partnership with a FinTech player or other financial industry player – because finance is everywhere: PropTech, FinTech, MedTech – is the tech company to be agile and to lead to creating an additional value for the bank. Partnership is the current way. We see that this is the common way in Western Europe. We see the other approach applied as well, but partnership is the wide spread one.
SP: You are aware of many tech solutions in the area which concern the operations of Postbank. Can you give us an example, if you have thought about this, for a bench mark tech solution which can be showcased as an example of a very good tech company in this overlap area of FinTech and PropTech, or only in FinTech?
NL: In payment we have very good examples, even local examples. Presently, we are approaching a number of companies which offer technology of payments, they transfer typical POS devices, and have developed an application that turns your mobile phone with a POS. You just can go and pay with your card. This is something innovative for our market. In payments there are some very smart and useful solutions which will definitely change the client perspective and the way how they bank every day. This is one thing. Next comes your sector – PropTech, and concerns the way we assess the value of a property. There a number of very good showcases in Bulgaria. For me it is very impressive to see the algorithms on property evaluation. We discussed not only one flat, but a portfolio of hundreds, thousands of such assets. It is more in the back office, but definitely show are that it will be a break-through in the future.
SP: Just to wrap up what’s your near-term vision of the future?
NL: Certainly, technologies are here to stay. More or less, they will change the way how clients approach their suppliers. Definitely, technologies will speed up the process. In the front office, as I mentioned, but also in the back office. Technologies will help us to be more effective in our cost structures. Furthermore, they will help us start developing new products and wave of services. Nevertheless, technologies will never kill the regular brick-and-mortar channel. This is the trustful channel. Some of the services will shift, but it is too early to say that any technology in 5 years’ time will completely change the way of doing business. Just 2 basic things to keep in mind. Firstly, the shift in the generation. Presently, the more powerful generation is Gen Z, those born from 1981 till 1996. This is the 1st digital generation, born with Sega, Nintendo, and so on. From this generation we see the first results. Next, the Millennials, or the so-called Gen Alpha, they are completely digital and living in a vertical world. What do I mean? The phones are vertical. Platforms such as Tik-Tok are vertical. We preview such a significant change but coming in next 10-15 years. So, on one side we see the change related to the generation, and on the other, we see the further improvement of technology. Now we have a 40-years’ history backwards, when we talk about the internet. Technology will further penetrate everywhere. Introducing 5G and the IoT, many, many things in the way we live will be changed. In addition to the generation shift and the technology improvement, the 3rd factor will be the clients’ availability to apply these technologies, which will result from us educating our customers. These factors shape up a significant future change in the next 10-15 years.
DM: The reality is that in all forward thinking organizations currently every single process is under “digitalization” scrutiny as a result of the pandemic. In a way we were forced by the situation to take this path, as going digital was one of the very few viable options to survive.
As I already mentioned, self-service based on digitalization is here to stay and already changes customer service, virtual and augmented reality will significantly change sales and marketing, hybrid work will become the standard and have its impact on PropTech.
Additionally, we will see traditionally more conservative areas like employee relations or finance/accounting also significantly digitized, for example through robotic process automation. AI will continue to change product customization and individualization.
I would even say that now our collective mind is better trained and prepared to accept digitalization, so I would expect to see in the next years a significant surge in digital innovation across all industries.