Raiffeisen Digital Bank Poland about AI and the peculiarities of the Polish and Romanian markets

Many researchers, as well as business practitioners, are trying to determine what the future of banking will look like. For example, it seems that traditional brick-and-mortar branches may become obsolete, but is the market ready for a fully online bank?

In this interview I will discuss the future of banking, the peculiarities of the Polish and Romanian markets and the increasingly popular AI tools with Kamil Niewiatowski, Country Manager of Raiffeisen Digital Bank Poland.

About Raiffeisen Digital Bank Poland

Interview with Kamil Niewiatowski, Country Manager of Raiffeisen Digital Bank Poland
Kamil Niewiatowski, Country Manager of Raiffeisen Digital Bank Poland

Raiffeisen Digital Bank AG is a relatively new player in the European banking market. Could you briefly describe RDB (the business idea, key dates in history, etc.) and your expansion into European markets so far?

Raiffeisen Digital Bank AG (RDB) is a fully digital bank that offers its products to private individuals in Poland and Romania. Customers who choose RDB have access to a set of essential products that were created with the thought of addressing the main customer needs, without distractions and an overload of features.

We launched our first product in Poland – a cash loan – in July 2021 and our daily banking services in February 2023. In July of the same year, we introduced our innovative refinancing loan. Also in 2023, we introduced our savings account, and in March 2024 a term deposit.

In 2023, we significantly increased our scale and loan portfolio by 200% and saw a 12-fold increase in the number of customers.

The peculiarities of the Polish and Romanian markets

Why did you choose the Polish and Romanian markets? How do they differ from the Austrian market?

We don’t have a direct comparison as we do not operate in Austria, but the Polish market was our first choice because we saw a big potential here. Not only is it the largest market in the CEE region when it comes to GDP and population, but more importantly, Polish people are a very demanding group of customers when it comes to financial products.

Data shows[1] that Polish banks are among the most digitalized globally, so the bar here on the market is really high.  Polish people are used to financial innovation; the adaptation of fintech solutions is good here – so these economic and behavioral reasons supported our decision to enter this market first.

So far, being on the Polish market has helped us to really improve our products, which means that our initial hypothesis was correct. Being present on the Polish market was and still is a very insightful lesson for us.

When it comes to Romania, the arguments were quite similar – it is the second largest CEE market – and Romanians also have a preference for using fintech solutions to complement their main banking relationship.

Where do you see your main advantages over traditional banking? Are Polish/Romanian customers ready for a fully digital bank?

We offer our products solely via mobile app and support our customers only through digital channels such as chat in the RDB app. We are 100% digital, which means that customers have access to all our products without leaving their homes, including cash and refinancing loans. Our refinancing loan enables customers to refinance their existing debt in a fully remote process, making us one of only two banks in the market to do so.

I believe that Polish and Romanian customers are ready for a fully digital bank, however, our approach is not to be the only bank that they would use. Our offering is currently addressing the core financial needs of customers – saving, sending and borrowing money – and is therefore complementary to what customers are currently using.

How do you position yourself against fintech competition? Do you consider yourself a specific kind of fintech company? Does the support of a powerful financial group provide the necessary resources for innovation?

RDB is a unique combination of a bank and a fintech company. On the one hand, we are a part of one of the largest banking groups in Europe, and on the other hand, we are building our banking platform from scratch. That is why we have the advantage of combining the benefits of both groups – higher trustworthiness associated with being a supervised entity (in our case not only regulated by the Austrian FMA but also by the ECB) combined with modern, fully digital banking. This enables us to offer E2E digital cash and refinancing loans as well as current and savings accounts and term deposits.

The support of our shareholder is a big asset for us; not many startups can say that they have a single investor with a long-term view and a deep understanding of the need for innovation in banking. Our approach is focused on the customer: first we look for a solution to a specific customer problem, and then for a modern technology that enables us to find that solution in a cost-efficient way. Our track record shows that innovation is at the core of our business, and we are able to bring to market innovative products customers enjoy and value.

The power of AI in the banking sector

Do you consider AI tools to be the future of the banking industry? Which areas of banking do you think would benefit most from the implementation of such solutions? As RDB, are you already prepared for the implementation of the AI Act regulations?

In my opinion, AI will have a significant impact on the banking industry. It has a huge potential to transform the way banks and other financial institutions operate. I don’t think it will change the fundamentals of banking, but it will certainly change the way banks operate, both internally and in their interactions with customers.

I believe that AI can help support all areas – in the ones that are dealing with a lot of data, such as sales, marketing or risk, it can help analyze and synthesize conclusions to support better business decisions. In the near future, I think it will even be possible to self-optimize certain aspects like marketing campaigns or risk policies fully by AI.

It will also have an impact on how customers interact with the bank – using AI for customer support can improve customers’ access to relevant information, but also help them analyze or extract specific information from bank documents. However, these are just a few examples. I think, the entire organization will be affected to some extent and will use AI to support their operations.

In my opinion, in order to fully harness the power of AI in the banking sector, there is a need for a clear regulatory framework around the use of AI in banking activities. A clear set of rules will be a big enabler for the implementation of AI on a large scale. For now, there are many use cases where AI can support, but there is still a long way to go for fully AI-powered banks.

At RDB, we are closely monitoring the regulatory framework related to AI, and we are discussing internally the extent to which AI could be used now and in the near future. We believe that in digital banking we will be at the forefront of AI implementation in banking, as digital banks use modern technologies that can be more quickly integrated with AI solutions. I also see a lot of interest in AI from traditional banks, so I think we have an interesting period ahead of us when it comes to AI transformation in banking.

Thank you for the interview, best of luck with the initiative in the coming future.

And what is your opinion on the banking of the future and fully digitalized banks?

Feel free to contact me with questions or feedback.

Feel free to contact us!

Marcin Nadolny / author BankingHub

Marcin Nadolny

Consultant Office Warsaw

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