What's this all about?
At LEVERIS, we believe that the future of banking starts at the core. Core by LEVERIS is a new interview series where we address the issues at the core of banking, fintech and financial services. We speak to those working at the intersection between tech and finance about everything from the future of money to investment in fintechs. Through their insights, we explore current trends, predict future outcomes and get a taste of what it takes to succeed in the new age of banking.
Our first guest in the series is Debbie Byrne, Managing Director of An Post’s retail division. An Post has set its sights on challenging the likes of Revolut in Ireland with its new banking app and there’s no reason to suggest it can’t compete — An Post Money currently has 250,000 customers across its product range including current accounts, loans and foreign exchange, and by 2025 it aims to have 1 million customers.
Here, Debbie fills us in on the national postal company’s move into digital banking, how it has been navigating COVID-19 and its plans to target new demographics.
LEVERIS: You recently announced investment in a new digital banking platform as well as plans to launch a new banking app. Could you tell us a bit about this, the motivation behind it, and why now?
Debbie Byrne: We have big ambitions to be a real force in financial services, we have trust and scale and believe there is a place in the market for us somewhere between the pillar banks and the new disruptors.
A key part of our business strategy has been growing financial services, building on the significant savings business we have in partnership with the NTMA (estimated at approximately 18 per cent of the savings market), our market-leading position in foreign exchange and our existing current account, credit card and consumer lending customer base.
We have just announced plans to launch a new current account app in October 2020 with market-leading customer experience and new innovative features; the first release of an €18 million investment in our own digital banking platform.
LEVERIS: Fintechs have enjoyed a windfall of customers in 2020. What can you offer customers that current challenger banks can’t?
Debbie Byrne: Our financial services customers get an expanding range of money products that offer great value for money with a market-leading user experience that’s simple and intuitive with lots of new features and tools that match and go beyond those of the new fintech players. We also offer the trust of the An Post brand and our retail network of approximately 950 post offices combining the very best digital experience 24/7 with our unique human touch.
LEVERIS: Further expansion into the digital space brings with it new challenges when it comes to risk and security. How is An Post addressing this?
Debbie Byrne: An Post prides itself in managing a wide and varied business model adopting an omnichannel approach which includes a digital offering where appropriate via a strong and robust risk framework. It is leveraging this framework for further expansion into financial services.
LEVERIS: Something we’ve stated at LEVERIS is that data has become the key battleground in financial services. Would you agree? And how might An Post compete in this space?
Debbie Byrne: We believe that data is a key enabler to our financial services strategy. Considerable investment is underway in building out the necessary infrastructures and controls to create a single customer view across our entire product portfolio including our e-commerce customers to drive relevant cross-sell and integrated service solutions.
LEVERIS: How has An Post been impacted by Covid-19? Has it shifted your strategy for the future?
Debbie Byrne: COVID-19 has seen an acceleration in both e-commerce and the adoption of online banking and card payments.
In many ways, COVID-19 has accelerated our response in driving forward our investment in digital. COVID-19 has also seen the growth of community and “local”, which plays to a key brand strength of ours – placing the local post office firmly at the heart of local communities as people continue to stay connected through mail and the sending of parcels to loved ones while we limit our contacts and stay apart.
An Post has also played a key role in enabling small SMEs to trade online during lockdown.
LEVERIS: How do you foresee the future of banking and payments? Are we getting closer to a cashless society?
Debbie Byrne: One of the big challenges we face in our post office network has been the move towards Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). It has been part of the drive to expand our financial services offering both online and through post offices. We are working towards a situation where a customer can interact with us through our offices or online in a seamless way.
Cash is still king for many of our customers in terms of weekly budgeting and money management and we are appealing to and attracting a whole new cohort of customers who transact in a cashless manner and who want what we are offering online. We aim to serve both demographics.
LEVERIS: Any other industry trends are you currently witnessing?
Debbie Byrne: Something we continue to recognise is that giving the end user the simplest, fastest and most intuitive method to access great products and services that supports their lives or business is a key trend that will only grow over time. Customers are also looking for intuitive money management tools to take the stress out of daily living.
LEVERIS: What areas of financial services do you believe have the most growth potential for the coming years?
Debbie Byrne: All areas of financial services have growth potential and giving the customer a true alternative to the limited offerings currently on the market via a best-in-class user experience open up many opportunities for An Post.
LEVERIS: Some say that every company will have the potential to provide financial services in the not too distant future. How do you view this?
Debbie Byrne: In a way, yes, as technology continues to support this – however, very few companies will have the scale, brand, platforms to do so on a national level along with having the robust compliance and risk infrastructure that is imperative in this sector.
LEVERIS: What are your thoughts on big tech entering the financial services space? Will An Post end up competing with tech giants like Amazon and Google?
Debbie Byrne: Perhaps, but we believe that our ability to combine the very best digital experience 24/7 coupled with our unique human touch from a trusted brand will stand us in good stead for the future.
LEVERIS: Other than your own, which companies out there – at home or abroad – do you believe are shaping the future of financial services?
Debbie Byrne: There are many fintechs out there operating in other geographies that offer superior user experiences backed by great products and services, particularly in the home and SME lending space – markets that we keep a close eye on. I personally love the ethos of DBS in Singapore whose vision is “making banking joyful!”