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INTERVIEW: Banca Intesa's Serbian unit to digitalise 95% of payments by 2021

INTERVIEW: Banca Intesa's Serbian unit to digitalise 95% of payments by 2021 Author: Banca Intesa Beograd License: all rights reserved.

BELGRADE (Serbia), November 19 (SeeNews) - Banca Intesa Beograd, the Serbian unit of Italian lender Intesa Sanpaolo, plans to digitalise 95% of its payments and 40% of all sales by 2021, a senior official of the bank told SeeNews.

"We plan to introduce new Internet and mobile banking platform for individuals during next year which will offer completely new experience of banking to our clients," Zorana Brankovic, Head of Multichannel at Banca Intesa Beograd, told SeeNews on the sidelines of a recent tech forum, IBM Think Summit, organised by global tech company IBM in Belgrade.

Banca Intesa has selected IBM API Connect platform to unlock the potential of internal applications and data. The platform is helping the bank meet its goals to extend business opportunities to new markets and tap new revenue streams beyond its traditional business.

"A lot of operations will be done digitally by the clients themselves, and this will completely change the way we are servicing clients," Brankovic added.

The drive towards digitalisation will free resources at the bank's physical branches for consulting and bigger sales, she explained.

Currently, Banca Intesa Beograd has 300,000 customers in mobile banking and around 160,000-170,000 in Internet banking. More than one million payments are made every month through digital channels.

"The numbers speak for themselves. We used our branch network force to boost digitalisation because you can have organic growth only until a certain point and then it stops. There are clients who are not using it, because they think it is complicated and they do not know how. That is why we have colleagues in the branches who are available every day to help them," Brankovic commented.

Last year, Banca Intesa Beograd recorded 20-30% growth in sales via digital channels.

According to an interim unaudited financial statement of the lender posted on its corporate website, in the first half of 2019 the bank's after-tax profit rose 19% on the year to 6.6 billion dinars ($61.5 million/56 million euro).

In 2018, Banca Intesa Beograd's after-tax profit grew 6.4% to 12.6 billion dinars ($121 million/107 million euro).

Banca Intesa was a pioneer of digital lending in Serbia, Brankovic recalled.

"No documentation, no additional requirements, you just log in, apply for the money and you get it in 15 minutes. We were the first bank [to do this in Serbia] in 2016 and two more banks did it this year."

Serbia's central bank, NBS, is recognising the opportunities the digitalisation of bank services offers and it is encouraging local lenders to take steps in that direction, Brankovic noted, adding that the NBS instant payment initiative is expected to boost mobile payments, too.

In October 2018, NBS launched an instant payment system to facilitate money transfers in the country. The system, which will be operated by the central bank, will work 24/7, allowing transfers of up to 300,000 dinars ($2,900/2,500 euro) per transaction within just a few seconds, NBS said at the time. Customers will be able to carry out payment transactions via counters, mobile and electronic banking applications, as well as at the points of sale at retailers.

"We also expect ApplePay, Google Pay and even AliPay to enter our market in the near future and I think this will change a lot of things in the next two or three years, we will have a completely different situation in the payments landscape," she noted, adding that Banca Intesa Beograd will seek to find a good balance with its card business which is very strong.

"We don’t expect that instant payments will cannibalise cards, but if you look at it from the end users' perspective, it is completely irrelevant for them if the account is in the phone or the card, they will choose the easiest way of payment."

In Southeast Europe, besides Serbia, Intesa Sanpaolo is present in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania and Albania.