Published on February 27, 2014
INTERVIEW: FINECO Retail Banker International Fineco: the bank of the future? FinecoBank is an Italian and international reality. From brokerage start-up to online bank, it has a record of innovation and is becoming an example of modernity. In December 2013 it was again voted best website of the year. Valentina Romeo interviews Fineco’s Paolo Di Grazia, head of the Direct Bank FINECO: AT-A-GLANCE • Total Assets €42.3bn • Investment and brokerage total assets €29.6bn • Total customers 883,000 • Current account customers 698,000 • Credit card customers 595,000 • Employees 954 • Total loans €376m • Financial shops 302 F network of 2,400 personal financial adviineco is the largest online brokerage sors, and, again, it was the first bank in the firm in Italy holding over 880,000 customer accounts. Part of Uni- country to offer such a dedicated service. Di Grazia says: “The bank gives the posCredit group since 2007, it has not only established itself as a fully integrat- sibility to buy and invest in the best available funds and investment houses worlded multimarket platform, but it has also wide, so it has a really open model. “ set a definite course into the online and By now, there are around 60 different mobile banking world. “Across the Italian and European scenar- investment houses available in FinecoBank io, FinecoBank is first of all a new bank, and also thousands of funds to invest in. because we only started 10 years ago. On “With such an open business model, having someone to guide you through this enorthe other hand, the title tells you we are mous offering was simply fundamental, new from other points of view, and it is not just a claim. It is a total new way of run- “Di Grazia says. ning the bank and the investment services,” Paolo Di Grazia, head of the Direct Bank, Dominating through uniqueness FinecoBank tells RBI. “Fineco is a direct bank and this is its He continues: “We are the first direct uniqueness, because it takes the best from bank in Italy, launched in December online banks- its big operational efficiency 1998 as a brokerage-only service. Since and practicality- and, on the other hand, it 2000, we have officially transformed into is still close to the client as the traditional a bank adding a lot of brand new servic- banking model. But that has improved. Clies and products.” ents used to go to branches, but now finanFineco was the first bank in Italy to cial advisors go directly to clients and it is issue a high interest deposit account, a unique model in Europe,” Di Grazia says. which then quickly became a full current Over the past year, the bank has opened account. Di Grazia explains: “FinecoBank another 80 new Fineco centres across the is the only bank in Europe to offer a com- largest cities in Italy. These centres are spepletely integrated model and all in one cialised in financial planning and represent single account, and allows you to use the the only physical contact with clients. digital online platforms for anything that Fineco, in fact, doesn’t have local is transactional. branches or ATMs, but utilises UniCred“This goes from banking operations to it’s branches for cash and check deposit credit cards, stock purchases, cheques and and withdrawing. bill payments. Of course, you can do this As in many medium and large scale entervia both the online and mobile channels.” prises such as Fineco (it has over €42bn In its three-stage business development, total assets, as of September 2013), data the bank has also integrated an online mining and business intelligence also rep- Fineco scores web success In It aly in 2013, F ine c o w on t he Website of the year 2013 award as ‘Best website’ and ‘Most Popular website’ in the Finance categor y. The title ‘Best Website of the Year’ is provided to the Italian website with the highest average score on content, navigation, design and recommendation likelihood. The 10 y January 2014 RBI 697.indd 10 title ‘Most Popular Website’ is provided to the website with the highest number of votes. Other than Fineco, the awards featured brands such as Amazon, ebay, YouTube and Google as The Website of t he Year aw ard is an init iat ive by online marke t re search agenc y MetrixLab and Emerce. www.retailbankerinternational.com 03/02/2014 10:06:53
INTERVIEW: FINECO Retail Banker International resent an important concept for the bank. Aiming to understand consumers’ habits and needs, Fineco has recently developed a new service platform applied to its current accounts. With this tool called Moneymap, everything customers do with their current accounts is represented in a digital map, which keeps all their purchases strictly under control. “Everything you do is automatically registered through an algorithm so it can recognise the type of purchase you have undertaken, and it classifies it in the correct category box. It could be taxes, bills or other expenses dealing with the current account and card and then it is mapped and classified,” Di Grazia says. He adds: “The second and most relevant aspect is that this mapping service also automatically proposes some provisional budgets to clients. It is an intelligent service because it studies purchase behaviours and proposes budgets for the following months and year.” However intelligent and technology advanced, Di Grazia says MoneyMap is just the beginning of a new series of innovations within the group. According to him, among its numerous products and services, Fineco is the only bank in Italy- and one of a small number in Europe- to offer a multi-currency service for its accounts. “The multi-currency service platform is not only used to invest in a specific currency (UK Pound Sterling, Euros, US dollars and Swiss francs) but also to make payments. If I want to transfer some money in GBP or US dollars I can easily do it and in the real- time foreign exchange,” he says. “If there is something similar to this ser- www.retailbankerinternational.com RBI 697.indd 11 vice outside Italy, I am sure it is not this versatile,” Di Grazia says proudly. App, mobile and social media Fineco gives a lot of attention to the mobile channel especially because it is evolving really fast. The bank has just activated its apps for Windows 8 mobile phones, after also enabling Apple iOS and Android systems. “The interface design and the usability of all our digital channels are a must for us, we are manic about it,” Di Grazia says. However, the favourite channel for Fineco’s clients is always the website. Despite this, more than 20% of the daily access to the bank is via mobile, with also a surprising 40% of users being women. “Up until three years ago, mobile access was close to 1%. As smartphone sales in Italy are to surpass PCs and laptops, it won’t take too long for mobile banking access to beat online,” he adds. If Fineco aims at mastering the mobile and online offer, it is clear its social media strategy has a distinctive trait as well. The bank is active on all the main social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and Pinterest) with Twitter currently being the most engaging tool; Fineco has more than 6,000 followers, the largest number in the whole Italian banking sector. However, Fineco does not look for big volumes in terms of number of followers, as its social media strategy is based on efficiency and quality of the content. “We decided to let users be free to share their comments on our social media chan- nels. On Facebook we offer some discussion topics and anyone is free to share opinions. We don’t campaign to reach a target of “likes”. Who likes our page and discussions is definitely someone who loves the bank. Our followers are authentic,” Di Grazia says. Reaching the ideal model Many Internet banks in Europe struggle to evolve, especially because they compete on prices, offering very high interest rates and everything at zero coss. According to Di Grazia, this business model approach is not sustainable anymore. “‘Pure’ online banks in Italy and Europe have a difficult journey ahead, and therefore they need to evolve in some way. “Fineco evolved from an online-only bank to a direct bank offering all those value-added services that clients are willing to pay,” Di Grazia says. “Nowadays, our competitors are not online banks, but traditional banks. Still, 90% of Italians’ savings are in traditional banks. Most of our clients come from there. However, I really don’t see any other players in Europe with the same business model as ours.” Fineco is not only an Italian product though. Similar to it, but lacking of its financial advisors’ network, is German DAB (Direkt Anlage Bank), another online direct bank part of UniCredit. Di Grazia says the focus will remain the Italian, German, and Austrian markets, where there’s a massive growth potential and still a lot of work to do. < January 2014 y 11 03/02/2014 10:06:54
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