Marco Bosma’s view on startup-corporate collaboration.
We invited Marco Bosma, VP Fintech & Innovation at Rabobank, as a guest speaker to give his view on startup-corporate collaboration and share some success stories of Rabobank.
Marco is a Fintech advocate driving innovations in the financial services for Rabobank. Next to his role at Rabobank, Marco is a member of the Dutch Blockchain coalition, Robo Valley and Brightlands techruption. Marco has worked in various international management roles at Citibank, ThomsonReuters, ABNAMRO, RBS and Rabobank always translating client demand into technology and data delivery solutions.
Why and how does Rabobank collaborate with startups?
We have to! Many value chains in financial services are re-inventing themselves today. In this process, existing value chains are challenged and disrupted. The reason why this is happening now is that numerous new technologies have become available such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and blockchain. At the same time, legislation such as Basle IV, GDPR and PSD2 is coming into force aiming to establish a level playing field for new entrants focusing on a particular step in new value chains. You can image that the spectrum of what a bank can cover has exponentially grown. As a result of this, it is impossible for a us to cover this on our own so hence we have no other choice than partnering with startups who are dedicated to build, extend or improve our value chains.
Can you share to what degree and in what area do startups help you to drive your corporate innovation agenda?
We have focused on retail propositions that can be split in customer service, integrated dashboards and cross needs identification, as well as process improvements such as KYC, AML and product fulfillments like opening- and closing accounts, providing loans and mortgages (Robotics Process Automation). The lesson is that we learn a lot from the ways of working, and have started to adopt design thinking and lean startup approaches, this is all generic so it’s impacting innovation management across the bank.
In your view, what have been the main challenges in collaborating with startups so far? What can startups and corporations do to overcome them?
I have to make a distinction between in-house developed startup ideas, and external startups that we are engaging with. In terms of setting the right environment to collaborate with external startups, we start by looking at the people. Is this a team that can deliver? Is it diversified enough or do we need to add certain skills or experience to make it successful? Clearly the proposition has to be complementary to Rabobank and synergize with our innovation strategy. The culture is often mentioned. Yes it is important, but not in terms that they have to match. Startups by definition have a different working culture and a different operating pace. You need to find a modus to preserve that. I have not yet met a startup that likes to fully integrate into a bank and pursue life in a corporate career.
What would be your advice to startups that want to succeed in the financial services sector?
Focus on your strengths and be honest to yourselves in judging the business case. Often the value is in the proposition and the unique expertise, less often in distribution. Many startups do not make it because they are falling into the CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) trap. I have seen many ventures who realized too late that the CAC are exceeding the Lifetime Customer Value. So focus on the proposition and find the right distribution partners to reach mass market at low cost. Many collaborations between startups and banks are driven on this win/win aspect in the partnership.
Can you share specific success stories from Rabobank in your engagement with startups?
We have acquired and built many assets since 2012. We started in the mobile payment area with propositions such as MyOrder and Omnikassa. Later we have added SmartPin, Facturis, Rabo & Co, Peaks, Tellow, Surepay, EasyTrade, Moovement and Go Credible. Some are home grown, some are partnerships with IT or Platform providers. The success is determined by the scalability – the pace (and costs) new users can be on-boarded. Our experience is that you have to allow 3-4 years before new services really get traction. And not to mention you have to be prepared to kill projects when teams struggle too long to determine a marketable proposition. This frees up time to focus on the promising stuff. Banks will need a rich successful portfolio of new propositions to keep client engagement and grow its revenues.