Interview with a FinTech strategist: Devie Mohan
Devie Mohan is a FinTech marketing strategy and research professional with years of experience working with industry giants and startups. We have done an interview with Devie and here are our questions and her answers especially focusing on the Turkish banking and FinTech ecosystem.
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The article which you write in July 2015 is still a fresh content even technology process so rapidly. Banks in Turkey do not slow down at all. What do you think about the fundamental elements behind this motivation and innovation?
This is what amazes me – that article from 2015 is still extremely popular in Turkey and gets shared around every week – I call it my little “phoenix” blog. What happens to that particular blogpost compared to my other numerous blogposts is exactly why the Turkish digital banking landscape is so interesting. The consumers in Turkey are heavy on social media, they are big on sharing information and data online, and they are willing to accept and adopt new digital practices extremely quickly. And more importantly, they are proud of what is happening in Turkey with the digital banking revolution.
Do you think there are some lessons that should be learned from Turkish banks in the sense of FinTech? What kind of messages do we send to FinTech ecosystems in the developed countries?
The Turkish digital banking market is completely different from that of the rest of the world. In the rest of the world, including in America and Europe, traditional players, in order to match up to FinTech’s pace of innovation, have had to set up Innovation departments, invest in FinTech Startups, collaborate with FinTech Startups and run hackathons and accelerator programmes to identify new technologies/use cases. In Turkey I have seen very few of this! And that is for the wonderful reason that the traditional banks, including the state-owned bank, have always incorporated digital channels, launched social media based products and adopted new technologies around authentication and KYC (know your customer) very quickly, possibly as fast as FinTech Startups elsewhere. The innovation in Africa and Asia have been primarily around mobile technologies, overtaking traditional and legacy financial services, which means the banks there still aren’t as good an example as those in Turkey. The fact that banks are willing and able to adopt new technologies this quickly should be a case study for other banks around the world.
From your perspective, is it possible that Turkey’s finance and banking ecosystems are missing something in the sense of FinTech? Are there some opportunities to be missed by Turkish banks?
The Turkish demographics is very interesting. The recent BKM report also stresses on the fact that the population is so young (around 80 million) which means the banks and FinTech’s have to create products that work for millennials on a much larger scale than in any other part of the world. And since banks have already adapted themselves to play in this market, I would think about the gaps that FinTech’s can help in the current offerings from banks. The FinTech gaps can be classified into three sets of offerings:
(a) those that make existing banks serve customers in a better way – for example, improving speed of service, making customer service more personalized, using customer data in a better way to provide tailored products to customers, and in general, improving the customer experience.
(b) those that add on to the banks’ offerings – by adding new digital channels, adding new product lines or groups, adding new services, etc.
(c) those that target a completely different market to what the banks have traditionally looked at.
In Turkey, the most popular FinTech’s are around the first two, enabling banks to do much more with their existing customers and bringing new customers into the fold.
As we all know Turkish banks have the spirit of the FinTech revolution. On the other hand, they still need to cooperate with the FinTech Startups. What kind of relationship do you suggest to those organizations?
I would suggest, in Turkey, to look at FinTech Startups for technology partnerships rather than market partnerships. FinTech Startups globally are coming up with interesting use cases around authentication technologies, biometrics, machine learning, data & analytics for personalization etc. There could also be a market for payments, remittance and robo-advisory technologies to handle emerging demands from the population.
You are telling very different stories for the developed and developing countries about their progress to become cashless economies. How do you consider the position of Turkey in this context?
I spoke about societies going cashless in Columbia, Nigeria, Sweden and India – all of these countries took completely different routes and the demographics and regulatory structures supporting the change were completely different as well. My idea was to highlight the various ways of going cashless and the difference in impact that can arise. Turkey is midway between Sweden and India in terms of its readiness to go cashless. It has a well-established payments network from a merchants’ and government’s point of view like in Sweden, plus a readiness from the consumers’ side, like in India, to use apps, digital payment channels and e-ticketing. The payments systems in Turkey are already very well developed, with a good network of PoS systems, a national payments system with Troy and no physical payments used in cities like Eskisehir. Their aim of going cashless in a sustainable manner in a few years is entirely possible.
And finally what are the most critical factors for Istanbul to become an international FinTech hub?
Ultimately, it is about collaboration – Istanbul has to work closely with well established FinTech hubs like London, New York and Singapore. Resources, skills and know-how have to be shared. An immigration policy where non-Istanbulites can come and work to create fascinating new startups, as well as have access to easy cross-border hiring, will be needed. We also need easy access to seed capital within Istanbul, whereas venture funding can come from other cities – this gap needs to be filled very soon. In short, regulatory bodies, government bodies, innovation centres, banks, investors and large corporates need to come together to make this happen. All you need is one success story, and then Istanbul will have obtained its brand.
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