishes us from traditional banks, how we trasnmited our expertise from Romania to our emerging market Greece, and much more. You can read below:

What can you do when you are a challenger in a sector full of traditional players? You come up with a different vision and a different way of doing things. This is exactly the strategy of tbi bank, which has created successful innovative products in the markets of Romania and Bulgaria and is now exporting to Greece a strategy based on technology, transparency, and understanding customers. We learned details about what the future of banking looks like from Kostas Tovil, Market Leader of tbi bank Greece.”

How do you see the rise of fintech in banking, and what is the role of tbi in this constantly changing landscape?

The fundamentals of banking have never changed radically. People need financing for their plans and require security when saving for the future. The same goes for companies. But there is something that has significantly changed in the last 10-15 years: the speed with which these needs are met. Specifically, the speed with which someone who needs financing can obtain it without obstacles, without bureaucracy, and without a long waiting period. Similarly, for people, it has become increasingly important to be able to save quickly and safely. This is exactly what fintech does – it satisfies the same needs much faster than before. tbi bank is a challenger bank that combines the speed of fintech with the security offered by traditional banks. For this reason, tbi bank is one of the fastest-growing financial institutions in Southeast Europe, with its main operations in Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria. Essentially, we are an inclusive lender and a true partner for our customers, whether they are merchants or consumers. Our alternative payment solution supports merchants in increasing sales and the number of customers, and the proof of the success of our model is represented by both the 20,000 retail locations we work with and the 2 million customers who use our financial products. Especially with regard to merchants, over 95% of our partnerships are represented by SMEs, and here, in addition to the traditional industries such as electronics and technology, furniture and auto production, we also collaborate with other verticals, such as fashion, cosmetics and beauty, as well as medical and DIY services.

The alternative payment methods offered by tbi bank provide several benefits to customers. One major advantage is the convenience of being able to access financing options directly where they need it, such as on a retailer or dealer’s website. This eliminates the need for customers to physically visit a bank branch or navigate a separate website to apply for financing. Additionally, the bank offers financing for a wide range of needs, including medical services, education, and professional development, making it easier for customers to access financing options for their specific needs. Another benefit is the transparent and straightforward conditions of the loans, with no hidden fees or obligations. The loans are also provided for a defined period of time, which allows customers to plan and manage their payments accordingly. Overall, these alternative payment methods offered by tbi bank provide greater flexibility, convenience, and transparency for customers seeking financing options.

We have a banking license, we are regulated by authorities, we have the necessary capital to meet the criteria established for traditional banks, but the way we operate and communicate with customers is different. We do not talk about products, but about the customer experience, because that is what is most important today. We do not force the promotion of products in the market, but we look exactly where the customer is, what needs they have, how they want to interact with their financial services provider, and we come to meet them. That’s what a challenger bank does: it breaks away from the traditional format, which is based on launching products that are then promoted in the market. We create services that offer customers the simplest and fastest experience possible, an ecosystem of relationships and products that surrounds the consumer at 360 degrees, covering all existing and possible needs. That’s why we think and operate differently, we make decisions very quickly, without being slowed down by bureaucracy. Mistakes are not punished, people are encouraged to think creatively and create innovative products and solutions. It is an advantage when you work in this way from the beginning, when the organization’s foundations are thought out from the outset in this new paradigm. When we talk about a large organization, with many departments, decisions are made slowly. In a traditional bank, you have to go through all levels of decision-making until the CEO gives his approval. We operate differently, delegate responsibilities and teach people to act responsibly and make quick decisions.”

What are the benefits of the alternative payment methods you offer?

Until now, when a customer needed financing, they would go to a bank branch or go online to the bank’s website and submit an application. We offer an alternative payment method right where the customer needs it. So if the customer is on a retailer’s website or at an auto dealer, they will find tbi‘s alternative payment method right there. Essentially, we have brought financing tools closer to the customer, where they need it, without the need to visit our website or make unnecessary trips to the bank. In the markets where we are present – Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria – we have an average of 17 such requests per minute, so there is a huge appetite among customers to find a payment solution where they need it. We offer financing for medical services, education, courses, and specializations. Unlike standard methods, the loan is taken out for a defined period of time, and the conditions are transparently established without any other obligations or hidden fees.Top of Form

How important is organizational culture for market success?

The culture of the organization is a fundamental pillar of our evolution. Our values are what differentiate us in the market: brave, passionate, and caring for customers, and the people at tbi bank are guided by and even live by these values. Courage is very important. To evolve, you have to rise after you’ve tried something and failed. The winner mentality we cultivate at tbi bank is based on the courage of people who try to create new solutions and who have the strength to start over when they make mistakes. This effort is rewarded abundantly later when we succeed in doing truly extraordinary things together. When we hire people, we also look at their mindset, beyond technical skills, even in the case of entry-level roles. We look for people who have the energy and desire to evolve, and this ensures a very solid foundation for us to advance in the future and differentiate ourselves from competitors.

Why did you decide to enter Greece?

We decided to enter the Greek market because it was a relatively advanced market at the beginning of the 2000s, and many banks there were expanding in the region, especially in Southeast Europe, including Romania. However, in 2009 the sovereign debt crisis began, which affected the European banking system and especially that in Greece. As a result, over the past 10-11 years, we have witnessed a reduction in both the number of Greek banks and their activity abroad. Consequently, investments made in digitization, modernization, and efficiency have also decreased. A significant part of the population still does not have access to banking services, so we saw that our solutions could have an impact on the lives of Greeks. What was already a normality in Romania in terms of access to services was not present in Greece. That’s why we decided to enter their market, and we did it successfully. Greece is now in rapid growth, and we are using our experience from Romania and Bulgaria to bring new products to this market. We started with services for companies and then expanded to the consumer side, and now we are working on the mobile app and deposit area. Our goal is to build a complete banking experience in Greece within the next two years, as we have already done in Romania.

How did tbi bank’s experience in Romania shape its approach to the markets in Greece?

The experience of tbi bank in Romania taught us that transparency is very important. Romanians don’t like hidden fees, they want to know clearly from the beginning how much they have to pay and what the conditions are. After the 2008 financial crisis, people became much more attentive to details, and their requirements grew exponentially. We applied the same model of transparency in Greece, which is in line with tbi bank’s values regardless of the market we operate in. Through honesty and transparency, we can win the appreciation of customers and keep them with us for a long time.

Moreover, Romania is more advanced in terms of digital banking solutions, being a segment where massive investments have been made in recent years. The digital onboarding area did not exist in Greece, so we brought the solution from Romania there and adapted it to the local market’s specificities. In Greece, we found a more connected market to the internet, with a high rate of smartphone penetration, but with fewer digital services. Over half of the population has access to digital banking, so customers were ready for new technology-based solutions.

In this context, we started our operations in this new market and offered consumers the tools they needed through tbi bank. As a result, customers in Greece can now pay in installments without having to have a credit card. People immediately embraced the new solutions, a clear sign that the market was ready for this evolution, and tbi bank had anticipated this.

[quoteblock content=”Our goal is to build a complete banking experience in Greece within the next two years.” author=”Kostas Tovil” author_position=”Market Leader, Greece” author_avatar=”https://tbibank.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/konstantinos-tovil_nobg-1200×1190.png” section_id=””][/quoteblock]

Do you approach merchants differently and what do you bring in addition?

We cannot separate the relationship with merchants from the one with customers, as they are indissolubly linked. In recent years, we have focused our efforts on accelerating the digitization processes, making significant investments in our IT infrastructure. In this way, our services have become much more user-friendly for both customers and merchants. In Romania, to make all our processes and services much simpler and more user-friendly, we have built a complex ecosystem to offer customers and partners more freedom. In fact, our customers are not only the end users of our services but also our partners.

What is the impact of new technologies on tbi bank’s activities?

Our business, regarding merchants, is interconnected with the retail area, so we receive feedback from both customers and partners. With the help of new technologies, we can quickly gather information from both areas and thus have a complete picture that helps us develop the best solutions for all categories of customers. Our teams analyze new solutions or improve existing ones based on feedback from consumers and merchants. For example, in the risk area, we are constantly testing solutions to make our business safer, using state-of-the-art technologies related to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Our goal is to create the most enjoyable and comprehensive experience for consumers. We are in the year of artificial intelligence. If until now we used AI and machine learning for onboarding and risk assessment, in 2023 artificial intelligence has become mainstream. The new tools have an impact in many areas of the economy, and the way we interact with the customer is undergoing a process of change. In the coming years, the impact will be dramatic at the economic and social levels, including in the banking sector.

Recently you announced the financial results. What can you share?

Indeed, we have published our financial results, which show that we have achieved excellent financial performance. We began a transformation process a few years ago to become a significant player in the Southeastern Europe region. Despite the challenges we faced, we have achieved remarkable success, especially in terms of financial results. Our consolidated unaudited financial results for 2022 show a record net profit of 35.5 million euros, which is 29% higher than the level of 27.5 million euros in 2021. We have adapted very well to an unpredictable context, which has helped both our retail and SME lines of business. In 2022, tbi bank received approximately 1.3 million financing applications in Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria, and approved almost 550,000 loans worth 726 million euros, which is a 34% increase compared to 2021. Additionally, tbi bank has recorded an impressive 54% increase in total assets at the end of 2022, reaching 1.1 billion euros. The loan portfolio grew to 778 million euros at the end of December 2022, a 43% increase compared to 2021.Top of Form

How do you see the bank of the future?

People’s basic needs will not change – they have and will continue to need a comfortable life and access to healthcare and education. For this, they need support, a partner who truly helps them and understands their real needs. By using the latest technologies and building a team of specialists, we will know exactly what our customers’ needs are and will always be able to offer them the best solutions. This is what a bank of the future looks like, which will always offer innovative financing and savings solutions and will withstand an unpredictable future through continuous adaptation to the changes that occur every day.

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