Welcome to our interview with Sorin Mirea, Regional Commercial Director of Finshape. In this discussion, we explore Finshape’s initiatives in Romania and Moldova, examining the challenges and advancements in digital banking from a practical standpoint. With extensive experience in major banking institutions, Sorin offers valuable insights into the current landscape, the ongoing digital transformation in the sector, and the potential future trends. 

The original interview was published on Ziarul Financiar.

Can you tell us about Finshape, your role as the Regional Commercial Director, and your experience in digital banking?

As the Regional Commercial Director at Finshape, I lead the expansion of our digital banking solutions in Romania and Moldova. Following the merger between BSC and W.UP, Finshape has grown to over 400 employees, strengthening our leadership in digital banking, including a team of on-site developers in our headquarters in Cluj. 

At Finshape, we are dedicated to acceleratingbanking transformation, empowering banks with solutions that modernise operations and enhance customer interactions. Putting it more simply, over the past 30 years, we collected the experience with successful deliveries of digital banking and personalisation solutionsthat made us a trusted partner for our customers across the MENA and CEE regions where we operate. 

In the past 20 years of my career, I’ve held pivotal roles across distribution, customer segments, business analytics and digital transformation.  I have had the privilege to work with industry leaders such asCitibank, Raiffeisen Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, and Telekom Romania to boost sales and digital adoption significantly. This diverse experience will be invaluable in my role at Finshape regional presence.

How has Finshape’s presence on the Romanian market been lately?

Finshape has a longer track record within the country; our experts have been working for a longer time with CEE financial groups like Raiffeisen, Erste, Societe Generale, OTP or Unicredit. We also had previous projects with some of their local subsidiaries. We are very proud that after a successful project for Raiffeisen Romaniain the past two years, we’ve also become trusted partners of Banca Transilvania, enabling us to open a local delivery office. 

For Banca Transilvania, our focus was on BT Go, a digital business banking solution designed to cater to the specific needs of business clients. The project aimed to attract new business customers while fostering loyalty among existing ones. In the first month post-launch, over 39,000 businesses embraced BT Go, conducting more than 150,000 transactions and issuing 2,000 invoices, highlighting its immediate impact and adoption within the business community. 

In our collaboration with Raiffeisen Romania, we partnered with Collinson to build a loyalty ecosystem, leveraging merchant offers to enhance customer engagement. Our data analytics engine and Collinson’s proprietary loyalty platform propelled the bank’s personalisation efforts, resulting in an app boasting over 400,000 users and a 5-star rating in app stores. 

How do you see the current landscape of digital banking in Romania, and what trends have you observed over the past few years?  

Digitalization has become a top priority for banks in Romania. Customer expectations have shifted from merely having digital tools to seamless processes for every interaction. The market is strongly competitive, with banks evolving from offering digital products to implementing fully digital processes. There’s a notable effort to listen to customers and tailor services accordingly, although there’s still room for improvement. 

Banks in Romania and across Central and Eastern Europe are increasingly striving to regain control over their innovations, seeking partners to support this shift. Also, we see that within the business banking section, competition for customers arises in the digital race. Banksfeel that if they fail to invest in their transformation,they might risk losing clients as the market moves swiftly. This urgency underscores the need for banks to adopt flexible, powerful digital solutions that meet current needs and future challenges. 

What challenges do banks in Romania face when adopting digital banking solutions, and how can these challenges be addressed? 

Banks often struggle to increase their IT bandwidth to accelerate developments. Banks in Romania also encounter challenges in technology integration, implementation time, trained resources and budget constraints, and the risk of becoming ‘captive’ in outdated systems poses obstacles. Velocity in digital transformation is another significant challenge. 

A buy-and-build approach, combining ready-made solutions and expertise from mixed working groups, proves effective in increasing time-to-market. 

In your opinion, what are the key drivers for banks in Romania to embark on digital transformation in their operations?  

The primary driver is the evolving expectations of the end customers. Banks must anticipate and meet customer needs to stay ahead in a highly competitive market. The demand for digital banking solutions has surged, and customers are now accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of online interactions. 

Another important driver is collaboration, which will be key to seizing opportunities in digital transformation. Banks can become more agile in digitalising their processes by channelling in the right domain knowledge from the “banking ecosystems market”. Technological advancements, especially in personalisation solutions, contribute significantly to enhancing customer engagement. 

Looking at future trends, what do you see as a dominant banking technology trend in the coming years?  

Generative AI is poised to be a dominant trend. Virtual assistants, powered by large language models like OpenAI, will become commonplace in most banks. While the industry has been slower to adopt due to regulatory and cultural considerations, the accessibility of technology is driving bolder moves into this area. 

At Finshape, we’re already seeing practical AI use cases within banks, demonstrating the impactful role AI can play. Just as we speak, we are internally organising a hackathon focused on AI topics to explore further and expand these capabilities. Additionally, we are actively working on leveraging our experiences with AI to help our clients enhance their customer experiences. This involves integrating advanced AI tools that can transform how banks interact with and serve their customers, setting new standards in the banking sector. 


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