Vantage: Elevator Lab

Tatra banka's innovation hub, Elevator Lab allows FinTechs to maximize their potential

Tell us about yourself and your involvement with FinTech!

I am Head of Research and Development at Tatra banka, which is the most innovative bank in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region. At Tatra banka, we have realized that even though we are recognized as an innovator we have to accelerate our efforts and that it is impossible to grow in innovation without relevant partners. Therefore, we have decided that we have to be more open towards all relevant partners. For us, a relevant partner is anybody who can help us improve our services for our clients. We decided to create a platform for this – Elevator Lab powered by Tatra banka – which overarches our cooperation with innovative partners and helps us prototype, test and deliver faster and in a more agile way.

What is the aim of Elevator Lab and how is it trying to achieve this goal?

Elevator Lab is Tatra banka’s innovation hub and provides a wide range of support for amazing ideas with a potential. We are creating an ecosystem where FinTechs can maximize the potential of their idea within a short time. We chose a different approach to many other banks since in addition to innovative technologies, a creative workspace, mentoring, access to interesting events and direct support in the acceleration program we also offer an opportunity to boost their solution in 14 markets within the CEE region.

Some incumbents focus on in-house innovation while others prefer to partner with innovative FinTechs. How does Tatra Banka approach innovation? What do you see as the main benefits/challenges of both approaches?

Innovation has been in our DNA for 10 years but after identifying who our competitors are today and who will be in the future, we realized that we need to accelerate our efforts even more and that it why we opened up to relevant partners. There are many good ideas out there but whether they “land on the moon” depends on successful implementation. FinTechs have great ideas and banks have the customer base, so the combination is win-win for everyone.

What are the technologies/innovations you feel will have the biggest impact on the future of banking? What products/services face the most significant disruption?

Technology has had a huge impact in banking already but there are many technologies that are only just emerging. I personally believe that certain technologies will have ultimate success in banking. For example, Artificial Intelligence will boost the personalization of user interfaces and client propositions, chatbots will change the way of interaction with customers and open banking will have a major impact on the business models of banks.

From a FinTech accelerator’s point of view, how would you characterise the Slovak FinTech scene? What are its main strengths/weaknesses and where do you see its biggest opportunity?

Living in a globalised world I don’t think there’s much difference in terms of where a FinTech comes from. Slovak start-ups have the same opportunities and potential as their competition from abroad. We all have ideas but what is important is how these ideas are implemented. I often have a feeling that every new business is now called a start-up while for me a start-up must include an element of innovation and uniqueness. According to statistics, only around 10% of ideas have the potential to survive, only 1% will achieve remarkable success and less than 0.1% will “land on the moon.”

Different countries have different approaches to financial regulation, with some jurisdictions focusing on promoting rather than regulating FinTech innovation. How do regulators in Slovakia approach financial innovation?

There are countries that are in general more open to innovation and to start-ups than Slovakia, nevertheless our Ministry of Finance and National Bank of Slovakia have recently started certain activities that aim to help FinTechs succeed. Slovakia is a small market with limited potential which is ideal for FinTechs to test their solutions before they scale to other markets. Nevertheless, I believe start-ups should be focusing on developing globally scalable solutions from day one.

With the PSD2 deadline fast approaching, open banking is top of mind in the European banking sector. How does Tatra Banka approach open banking? Do you see it as a threat or more of an opportunity?

We see open banking as a great opportunity in terms of how to attract current non-clients to our bank. Tatra banka is well known for its award-winning digital solutions and open banking is another opportunity for us to excel. There is also an opportunity in speeding up the implementation of innovation in order to make the life of our clients easier.

You recently launched the second year of Elevator Lab Challenge, Tatra banka’s acceleration program. What is this initiative about and who is it intended for?

We are looking for the best FinTech ideas from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Applicants should have a solution which is ready to test so that we are able to evaluate its viability within a short time frame. The jury will choose winners in two categories: local hero for the most innovative idea and Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) potential for the most scalable solution. This year our challenge is supported by Raiffeisen bank Czech Republic and Raiffeisen bank Hungary so the possibilities for a proof of concept is even wider.

Michal Satur
Head of Research and Development at Tatra banka

Michal Satur is an enthusiastic innovator, passionate about business and technology synergies. Currently, Michal is building a new ecosystem focused on FinTechs and start-ups at Elevator Lab powered by Tatra banka. His mission is to connect two worlds: new out-of-the-box ideas with the traditional banking world.