Voice of the Industry

Open APIs in CEE: discovering new partnerships and value chains

Wednesday 9 October 2019 08:19 CET | Editor: Melisande Mual | Voice of the industry

Christian Wolf, Head of Group Transformation at Raiffeisen Bank International explains why RBI sees substantial potential for banking business Open APIs in Central and Eastern Europe

PSD2 provided a strong push for EU banks to open access to their clients, products, and services to third parties. This access is provided through open APIs. In the eyes of RBI, Open APIs will shape the future of banking. At Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), covering 13 markets in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), we see a great potential for our business both in our EU and non-EU markets for scaling up innovation through Open APIs. We are convinced that publicly available APIs will allow us to change the banking experience of our customers, meeting their increasing demand for seamless customer journeys when drawing on services from different industries.

Open APIs at RBI

For us, the EU directive PSD2 is just the starting point of our Open API initiative – an exciting journey that we want to take together with our partners, be it developers, fintechs, corporates, or any other 3rd party interested in creating added value for our customers. Our teams worked on our openness as a number one priority. For example, in our future group-wide API Marketplace, all RBI’s CEE APIs will be at our partners’ disposal with a single access and service point – simple, fast, and reliable.

RBI is now live with PSD2 APIs in all of six of its EU core markets. On September 14th we successfully published our PSD2 APIs in Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania, with Czech Republic and Slovakia, having their APIs already published in 2018 due to local deadlines. And since the Berlin Group standard is equally applied to all of our recently published APIs, licensed third parties can expect the very same API no matter which RBI market they are accessing.

Testing, optimising, testing, optimising … together with our partners

In our view, PSD2 APIs are just a foretaste of even more exciting APIs to come: partner APIs, which will meet our clients’ demand for innovative banking products and services with an outstanding customer experience in the channel of their choice. The value of the API will therefore depend on RBI and its chosen partners who will drive innovation together.

Already in March 2019 RBI went live with developer sandboxes for our PSD2 APIs. Thereby, we were able to learn from developers who tested our APIs before the regulatory deadline. Since we know that continuous testing and optimising is key for a successful API product to be developed, we are now preparing “experimental sandboxes” for our upcoming partner APIs. This comprehensive testing and feedback facility will help us provide best in class APIs that fit the needs of our partners and clients.

Lively fintech ecosystem in CEE

Even though the starting conditions for Open APIs differ from one CEE country to the other, what they all have in common is the market’s demand for a new customer experience in banking that adapts to their rapidly changing lifestyles. Against this background, a lively fintech ecosystem has emerged in CEE that offers a variety of innovative products alongside traditional banking services.

In April 2019 RBI published its CEE Fintech Atlas. For the first time, the publication provides detailed insights into 19 fintech ecosystems in CEE. There are currently around 1,100 fintechs in this region. These account for around 5% of all European funding for fintechs. The average annual growth rate of accumulated equity funding over the past two years has been around 13%. The atlas can be downloaded free of charge at www.fintechatlas.com.

RBI has long recognised the potential of a trustful partnership between banks and fintechs: already in 2017, we launched Elevator Lab, a program for fintechs that became the biggest fintech partnership program in CEE. In the Elevator Lab Fintech Partnership Program, in just 2 years, RBI together with its subsidiary banks in CEE developed partnerships and new initiatives with 14 fintechs.

It’s all about connections …

Our experience in building partnerships will also guide us through our Open API journey. API-based partnerships with fintechs, developers, and corporates will help deliver innovative and individualised products and services. This is a new step we are taking across our markets and we are excited for all the new connections that will be built during this journey!

About Christian Wolf

In his function as Head of Group Transformation of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), Christian and his team manage the digital transformation process in RBI‘s 13 countries of operations in CEE. Prior to that he headed the sales management division of Raiffeisen Zentralbank, RBI’s predecessor, where he earlier managed the division for Retail and SME. Before his career at Raiffeisen, he worked in various positions in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

Christian focuses in his work on new (digital) business models, digital transformation, emerging technologies, and innovation.

About Raiffeisen Bank International

vspace=2RBI regards Austria, where it is a leading corporate and investment bank, as well as Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as its home market. 13 markets of the region are covered by subsidiary banks. Additionally, the RBI Group comprises numerous other financial service providers, for instance in leasing, asset management or M&A.

Around 47,000 employees service 16.4 million customers through more than 2,100 business outlets, the by far largest part thereof in CEE. RBIs shares are listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. The Austrian Regional Raiffeisen Banks own around 58.8 per cent of the shares, the remainder is in free float. Within the Austrian Raiffeisen Banking Group, RBI is the central institute of the Regional Raiffeisen Banks and other affiliated credit institutions.

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Keywords: Christian Wolf, Raiffeisen Bank International, banking, Open APIs, fintech, mobile banking, online banking, CEE
Countries: World