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  • Foto del escritorThe Corporate Reviews

Okay Yildirim

Head of Group Corporate Digital Banking, QNB Finansbank

 

Describe QNB Finansbank 


QNB Finansbank, established 36 years ago, is now the 5th largest private bank in Türkiye, despite being considerably younger than its competitors. Serving both individual and corporate segments, the bank has consistently generated significant value for all stakeholders since its inception. Beyond its commitment to creating maximum value, QNB Finansbank has positioned itself as a pioneer in the banking sector, “leading the way in digitalization.” As the innovator behind Türkiye’s first installment credit card - Galaxy, the first digital bank - Enpara, and the first example of Banking-as-a-Platform - Digital Bridge, QNB Finansbank continues to shape the industry through innovation and, more recently, digital transformation. All our initiatives align with the bank's overarching goal of “Creating lasting values beyond expectations.” The applications we have implemented in recent years contribute significantly to Türkiye’s fintech/start-up ecosystem, solidifying our role in driving digital advancements. With our dynamic and innovative approach, QNB Finansbank has achieved numerous industry firsts and introduced new products. In 2023, our bank received prestigious international awards, including World’s Best Digital SME Bank and Best Corporate Mobile Banking App. Recognized for our pivotal role in the digitalization journey of corporate clients, we continue to lead and guide them in this rapidly evolving landscape. Our bank also stands out in sustainability, having achieved carbon neutrality across all digital channels by 2022. We remain dedicated to sustainability through ongoing efforts with sustainability committees. 


You are an expert in digital banking. What are the main developments the industry has faced recently?


The individual user side was already heavily digitized before the Covid-19 pandemic. With the pandemic, this digitalization reached its peak, and individuals — much like in various other industries — found themselves fully immersed in a digital banking experience. Corporate customers, however, approached digitalization with a degree of caution. There are many reasons for this guarded stance: complexity, concerns about security, the substantial investment required for digital transformation, and so on. Notwithstanding their reservations over digitalization, the pandemic compelled many firms to commit to the necessary investments.


In common with the global landscape, recent concepts like open banking, Banking-as-a-Service, and Banking-as-a-Platform have also proven advantageous for corporate customers in Türkiye. Now, customers on both the corporate and consumer sides anticipate fulfilling all their financial processes from a single one-stop-shop service provider. At QNB Finansbank, we are not only present in the channels where customers are, but we also make sure that we are in the channels where customers are present. Pursuant to our strategy of being the platform where customers present, we've been investing in Digital Bridge since 2019.


The Digital Bridge stands out as the sole Banking-as-a-platform app in Türkiye, housing over 20 fintech digital solutions. It serves as the preferred platform for corporate entities, and integrating fintechs into the Digital Bridge is our main strategy. However, the necessity of being present as a bank in various channels, such as fintechs or e-commerce platforms chosen by customers, remains. We continue the consistent implementation of this strategy. Alongside our platform and embedded presence in various apps, we also develop financial applications tailored to specific needs. Various collaborations in this regard are also part of our ongoing initiatives.


In summary, as the bank of innovation and progress, we persist in elevating our services, investing in digitalization, and guiding the industry with our technological resources in response to recent developments and their ongoing effects on all our lives.


What are the main challenges that lie ahead for you?


In the modern world, undergoing the digital transformation and receiving digital services have become a necessity, yet there are still some barriers in this regard. Our recent study revealed that companies navigating the spectrum of digital transformation — whether embarking on the journey or already digitized — perceive inherent risks in this evolution. The study underscored notable concerns, with security and financial considerations taking precedence. Significantly, a subset of companies in Türkiye continue to grapple with fears about data integrity, cyber security, and the alignment of their operations with the requirements of digitalization. If tasked with isolating a single challenge, I would emphasize the imperative of addressing not only security considerations but also optimizing the customer experience. From my perspective, the challenge associated with contemporary and future digitalization efforts lies in the delicate balance between ensuring robust security measures and simultaneously elevating the customer experience.


This involves managing concerns related to data loss, cyber security, and the overall adaptability of business processes to digitalization, all the while prioritizing a seamless and positive customer experience. Whether the service received pertains to banking or non-banking digital solutions, processes in Türkiye are now predominantly conducted in digital platforms. Hence, it is imperative for companies to not only digitize their internal processes but also align with the digital workflows of the entities with whom they collaborate. At this juncture, for businesses to sustain their operations effectively, there is a critical need to dispel uncertainties and forge alliances with the right, reliable partners. As a bank that proactively recognized and addressed concerns such as security, cost, and expertise before the pandemic, we — through Digital Bridge — eliminate barriers in companies' digitalization journeys. Nearly 300,000 of our customers use banking services through our digital channels, while over 100,000 confidently manage their business operations, trade, and financial affairs outside of banking through the Digital Bridge platform, which offers more than 20 solutions.


Therefore, it is a key future focus for us to sustain our support for the digital advancement of businesses through the leading role played by the Digital Bridge, while simultaneously improving our platform and services to eliminate cost and security challenges. 


What should the interaction be between digital banking and cryptocurrencies?


We are witnessing the increasing use of digital assets for personal transactions, both in Türkiye and globally. Major global companies across diverse sectors are integrating cryptocurrencies into their payment methods, and pilot applications for cryptocurrency usage are being initiated in globally recognized payment infrastructures. The foray of cryptocurrencies into the conventional domain of established fiat currencies inevitably impacts the financial sector. 


In my view, there's no doubt that digital currencies will replace traditional money in the future. However, it's still unclear whether this digital currency will be in the form of cryptocurrencies. I believe we can all agree that the future of cryptocurrency is an ongoing topic of discussion for everyone. On the other hand, even if it's not a cryptocurrency, the digital currencies to be made by central banks — known as Central Bank Digital Currencies — are under discussion in many countries. These digital currencies will undeniably play a significant role in our lives in the future.


I must emphasize that cryptocurrencies pose several challenges for us as banks, by contradicting established principles and widely accepted regulations. Even though we've been closely monitoring developments in this field at QNB Finansbank since 2012, our stance towards cryptocurrencies has consistently maintained a degree of caution. Therefore, as a result of a decision we have made, our bank does not facilitate the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies. As a bank, we refrain from entering the cryptocurrency space in situations where cryptocurrencies are not regulated. We, as an innovative and forward-thinking bank, stick up for this decision since its contradiction to traditional banking point of view.


In brief, to reevaluate the relationship between the well-established digital banking world — characterized by high-security infrastructures and transaction systems — and the high-risk and volatile world of cryptocurrencies in the Turkish banking sector, we need more time and regulatory frameworks.


Times are tough for both the global and Turkish economies, and it's estimated that these conditions will persist — at least in the short and midterm. What are your thoughts?


Recently, there have been numerous political developments worldwide that have impacted the economy. However, I would like to approach this topic from an economic perspective.


Throughout the pandemic, global production faced significant constraints for approximately two years. At present, we've all integrated concepts like remote work and the home office into our lives, and they've become commonplace and popular. I believe that these recent developments are impacting efficiency, effectiveness, and even influencing the upbringing of new and future generations. In my opinion, the period of low global productivity triggered numerous problems worldwide. The issues driven by these challenges led to countries adopting an inward focus and promoting deglobalization to stimulate production, income, and employment.


Conversely, subsidies provided to individuals during this period also impacted the economies of countries, leading to a certain workforce shift away from production and a decline in production capacity. In addition to these and various other conditions, political developments also influenced the economy. Nevertheless, it can be asserted that nations will recalibrate the optimal levels of production, requisite hours and days for manufacturing, and the parameters for remote work. I believe that the economy will stabilize as these developments progress. However, whether it will return to its previous globalization levels remains to be seen.


What steps should be taken by the authorities in order to speed up the economic recovery?


I would like to answer this question for the digital industry. Türkiye excels in globally robust sectors, boasting a substantial software workforce, in particular. This workforce operates not only within companies in Türkiye but also globally and as freelancers/digital nomads in various locations. While it's a reality that the income of these individuals contributes to the economy, the real potential emerges from the rapidly growing fintech sector. Emerging technologies and innovations are propelling the global expansion of successful fintechs, securing investments, and making a positive contribution to the national economy from abroad by leveraging the knowledge and experience gained in Türkiye.


In my view, during this recovery process, it is crucial to offer diverse incentives and support mechanisms to maximize the potential of fintechs. In this context, authorities providing incentives and support tailored to optimize their processes and taking into account the potential of fintechs, will positively influence both companies and the economy.


Is there anything that corporations can do to contribute to the task?


In the same vein, there are many things corporations can do to support fintechs. 


At QNB Finansbank, we play a significant role in the development of the fintech ecosystem. We build collaborations, and invest in and develop new ideas. As a bank, we have our own incubation center and acceleration program. With this program, we provide fintechs with the training they need. We also have venture capital. We invest in fintechs through our venture capital fund. While these points are not prerequisites, we integrate fintechs into our banking-as-a-platform app, Digital Bridge, if we believe they can work with us, meet customer needs correctly, and provide solutions. We undertake responsibilities for growth, development, and marketing activities, and occasionally extend technical support and operational assistance as well.


Certainly, all the fintechs that are present in the Digital Bridge — in which we invest and provide support through our incubation center — are experiencing rapid development. Each of them is contemplating global expansion, and they are structuring their plans accordingly.


Additionally, we provide numerous services to support the digital transformation of the SME segment — an integral component of the Turkish economy. The fintechs we support in various fields leverage their expertise to reach SMEs through the Digital Bridge. Through the Digital Bridge platform, we facilitate the broader reach of fintech expertise to larger audiences, while simultaneously offering opportunities for our companies to reduce costs and elevate their competitive advantage globally.


At QNB Finansbank, we execute our duties with precision through the Digital Bridge. Ultimately, we can see the affirmative impact on our economy stemming from the experience and infrastructure we deliver to businesses.

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