Successfully Balancing Global Scale with Local Needs in Financial Services
One of the biggest challenges for international financial institutions is to strike a balance between the desired economies of scale to improve efficiency and respecting local wishes and behaviours in building the best customer experience. How do you manage this as a software provider that often sees its budgets decided by the headquarters of a bank, but is expected to listen to the local branches in the details requirements setting?
We asked Wojciech Pawlus, General Manager Benelux, and recently appointed Management Board of the Corporate Group, Comarch how they deal with that challenge.
Welcome, Wojciech. Please, can you share with us briefly who Comarch is and what your contributions are to the banking and financial services industry?
Wojciech Pawlus: Comarch is a 7000-employee software house that originated from Poland, with our headquarters in Krakow. However, the majority of the business is spread all over the world.
Although we have offices on five continents, most business is in Western Europe. The Benelux region is the second biggest international market for the entire Comach Group, right after the DACH region.
Within the banking and financial industry, we focus on a couple of verticals. One is Wealth Management, another is Corporate Banking, with our brand-new Comarch Open Platform gaining significant success in Western Europe. Next to that, we also have strong competencies in Digital Insurance, particularly in Life Transformations.
Our reputation in Belgium is to be an IT challenger focusing on innovative products that are real disruptors in the market. Still today, more than 20% of our revenue goes into Research and Development year after year.
We are perceived by many renowned analysts and other sources as the most innovative company originating from Central Eastern Europe that has turned into a successful global IT powerhouse in Europe.
However, we are proud to still be perceived as a challenger in Belgium, similarly to the football club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, of which we are proud to be an official sponsor.
I can imagine it is not always easy as an IT provider to work with big banks that very often centralise important investment decisions, even though many of the needs and requirements of customers are very local. How do you deal with that?
Wojciech Pawlus: Belgium is an open-minded economy that welcomes global companies with robust software, rather than just beautiful PowerPoint slides. At the same time, the financial services industry is a complex and challenging environment where decisions can take longer.
Banks and insurers choose our products for their quality and delivery.
At Comarch, we are experienced, patient and trained to understand the business needs on both local and global levels. We have a global presence and local structures. We help banks and insurers align expectations and requirements on both IT and business challenges. Whether it’s in the local branch or a big global company, we are known for delivering on scope, on time and on budget.
We believe we are well-positioned to realise the global-local alignment thanks to our flexible and modular products, as well as our proven ability to deliver results.
How does the tension between centralised decisions and local needs affect the relationship between banks and IT providers like Comarch?
Wojciech Pawlus: It affects a lot due to several reasons. Comarch is a reliable player, and both global and local companies trust us because we are not looking for quick wins, but we focus on long-term vision and partnerships.
This is extremely important, especially in countries like Belgium, with a complex environment. We often witness big corporations coming to Belgium with their projects and treating this market as the guinea pig, the test market for global projects. If successful in Belgium, they copy that product and experience into other markets or regions.
That is something Comarch also often benefits from. If we successfully launch a project for the local branch over here in Belgium, afterwards, we are profiting from going further into other regions for a given company. If something works in Belgium, it also works in other countries.
Is it easy to build strategic partnerships across international branches of big corporations? Which role does Comarch play in facilitating these partnerships where several international branches must collaborate for that centralised decided implementation?
Wojciech Pawlus: Thanks to our network of local structures worldwide, we try to facilitate the communication between big headquarters and local branches. That way, we gain the trust of the local branch or the big headquarters where our clients count on us.
We are big enough to deliver and small enough to care. We are somewhere in between global but archaic IT giants and small garage companies. This positioning gives us the agility and flexibility to facilitate strategic partnerships across international branches.
How do you see this evolving in the coming years? Will you keep playing a challenger role? Or will you be capable of using the same methodology to grow your business going forward?
Wojciech Pawlus: Our business is growing, and as I mentioned, small Benelux is the second biggest international market for the entire Comarch Group. We feel very comfortable in the challenger role here. We want to deliver, but we do not stop working on the continuous improvement of existing partnerships with Belgian customers via better business efficiency, customer experience and, last but not least, being 100% compliant with all the local regulations.
Comarch’s business in Belgium is growing by double digits yearly and will continue to expand. To do so, we do not exclude acquisitions. In terms of the financial services sector, you will hear about numerous new banking and insurance projects over here. However, we strive to maintain our position of a local challenger, built upon strong foundations and successful deliveries that made us successful in the Benelux region in the first place.